Furniture style of Louis XV / SUN 2-2-14 / Girl's name meaning "happiness" / Super Bowl successes, for short

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Constructor: Dick Shlakman and Jeff Chen
Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Play on Words" -- phrases that originated from Shakespeare's "Macbeth"

Word of the Day: THE SCOTTISH PLAY [Superstitious thespian's name for a work of Shakespeare ... from which 21-, 23-, 37-, 58- and 60-Down all come]
The Scottish Play and the The Bard's Play are euphemisms for William Shakespeare's Macbeth. The first is a reference to the play's Scottish setting, the second a reference to Shakespeare's popular nickname. According to a theatrical superstition, called the Scottish curse, speaking the name Macbeth inside a theatre will cause disaster. A variation of the superstition forbids direct quotation of the play (except during rehearsals) while inside a theater.
Because of this superstition, the lead character is most often referred to as the Scottish King or Scottish Lord. Sometimes Mackers is used to avoid saying the name, mostly in North America.
• • •
If I learn nothing else today, that's a pretty interesting superstition. We have a world-class Shakespeare theater here in Staunton so there are lots of Bardbots running around; I'll be sure to impress them with this next chance I get.

Theme answers:
  • 21-Down [Compassion, figuratively] = MILK OF HUMAN KINDNESS
  • 23-Down [Start of many jokes] = KNOCK KNOCK. WHO'S THERE?
  • 37-Down [Tautological statement of finality] = WHAT'S DONE IS DONE
  • 58-Down [A single stroke] = ONE FELL SWOOP
  • 60-Down [What the lucky person leads] = A CHARMED LIFE
And then the revealer clue mentioned with the Word of the Day.  Knock-knock jokes came from Shakespeare? That's two cool things I've learned from this puzzle. Nice. (No, they didn't. It's just some dialogue.)

There's a minor visual element as well, revealed at 100-Down, where BLOOD is clued as [Drippings appropriately positioned under the circled letters]. Those seven letters form the shape of a dagger or sword, fitting since (spoiler alert) the Thane of Glamis whacks almost as many people as Joe Pesci in "GoodFellas" and "Casino" combined.

Despite learning some cool new Shakespeare facts, I can't say the theme itself or the visual aspect of it grabbed me much. You can pick a bunch of in-the-language phrases from most of the big guy's plays -- I remember seeing "Romeo and Juliet" for the first time at the the above-linked theater, and every three minutes I'd hear a familiar line. The dagger, too is sort of just there without any clever Gorskian rationale. I know, the BLOOD. Not that there's anything wrong with the whole idea, but Saturday's puzzle will retain its title as NYX puz of the week.

Fill had some nice touches, including actress IONE SKYE who I believe chose her stage name from those two Scottish islands? Wrong, but sort of close.  Her famous Scottish dad took her middle name from the island but I was thinking Iona as the other one, not Ione. Also good: DURAN DURAN, POLO SHIRT, TOODLE-OO (I had ?????EOO and was sure I had something wrong), HEAVE-HO and ROCOCO.

Polo Skort

Favorite clue: [One for the money?] for UNUM. I guess it's time to return to my "musty vibe" theme one more time, though, as I couldn't find a single clue in here that couldn't have been written ten years ago. In a big Sunday puzzle that seems heavy on the old and weak on the new.

Thanks to Rex for handing me the keys for a week, and to readers and commenters for keeping it lively. Visit all my websites if you feel like it, they're open 24/7/365.

Signed, Matt Gaffney, Regent of CrossWorld for 24 more hours...unless I have Rex taken out, in which case I could rule forever. A trio of witches on a heath told me this would be a swell idea. I'll think about it...nah, too much work!


OISK 12:11 AM  

The inclusion of Duranduran (???) means the puzzle is insufficiently "musty" to suit me, Matt. I had trouble only remembering what you say to make the horse turn left, and what the biblical peak was, "moreb" kept running through my brain, but I eventually settled on Haws and Horeb. Found the Macbeth quotes interesting, despite being reasonably familiar with the play, (and the associated "curse") I didn't realize that some of the quotes actually came from that source. Enjoyable puzzle, thank you. ( I think I actually saw Barbarella on TV, - an insufficiently bodacious Jane Fonda, IIRC, but I certainly don't remember the villain's name. )

Steve J 12:22 AM  

I wonder if I was alone in reading the clue for 100D as meaning that there was something dripping under each letter. I sat staring for a while trying to find any sense of BLOOD, but of course found none.

Maybe it was for that reason - thinking the clue promised something that it apparently didn't - that this just didn't grab me. Yes, so many of our idiomatic phrases come from Shakespeare, and it's always fun to recall them or discover their origin. But there was nothing about this puzzle that really said Macbeth (it's been 25 years since I read the bulk of the plays, and I've never been good at remembering which phrase came from which play).

Liked DURAN DURAN and its clue. LITERATI is an oddly fun word (probably because of its inherent degree of preposterousness), and TOODLEOO was nice. Seemed pretty free of subpar fill, which is always welcome.

Technically DNF due to the SECO/BANDOLERO crossing. SECO can be SECA, depending on the gender of the noun, and BANDaLERO works phonetically. So I entered it. I'm pretty sure I won't be alone in that. (I should have remember that wine is masculine in Spanish.)

Anonymous 12:22 AM  

Thanks for your comments this week.

John Child 12:29 AM  

I thought that Natick was in Massachusetts, but it's relocated to the northwest in this puzzle. I couldn't believe HAWS since haw is in a clue, and HOREB crossing actors crossing an actress stumped me almost as long as the rest of the puzzle. Eventually sorted that out but DNF with an A rather than an O at the crossing of the two Spanish words up there.

Otherwise easy and cute, and I liked it. Lots of short dreck though among the nice fill.

Thanks for being our substitute, Matt. How did the class behave while Mr Parker was out?

August West 12:35 AM  

Fastest Sunday ever. All those li'l three letter words/abbrevtiations. Like popping cashews. Solved this in almost wholly sequential across order, so didn't really see the theme clues until post-solve review. Workmanlike. Saturday much more fun.

