Turkey's third-largest city / SUN 11-4-12 / Surround with shrubbery / Fiji competitor / First capital of Alaska / Home of Gannon Univ / Operating system between Puma Panther / he that strives with god / Environmental portmanteau / Lux composer Brian

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Constructor: Brendan Emmett Quigley

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging


THEME: "Frankly Speaking" — phrases containing words that look just like French words (with different meanings); phrases are clued as if the words in question were, in fact, French.
  • 3D: Prizefighter in a Parisian novel? (ROMAN GLADIATORS) — Roman = novel
  • 5D: Expert at brewing oolong in Orléans (THÉ ARTIST) — Thé = tea
  • 82D: French-speaking country where illegal activity runs rampant? (CRIME PAYS) — Pays = country
  • 54D: Overseeing a Bayonne bakery? (PAIN MANAGEMENT) — Pain = bread
  • 25A: Marseille mothers who are not goddesses? (MÈRE MORTALS) — Mère = mother
  • 40A: Working on one's biceps and triceps in Toulon? (TRAINING BRAS) — Bras = arm
  • 59A: Cowardly end in Cannes? (YELLOW FIN) — Fin = end
  • 80A: Bordeaux bear cub? (ONE OF OURS) — Ours = bear
  • 94A: Online feline in Lyon? (INTERNET CHAT) — Chat = cat
  • 113A: Nine to five, generally, in Grenoble? (OFFICE TEMPS) — Temps = time

Word of the Day: IZMIR (78A: Turkey's third-largest city) —
Izmir (TurkishİzmirGreekΣμύρνη Smyrni, Latin Smyrna) is a large metropolis in the western extremity of Anatolia and the third most populous city in Turkey. Izmir metropolitan area extends along the outlying waters of the Gulf of İzmir and inland to the north across Gediz River's delta, to the east along an alluvial plain created by several small streams and to a slightly more rugged terrain in the south. The ancient city was known as Smyrna, and the city was generally referred to as Smyrna in English, until the Turkish Postal Services Law of 1930 made "Izmir" the internationally recognized name. (wikipedia)
• • •

Wow, that's a lot of theme answers. I think the theme idea here is clever, though I'm having trouble envisioning anyone but the most die-hard Francophile really loving this puzzle. The fact that the wordplay crosses languages kind of limits the ha-ha potential. Also, do non-French speakers really know the French word for "bear?" That seemed rough. Not rough for me, as I had 7+ years of French in school, but rough for people (most NYT solvers, probably) whose French is limited to maybe a couple years in high school and whatever smattering of words you need to solve crossword puzzles (IDÉE, TÊTE, etc.). So it's impressive, this puzzle, but in a thinky kind of way, and in a way that perhaps not everyone will appreciate.

[Frankly singing ...]

The whole area around ONE OF OURS was, for me, the hardest. Couldn't see SAD LOT forever (74A: Pathetic group), still to refuse to believe that U OF A is a thing (despite the fact that alums like constructing great Merl Reagle have told me that it is, in fact, a thing) (70D: Tucson school, briefly), and had no idea that NAYA is a ... what is that, a water brand? Fiji? (85A: Fiji competitor). I tend to drink tap water. I know DASANI and AQUAFINA ... and EVIAN (which Charlie Sheen orders in one scene in "Wall Street," btw, which I'm only telling you 'cause I just saw it). So, yeah, big struggle there. Lesser struggle in and around IZMIR, which I did not know. I was very lucky to have remembered SITKA (I've been writing about the language of crosswords, and having written the Alaska / Hawaii section definitely helped here) (92A: First capital of Alaska). Least favorite answer is reasonably LEGIT, but I wasn't able to parse it at all until I already had every letter—ERIEPA, or, to punctuate it correctly, ERIE, PA (106A: Home of Gannon Univ.). Ugh. Not a fan of this type of answer. Though ... I don't know, NOMEAK looks kind of cool.

[Frankly singing ...]

Bullets:
  • 69A: Like an infant's fingers, typically (PUDGY) — Got this quickly. I'm fond of this clue because I know Brendan has an infant at home. At least ... how long is a child an "infant?" I know it means "not having language," so ... is that the threshold? Or is it used more generally than that? I think Brendan's daughter is roughly one, but ... man, she could be seven, for all I know; I have an incredibly bad sense of the passage of time. Speaking of: clocks back tonight.
  • 110A: First college frat to charter a chapter in all 50 states (SIG EP) — I don't usually resent having to know stuff, but stuff about frats ... yeah.
  • 100A: Who said "I owe the public nothing" (J.P. MORGAN) — THEONEPERCENT would make a nice, topical crossword answer.
  • 120A: Surround with shrubbery (HEDGE IN) — I would've gone with the much more in-the-language ENHEDGE. I am also joking. I just saw "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" (again) a few days ago, so I am cool with this clue.
  • 1D: QB Donovan (McNABB) — there is something very, very wrong with my brain, apparently, because the first answer that popped to mind was LANDON (wrong sport).
  • 81D: QB legend nicknamed "the Golden Arm" (UNITAS) — a QB-heavy puzzle. "Golden Arm" reminds me of the Nelson Alger novel "The Man with the Golden Arm." I'm guessing UNITAS was not a heroin addict, though.
  • 100D: Operating system between Puma and Panther (JAGUAR) — nice clue. I think I hopped on at Leopard, so this one took some piecing together. 
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. Listening to Elvis Costello's "My Aim Is True" and loving it. Thanks, Saturday puzzle.

