Spy vs. Spy cartoonist Prohias / THU 4-7-11 / Clothing company since 1992 / Pousse multicolored drink / Rum-enhanced dessert / Painter Schiele

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Constructor: Henry Hook

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: ... with "The" — Theme clues all end with the phrase "with 'The'" (a common crossword direction), but in this case, the direction is literal, i.e. you have to supply the letters "THE" at the beginning of the answer to make any sense of it

Word of the Day: ANTONIO Prohias (14A: Original "Spy vs. Spy" cartoonist Prohias) —

Antonio Prohías (January 17, 1921 – February 24, 1998), born in Cienfuegos, Cuba, was a cartoonist most famous for creating the comic strip Spy vs. Spy for MAD Magazine. [...] Although he is most famous for Spy vs. Spy, the majority of his comic strips, such as El Hombre Siniestro, La Mujer Siniestra, and Tovarich, were published mostly or only in Cuba. Altogether, only about 20 of his roughly 270 contributions to Mad were of anything other than the spy series. As a result, most of the available information on this other work comes from the Spy Vs Spy Complete Casebook (Watson-Guptill, 2001). (wikipedia)
• • •

Wow. I did not like this at all. An idea that should have been discarded (if only for yielding ridiculous mangled answers in the grid), but was instead worked up into a whole puzzle. It's a one-note puzzle, and a bad note at that. Yes, there's a clever twist on a common crossword convention (that is, the convention of using "with 'The'" to indicate that the def. article won't appear in the grid). But the problem is that the actual grid results of that twist are dreadful and joyless. Potential theme answers could have been anything under the sun beginning with "THE-," and this group has nothing more than that holding it together, so theme coherence is terrible. Throw in a bunch of out-of-left-field proper nouns, and you have ... whatever this is. Big thumbs-down.

I can see how someone might have found this enjoyable and clever. I'll give you 'clever,' esp. for the initial gimmick idea. But the execution of that gimmick just rubbed me the wrong way.

Theme answers:
  • 19A: Churchill subject, with "The" (IR FINEST HOUR)
  • 30A: Rodgers and Hart song, with "The" ("RE'S A SMALL HOTEL")
  • 36A: George C. Scott movie with a rock band namesake, with "The" ("EY MIGHT BE GIANTS") — this is where I picked up the theme, because it's the first theme answer I knew. Before that, I assumed there was some kind of IOU theme ... because the "I" from BASIC (1D: Computer language from 1964) appeared to be where an "OU" should be in the Across answer: [OU]R FINEST HOUR. But no...

  • 48A: Hit movie of 1991, with "The" ("LMA AND LOUISE") — so, two movies and a song and a ... subject. Nice tight grouping [/sarcasm]
Pousse-what? (21A: Pousse-___ (multicolored drink)) Prohias who? Pierre wha? (50D: Pierre who wrote "Pêcheur d'Islande") (Oh, *that* Pierre...([/facetiousness]) (actually, those last two were kicking around the dark recesses of my skull somewhere, but ... wherever it was, it was Really dark). I would not willingly RETASTE this puzzle.

  • 7A: Rum-enhanced dessert (TORTONI) — not familiar. Sounds like pasta. Easy enough to piece together from crosses.
  • 58A: Big band brothers (DORSEYS) — adding to the decidedly olde thymey flavor of this thing. Had trouble here primarily because I had BAHRAIN as the answer to 37D: Its coat-of-arms includes a marlin and a flamingo
  • 8D: Topic of Weird Al Yankovic's "The White Stuff" (OREOS) — never heard of it. Have heard of Weird Al's other White song: "White and Nerdy"...

  • 13D: Lemieux milieu (ICE) — Mario Lemieux. Former hockey great and current owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
  • 26D: Utterance from Reagan mimics ("WELL...") — this made me laugh, though ... for anyone not at least a teen in the 80s, good luck.
  • 44D: Clothing company since 1992 (FUBU) — haven't seen, thought about, or heard of FUBU in what seems like at least a decade. Forgot it existed. I associate the brand with mid-late-90s hip hop.
  • 46D: Actor who played himself in 1988's "Moon Over Parador" (ASNER) — no idea, but ... when in doubt, guess ASNER.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Anonymous 12:14 AM  

Ugh. 14A had me so hung up on Sergio Aragones, albeit incorrectly, to cast a pall over the entire proceedings. Became hipped to the theme way too late, so in the uncomfortable position of having twelve letters out of 30A without success. Payback for the earlier puzzles this week falling quicklt, I suppose...

syndy 12:15 AM  

okay I took way too long to figure out the gag iwas running LATE so I had LLAA-D-O-ISE and was begining to look for doubled letters when somehow LOUISE morphed out and gave me the whole enchilada!a one trick pony indeed!Not the NYTCP's finest hour!

Evan 12:32 AM  

When I saw that I had LMAA at the beginning of 48-Across, I figured I made a mistake, but I just couldn't change any of the crossing entries, so then I figured the theme was either a cryptogram or purposefully misspelled words. Then I filled in IRFINESTHOUR, not knowing if the famous quotation was "Our finest hour," so I spent a while trying to convince myself that the theme was: Purposefully misspelling the first word by replacing them with letters that sound like the original word.....and that's when frustration set in. Fortunately, that's also when I noticed that all of the theme entries were using "with 'The'" and the theme finally hit me.