Mohair Sam 12:40 AM  

No "Fatal Vision", no "out out brief candle", no "Sound and Fury", no "struts and frets", no love. An easy Sunday that didn't take full advantage of the Bard's best.

Cluing was strong and we got hung up on SE for a while (yum for OOH), but no doubling any bubbles here. Dunno, huge MacBeth fan - best play ever - maybe I just wanted more. Wake Will Shortz with thy knocking? I wish thou hadst.

Back around 1980 Ian McKellan made a wonderful show for BBC and PBS entitled "Acting Shakespeare." If you can find it watch it - a lot of MacBeth, great stuff - Tomorrow and tomorrow and . . . . .

jae 12:44 AM  

Very easy and entertaining Sun. for me.  Did not know all those phrases were from Macbeth.  Liked the dagger and blood portrayal.  For me the fun theme more than makes up for stuff like OHO, UH HUH, UH OH, YOS, UNUM, OH I...although that is a boat load of Us...

Nice seeing all of IONE SKYE.

Nice one guys!

retired_chemist 12:57 AM  

Enjoyable. No hangups to speak of, unless you count the circled letters and 100D, which made no sense to me until I had finished and stared a while. But relearning the source of the theme phrases made it worthwhile.

If it's three letters and you drink it, it's ale. Not at 39A, though. Ale would go well with a TACO. better than EAU.

ICE floES @ 113A until ASTOR set me right. cAnnon @ 23A was fixed, inter alia, by NOURI al-Maliki. That's an answer we might not see in five or ten years....

Thanks, Messrs. Shlakman and Chen. And thank you, Matt Gaffney, for an excllent job as Regent.

Anonymous 1:01 AM  

In case anyone cares, Staunton VA is pronounced Staaaaaaaaaaanton. With a nasal aaaaaaaaaa. Oh, and if you order eggs there, remember if you order them over-easy they just have the chicken come and plop them out on your plate.

I was really struck how the path one meanders through while solving dictates the overall feel for the puzzle. At one point I just UHOHed and OHIed and kNEEd NELL ( ok, cue the discussion that NELL wasn't Dudley's love, Dudley only loved his horse) that I went ESE pulled a Uey and went EWE and TOODLEOOd when I finally had to say OHO.

Steve J 1:04 AM  

Somehow, I totally missed Matt's musing about taking out the sitting King of Crossworld. Nicely played.

And thanks to Matt for the week of commentary. The writeups were all great.

ahimsa 1:13 AM  

"Is this a dagger I see before me?"

I loved the puzzle mostly because I'm a big Shakespeare fan. I've been going to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (located in Ashland, OR) since the early 1980s. They produce plays by many other authors, too, but some Shakespeare is a given each season.

This puzzle was fairly easy for me but a lot of fun.

But I did not see that the circles were supposed to form a dagger until I came here. I guessed it might be a cross, and then an arrow (pointing to what?), but not a dagger. Not even after I saw the BLOOD. Oh, well, that's lack of imagination on my part, I guess.

Kudos to Dick Shlakman and Jeff Chen!

And thanks to Matt for the write-ups this week.

Mohair Sam 1:19 AM  

Good gosh - forgot to Thank Matt Gafney for a wonderful job in subbing for Rex. Enjoyed his opinion and learned much.

Thank you Matt.

The Bard 1:40 AM  

Macbeth, Act II, scene III

[Knocking within. Enter a Porter]

Porter: Here's a knocking indeed! If a
man were porter of hell-gate, he should have
old turning the key.

[Knocking within]
knock, knock! Who's there, i' the name of
Beelzebub? Here's a farmer, that hanged
himself on the expectation of plenty: come in
time; have napkins enow about you; here
you'll sweat for't.

[Knocking within]
knock! Who's there
, in the other devil's
name? Faith, here's an equivocator, that could
swear in both the scales against either scale;
who committed treason enough for God's sake,
yet could not equivocate to heaven: O, come
in, equivocator.

[Knocking within]
knock, knock! Who's there? Faith, here's an
English tailor come hither, for stealing out of
a French hose: come in, tailor; here you may
roast your goose.

[Knocking within]
knock; never at quiet! What are you? But
this place is too cold for hell. I'll devil-porter
it no further: I had thought to have let in
some of all professions that go the primrose
way to the everlasting bonfire.

[Knocking within]

Anon, anon! I pray you, remember the porter.

[Opens the gate]

Macbeth ,Act I, scene V

[Enter LADY MACBETH, reading a letter]

LADY MACBETH: 'They met me in the day of success: and I have
learned by the perfectest report, they have more in
them than mortal knowledge. When I burned in desire
to question them further, they made themselves air,
into which they vanished. Whiles I stood rapt in
the wonder of it, came missives from the king, who
all-hailed me 'Thane of Cawdor;' by which title,
before, these weird sisters saluted me, and referred
me to the coming on of time, with 'Hail, king that
shalt be!' This have I thought good to deliver
thee, my dearest partner of greatness, that thou
mightst not lose the dues of rejoicing, by being
ignorant of what greatness is promised thee. Lay it
to thy heart, and farewell.'
Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be
What thou art promised: yet do I fear thy nature;
It is too full o' the milk of human kindness
To catch the nearest way: thou wouldst be great;
Art not without ambition, but without
The illness should attend it: what thou wouldst highly,
That wouldst thou holily; wouldst not play false,
And yet wouldst wrongly win: thou'ldst have, great Glamis,
That which cries 'Thus thou must do, if thou have it;
And that which rather thou dost fear to do
Than wishest should be undone.' Hie thee hither,
That I may pour my spirits in thine ear;
And chastise with the valour of my tongue
All that impedes thee from the golden round,
Which fate and metaphysical aid doth seem
To have thee crown'd withal.

chefwen 1:42 AM  

Looked like a freakin arrow to me. Elizabeth, where for art thou. Not being a Shakespeare enthusiast, it was o.k., but not one of my favorites. Just happy to get 'er done unassisted.