93 comments:

syndy 12:13 AM  

I dunno my high school french got me through and that was aeons ago.but yeah if you took German This was gonna be a challenge!Hand up for staring at ER EPA waaay too long.Still BEQ gave us enough wiggle room to work it out !NOTFORTOOFAR

jae 12:45 AM  

Easier than I expected or may I've done so many BEQs that..  

Don't know much French so some of the theme answers were mysteries, but was able to work steadily through it.   Looking up translations post solve was actually fun. 

Only erasure was CoarSER for CRASSER.

WOEs: IZMIR, BRACKEN (a sorta guess as the TSA also have badges but BEQ would opt for the less familiar meaning)

Did not know DILATOR was an instrument?

That Alaska cruise paid off with SITKA.

Solid medium clever Sun.  No chuckles, but a doable French lesson. Liked it.

Yeah, I'm that guy 1:08 AM  

Let's say, just for the sake of argument, that you're a guy who knows almost no French. Never took it in high school, nor college. Such a guy may know a few words along the lines of merci, that voolee coucheeee thing that means "you want to shack up" or something like that. Oh, and menage a trois. I'm a guy, so I was born knowing that.

Say you're such a guy. How much fun do you think this puzzle was? What's the phrase in French for F#@$@#ing none?

Stephen 1:51 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephen 1:55 AM  

What's the French for F#@$@$@#ing fun?
(And no, I cannot so much as order an ice cream cone in Montreal.)

This was solid and cute all the way through. My stumble came in the west, where I was sure that DENTATE (toothed) was right until I came across COARSER (less refined). Then my brain locked into it-has-to-be-one-or-the-other mode, and it took some kicking and screaming to get out of it. That in spite of the fact that SERRATE did occur to same said brain early on.

NAYA: ooof.
PUDGY: lol
JPMORGAN: hmmmmm.
JAGUAR: omg!
SADLOT: quelle sourir
LEGIT: legit

Nicholas S. 1:11 AM  

Can someone explain "one of ours"? I understand "ours=bear" but what is the meaning of "one of?"

Kyle M. 1:36 AM  

Cool idea, I suppose, but since when is being bilingual a requirement for crossworders? The fill was pretty great, but it was ruined by the fact that I had to look up virtually every French word in the puzzle (and there were quite a few). No fun.

Fitzy 2:59 AM  

Had fun giving this one a go...maybe if BEQ (one of my fave constructors) comes up w/ a Spanish based puzz I'll have a reasonable shot @ solving the darn thing ;-)

Bob Kerfuffle 6:48 AM  

I enjoyed this puzzle, even though my knowledge of French is minimal. Except for OURS and BRAS, I sort of recognized the French words and their meanings once I got them by crosses.

@Nicholas S - Since the clue for 80 $ asks for a cub, I assumed that "One of [a] bear" is a cub, as "One of [a] cat would be a kitten.

BTW, how about a connection between our old friend, the Latin "ursa" with the French "ours."

Speaking of cats, all cat lovers must go to Diary of a Crossword Fiend and follow the link to Henri, the French cat. And once you get there, be sure to look at all three Henri videos.

Anonymous 6:49 AM  

This was one of my favourite puzzles of the year. Granted, I'm Canadian, so these French words were pretty basic.

Nickyboy 7:17 AM  

Loved the whole thing. BEQ once again shows why he is my favorite constructor.

Glimmerglass 8:13 AM  

"In a thinky kind of way"? What other way is there to appreciate a crossword puzzle? This one was fun. The theme answers were easy enough. My French is limited to two years of HS french, but all the French words were familiar (even OURS, which is often in crosswords), and each punning English phrase was long enough to be clear when enough of it was revealed. I had a lot of trouble with the fill, much of which was unfamiliar (Izmir, for example), but no Naticks., and so it all worked out for me. "Medium-challenging" is about right.

Tyler 8:18 AM  

Smart puzzle, but a real slog for me

Evan 8:31 AM  

So, I'm guessing that for those who didn't like the puzzle, this was TÊTE OFFENSIVE?