I agree with Rex that the theme seemed really haphazard with completely arbitrary theme answers, like an inside joke that no one else gets. I understand that "with 'The'" is a common crossword convention, but it's not like you have to build an entire puzzle around a literal interpretation of it. It would be like building a grid with a theme based on obscure abbreviations.

One last note: I've never heard of the song at 30-Across, so I spent a long while staring at the grid wondering why Rodgers and Hart would write a song called "Theresa's Mall Hotel."

John from Chicago 12:38 AM  

I dissent. So the only thing in common is they all begin with THE. That's enough for me. I can relate to all of m....

Tobias Duncan 12:59 AM  

Brutal puzzle, not much fun, was about to pack it in when I got EYMIGHTBEGIANTS! I was just asking Rex to put more youtube TMBG links in the write up last week!
Well that put some spring in my step and I managed to finish.
With so many really obscure answers I did not know, all the sports stuff was a real burden.

Clark 1:10 AM  

Well I kinda liked it. I had (THE) Y MIGHT BE GIANTS and for the longest time I could not figure out what the Y was doing there. Then I saw (THE) LMA and it all fell into place.

lit.doc 1:37 AM  

Mid-Atlantic ate both my brain and my clock. If I’d waited till tomorrow to solve it, it would’ve eaten my lunch as well. Foreeeeeever. But then, could I—should I—have expected anything less from Henry Hook?

Five blank squares. Tick. Tick. Tick. Finally finished with a total SWAG at 26D ??LL. Don’t watch CNN, but bravely resisted the temptation of SHAQ. Spent the entire time wrestling with the non-utile knowledge that 29A was surely ODETTE. Or SHIRLEY ODETTE. Whatever. Can’t buy extra squares at the minimart at this hour, tho.

ANGST before AGONY, NHL before ICE, and LAID before LAIN, no big deal. But what’s up with OH SAY can you spell the lyrics correctly? What the “h”? I do so hope that I’m just a bit benighted about the history of the song. Should it perhaps have been clued “var.”?

Oh, and me too for a total WTF at 48A LMAA…

CoolPapaD 1:41 AM  

WOW! I've been reading RP for a few years now, and I will NEVER be able to predict what he's going to like.

I loved it, maybe because of the huge "aha moment," but I enjoyed the fill as well. Growing up reading Mad helped in the NW (remember how he would write "by Prohias" in Morse code in the panel?).

Great clue for OH SAY.

Had one error in the SE - anyone want to enlighten me re how tire = flag??

arsenic carla michaels 1:43 AM  

I tried to stuff the whole THE into the first square, like THEL-MAANDLOUISE and got that the THE was somehow a rebus and then tried to put THEY in one square...
SO I'm STILL a stupid head...

Actually, other than putting in aDeLE for ODILE this was pretty smooth sailing for me...
(except I always have trouble with the fill in the blanks, because I thought FIRE went with CATCH and HANG...and I had Running AMOK instead of MATE.)

Can I count wanting to put in ArseNIO for ANTONIO as a malapop for ARSENIC?

What are CARRY INS?

I like little things post reading @Rex, like to see BAHrain and BAHAMAS both start with BAH.
It could be the start of a child's Xmas riddle...
What are Ebeneezer Scrooge's two favorite countries?

acme 1:44 AM  

@cool papa d
flag in energy

theM asked and Anonymous 1:51 AM  

FUBU! Past perfect plural of FUBAR!

I give the Hook-ster high marks for the sneaky theme idea. Fortunately, I caught on to the the trick pretty early. Har -- 31 was sure impressed. He was PSST.

chefwen 2:16 AM  

Called it yesterday, the rest of the week, we will be slammed.

Took me way too long for the "light bulb" moment to appear. Like @Rex and others I always thought it was our finest hour, knew BASIC was right and spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to fit ou into the little square and have it make sense. Finally got it and the rest was kind of fun but still a slog for me.

Food Lovers Companion - TORTONI - (tohr-TOH-nee, Hailing from Italy, this rich frozen dessert consists of sweetened whipped cream (sometimes ice cream) flavored with spirits such as SHERRY or RUM and combined or topped with chopped almonds or MACAROON crumbs. This dessert is often call biscuit tortoni, especially when served in small paper cups.
Sounds good to me.

DJG 3:36 AM  

I had the Spy Vs. Spy video game as a kid. It wasn't much fun. Sadly, neither was today's puzzle.

A Taste for Arsenic 3:36 AM  

I liked this for the aha moment, which occurred for me at THELMA ...

However -- I thought rebuses have to work in both directions, across and down. So that was where the puzzle broke down for me. I wanted the THE to show up in the down clues as well.