The Bard 1:43 AM  

Macbeth , Act III, scene II

LADY MACBETH: Nought's had, all's spent,
Where our desire is got without content:
'Tis safer to be that which we destroy
Than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy.


How now, my lord! why do you keep alone,
Of sorriest fancies your companions making,
Using those thoughts which should indeed have died
With them they think on? Things without all remedy
Should be without regard: what's done is done.

Macbeth , Act IV, scene III

MACDUFF: He has no children. All my pretty ones?
Did you say all? O hell-kite! All?
What, all my pretty chickens and their dam
At one fell swoop?

Macbeth , Act V, scene VIII

MACBETH: Thou losest labour:
As easy mayst thou the intrenchant air
With thy keen sword impress as make me bleed:
Let fall thy blade on vulnerable crests;
I bear a charmed life, which must not yield,
To one of woman born.

Questinia 1:43 AM  

TOODLEOO is the new ciao. I'm positive BARBARA BUSH says it. Lady Mac-B might too if she was feeling a bit ROCOCO about her BLOOD SOP:

"TOODLEOO damn spot I say!"

However the word of the week has got to be: purdle by @ cascokid

The Bard 1:45 AM  

Macbeth , Act II, scene I

MACBETH: Go bid thy mistress, when my drink is ready,
She strike upon the bell. Get thee to bed.

[Exit Servant]

Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
To feeling as to sight? or art thou but
A dagger of the mind, a false creation,
Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?
I see thee yet, in form as palpable
As this which now I draw.
Thou marshall'st me the way that I was going;
And such an instrument I was to use.
Mine eyes are made the fools o' the other senses,
Or else worth all the rest; I see thee still,
And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood,
Which was not so before. There's no such thing:
It is the bloody business which informs
Thus to mine eyes.
Now o'er the one halfworld
Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse
The curtain'd sleep; witchcraft celebrates
Pale Hecate's offerings, and wither'd murder,
Alarum'd by his sentinel, the wolf,
Whose howl's his watch, thus with his stealthy pace.
With Tarquin's ravishing strides, towards his design
Moves like a ghost. Thou sure and firm-set earth,
Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear
Thy very stones prate of my whereabout,
And take the present horror from the time,
Which now suits with it. Whiles I threat, he lives:
Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives.

[A bell rings]

I go, and it is done; the bell invites me.
Hear it not, Duncan; for it is a knell
That summons thee to heaven or to hell.


Evan 2:24 AM  

I had a similar confusion that Matt and @Steve J did about the BLOOD -- I not only thought there was supposed to be blood droplets directly beneath the circled squares, but I couldn't even tell that the circles were in the shape of a dagger. I thought it was supposed to be a Christian cross.

But anyway, I found this to be pretty easy and fun for a Sunday. I had no idea that KNOCK KNOCK WHO'S THERE came from Shakespeare. Is there any phrase that guy didn't come up with? THE ROBOT, you say?


For those who haven't seen it yet, I just launched Devil Cross, my new indie puzzle website. You can check out my first puzzle here (it's a themeless). New puzzle there every other Saturday, so the next one should be on February 15. I'm super-excited about it, as you can imagine. Early returns seem positive -- hopefully I can keep that up! My new avatar is the little favicon that shows up on the browser tab.

Thanks for filling in all week, Matt, and for giving my new puzzle gig a shout-out on your website!

Ellen S 3:52 AM  

Matt, great wrriteups this week. It's been lots of fun.

If I did it right my avatar is now a screen shot of the completed grid in Puzzazz showing the circles connected in the shape of a dagger, with the blood dripping from it. I never would have thought of it--the app filled it in when I finished the puzzle.

Can someone explain 49D? "Army threats" are OCTOPI? As in, "After you surrender this village, we'll OCTOPI it?" Mew?

Ellen S 3:54 AM  

I OCTOPI my leisure time doing crosswords?

Thomas808 4:16 AM  

@Ellen S "OCTOPI" as in plural of octopus, which I guess to some could be a threat with many arms.

Thomas808 4:41 AM  

"Gee" and "Haw" have always stuck in my brain since I read Jack London's "To Build a Fire" in high school with the great image of the dogs freeing the sled from ice by turning to the right and then the left. So 1A was pretty easy to get after thinking through a couple of mounts in the Bible (Sinai was the first 5 letter that came to mind).

But that backfired on me when saw the clue for 81D "Cry before 'haw'" when I confidently wrote "gee" instead of YEE. Since I don't know IONESKYE, in the end I sat there for about 5 minutes trying to find my error. I should have realized it would have been inappropriate to have a clue in the same meaning as an answer, but the brain in crossword mode has blind spots and ruts, as we all have experienced. Finally realized there could not be name IONESKgE and realized my mistake.

Funny fact is that in England the directions are opposite from the U.S. in that gee means left and haw means right.

AliasZ 4:58 AM  

I loved this puzzle. It was Tuesday-easy, but well worth it. When I finished, I looked at the graphics and said to myself: "Is this a dagger which I see before me, the handle away from my hand and BLOOD dripping from its blade?" One seldom has the chance to appreciate all the common expression that made it into the language via Shakespeare, and THE SCOTTISH PLAY in this case, from "KNOCK, KNOCK, WHO'S THERE, in the name of Belzebub?" to "All my pretty chickens and their dam at ONE FELL SWOOP?"

The only problem was that as soon as I got to ICEHOLE, I could think of nothing else but Roman Moronie in Johnny Dangerously.


Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. I bear A CHARMED LIFE, but now I have to go let the dog out. Out, damned Spot, out, I say!

I find it entirely appropriate to close with this brief excerpt from the Mass in B MINOR by Johann Sebastian Bach.