I took 6.5 years of French and it still took me quite a long time before I cracked my first theme answer (MÈRE MORTALS). I couldn't even remember that ROMAN = book. So I just filled 3-Down in and went on my way.

I have mixed feelings overall. Some of the theme answers are definitely funny, like TRAINING BRAS and INTERNET CHAT. Some of the clues are definitely clever, like "Area close to home" for INFIELD and "Lost time?" for DARK AGES. However, I give the puzzle the following three demerits:

1. Having MGR and MANAGEMENT in separate answers.
2. The clue for 49-Down: "58-Down 29-Across"? Seriously? When there's a connection between ASSENT/AT SEA/AYE, did we really have to cross-reference two of them? Cross-referencing works best when you have a person's first and last name (see: JIM/CRAMER), but here it just looks forced.
3. Huge theme density made for way too much constriction in the fill for my liking. Normally I'd harp on the bonus filler answers as distractions from the theme (IDÉE, NÉE, LA DANSE, and OO-LA-LA), but things like RE-EMPLOY and STRATI and ERIE, PA -- to say nothing of all the short crap like LOA/URB/ENNE/ESO/STOAT/ESAI/EEE/ERAT/ON ME/LTR/STDS/ANS/SNO -- are worse.

Two final observations:

a) My funniest write-over was BINDLE before BINDER. You know, for those 1930s-era traveling hobos going back to school.
b) SIGEP has appeared five times in the NYT during the Will Shortz era, and Brendan is responsible for three of those instances.

joho 8:57 AM  

The only French I know is by osmosis so many of French words here were Greek to me. Luckily the first theme answer I got was MEREMORTALS and I knew MERE. The next was TRAININGBRAS and while BRAS drew a blank I got the gist of what was going to be the theme.

I plodded on from there and got it all, learning some French along the way. Nothing wrong with that!

"Tres bien," Brendan!

joho 8:59 AM  

@Rex, thanks for the Elvis clip, love him!

Medusa 9:12 AM  

Loved it. Only issue is that the proper French spelling of OOLALA is "ooh la la" or possibly "oh la la" -- seems like in a francophile puzzle, that should have been kept consistent.

@Rex, it's Nelson Algren who wrote MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM. You're mixing him up with Horatio Alger, I think...

Gill I. P. 9:18 AM  

Just back from a 5 week cross-country visit of the USofA. This country is spectacularly beautiful - and so are the people. Just missed Sandy, so my heart is with those that suffered.
My brain is suffering though from not doing daily puzzles!
My first sit down in my favorite chair, a good glass of Zin and dang, I get a BEQ for my Sat. night work out.
@Yeah, I'm that guy - my first blog laughter of the day! Voolee coacheeee sounds like some serious BBQ we had in Mississippi!
I knew where BEQ was going with this and I loved it. My French is slightly passable and other than OURS, everything else seemed gettable. So, OOLALA, this hot TAMALE may have taken a long time to fini, but it was fun and worth it.

JFC 9:24 AM  

@Rex says: I think the theme idea here is clever, though I'm having trouble envisioning anyone but the most die-hard Francophile really loving this puzzle.

We, @Rex.

Actually, as one who has never taken French, the whole French thing was simply lost, thus making this puzzle a lost Sunday with a vague understanding that if I knew French it might have been fun....

Jean From Chicago

baja 9:29 AM  

Hard one but really liked it. Maybe the story of my life from pudgy fingers to training bras to internet chats to (hopefully no) pain management....

Bunella 9:43 AM  

not fun at all

i took spanish.

Z 9:55 AM  

"Sometimes I wonder if we're livin' in the same land." What a perfect line for someone on the left about someone on the right, or vice versa. But enough about the Elvis video.

DNF - DNC. I'm neither a Francophile nor a Francoilliterate, but I was not entertained. The bilingual puns just leave me cold so the bad fill seems especially annoying. TNN is now Spike (although I see it was relaunched 4 days ago), IZMIR, U OF A, BRACKEN (sounds like sea weed to me) NAYA, LOA/ERR (I wonder how many times those two have shown up next to each other), SIG EP, ERIE, PA, they all get a NERTS from me. I suppose if I had like the theme better the fill wouldn't have bothered me as much.

jackj 9:57 AM  

Despite never having any training in French, the theme entries were sufficiently elementary to allow for both solving the puzzle and enjoying the puns.

Still, I had a slight problem with the “brewing oolong in Orleans” clue and though THE ARTIST was clearly the correct answer, the Gallic connection wasn’t clear and only oolong-less visions of the Oscar winning film danced in my head until a Homeric “Doh” reminded me that THE’ is TEA in French and I’d probably be better off trying to “bell the chat” or something.