Constructors in the crowd -- isn't that some kind of rule for rebuses, or does it just happen occasionally at the author/editor's discretion?

jae 3:43 AM  

I had this at easy-med. I did it piecemeal while cooking dinner and caught the theme with ...YMIGHT. My only misstep was, like lit.doc, ANGST. The rest of the solve was pretty smooth. I didn't hate it but it was not one of Hook's better efforts. I mean RSTU....

jae 3:52 AM  

@A Taste -- Not a rebus puzzle. The "THE" is in the clue and does not need to be entered in the puzzle.

A Taste for Arsenic 3:57 AM  

@jae -- aha, i see, very interesting, thanks for the clarification. i missed that nuance. *re you go.

imsdave 5:35 AM  

30 minutes - most of it staring at what syndy was staring at. Very clever theme, but not much joy for me.

Gil.I.Pollas 6:19 AM  

First comment went off to la la land.
Word for word what REX said.
My brain doesn't work well with missing letters. I just knew that 19A was "their Finest Hour." I kept looking at that damn clue forever - well at least between sips of wine.
As quoted by Reibling on Churchill's 'Finest Hour:'
"Winston Churchill led the life that many men would love to live. He survived 50 gunfights and drank 20,000 bottles of chanpagne."
Have I mentioned how much I admire him?

Anonymous 6:25 AM  

For those interested: The George C. Scott movie "They Might be Giants" is worth seeking out. Scott plays a mentally disturbed person who thinks he's Sherlock Holmes.

Greene 7:09 AM  

I suppose any puzzle that contains (THE)RE'S A SMALL HOTEL can't be all bad, but this one really tested my patience. I knew the song had to go there, but it took forever to figure out the gimmick. Once the lightbulb went on I finished quickly, but I had a real power shortage for about 20 minutes.

Here's a recording of Jerry Orbach doing the "Small Hotel" number from On Your Toes. We may not all like the puzzle today, but I think we can all agree that Jerry's just terrific. He had a stellar Broadway career for at least 20 years before he got really famous on TV. Many don't even know what an excellent vocalist he was. He starred in Carnival, the very first Broadway show I was ever taken to. I was probably around 6 at the time. I remember very little about the show except how scary he was and how he had all these wonderful puppets. Of course, I had no idea who he was, but I learned soon enough. He's missed.

Jamie 7:33 AM  

{THE}LLAAND_O_ISE cost me a good (or bad) 5 minutes. And Odete instead of Odile another 3. Laughed at 26D (Well, ).

I can't share Rex's hate for this. It was a real challenge.

Anonymous 7:36 AM  

Hand up for running LATE.

I liked it. I'd take obscure cluing over crosswordese anyday (especially if I can manage to finish using crosses).

Loved Rex's "The Departed"


Brendan Emmett Quigley 7:47 AM  

Wow. I guess we have to agree to disagree because this one's one of the puzzles of the year.

Leslie 7:53 AM  

I'm on the "liked it for the 'aha' moment" bench. Like others, it took THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS and THELMA AND LOUISE to make the trick clear to me. THEIR FINEST HOUR was the last to come into view.

r.al;phbunker 8:16 AM  

@BEQ, When I got the theme, I thought of the "with" puzzle that you foisted on the world as puzzle 5 at the ACPT last year.

I would call this a memorable puzzle because I will probably remember it every time I see a 'with "the"' clue. The AHA moment was very strong and there have been several after-chuckles which will probably continue throughout the day.

1  ****
2  ****
3  *******
4  *****
5  **********
6  *******
7  **
8  ******
9  *****************
10  ********

retired_chemist 8:22 AM  

I liked it, like others, especially for the aha moment. Forget which theme answer it came at. Favorite clue: As in chemistry, which I read as A's in chemistry. Decided to let it wait for crosses and then... D/oh!

Hand up for debating running LATE/MATE, but didn't get hung up there. Had Bernard KALB @ 23A first - turns out he was CBS, not CNN. Had HANDGUN @ 52A, fixed easily by crosses.

Quite few proper names I didn't know, but the crosses were easy so no real problem. FUBU? Love @M&A's derivation from FUBAR. Did not like RSTU, RETASTE, ASWIRL. Did like CHOO.

Thanks, Mr. Hook. May I call you Captain?

OldCarFudd 8:25 AM  

I got lucky and caught on early, when crosses gave me ---ir Finest Hour. I had a minor cavil with carry ons being a concern of the flight crew; to me, the flight crew is the folks up front who get me where I'm going, and the cabin crew is the folks in back who show me (for the gazillionth time) how to fasten a seat belt. But I liked (not loved) this puzzle and thought it was pretty easy for a Thursday.

Rex, I was amused at the idea of Bahrein's coat of arms having tropical critters like a marlin and a flamingo. Andrea, loved Ebenezer Scrooge's favorite countries.

Never heard of Fubu.

joho 8:33 AM  

I was stunned at Rex's rant!

I got the theme at THELMAANDLOUISE and ran from there. I loved the originality of the theme and really liked the answers and fill except for RETASTE.

GOODBAR crossing BONBONS was sweet.

@Greene, thank you for "THERESASMALLHOTEL." That was one of my dad's favorite songs and the rendition you posted is beautiful.