PS. The NYT found it entirely appropriate to do away with the "Enlarge Grid" link on the "Play against the Clock" page that directed one to the URL -- this page now no longer exists. You can only see a 21x21 through a 15x15 hole. I wonder what trouble that extra page caused that the techies couldn't wrap their minds around so they needed to take it off line? Inquiring minds need to know, so I sent an email to the appropriate department. Based on previous experience, I doubt they will respond with anything other than a semi-polite from letter. Apparently the New and Improved attitude at the NYT is: if something works, break it or take it away. They need to piss off as many paying customers as they can in the shortest time possible. They are doing a great job of it. The bastages.

Danp 5:57 AM  

Is this a dagger I see before me? I would have never guessed. It just looks like an arrow.

Bob Kerfuffle 6:51 AM  

I was reminded of the old joke about the college student who was asked his opinion after seeing a Shakespeare play for the first time and responded, "Eh, it was all clich├ęs!"

Count me with those who failed to see a dagger emerge from the circles.

Rexville was well represented at Saturday's Westport Library Crossword Contest, where "our" table swept the top prizes. Seemed everyone had a very good time. I'll leave the details to others who have a better chance of getting everyone's name right.

Happy Groundhog Day!

loren muse smith 7:11 AM  

Matt – thanks for your week of write-ups! Come back soon! Your POLO Skort made me laugh out loud!!

Dick, Jeff -I loved this puzzle and never knew any of those phrases came from That PLAY.

"Ave" before TIA and "ad lib" before ACT UP.

@jae – I got the sense after a couple of OHs, that they said, "Heck. Let's run with it." So I ended up getting a kick out of all the muttered cousins: UH OH (great clue!), UH HUH, O HO, OH I ("I'll" first) OOH. . . plus YEE HAW, TSK, YO (Adrian) and TOODEOO to boot! (OH, and "boatload of U's" – 5 of the 8 U's are in the northeast!)

GLIB and WRITHE – two terrific words.

@Bob – funny joke – I had never heard it. More news/pics from Westport, please!!

I hate to rain on the parade, but there's a big elephant in the room, and someone has to address it. So I guess it'll be me. . .

Chen Authorship Question

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Chen authorship question is the argument about whether someone other than Jeff Chen of Seattle-upon- Puget actually wrote the puzzles attributed to him. Anti-Chenians—a collective term for adherents of the various alternative-authorship theories—say that Chen of Puget was a front to shield the identity of the real author or authors, who for some reason did not want or could not accept public credit. Although the idea has attracted much public interest, all but a few Chen scholars and cruciverb historians consider it a small-minded, jealous,fringe belief and for the most part acknowledge it only to rebut or disparage the claims.

Chen's authorship was first questioned in the early 21st century (Sunday, December 15, 2013), when, overnight, adulation of Chen as possibly the greatest constructor of all time became widespread. Chen's biography, particularly his humble origins and obscure, sad, little life, seemed incompatible with his linguistic eminence and his reputation for genius, arousing suspicion that Chen might not have written the works attributed to him. The controversy has since spawned a vast body of literature, and 80 authorship candidates have been proposed, including Ulee Jackson, Eminem, I.M. Pei, and Ione Skye.

Supporters of alternative candidates argue that theirs is the more plausible constructor, and that Jeffrey Chen lacked the basic education, good grooming, or command of the common language that they say is apparent in the works. Those Chen scholars who have responded to such claims hold that biographical interpretations of puzzles are unreliable in attributing authorship, and that the convergence of documentary evidence used to support Chen's authorship—pay check stubs, testimony by other contemporary cruciverbalists , and official records—is the same used for all other authorial attributions of his era.

Despite the scholarly consensus, a relatively small but highly visible and diverse assortment of supporters, including Andre Romelle Young, (Dr. Dre) Bert Lahr, Paul Anka, and Cyd Charisse, have questioned the conventional attribution. They work for acknowledgment of the authorship question as a legitimate field of scholarly inquiry and for acceptance of one or another of the various authorship candidates.

Jeff - I don't care what the nay-sayers say. You da man!

Dick - congrats and nice job!

chefbea 7:11 AM  

Boy this puzzle was a lot of toil and trouble!!! and I still don't understand it. Had no trouble finishing it last night with a few googles , but not being a Shakespeare buff…

I tried to make sense of the circles - figured the letters inside were types of blood.

Been busy the last few days getting ready for super bowl party, so no time for puzzles.

Very foggy here this morning so guess spring is on the way…no shadow here.

ahsieh 7:18 AM  

A dagger pointing down instead of an arrow pointing up. The printed dagger symbol is shaped like a cross:

paulsfo 7:27 AM  

"The song Pony Time, recorded in 1961 by Chubby Checker and a number one hit that year, includes the lyrics

Now you turn to the left when I say gee,
You turn to the right when I say haw,
Now gee, ya ya little baby,
Now haw, ya oh baby, oh baby, pretty baby,
Do it baby, oh baby, oh baby,

Boogety, boogety, boogety, boogety shoo."

DrXWord 7:32 AM  

49D reminded me that there are legitimate, although pedantic, arguments that OCTOPI is not the correct plural for those fascinating "army threats".

Rob C 8:02 AM  

Easy-Med Sunday for me. Played a lot like a themeless for me since the phrases really don't relate to each other, other than originating from Macbeth.

Did the letters in the dagger have any significance?

PS-@ahsieh 7:18 appears to be correct. it's a dagger shape pointed down rather than an arrow pointing up.

Thanks Matt for a great job on your commentary this week.

NCA President 8:32 AM  

I got hung up on "Drippings"...since it was plural, I thought there would be some kind of something under each circled letter. Otherwise, I think just a singular "dripping" would have sufficed.

I had "xENO," "TiSH," and "ICEfloES" at first, which made for a riproarin' SE corner.

WHATSDONEISDONE reminds me of "it is what it is." I wonder if Shakespeare used that line in any of his plays?

I work in a small theater which is housed in a converted warehouse. I say "MacBeth" in there all the time because, you know, it's just a warehouse. I feel like I'm cheating just a little bit...