Solvers who have had the painful pleasure of struggling through past BEQ puzzles peppered with obscure music groups no doubt noted the absence of clues looking for, say, “Heavy Metal Goth group that popularized the song “The Mourning Dove Eats Hairy Chickweed” and instead found clues such as, “Like an infant’s fingers, typically”, seeking PUDGY and it was crystal clear that Brendan was reveling in his latest role of “Tabitha’s father” and we were the beneficiaries.

Praise be!

My guess is that TRAINING BRAS was the seed entry for the puzzle but this French language novice would say to my favorite answer, PAIN MANAGEMENT, “Tu es le meilleur”, (or at least that’s what Google told me I could say).

This puzzle didn’t quite reach the Olympian heights of so many past BEQ’s but, when his work features a reminder of the Matisse masterpiece, LA DANSE and also a hint of a Jean-Michel Basquiat piece of Neo-expressionist graffiti for a subway MURAL, that leaves me a very happy camper.

Thanks, BEQ.

jberg 10:09 AM  

Not knowing that MCNABB guy, I left a couple of blank squares in that corner, and then forgot to go back to them, so DNF - sadly, since he was gettable from the crosses. I did know UNITAS, and you hardly need the nickname once you have the U.

But @Rex, why, why, WHY did you you explain that you were joking about 'enhedge?' You know how much we would have enjoyed all the people writing in to say that they didn't consider it 'in the language' at all. You didn't explain the Nelson Alger joke (he wrote a ROMAN about a poor boy who was struggling to make a go of it until a rich man saw how hard he was working and gave him his prosthetic arm), which is as it should be.

As for OURS, as @Bob_Kerfuffle points out, a French bear cub is just an Ursa Minor, so easy to remember. It's ths Spaniards, who have carelessly thrown away the R, who make it hard for us.

I think the crossword language rule is determined by failed and successful invasions of England. The Spanish and Germans failed, but the French (well, really French-speaking Vikings) won, so we are expected to know more of the third than of the first two. (I don't count the Romans, Angles, or Saxons, that was too long ago). If Ethelred had been ready, things would have been different.

Brookboy 10:12 AM  

I guess I'm in the minority here, but I REALLY did not like this puzzle. I'd probably feel different if I knew some French, but maybe not. The theme answers may be cute/witty in a clever sort of way if you know enough French (maybe not), but I'm of the persuasion that fluency in a language other than English should not be necessary for me to solve and enjoy a NY Times crossword puzzle.

Maybe it's just me, but I feel like the recent Sunday puzzles have been more slog-like and less enjoyable. It's as if someone other than Mr. Shortz has been selecting the Sunday puzzles.

Anonymous 10:14 AM  

no fun at all. i didn't even bother looking up the french words. it's like there was no crossword puzzle this week.

Joe 10:20 AM  

Anyone else get utterly Naticked on SITKA/KRIS. That K could have been any damn thing if you don't watch American Idol or know about Alaska. Just me? Yeah, probably.

Tita 10:38 AM  

J'adore this puzzle!!
Merci M. Quigley.

Loved @Rex's writeup too, nost notably learning the etymology of "infant".

For all who cry foul, let me say that I felt about this puzzle (being nearly fluent in French), the way you sportophiles and popophiles feel about all of "those" kinds of puzzles.

lineAR for PLANAR caused me grief in the NE, but toughest was the CRIMEPAYS area - having urdu before ERSE (hey, I'm not fluent in either of those - gimme a break), made that the last section in.

@Evan - great one!

Oh - having schwA for SITKA also troubled that section.


@BEQ - also loved all the tricksy clues. Clever boy.

Tita 10:38 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carola 10:48 AM  

Thought it was inspired - loved it. But I can see how not-fun it would be if you don't know (enough) French. Hard to decide on my favorite - I'm partial to MERE MORTALS, since I am one but my kids seem to forget it sometimes (the "mortal" part). TRAINING BRAS and CRIME PAYS made me laugh.

DNF as I had GRANmIE (even though it seemed very questionable) crossing mAYA, which sounded like a reasonable name for a trendy water. Found the area around the INTERNET CHAT to be the toughest.

Mini subtheme of food-related woes: ANEMIA, OBESITY (crossing SAPOR), and BARF (possibly related to a bad TAMALE).

@BEQ - I've done quite a few of your puzzles and this one is my favorite by far. Thanks!

DB Geezer 10:55 AM  

I agree with @Tita's complaint about those who called foul. Quit your (female dog)ing. I'm not involved in sports, TV, or contemporary music. But it's the crossword puzzle I am interested in, and so I slog my way through, often needing some Google help.
If you complainers want to understand every clue perfectly, go do crossword puzzles designed for sixth graders.