Thank you, too, Henry Hook!

mmorgan 8:43 AM  

Unlike Rex and some others, I LOVED THIS THEME! (And BEQ liked it too!!!)

I found the puzzle to be a good fun workout, too! First one I got was the Rogers & Hart song at 30A, which just popped itself in (the others took more time)

A stupid typo on ANOm (4D) delayed my getting the Churchill reference at 19A. Like @Syndy and others I had LATE for MATE at 49D for a while, which left me trying to remember what movie was about "Thella and somebody"...

Hand up for BAHrain!

I strongly recommend Cafe TORTONI in Buenos Aires.

jesser 8:55 AM  

Like others, I figured it out at LMAANDLOUISE and went from there. Like @ACM, I had aDeLE for the longest time, before OH SAY and HIT IT set me on the path to righteousness. My other writeover was BelAruS at 37D. That got fixed when the CHOO choo chugged through.

I didn't hate it as much as Rex did. Didn't love it as much as Brendon did. I'm in the middle, like the white stuff in an OREO.

Been gone for a week. Good to be back.

Soluitac! (Kirk's command when he was tipsy) -- jesser

David L 8:55 AM  

I was annoyed at first that the *me answers made no sense, but then I realized that was because I hadn't actually read the clues carefully enough. So I thought it was cute, and in the end kind of easy-medium, but I go back and forth on whether cute is a good thing or a bad thing.

However, RSTU is just unforgiveable in a late-week NYT puzzle. For shame, Henry and Will, for shame!

Anonymous 9:15 AM  

I agree. Forced and ugly theme. Also some misleading clues. When I drink a pousse cafe, it is whisky, cognac or grappa. Not really mulitcoloured drinks and either brownish or colourless. But maybe some people drink Tequila Sunrises after a good meal ....

John V 9:29 AM  

Took a bit long for a Thursday (abt 35-40 mins), but I found it fun. This was a two-seater for me; had to put it down and come back with a fresh cup of coffee. Got the theme at Their Finest Hour, which I, too, kept thinking should be OUR. Kept looking for rebus. Actually loved the indirection with "The" in the clues.

Last to fall: 56A, olestra. Now that's a mouthful.

Norm 9:35 AM  

Put me in the "liked it" column. I was baffled until (THE)LMAANDLOUISE, and the aha moment was gratifying. Very clever puzzle.

Lindsay 9:41 AM  

Wow. A hard crowd. I wouldn't put this in the Puzzle Hall of Fame, but liked it fine. Although the FUBU LOTI corner was a little ugly.

Hand up for running lATE. Also 28D It may precede a tip >>> liST. I mean, doesn't your boat list before it tips? Mine does.

GLR 9:41 AM  

I'm in the "liked it for the 'aha' moment" camp. Didn't get the theme until LMAANDLOUISE, by which time about 80% of the grid was filled. Just under 14 minutes, which is a decent Thursday time for me.

Does anyone else hate ALERS (and NLERS and NBAERS and NFLERS) as much as I do?

mitchs 9:51 AM  

Liked it a lot. But, for a change, I'd rate it easier than Rex did. After stumbling IRF for a while, got the gimmick at YMIGHT...and then pretty clear sailing.

dk 9:58 AM  

Man! 30 minutes. Even when I knew the theme I stumbled.

Had handgun for SIDEARM and this puzzle had me looking for mine.... shoot... these days I would have to plug my laptop as the paper no longer can find my door. Today's letter goes to Arthur S.

Fattening foods was the mini-theme.

** (2 Stars) Although I would love to be in RIO or the BAHAMAS.

JenCT 10:09 AM  

@Evan: LOL for the Rogers & Hart song!

When I got the F, I put in FILA right away for the clothing company - oops.

@Rex: The WELL for Reagan made me laugh too.

Didn't hate the puzzle, but didn't like it either. There's what, 10 million things that start with "THE"?

All the food references (TORTONI, BONBONS, Pousse-CAFE, RUTHS Chris Steak House, OREOS, Mr. GOODBAR) are making me hungry! (definitely not OLESTRA, though)

fikink 10:14 AM  

I like Henry Hook's puzzles, so perhaps I approached this one with an embrace, instead of with a critical eye.

THERE'S A SMALL HOTEL gave me the theme, and probably betrays my age, and once I got it, I sailed home.

@Greene, thanks for the link!


@chefwen, the TORTONI does sound good.

PanamaRed 10:24 AM  

I'm on the side of those who thought this a great puzzle. Hat's off to Mr Hook.

Aha moment came at THEYMIGHTBEGIANTS.

Learned to make a pousse cafe from a bartender in Milwaukee back in the early 60's. Impressive to look at, but not very good to drink.

Tobias Duncan 10:26 AM  

@GLR said"Does anyone else hate ALERS (and NLERS and NBAERS and NFLERS) as much as I do?"

Funny you should mention that.In college at NMSU, I majored in sports hatred with an emphasis on ALERS.I was chairman of the Sports Defamation League and organized several center court sit-ins.
Unfortunately at some point I was forced to accept the fact that jobs outside of academia were few and far between so I gave up my passion to become a theater major...