Mohair Sam 8:41 AM  

@Loren Muse - Nice job digging out the ugly truth about Jeff Chen. Made our morning here, thanks.

jberg 8:56 AM  

Honest to God, I didn't see the circles around A and B -- and said to myself, "Hmm, that's MACBETH after the AB type BLOOD has dripped out of it. Very clever!"

But I didn't know IONE SKYE, and went with hEE Haw, the old tv show, and the variant spelling of the Romanian IONESKhE.

Two small questions -- I don't watch TV, but would have thought 31A should be TMC, The Movie Channel, instead of TCM. And I hate to question Jeff Chen about this (whoever he is), but isn't a HOTPOT something like shabu-shabu, where you boil some broth and cook your food in it at the table? I.e., a form of fondue, rather than a stew?

Just last night my wife and I went to the Synetic Theater in Arlington VA to see them perform "Twelfth Night" as part of their "Silent Shakespeare" series -- 90 minutes with no spoken dialog, although there are maybe five times they project some words on a screen. It was wonderful, we both really enjoyed it -- but I argued that it wasn't the full Shakespeare because you didn't get the thrill of recognizing phrases he invented that have entered the language. So this puzzle came at an appropriate time! (They did project "If music be the food of love, play on.")

Btw, do go to see them if you ever get the chance -- strangely located off an underground walkway in Crystal City, but worth the trek!

Rob C 8:57 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob C 9:08 AM  

oops, Ellen S was the first to point out the correct dagger. I missed her picture.

and now I see the letters in Macbeth form the dagger

paulsfo 9:22 AM  

@jberg: TCM = Turner Classic Movies, my mom's favorite channel.

Glimmerglass 9:22 AM  

I'm baaaack. Just got back from 2 weeks in Costa Rica and Panama, where it was steamy hot. I got the NYT puzzles every day but no internet, so I've been missing Rex and all you guys. Today's puzzle was pretty easy. Yesterday's was the berries!

jburgs 9:34 AM  

Enjoyable, educational puzzle and comments.

That army threat clue for octopi was devilish and I could not figure out the relationship until I came here.

One quibble is with with the clue for ice hole. I don't think that polar bears fish per se. When they are at an ice hole they are waiting for seals not fish to pop their heads up. That's why many of us stuck with ICEFLOE for a while.

Bunella 9:40 AM  

Great job "filling in" for Rex and not
Macbeth but All's Well that Ends Well.

Greg 9:41 AM  

I'm not a frequent commenter here, but I just wanted to echo the sentiments of some of the others and express my appreciation for Matt's write-ups this week... they were lively and intelligent and a lot of fun.

Susan McConnell 9:45 AM  

Unlike the rest of the week, I do Sundays on paper. When I first saw the circles, I thought it was a cross. As I started filling it in, there seemed to be so many Ks that I thought that would be part of the theme. I am disappointed that the title did not tip me off right away. By the time I was nearly finished, I could hardly see the circles any more, and when I got to 100D I had to squint through my messy writing to find them. Like others, I looked for drops directly beneath the circles. Eventually I figured out BLOOD. But it wasn't until I started thinking about writing up my thoughts that I saw the circled letters spelled out MACBETH and hence formed not a cross but a dagger. So, this was fun, but there was a lot of head-slapping involved for me.

FearlessKim 9:59 AM  

Yes, it was definitely ICEfloES before ICEHOLES, for which the very best clue would be something on the order of "Moroney epithet in 'Johnny Dangerously'" -- thanks, @AliasZ! For those of you who aren't familiar with the movie, google "Moroneys best bits (Johnny Dangerously)" for a scene from the movie. "Fargin' bastiches!"

cascokid san 9:59 AM  

Missed at yAWS/yOREB, IONESKhE/hEE and, embarrassingly, COv/EvE. Otherwise, a vigorous google-free 2:20 in-and-out of rabbit holes. Much cleaner this morning than last night.

Many thanks to Matt for his brilliant understudy turn. Careful, you'll show up the star!

@lms the Chen Authorship Question should justify a conference in, say, Binghamton NY on the ides of something.

Long Island Jazzman 10:09 AM  

23 Down's "start of many jokes" threw me off for a while because I filled in "Two guys walk into a bar", which fits perfectly. "A minister, a Priest, and a Rabbi" didn't work, though.

Z 10:20 AM  

A DNF (or finished with two wrong letters) as EnERgISERS seemed odd but both ALEnA and SEgO were plausible enough for me. Otherwise, easy. I guessed right at HAWS/HOREB. G or Y both seemed possible there but HOREB barely won out.

Thanks for the "circle letters spell MACBETH and form a dagger." I didn't bother to look and then thought it was an arrow when I saw Matt's picture of it.

@lms - I once worked with an Oxfordian. The intellectual energy conspiracy theorists expend always astounds me.

LITERATI reminded me of the far more famous "gridderati."

One eyebrow arched at SEABIRD. Is that what octopodes call them?

chefbea 10:30 AM I see that the circles spell MACBETH

Carola 10:49 AM  

Enloyable Sunday. I also looked for individual drops of blood beneath the circled letters but eventually saw the dagger spelling MACBETH. Nice.

@The Bard - Thanks for giving the context for the quotes.

@Matt - Thanks for your week of commentary!

cascokid san 10:56 AM  

Bill(y Davis Jr.)'s partner is (Marilyn Mc)COO. Why? What did you think?

Hopeless 10:57 AM  

OOF! Terrible job on the drawing, Matt. No wonder you did not like it. The dagger points downward, with the A-C forming the hilt. Droplet shapes around the BLOOD would have been appropriate (as hinted in the clue.)

Sheesh. I'm not saying that just because your contest puzzle/meta is full of hard clues and deadly fill.

Anonymous 11:38 AM  

Did not get the whole "blood dripping from the dagger" concept. I was expecting something under each circled letter. I finished but was left with a big question mark.

allan 11:40 AM  

@Matt This was the first time in a long time that I read the entire week's blogs. I found your write ups very enjoyable and informative. I hope you'll be back soon. Thanks...