Lazysusan 10:56 AM  

I thought I was so clever when I came up with CHATROOMCHAT. Then I noticed that none of the others used the French word twice.........

olopeace 1 11:00 AM  

I suspect that those who are more adept at solving crosswords were happier with this theme than others. And I suspect that the majority who frequently comment in this blog are in that group. I wonder.

Anyway, I think the fact is that if you are familiar with French, this theme is enjoyable and if not, the theme should seem pretty wretched. I didn't much mind the puzzle, since I knew most of the French words, but I do wonder if it was fitting for the NY Times Sunday puzzle. Too bad this puzzle couldn't have been published without usurping the Sunday puzzle.

And I am feeling pretty hostile these days to chaptchas.

Milford 11:08 AM  

@Tita - I had schwA before SITKA as well! Thought I was being so clever.

My 7 years of Latin, Spanish and a little bit of Italian helped me get maybe 7 of the 10 French words. Got the theme at MERE MORTALS and THE ARTIST.

Here's where I got tripped up: thought SAbOR (Spanish for taste)was correct for 52 across, which then made for bAIN MANAGEMENT. "Bain" seemed like a French word I've seen (yeah, but it means bath. Duh.), so I left that whole entry, thinking it was some timely pun with Romney. So, DNF here.

Another problem was the ONE OF OURS. I had that completely filled in, but out of curiosity googled french for "bear cub" and came up with "ourson". So now I'm thinking "our son" must be in the phrase, and tried to see how that could fit (of course it wouldn't). But it did throw me for a bit!

BTW, thank you @Bob Kerfuffle for explaining your take on that clue - helped me actually get the play on words.

Besides these hiccups, I did really enjoy this puzzle, and most of it I flew through.

Another hot TAMALE today! I know Andrea says that Will insists these are coincidental, but I'm not convinced.

PanamaRed 11:26 AM  

@Tita - sport and pop are part of the culture - French is not. An occasional word or two, yes, but not an entire puz. Count me as a naysayer.

I'm glad that you enjoyed it. But as someone else said - a lost Sunday for me. And I usually like BEQ's efforts.

Mel Ott 11:32 AM  

The St. Nicholas who eventually morphed into Santa Claus was the Bishop of Smyrna (Izmir).

I probably would not have enjoyed this puzzle as much if I had no knowledge of French. For me it provided a pleasant Aha moment each time I figured out the French connection.

The one word I did not know was OURS. Since every crossworder knows that Ursa is Latin and Oso (or Osa) is Spanish for Bear, OURS was not too much of a reach for a French Bear. All the other words I probably knew after one year of HS French.

Anonymous 11:32 AM  

Perusing through today's NYTimes, I find that the Sports Section is huge, and the only one with sufficient advertising to make its presence economically viable. The Arts & Leisure section is similarly large. It's got plenty of pop culture in it.

The French Section? They must have left it out this week due to Hurricane Sandy. Yeah, that's why there's no French Section in the NYTimes.

Sandy K 11:48 AM  

@ Evan- I'm in your "TETE OFFENSIVE" group. Can't even give up an LOL : [

Although I managed to complete this puzzle, (MIRACLE!!) I had no fun at all. I guess BEQ and I are not on the same wave-length in English or French...

ERIEPA? SIGEP? IZMIR? NAYA? UOFA? ONEOFOURS? CRIMEPAYS? I got them, I just don't GET them??

Unknown 12:02 PM  

Loved puzzle. My french limited to helping 3 children who wouldnt listen and take spanish with their homework. And my limited french for labor.
And I now know someone who has achieved the epitomy of fame by being the answer in a nyt puzzle-Dave Attell of RVC,NY.
Betz the midwife

Carole Shmurak 12:05 PM  

I agree with JackJ who said: "Despite never having any training in French, the theme entries were sufficiently elementary to allow for both solving the puzzle and enjoying the puns."

I never studied French in school; spent one summer 30 years ago learning it with flash cards, so I could pass a language exam in grad school. But these words were pretty elementary: fin, pain, roman, mere etc. ' Ours' did give some trouble, but knowing ursa helped. I thought this was difficult and very funny!

Norm 12:28 PM  

Ugh. Despite knowing or being able to guess a lot of the French -- ugh.

Stephen 12:30 PM  

Old joke:
someone who speaks 3 languages: trilingual
someone who speaks 2 languages: bilingual
someone who speaks 1 languages: American
As someone who falls in the last category, I find the joke funny and telling and sad.

This comment just makes me angry:
sport and pop are part of the culture - French is not.
Our whole language is suffused with French. The whole development of American history and culture for the last 5 centuries is unintelligible without knowing about France. That one of us could utter this nonsense is an opportunity for some wit to construct a new joke about Americans.

chefbea 12:34 PM  

I did know some of the french words but still was tough. DNF.