Anonymous 10:29 AM  

My daughter born in 1990 would get the Reagan clue because I told her about him and the way he talked and she was doing a pretty good Reagan imitation in elementary school.

Like many I thought this was a good puzzle, definitely my favorite of the week. Caught on with IRFINESTHOUR and liked the way the scheme made you re-examine such a common clue lingo. Iconic titles plus the incompletion of the first word worked fine for me as an association of theme answers.

And my time was 23 minutes, good by my standards on a Thursday . . . So that helped too.

Too bad for Ed Asner that people don't get royalties when their names appear in crossword puzzles . . .

Anonymous 10:33 AM  

Still don't understand the clue for George C. Scott movie with a "rock band namesake". What rock band namesake? Was there a rocker named Giant? Might? Can anyone help me out?

Tita 10:33 AM  

Came to a screecing halt with this puzzle - I printed out Mon, Tue, and Wed on Tuesday night, finished them all in one sitting - thought they were all easy!

Oops...DNF for today...got the themes except for theLMAANDLOUISE and the whole bottom section - never heard of FUBU, LOTI, had DORSEtS for DORSEYS, RUNNING lATE - ugh!

Only consolation was that Rex hated it - oh good - it wasn't me - it was the crummy puzzle... ;)

GLR 10:36 AM  

Just to clarify - I have nothing against Al-ers et al. themselves. Just their use as answers in crosswords.

Two Ponies 10:39 AM  

Not one of Mr. Hook's finest, to be sure. I'm not certain the Aha was worth some of the tired fill.
Did not enjoy all of the obscure proper names. Actually, I'm surprised I was able to correctly solve this because of so much stuff I did not know.
Odile is a really ugly name.
At least it wasn't clued as
"End of a croc.
A pousse-cafe when properly made is a lovely thing.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:39 AM  

Must be the age thing (I have plenty of it.) Almost every answer came easily (OK, needed crosses to get LOTI); helped to have recently seen the movie Black Swan to get ODILE.

I caught on to the theme rather early, and filled in the last two with very few crosses, but I was thinking even before I finished that this was a wonderful gimmick to appear once in a puzzle, but once you had one you had them all, so it wasn't the greatest theme. Sort of like if your (only) gimmick was having RAIN in circles four times in the same puzzle.

George C. Scott 10:45 AM  

@Anonymous, 10:33 - "They Might Be Giants" is the name of the movie, and was later taken as the name of the band.

fikink 10:59 AM  

@Anon, 10:33 - Rex posted a youtube of the band in his write-up today.

Anonymous 11:13 AM  

I liked the puzzle and had my best Thursday time ever with no errors and no googling. Had not heard of the Rodgers and Hart song, but it came from the crosses. Don't understand the Wrath of Rex. LOL.

Laffer 11:20 AM  

I misread 26D: as Utterance from ReaganOMICS and tried to fit "BWAHAHAHATHEREBUGINGTHIS?" in.

Shamik 11:22 AM  

Welcome back, Jesser!

Put me in the column of folks who loved this puzzle. Ok, not so much the RSTU. My solving rate with Henry Hook is not a good one, so I was happy to finish in a medium-challenging 13:09.

I liked the theme. A lot. It was different. However, I wanted a HANDGUN and BAHRAIN. BONBONS and Mr. GOODBAR along with TORTONI? No need for OLESTRA, we have plenty of the real fat stuff.

Haven't liked a puzzle this much in awhile.

I see no "meh" mentioned. And that's a very good thing.

Mel Ott 11:56 AM  

On June 18, 1940 Churchill addressed the House of Commons a few days after the fall of Paris, when Great Britain stood pretty much alone against Nazi Germaany. The last paragraph of his speech:

"Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour.'"

deerfencer 12:00 PM  

Liked it quite a bit even though it was a bit like reeling in a very stubborn fish.
Nice sense of accomplishment at the end for me.

quilter1 12:03 PM  

Got the theme at theLMA AND LOUISE and finished, but it took some time. Like others had handgun at first, them firearm. The downs fixed it. Know the song, heard of the book and movie and agree with Rex that the theme was kind of why would you do this? So then I did the LA Times puz and it was more fun.

Eddie D 12:24 PM  

To the haters - can't handle a nasty curveball?

Thought this puzzle was brilliant. Had FIREARM for SIDEARM for the longest time. I also admit I googled once or twice. But I really though people would be raving. Thanks Mr Hook!!

Sparky 12:25 PM  

AhHah at ND-O-ISE. Put OD--E for 29A. Of course the prince has a name but who cares? 49D amok which slowed the DORSEYS. Misread 16A so had IlE for 13D. Sounded okay to me. Hand up for angst. Thinking Marie's Crisis for the steakhouse. I believe that was a club in the Village and Mimieux for Lemieux. My mind very cluttered. @glr: also don't like those league ERS.

On the other hand, I rather enjoyed picking away at this puzzle and was delighted to finish with only the IlE/ARSENIl mistake. @Rex and @BobKerfuffle. Points well made. @Greene: thanks for the Jerry Orbach song.