Anonymous 11:42 AM  

Immensely enjoyable puzzle -- I laughed out loud several times. This had some of the best clues/answers I've seen in a long time.

Thanks for a pleasant week, Matt.

Ellen S 12:01 PM  

Again, Puzzazz not only got the dagger right, but also the blood. see finished grid ini my avatar.

I also thought the blood would be dripping from each circled letter, but I don't know nothin'.

@Thomas808 thanks for the explain about arm-y. Duh. Suddenly (too late) I'm remembering the 6th-grade English unit (not "MEW") we had covering prefixes, suffixes and roots. In my defense, it was over 60 years ago. But still, it was the best, most useful, most fun few weeks of maybe my entire education. The adjectival suffice -y means "full of".

I gotta OCTOPI myself now making coffee so I can get to the Farmers Market. Thanks @loren for the great Wikipedia article. You should submit it, see if someone has a goat.

Thank you, Dick and (maybe) Jeff. Fun puzzle, gave me a new word and showed us all that Matt can't draw. I wonder if Rex knew it was coming and turned the blog over to Matt for the whole week just so he wouldn't have to render the dagger?

Anonymous 12:21 PM  

I disagree with Matt Gaffney that "those seven letters form the shape of a dagger or sword."

First, the circles, not the letters within them, form the image. These letters Spell Macbeth but have no other significance to the puzzle.

Second, the image is obviously that of an arrow. It looks absolutely nothing whatever like any imaginable dagger.

Tita 12:21 PM  

Thanks @Matt for filling in!

I liked the puzzle much - was fun to learn and/or be reminded of the origin of many of those phrases.

And as @Matt says, fascinating to know about hte superstition.

Thanks, Dick Shlakman and Jeff Chen!

(Oh - and on the opposite end of the culture scale (the one more familiar to me(!)), I was delighted to learn Mel Blanc's EPITAPH!)

Captcha - *simile* - "as pure as the driven snow" is one from Macbeth...

Tita 12:23 PM  
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mathguy 12:45 PM  

Terrific puzzle and great comments from all of you. It was great seeing the speeches that gave us the quotes. I had OCTOPI from the crosses but didn't understand it until reading the comments. For what it's worth, it seemed obvious that the circles represented a dagger when I saw BLOOD dripping off the tip.

A dagger of the mind 12:49 PM  

Is this a dagger which I see before me ?

Fitzy 12:52 PM  

I thought the knock knock joke reference was quite clever. I would not say "(i)t's just some dialogue."
It's the justifiably famous "Porter Scene!"

Fitzy 12:55 PM  

Oh, & the American League most certainly fields Designated Hitters - every time they play in a National League stadium... which happens often enough!

Fitzy 1:04 PM  

@ Mohair ... "Fatal Vision" is in fact referenced in the puzzle as the floating dagger that spells out MacBeth's name! Solving this one is the most fun I've had w/ a puzzle in a very long time!

lawprof 1:11 PM  

Definitely NOT a dagger I see before me. Even if I squint, it's (at best) a cross of some kind. Yes, it spells out Macbeth, but even that seems gratuitous,as the play's quotations defined the theme early on.

Alas, naticked at the HOREB/OLIN crossing; not familiar with either, so I guessed "a." So, missed it by thaaat much.

I suppose I could look it up, but I ain't gonna: BANDOLERO, in my book, is the thingy that the sinister senor (i.e., the bandito) wears across his chest to carry rounds of ammo. No? I thinking of that bad dude that shows up just before the picador?

This afternoon it's the old QB vs the young QB. I know who I'm roooting for. Gotta run to the super market for chips and bean dip.

chefbea 1:15 PM  

Does anyone remember the line from "Little Women"?

Is that a dagger I see before me?…Its the toasting fork with mother's shoe on it.

cascokid san 1:41 PM  

Crossing of BANDOLERO and SECO, two Spanish words, is my first detection of a Guernica, a betrayal of solvers by constructors who assume knowledge of Spanish. "Guernica," because there is no Natick in Spain.
I'll admit that, after having be betrayed by several French-x-French "Vichys," I've had this one waiting. (Full disclosure: the 12-year-olds who edit the Urban Dictionary rejected "Vichy." Evidently, they'd heard of Natick !?!?! Well, there's a Mall there.)

retired_chemist 2:06 PM  

@ cascokid - Guernica isn't a good analogy to Natick since it is familiar to most of us through the Picasso painting. Think of a Spanish town unfamiliar to at least three-quarters of us. Maybe Torremolinos? I only know it from the Monty Python Travel Agency Sketch.

wreck 2:06 PM  

Fastest Sunday in a long time for me. I never got the "dagger" part -- I was looking for EACH letter to have something dripping from it. I didn't see it, so i just continued on.

MacMasked and MacAnonymoUs 2:16 PM  

Really solid SunPuz. With illustrations and interestin facts and the circles and title witch quotes... Well, there's yer rodeo, right there, pardner.

Really entertainin blog writeups this week, so thanks to Mr.@Matt for all his hard work. Especially enjoyed the long gaps of empty space in some of them; almost invitin folks to "insert fave YouTube vid here". How about a full MacB performance, say?

About this 10-year "musty" smell discussion:
1. 10 years is about .00000000007 of all the years that one might write clues for. So its fair share is gonna be pretty microscopic.
2. Many of the clues are about still-current things.
3. If you publish a puz with the name of Lady Gaga's current pet warthog's name, bet yah dollars to donuts that yer puz won't resonate real good in the compilation books. So cluers have to be *somewhat* selective.
4. I think a couple ChristieGate references woulda been primo, tho.
5. Super Bowl party!!


p.s. @muse. Finished my "practice" country-city grid. Only six U's; anemic.

Anoa Bob 2:28 PM  

I live in Tex-Mex land and hear Spanish all the time, so BANDOLERO, SECO, SEIS & ENERO clumped together in the MW wasn't a problem.

Balked at the clue for ENERO (6D), "One of twelve in South America", though. I don't think that works in Brazil, and that's a pretty big chunk of S.A.