My kids up north now have power...hope the Rexites do too.

PuzzleNut 1:20 PM  

Wife and I were in Paris many years ago and my French was limited to "Gracias". Like many subjects, my knowledge of French is derived entirely from crossword puzzles.
Got caught by the OTHER Matisse masterpiece, La Manse. Wasn't sure what a mILATOR was, but should have questioned it a little more.
BEQ belongs in the pantheon of Crossword Gods, in my opinion, and this puzzle is evidence of his wide ranging knowledge. Just when I finally learn some esoteric rap artists, he hits me with a new subject.

Anonymous 1:29 PM  

what i loved about this puzzle is that on first encounter i couldn't get even a toe hold. i perused it long and hard. then i merely put in the word mere but got no farther. then i left it and shortly had an aha! moment. one's mind is always incubating behind the scenes it seems. so i went back and put in the rest of the line. and so it went. i have a knowledge of french which stood me in good stead and i was happy to just about complete this puzzle (i had Iris instead of Kris). i think it is most satisfying when you think you have no chance at all but you persevere and get it. for me that is the fun of the puzzles. i understand that those with no smattering of french or more found it very difficult. i do have more trouble with the sports names but it is true we are exposed to them in the general culture even if we don't focus on them and given enough letters we often get it. i am having a dickens of a time with the capchas since they changed them and can hardly ever get my blog in. must be that i'm a robot.

retired_chemist 2:14 PM  

Loved it. Just my kind of theme. Did not know three of the French words, OURS. BRAS, and ROMAN, but the crosses and the English phrase saved the day.

45A ETTE crossing 37D TNT was a speed bump. Ditto HORNET for RED ANT (if you're from Texas the fire and is the ONLY stinging ant - any others pale in comparison) and a few other writeovers. Hand up for DENTATE and parsing ERIEPA as one WTF word until the D'oh moment.

Thanks, Brendan.



retired_chemist 2:17 PM  

umm- that would be fire ant, not fire and. When are we gonna get a useful preview back?

Anonymous 2:21 PM  

This non-French expert used at least 4 ways to get the French portion of the theme answers:
1. Crosses
2. Almost unavoidable knowledge of French words or roots (FIN, TEMPS)
3. Using the clue to get the English portion of the answer and then trying to see a well-known English phrase from what I had filled in (ROMAN, THE, MERE, BRAS, OURS [toughest to get], CHAT, PAYS)
4. A miracle (I had PAI and finally remembered from somewhere that PAIN = bread)

It's so nice to occasionally get a Sunday crossword that's a little different and a bit more challenging than normal.

PanamaRed 3:05 PM  

@Stephen - my comment about culture was merely a friendly response to Tita's post about sportophiles and popophiles, and I merely meant that the french language was not in the same mainstream consciouness as sports and pop.

It amazes me how some can take a statement completely out of context. For the record, I admire the French, and their many contributions to our culture.

Lighten up and don't be angered so easily. The joke is on you.

Susan McConnell 3:20 PM  

I enjoyed this, probably because my brain remembers some (un peu?) French. Even so, Evan gets big points for TETE OFFENSIVE!

Naticked at SIGEP/ERSE. Favorite theme answer: PAIN MANAGEMENT.

Thanks BEQ!

Anonymous 3:23 PM  

bien cute!! not the puzzle, just the comments.

Davis 3:48 PM  

I managed to burn through this puzzle quickly with just three years of high school French (my main focus was Latin back then), so I got some fun out of the theme. ONE OF OURS just plain doesn't work, though — "One of bear"? Really?

Otherwise, no real troubles anywhere. But was anyone else thinking of Mitt after filling in "BINDER"?

WA 4:03 PM  

Really enjoyed this puzzle and French is my fourth language and I only speak two. We have been to Izmir, which always remind me of the Yiddish vay iz meir, which means woe is me.

Eejit 4:05 PM  

My schoolboy French got me through, but I think it would be doable with little to none from the crosses and through deduction. Loved the Monty Python clip, I always think of it when I hear that word.

quilter1 4:06 PM  

I didn't even get to this until after 2 pm. I always enjoy BEQ and this was no exception. Great idea fairly executed. I knew all the French words except OURS, and once I got the theme at MERE MORTALS I could suss out the rest. Great enjoyment all around.

C. Ross Word 4:58 PM  

Finished with no errors: usually makes me happy. No joy in this one. Had 3 years of French (actually passed 2) which helped. Can't imagine how much I would have hated it with no French in my corner. As it is, this was a horrid 3-hour slog. A few more like this and I just wouldn't bother any more. Thanks, now I feel better. I'm going to slam my thumb with a hammer now because, like this puzzle, it feels so good when you stop.

chefwen 7:00 PM  

Know a little French but not much. Did the puzzle, finished the puzzle. Did I like the puzzle, NON. Like @Sandy K - not on the same wave length as BEQ.