Over the hump, on the way to the weekend.

JaxInL.A. 12:35 PM  

I saw the constructor's name and quaked a little, then after an initial wander around the grid, started flying. I was on track to half my normal Thursday time! Got the theme at (THE)LMA, popped the song in right away, had three corners filled in (even that baffling TORTONI) and stopped cold in the NW. I read Spy Vs. Spy but never paid any attention to the artist, and had no idea at all. That is possibly the most obscure clue available for a pretty common crossword name. Combine that with not knowing the Churchill, never having heard of pousse CAFE, and (here's the killer) putting in Boole for the computer language (Boolean operators have go come from somewhere, right?) and I just went belly up. Finally HTG for the drink and the Spy guy to be able to finish. Ugh.

But I still really liked the puzzle. It was a big and very rewarding AHA, and I found some of the fill quite interesting. Even better are all the jokes here today.

@Evan, Theresa's Mall Hotel!
@acme, love your malapop suggestion
@lit.doc, mini-mart shopping!

@Greene, LOVE Jerry Orbach, thanks.
@Mel Ott, thanks very much for the quote. One of the many reasons that I like hanging out with you all is that so many know where to find the source material, and share it freely.

@BobK, I had thought that given the recent prominence of the movie "The Black Swan," many more people would be able to count the letters, discard Odette and slap in Odile.

Okay, enough blathering. Thanks, Mr. Hook, for a fun puzzle, even if the NW was too obscure for me.

Anonymous 12:48 PM  

no nits here. any thurs i can do is a good thurs.got "the"gimmick early on. only snags were in mid-atlantic. i learned so much from rex and posters, started out only solving for mon and sometimes tues.

Gil.I.Pollas 1:11 PM  

@Two Ponies
"Odile is a really ugly name. At least it wasn't clued as End of a croc." A two-2 ply kleenex!! I'm still laughing.
@Mel Ott: The novel "Franklin and Winston" by John Meacham is a must read if one is at all interested in those two brilliant men. Thanks for the quote.

Arundel 1:16 PM  

With the very minor exceptions of the rum-flavored Tortoni (spumoni just wouldn't work!) and Resa's Mall Hotel, I loved this one. I threw down Might be Giants (leaving a blank before) and looked at Lma and Louise for a while before I was driven out of the room by a team of roofers overhead. Planning a retreat to the basement, I came back to get my laptop and all suddenly became clear.

Maybe not a great puzzle, but not as bad as I first thought it was!

Jackie 1:17 PM  

[small voice] I kind of loved this puzzle. Always happy to see a reference to "They Might Be Giants." And FUBU. And WELL made me laugh out loud, though I did think it should have been spelled WHELLL.

archaeoprof 1:22 PM  

I liked it too. Kept me (and the colleague sitting beside me) occupied during the faculty meeting this morning.

But I went to Bahrain before the BAHAMAS.

An EGON Schiele print hangs in the living room of our new house.

Hats off to Capt. Hook!

JC66 1:42 PM  

I really liked this one (easy/medium). Got the theme early at (the)IER FINEST HOUR, which helped with the other theme answers, all of which were familiar to me.

I think the reverse rebus (rerebus?: taking out multiple letters rather than inserting them) is a terrific idea and have no complaints about the execution (RSTU aside).

Thx @Two Ponies for the joke, Mel Ott for the context and exact quote & @Greene for the Orbach clip.

william e emba 2:06 PM  

I thought it was a fine puzzle. I got the gimmick off quite early off of IRFIN-------. I liked how there were five different uses of THE as the start of a phrase.

I once again completely fail to see any point in trying to get more out of the theme other than the wordplay. You'd be more productive figuring out your CAPTCHA.

ANTONIO Prohias was a gimme. I sometimes feel like all of Mad magazine from the late 60s early 70s was seared into my memory, although I know it's not even close to true.

As for the Sergio Aragonés/Antonio Prohias connection, the young Aragonés arrived in New York City with $20, and while doing odd jobs as a singing waiter tried to shop his wordless cartooning around. He was repeatedly told to try Mad, he bowed to the inevitable, and asked to see Prohias, figuring he could serve as a translator. Aragonés hadn't realized Prohias' Spy vs Spy was wordless for the exact same reason his own cartoons were wordless: neither knew English.

I first heard of (THE)Y MIGHT BE GIANTS, the band, from some science blog a few years back. It seems that some of their albums, like "Apollo 18", "Here Come the 123s", and "Here Comes Science" are pro math/science. One of their EPs was "I Palindrome I", and yes, the lyrics are palindromes.

I certainly remember the hoopla around MYRA Breckinridge the novel and the movie when I was a kid. I've never felt the least interest in either one. Maybe if Mad magazine had done their version?

jackj 2:14 PM  

As a Churchill buff, when IRFINESTHOUR showed up, it was clear that the "The" in the clue would be THE in the answer and, THEIRFINESTHOUR, it was.

Knowing how the clued "The" played into the puzzle made things flow easily enough for it to be the fastest Hook ever, for me.