Yes, it's ENERO in some parts of S.A., but if that's the criterion, then the clue could just as well have read "One of twelve in Europe". Or how about "One of twelve in Ames, Iowa"? No doubt there are some Spanish speakers there also.

DannyBurk 2:28 PM  

Interesting solve for me . . . I had 'human kindness' , 'whats done is done' , a cross and blood . . . A puzzle about Jebus?

Hand up for DNF cuz of seca/bandalero cross.

@LM Funny as hell, you certainly tickled my bacon with you Wiki entry!

Thanks Jeff and Dick!

Danny B

Tita 2:57 PM  
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Tita 2:59 PM  

@chefbea - doesn't Ingrid Bergman say something akin to "Is this a knife I see before me" in Gaslight?

Almost forgot to mention the wonderfulness that was Westport.

As @BobK said, our table was heavy with champions - the three finalists, as well as more than a few Perfect Finishers (@imsDave, @BobK, and @Wayne - probly a few mroe - sorry for leaving you out...)

Last year's winner (Hi @Glenn) sat right across from me. Alas, not even that amount of aura-absorption was able to penetrate my thick skull. I guess having a mind like a steel colander works only in one direction.
I did pretty badly, with my first Tuesday DNF in a very long time!! :(

Anyhow, a fine time was had by all, great to see everyone, sorry not to see @mac.

Will was splendind, and regaled us with fun puzzles while the scorers did their work.

Star of the show was our own @JenCT, husband Paul, and Justice!!!
All wore their puzzle outfits (vest, tie, and kerchief, respectively).

Justice stole my heart. Alas, while she did greet me with proper lab-like delight, jumping and licking, her heart belongs most solidly to Momma... she is wholly devoted to Jen.

Hopefully some of you will post pics. I didn't take any!!

MetaRex 3:06 PM  

Wow, so much creativity and so much skill...@Evan's new site...Matt's commentary..the latest collaboration from the entity previously known as Jeff Chen, AKA the Flying Spaghetti Monster...the latest iteration of r.alph's CW rating appapp...Will S. and the other CrossWorlders in Westport yesterday (scroll down for photo and slide show--there's more info on my blog)

Anonymous 3:11 PM  

As an old farm boy, I got 1-A easily, only to get Naticked by the cross at 80-A and 81-D. I thought a cry before "haw" could be "gee" (if the farmer changed.his mind about the direction he wanted the mule to go) and had no conception of Ione Skye, so I had IONESKGE, which I figured should be straightened out to be IONESCO somehow.

RnRGhost57 3:15 PM  

Fun Sunday puzzle.
Matt, thanks for the write-ups this week.

okanaganer 3:23 PM  

So many Os! And HOs and OHs and HOLES. OWE, ROCOCO, WHOLE, ODE, ROBOT.

O, William!

Kind of reminds me of the Braille puzzle a few months ago.

That's three really good puzzles in a row. You can all thank me for it, because my crossword subscription is up for renewal soon, and the NYT is obviously pouring on the coal to get my forty bucks!

quilter1 3:37 PM  

@Matt: thanks for all your work and comments.

@lms: I got it and I love it. Good work.

Thanks, Dick and Jeff, it was fun.

She Who Ignores Circles 3:54 PM  

There are as many reasons for circles in the grid as there are puzzle makers. I always find the circles superfluous...and I always ignore them.

Anonymous 4:06 PM  

Did not like Bill and Coo.

Mohair Sam 4:29 PM  

@fitzy - OK, OK on the "fatal vision". Seems too subtle and clever - but I won't argue - when Jeff Chen is involved in a puzzle (if he exists) clever becomes the norm.

GR 5:03 PM  

@wreck - what he said.
Wanted BERTHA and then CANNON for Big gun at first. The O in SECO was def. a semi-guess.
@Tita - It would be nice to be last year's winner, but that was Andy Kravis also (got it in 2012). Tuesday did seem to be tougher than usual for most everyone from what I gathered.

LaneB 5:10 PM  

When I saw the Chen name associated with today's entry, I thought, "This is going to be trouble." But, no. It turned out to be both doable and instructive. I didn't realixe that all the phrases came from Macbeth, but knew some did.. Had initial delay in the NW because of HAWS [which I still don't get from the clue] and in the SE because of HOTPOT. Otherwise I plodded along for a couple of hours feeling reasonably competent if not terribly speedy. Perhaps that should be my EPITAPH.

JDipinto 5:30 PM  

When I saw the title and then plunked in Duran Duran as my first answer I thought aha! Double Double! It's repeated words! This seemed confirmed when I got the Knock Knock answer in short order. At that point I hadn't read the revealer clue yet.

The daggernedds to be drawn without connecting the M to the A or C, only to the B. Granted you need to beef up the lower part with some tapering vertical lines to create the proper effect but it still looks convincing enough. I like the puzzle. I even drew a little pool of blood underneath it where the drippings could coagulate.

JDipinto 5:34 PM  

Uh, that was supposed to say

The dagger needs...

JDipinto 5:38 PM  

Also I meant the M should connect only to the C, not the B. Gah.

sanfranman59 6:08 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak I've made to my method. 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 6:46, 6:26, 1.05, 76%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 9:32, 8:15, 1.16, 85%, Challenging
Wed 10:08, 10:26, 0.97, 44%, Medium
Thu 15:01, 19:03, 0.79, 14%, Easy
Fri 25:10, 20:15, 1.24, 89%, Challenging
Sat 23:18, 28:35, 0.82, 11%, Easy
Sun 22:39, 30:00, 0.76, 6%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:24, 4:00, 1.10, 85%, Challenging
Tue 5:44, 5:12, 1.10, 76%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 6:19, 6:15, 1.01, 54%, Medium
Thu 8:56, 10:36, 0.84, 19%, Easy
Fri 15:53, 11:32, 1.38, 93%, Challenging
Sat 15:19, 18:32, 0.83, 18%, Easy
Sun 18:09, 20:29, 0.89, 24%, Medium-Easy