When @John V leaked who the constructor was going to be I audibly groaned. Did the same thing upon completion.

Anonymous 8:00 PM  

I get really offended by political clues. 55d, issue for Michelle Obama? I kept trying to find a way to squeeze in "finding new housing after Tuesday." I don't know. I didn't realize that she was obese. Why is her weight problem an issue? Otherwise, dull puzzle.

Sandy K 8:36 PM  

@chefwen

You and I ARE on the same wave length!
LOL!

Had SAME 2 groans! Last night @John V's mention and today at end of slog.

I bought a diagramless puzzle book by BEQ and altho I love diagramless, I was sorry I got this one...some clues easy-peasy, others way beyond me- had me off-kilter...lotsa groans.

Good night!

paulsfo 8:45 PM  

@anonymous 8pm: Michelle Obama has been concerned with childhood OBESITY for a few years, very publicly. I really hope that that fact doesn't offend you. :)
I've had French but also knew all but two of the French words, just as i knew TAMALE, i.e., from being awake for the past several years.
Had an issue with the form of some clues. The phrase "some soft words" is *related* to a COO, but doesn't quite mean it. Likewise, unless some toy blocks are "woods", I don't think that some are NERFS.
Learned SAPOR (after guessing it); a good word to know, I think.
Overall I liked it (except for NAYA and URB).

paulsfo 8:47 PM  

oops "I have *not* had French but knew all but two..."

Doctor Colonel Mark 8:58 PM  

I've been concerned with childhood obesity for longer than that, and maybe outside New York her interest isn't known. It's a bad clue.

C. Ross Word 9:02 PM  

@ Anon 8:00 PM
Michelle Obama's problem will be selecting inauguration DRESS as we REEMPLOY President Obama, rescuing us from the prospect of DARKAGES wrought by Romney and his SADLOT!

Anonymous 9:21 PM  

@ C. Ross Word

Bravo! Hope you're right. My vote's already in. DARK AGES and Mitt- scary!!

michael 9:24 PM  

Got it (except for one letter), but it would have much easier with Spanish (which I know) rather than French (which I've never studied)

Anonymous 10:13 PM  

Although I appreciate the work involved to create a puzzle, I HATED this puzzle...as I have most of the recent Sunday puzzles.
I've lived in France so the French was not at issue. I'm Canadian and am tired of the plethora of obscure American references and proper names in NYT crossword puzzles. Not fun at all.
...Extremely disappointed and on the verge of throwing in the crossword towel.
C'est dommage.
Je suis desolee.

Kenneth Wurman 10:39 PM  

Two thumbs down on this clunker.

Milford 10:42 PM  

@Anon 8:00 - you are offended by "political" clues, yet you felt the need to post your political opinion on the blog. Interesting.

Georgia 5:50 AM  

Shouldn't the clue for Sig Ep have suggested it was an abbreviation . . . ?

Anonymous 8:24 AM  

Hated it---and can someone 'splain 121 across???

Anonymous 9:09 AM  

121. Rocks for Jocks, most likely : EASY A
“Rocks for jocks” is a slang term for a basic geology course at college. The course has the reputation of being an easy A for an athlete, hence "rocks for jocks".

Anonymous 10:52 AM  

Given the theme answers were so difficult for non-French speakers (I sometimes didn't understand them even when I got them with the crosses), I think the puzzle should have been clued easier. Actually, I should have given up when I saw BEQ was the constructor, but hope burns eternal...

Unknown 11:54 AM  

Hated this, as a Spanish-class taker. I can't remember a sports theme puzzles that require detailed sports knowledge throughout the puzzle. Every time I got a theme answer the feeling was more "oh" than "aha", which makes for a bad Sunday.

Michelle Obama's fight against childhood OBESITY is way better known that LOO, SAPOR, SITKA, IZMIR, BRACKEN, and the alternative spelling of OO LA LA.

Anonymous 2:45 PM  

One of the worst puzzles of the year for sure. Theme answers were tortured and stupid. I'm sure BEQ thinks he's pretty smart, and apparently some of the commenter's do too, but puzzles are supposed to be fun to solve and this one most definitely wasn't.

At first I thought it was going to be something along the lines of "Mots d'Heures: Gousses, Rames", i.e. phrases in french that sound like english and are funny (or vice versa), but no. Just plain stupid.

Anonymous 5:05 PM  

@ Georgia

Hate to stick up for the clues in this puzzle, but:

frat is abbreviation for fraternity

Anonymous 7:01 PM  

Finally! It took 44 years for my high school French to pay off, but it surely did. Loved this puzzle. Great fun.