This is a quintessential Henry Hook beauty; toying with solver's minds and causing some pain but grins all around when the "Ahas" appear and things are finally sorted out.

Easy, perhaps, but memorable for sure! Thanks HH!

Anonymous 2:54 PM  

I have to disagree with Rex. My time may have been slow due to the vague clues and offbeat references, but I completed the grid. That alone is cause for satisfaction and celebration (as I sip my Jameson).

Great theme. Had my 'aha' moment at 36A (being a music buff helped). I just think it should have been a Sunday puzzle.

Stan 2:57 PM  

The degree of frustration/challenge was just right for me. Complete bafflement at first (YMIG? What do I have wrong? Where's the rebus?) until the scales fell off my eyes and everything fell into place.

This puzzle had a good Hook, and I could dance to it.

Anonymous 3:15 PM  

Gesso is not bas relief material... Stone is.

Lois 3:22 PM  

Bob Kerfuffle:
The "rain" puzzle had more than "rain" repeated four times. It had four (2+2, one pair related to sound and one related to images) other related clues, and the visual quality of the "rain" words running down vertically looking like rain also.
I know this sounds like a rave, but I just thought that puzzle was pretty strong with regard to theme.
I also liked this ...me, in fact, though I didn't care for the puzzle. Don't know sports. But if you want to defend this theme, don't knock the rain one. It's the wrong example.

sanfranman59 3:31 PM  

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

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

Thu 16:35, 19:05, 0.87, 26%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Thu 8:40, 9:12, 0.94, 46%, Medium

PuzzleNut 3:52 PM  

Put me in the "liked it" camp. Got to this late and my wife had already tried the puzzle, filling in about 10% of it. Always adds an extra level of difficulty as half of her entries are usually wrong. Thought that was why I was having so many problems today, but it was the missingTHE's that were the only culprit. I recall another puzzle where you had to "think outside the box", so that is where I put the THE's. My aha moment was LMAANDLOUISE and after that everything fell into place nicely. Had the same idea of I for OU thinking it was Our ... Tried BRESDEN at first and it didn't make my life very easy. The ASNER clue was new to me and I wanted a French version of ICE, but fortunately I don't know what that is, so I went with the only thing I knew and was rewarded for my ignorance.

Gil.I.Pollas 4:00 PM  

Oops, it's Mark RIEBLING. Nothing worse than misspelling someone's name.
Riebling is a wonderful U.S. historian.
Amongst some of my favorite quotes from Churchill's "Finest Hour:"
"What then is the moral of Churchill's life? He was the twentieth century's great man, but we must sharply circumscribe his greatness. Because he drew the sword from the stone in 1940, what he did before and after seems admirable. Through his steadfast stance, Churchill rallied the English to die with honor - therefore, they deserved to win.
Whoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whoever shall lose his life shall preserve it (Luke 17:33). Yet were it not for this one courageous triumph, we might now say of him:never had one man done so little with so much.
Sorry for the rant....

Joe 4:25 PM  

Worst puzzle--in concept and execution--in weeeeeeeeks.

Blue Stater 4:37 PM  

Rex nailed it: terrible puzzle, complete waste of time. I do not understand the appeal of HH to crossword editors.

chefbea 4:51 PM  

Tried to tackle the puzzle this morning and got no where. Then had to go to a NARFE meeting with my husband. Mentioned to one of the people there that I do NYT puzzles but today's made no sense. He immediately explained it to me.Came home and got most of it but DNF

Bob Kerfuffle 5:01 PM  

@Lois, 3:22 PM - I will plead Guilty to a charge of not-perfect writing, but Not Guilty to the charge of mis-understanding the rain puzzle. I wrote, "Sort of like if your (only) gimmick was having RAIN in circles four times in the same puzzle." I should have used the subjunctive: ". . . if your (only) gimmick were . . ." The (only) was intended to say that if the rain puzzle had had only that gimmick it would have been like today's. I actually like today's puzzle (and the rain puzzle, too), but you can't get around the fact that once you knew the trick, repetition didn't add much.

(And completely irrelevant, but I feel a certain closeness to Henry Hook because he grew up in the town next to mine.)

Mark B 5:34 PM  

A little too much crosswordese for my liking, but that's probably just because almost everything was out of my age range. I expected that when I saw the Hook byline though. This is why I find it funny when solvers complain about a single rap or pop culture reference in a clue. Every week us young solvers have to deal with puzzles like this! Overall, I definitely didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either.

Anne 6:12 PM  

This was difficult but doable which is all I ever ask. Took too long to see the theme which didn't really help me all that much. I worked on it off and on during the day and finished without errors or googling. I liked it.

William 6:23 PM  

Wow, he removed THE SINGLE MOST COMMON WORD IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE from every clue! What a construction job! I hope to see this Hook fellow do more work in that field—we sure could use all the help we can get over here on 2nd Avenue!

P.S. This wasn't even challenging, not that that would have excused this excuse for a theme.

Anonymous 6:30 PM  

^Removed it from every theme answer, that is.