I'm taking today's stats with a boulder of salt given that the Times inexplicably took away the "Enlarge grid" link from the online applet page so that the user can view the entire grid without needing to scroll around. I downloaded and solved the puzzle in Across Lite and completed it in a time that falls well within my Easy Sunday range. And that was with a typo that I needed to hunt down. I can only imagine how much people were slowed by needing to use the slider bars to navigate around the grid. Come on, NYT! We Premium Crossword subscribers are paying customers too! How about keeping us in mind when you make changes to your site? And upgrade that danged archaic Java-based applet that makes me pull my hair out with each new "security" release of Java. Geez!

ahimsa 6:33 PM  

@Ellen S, thanks for posting that image of the filled in puzzle from Puzzazz as your avatar. The dagger was drawn in for you?! Wow, that type of feature is a great incentive for using Puzzazz as an online solving app!

It makes me want to buy an iPad just so I can use their app. :-)

Anonymous 7:57 PM  

If anyone had attended Andover, they would recall the eight and one singing "...over the mountains, we outlaws defiant, brave and gallant bandoleros, we'll conquer or die."

Macho Man 8:48 PM  

I still get to keep my Man Card if I turn off this abomination of a football game and turn on Downton Abbey, right? Right?

Roy Leban 10:46 PM  
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Roy Leban 10:49 PM  

@Ellen S, thanks for the shoutout about today's NYT in Puzzazz. Basically, Puzzazz presents the print edition, so we show whatever it shows. Some notes for ahimsa and others who are thinking about using Puzzazz: it's a free app and there is no extra charge for solving the NYT puzzles, we've got tons of additional content available, and some announcements you'll like coming out soon.

We've posted some screen snapshots of the Scottish Play puzzle on our site if anyone wants to see them:

NYT Crossword 02/02/2014 on iPad
NYT Crossword 02/02/2014 on iPhone

While I think the dagger is an awesome visual, I think the presentation is a bit off. Here's what I wrote on Wordplay:

I just didn't get the circled letters. I don't know why I didn't see it, but I didn't. Early on, with A C B and E in the center, I was thinking that maybe there was a Gorski-esque Connect-the-Dots puzzle. Then I sort of forgot about it. I didn't get it until I finished the puzzle and the dagger appeared and BLOOD changed to red, sort of like an extra coda at the end of a play (cue ominous music). So, even though this presentation is really cool, I sort of wish that the dagger outline had been shown in the puzzle itself instead of via circled letters.

And now that I think of it, an actual Connect-the-Dots would have been good as well, though, given the constraints, that might well have been an impossible construction.

Mohair Sam 11:13 PM  

@macho man - Dunno if you keep your Man Card or not, I voted no. Real men know that Downton will repeat tonight's episode at 8 next Sunday giving us a two hour run of that wonderful show. We watch, of course, only to keep our female companions happy.

Anonymous 12:10 AM  

For the polo shirt you used Ralph Lauren, LaCoste symbol is the alligator.

Mike 4:21 PM  

I have been using the iPad Magmic App for the NYT puzzle, and I am seriously considering turning off the auto renewal to switch to Puzazz. The other puzzles I solve there have all worked quite well. Th Magmic app has been underwhelming a fair amount of the time.

JenCT 11:03 PM  

@Tita: Thanks for the shout-out; just got to this puzzle now

Big props to the Seattle Seahawks for a resounding win; sorry for the Broncos fans, having to see their team completely dominated. It was easily the most boring Superbowl I can remember.

I'll post some pics from Westport on my blog...

spacecraft 2:52 PM  

When I see the expression "Dagger of the mind" I recal the STTOS episode with that title, guest starring that real-life tragic hero Steve Ihnat. But I did not see anything I could take as a dagger-shape in the circled letters. Like many others, I thought it was an arrow.

Had to go back through and pick out those letters to discover that they spell...well, you-know-who. Another, deeper layer so typical of Chen.

At first, laying down 23 and 37d, I thought all the theme entries had to have something "doubled," as in the toil and trouble of the title. But then there was 21d, which sure wanted to be MILKOFHUMANKINDNESS--but there was nothing doubled in it, so I resisted it for a long while--until more than HALF the crosses were in! Then I began to think there was another connection: maybe Shakespeare, but little did I imagine they were all from the same work. Then after I finished and reread them, I realized that of course they were. ACHARMEDLIFE was the one that surprised me; I'd forgotten that passage.

Top-to-bottom asymmetry, but boy! Talk about your theme density! As I've said before, Jeff, I hope you never decide to "try and take over the world" a la The Brain. You have no Pinky to thwart your plans.

HOTPOT: stolen hemp?

Well, if you allow the short, shaded part of the captcha to help out, I can make a full house. Otherwise, two crummy pair.

Dirigonzo 3:42 PM  

At the SEC_/Band_lero cross I guessed wrong (a) - I should have just looked at the rest of the grid and realized that if there was one thing it desperately needed it was one more O! I counted 43 Os - I wonder if that's some kind of record? Anyway, OWS.

Full house - 4s over 5s.

JCeman 7:00 PM  

Hello from here in Syndication Land. Felt I have to anddress to "issues" I see here in the comments. Dudley Doright did indded love Nell, but unfortunately she did not return that love, her affections were for his horse, Horse. Hard to keep all th eplayers straight, but that's the way Jay liked it. As for the ammunition device worn by the properly named bandoleros, it is a bandolier.

Dirigonzo 7:34 PM  

@JCeman - it's good to have a resident fact-checker here in syndi-land to set the record straight. Welcome!

Shax 9:07 PM  

Having taught the bard's plays for 30 years, and having directed the Scottish play as a contemporary take on corporate America (e.g. Inside trader for traitor), I loved this puzzle. Have just starting constructing puzzles and wanted to do a bard theme. Glad to learn he's not too esoteric. Now I just have to screw my courage!

Red Valerian 11:08 AM  

@Shax--UP! :-)

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