Lori S 2:58 AM  

I loved this puzzle, and I took Italian in high school. After a week of no light and no heat, I just wanted to curl up in a ball on Sunday with a challenging but rewarding puzzle, and that's exactly what I got. I thought the theme was original and clever and most of the French words seemed familiar enough to get with a couple of crosses. The only problem for me was that the fill answers did not leap to mind after reading the clues - not "intuitive" for me, but most areas let me get a toehold and worry away at it. Sorry for the late post but I've just gotten my electricity back. Thanks for a great puzzle!

Anonymous 9:09 AM  

Did it bother anyone else that "Jocks" in "Rocks for Jocks" was capitalized? Really harshed my buzz.

Notsofast 10:50 AM  

A brilliant gem.

Anonymous 8:58 PM  

The French was fine with me. What on Earth is NERTS?

nurturing 3:53 AM  

"Nerts" is "nuts" (nonsense) in slang.

Did you know that you can find the answer to questions like this using google or your favourite search engine?

I already knew what nerts meant, but if I didn't, I would have looked it up myself. Just sayin'...

Spacecraft 1:14 PM  

I can't post. Tried twice. Capcha mistakes? Something wrong with my system? Just wanted to say I read "Word with salad or roll" and entered BAR; that cost me some time. Never heard of SIGEP, but it was forced in. If I ever find the idiot who engineers these capchas, I'm gonna

[rest of sentence intentionally left blank]

Dirigonzo 3:55 PM  

I tackled this francophobes' nightmare after finally finishing yesterday's (prime-time) puzzle, and I finished (with OWS) without fully understanding all the theme answers as I didn't know the meaning of some of the French words. Still, the resulting phrases were common enough to make them apparent (except isn't the saying, "crime DOESN'T pay"?). BEQ requires us to study the clues closely to catch the (prevously mentioned) "frat" to signal an abbreviation at 110a and the capitalized "Jocks" to indicate that it is part of a course name. And the "Indians' shoes" clue for CLEATS is classic misdirection - loved it!

"Tete Offensive" suggested above doesn't work at all for me - it was the TET OFFENSIVE, and it was just plain ugly. Which is a good excuse for me to remind everyone to take a minute to remember and honor our veterans - the recent election, whatever you think of the outcome, would not have been possible without them.

Now on to the last two Friday puzzles, which I have yet to finish.

Ginger 9:37 PM  

Late again...But was up most of the night in the ER with a sick friend. Much better now, but no sleep really messes with the gray matter.

The Spanish I took in HS is my only foreign language education, but reading, doing crosswords, and just plain living exposes us to all sorts of information, some of which is subliminal. Therefore, while it was tough, most everything fell eventually. I also learned a great deal from the commenters today. Rocks for Jocks makes sense now, (it didn't when I filled it in).

I look forward to Mondays and Thursdays when BEQ trots out a new puzzle because I appreciate the way his brain works. While this was difficult, I enjoyed it.

Joshua 11:13 PM  

Can somebody explain 19 Across to me: "Some soft words" = COO?

I recognize COO as meaning "to talk fondly, amorously, or appreciatively" but the clue calls for a plural answer, and COO is either a verb or a singular noun. I don't see how it could be interpreted as a plural.

Bananfish 12:59 PM  

Nerts? Nerts?? Nerts?????!?!? I dare you to find a living human being who has ever used that out loud. The only possible saving grace was that the other three words on that across line also began with 'N' - was that an extra hidden clue?

Bananfish 1:02 PM  

On the plus side, I thought "Area close to home" was an extremely clever clue for INFIELD.

Dave 8:51 PM  

I can do fine with German, but as one who does not speak and never took French (a few years of Latin 35 years ago), this puzzle was painful. Finished it by backing into answers. Without the French background, it was tedious. I'm sure I would have found it amusing had I known the meaning of any of the words beside temps and pain.

Anonymous 12:22 AM  

It's just a minor quibble, but I'm surprised nobody caught it in the editing phase: The answer 'LOA' is wrong. The observatory in Hawaii is on Mauna Kea, not Mauna Loa. The summit of Mauna Loa is an amazing moonscape of rocks and the occasional coating of snow, but there are no telescopes there.

Anonymous 11:12 AM  

I'm surprised nobody has quibbled (as I did) about "Layers of clouds" being STRATI. The singular layer is STRATUM. the plural is STRATA.

Dirigonzo 12:01 PM  

@anony 11:12AM - I think the clue related to STRATus clouds, the plural of which is STRATI, maybe?

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Bob Kerfuffle 7:15 AM  

Re the comment above: If these guys are so smart that they can overcome the captcha, presumably with an automated system they have written, why can none of them even hire someone who could write a plausible English sentence?

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