Kendall 6:52 PM  

I got 3 of the theme answers before realized there was even a theme connecting them all. Thought LMA AND LOUISE was just a "cute" way of saying exactly that. So along those lines I tried to make sense of the others and couldn't.

Hardest part of this was the SW for me. No idea who these big band brothers are and had never heard of OLESTRA.

Count me on the side of not having an enjoyable solving experience.

JFe 7:53 PM  

@Gil.l.Polkas: Loved your rant...

Geometricus 8:35 PM  

Give me more Mad magazine from the 70's! Along with Prohias and Aragones, let's see Dave Berg, Mort Drucker, Al Jaffee, Jack(?) Davis, publisher William M. Gaines and 'the usual gang of idiots'. There are a lot I am forgetting, but this list is without Googling.

Anonymous 9:23 PM  

When you have to repeat a gag three more times the originality and freshness quickly wanes.

sanfranman59 10:51 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 6:03, 6:54, 0.88, 8%, Easy
Tue 10:46, 8:57, 1.20, 91%, Challenging
Wed 10:10, 11:44, 0.87, 22%, Easy-Medium
Thu 16:51, 19:05, 0.88, 31%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:27, 3:41, 0.94, 27%, Easy-Medium
Tue 5:33, 4:36, 1.21, 95%, Challenging
Wed 4:59, 5:46, 0.86, 18%, Easy
Thu 8:28, 9:12, 0.92, 44%, Medium

Matthew G. 11:28 PM  

Well, I thought it was excellent. It's a good thing I was too busy all day to do the puzzle until late evening, or I might have wasted the day here arguing the case for the defense. I found the theme elegant in its simplicity.

miriam b 11:39 PM  

IMHO,some BONBONs don't contain chocolate.

@acme: It's CARRYON. I just remembered the story about the vulture who tried to board a plane lugging two dead wombats. He was told to leave one of them behind, as passengers were allowed only one carrion.

Giulio 11:46 PM  

Why all the animosity toward H. Hook and his puzzle? The Churchill subject is (should be) well-known, which reveals the theme, which yielded Thelma&Louise without a single cross. I could quibble here and there, but sheesh, too much hating. @Dude that hates sports: round thyself.

I skip M-W 12:32 AM  

loved the puzzle. NO one has mentioned that each missing "the" was part of a different word; that's what made it fun, plus the fact that they all came form different areas. I got it on "ir fineset hour" thought it had to be our at first, but then remembereed quote,plus it was one of Churchill's own titles for one volume of his history of WWII, which Book of the Month Club sent me when I joined at age 12> Had the books in my room but never read them, still the title stays in memory. then enjoyed finding rest of theme. Sure, parts were not great, but liked plenty of answers. Knew the word pousse-cafe, but still am not sure what it is. Used to eat tortoni's after ordering them by mistake; hated the rum.
captcha: awsme awesome - e o perfect for today.

andrea carry On michaels 3:11 AM  

Oops! Not TORTiNI/CARRYiNS!!!!
Glad I came back here...
for the @greene posting of Jerry Orbach (have forwarded it to Tony lest he miss that nice tribute to his dad)
and for the discussion of whether or not folks liked (the) (the)me.

It is an excellent idea, the THEs were taken from different words, BUT somehow what was left in the puzzle would have been EVEN MORE elegant if they made sense.

To look at LMA AND LOUISE to me is not aesthetically pleasing. Usually when you remove letters, the remaining ones should still sort of make sense...
so the theme was literally more outside the box, in that it was a play on the clues, not the theme answers, which is probably why vets like BEQ love it so much...
It's almost like an inside joke for constructors.

OK, Carry on.

Jamie 6:32 AM  

ACME: I am totally against puzzles that constructors write to prove they are clever and solvers hate - I'm in the solver camp. I'm also not clever. I don't know from cheater squares or any of the stuff that constructors get excited about. I have nothing personal against the very clever Kevin Der, but when I see his name on a crossword, I just go do something else.

I liked this puzzle a lot. I disagree with Rex's assessment that anyone could knock out the {the} and form 100 answers. He's right, but these are four strong answers.

All four are iconic including one of my favorite movies.

I think if you wanted to pick on inside jokes/circle jerks for constructors there were lots of easier targets, like Der's Chinese Calendar one.

With respect.

The Tonester 8:48 AM  

Loved the puzzle - Rex, you're a whiner!


any puzzle that mentions They Might Be Giants, Weird Al, AND Ruth's Chris Steakhouse cannot be anything less than totally badass.

rain forest 12:10 PM  

I think this was a brilliant puzzle: somehow challenging yet very gettable. Never seen this theme before, loved the creativity of it, and was impressed with the non-theme fill. A+. Take a pill, Rex.

Dirigonzo 3:35 PM  

I'm a syndi-solver and I always enjoy reading what the prime-timers (oh, and Rex of course!) have to say about a puzzle as much as the puzzle itself. I have to say I don't recall ever seeing such a stark division between the lovers and the haters, and it appears to be about equally divided (I'm way too lazy to actually count.) So just in case I am the tie-breaker, I'm with @BEQ and his posse of lovers.

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