Jules Massenet opéra comique / THU 7-10-14 / Fangorn denizens / Cousin of cor anglais / Hit 2006 horror film based on a video game series / Seminal 1962 book on environment / Poe title character / Spacecraft designer Musk

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Constructor: John Guzzetta

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: SILENT — "Silent" must be imagined as a preceding word in six answers. First letters of all six theme answers are themselves "silent" in their crossings. [There are also a lot of other silent letters in the grid, which surely must be intentional, but how they complement the more obvious thematic answers or add *any* enjoyment to the solving experience, I have no idea]

Theme answers
  • [Silent] PARTNER / COUP (silent P)
  • [Silent] HILL / HONEST WOMAN (silent H)
  • [Silent] NIGHT / DAMNS (silent N)
  • [Silent] SPRING / ELLIS ISLAND (silent S)
  • [Silent] MOVIE / MNEMONIC (silent M)
  • [Silent] TREATMENT / LISTEN (silent T)
Word of the Day: UKASE (3D: Decree) —
  1. An authoritative order or decree; an edict.
  2. A proclamation of a czar having the force of law in imperial Russia.
[French, from Russian ukaz, decree, from Old Church Slavonic ukazŭ, a showing, proof : u-, at, to + kazati, to point out, show.]

Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/ukase#ixzz37212DrHn
• • •

I am told that the preponderance of silent letters in the grid is somehow involved in the theme (even beyond the six silent letters directly tied to the six theme answers) … and I think this must be correct—otherwise how to explain DEMESNE (43D: Lord's estate), for example, not to mention all the mediocre-to-bad fill generally? But man, I didn't see that angle at all, and at least a few other people I know didn't either. The silent letter angle gives us a completely different take on "silent" … but … again, the placement and frequency of the theme elements seem utterly arbitrary. That is, yes, every first letter is silent, but then … is DEMESNE part of the theme? It feels abusively intentional, but it's extra-thematic, as far as I can tell. CZAR? LIGHTS? KOHL? AESTHETES? This is just a conceptual mess. Most people are never going to pick up on the silent letter thing, and are thus going to wonder why the Thursday puzzle skimped so badly on theme content. I don't know if discovering the silent letter angle is going to lead to more "ahas" or "ughs." I only know how I felt. I mainly feel confused. I wasn't even sure I had all the theme answers counted correctly at first. "Silent COUP … that's a thing, right? Is that a theme answer …?"

My friend Finn suggested that people might've appreciated this theme more if A. the "silent" letters in the theme answers had been circled, and B. there weren't these extra silent letters all over the place, making one wonder if they're part of the theme or not. I think he's basically right on both counts.

The fill is passable on this one, but far from scintillating. Not a big UKASE fan (3D: Decree), as I've only ever seen it in crosswords, usually as crutch-fill, but it's a real word, so I can't get too upset. DPT I didn't remember at all (9D: Vaccine combo). Seems unnecessary to have an initialism up there, especially (!!) in an easy-to-till little section like that. Even MANON (11D: Jules Massenet opera comique) and STYLO (13D: Pen, in Paris) are bugging me up there. It's just a wee 5x5 section—there just shouldn't be such reliance on initialisms and foreign words/names. I like HONEST WOMAN fine (5D: What a girl becomes after marriage, in an old expression)—it's dated and semi-sexist, but it's clued as an "old expression," so I don't have a problem with it. What I do have a slight problem with is the word "girl" in the clue. "Girls" are under 18. You wouldn't use "boy" to talk about a male person getting married, so … no. Do Better, NYT!!!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Carola 12:13 AM  

2A cute idea, I thought. I like how the first theme answer, PARTNER, signals that other theme answers will also need [silent] as a "partner."

It took me a good while to catch on - even with PARTNER and MOVIE in place, it wasn't until SPRING that I got the idea. Then it was easy to get TREATMENT. From there I returned to the mostly vacant NE, where NIGHT finally fell.

@Rex - Thanks for pointing out the silent letters in the crossing words - I'd totally missed that angle. Very neat.

Carola 12:14 AM  

(Please ignore the "2" above - captcha-entry malfunction.)

retired_chemist 12:19 AM  

I agree with Rex more than I usually do. Theme answer locations seem unsystematic, and all I saw was that there was "silent" implied in front of some of the answers. NO recognition of the silent letter in the crosses of the theme answers.

On balance more good fill than bad IMO. EL AL, ELAN, ELON - not so good. Is OY a cry of exasperation?

Thanks, Mr. Guzzetta.

Billy 12:27 AM  

An "aha" for me, once I read your column, not an "ugh."

I had obtusely failed to see the silent letter in the cross, so pretty cool. I think you're being harsh, Rex.

Casco Kid 12:35 AM  

57 min. 5 errors. Medium challenging here. Lots and lots of new words, some in French. UKASE needed every cross. OLMIC did too, but I recall it was in a recent puzzle. OBOE clued as a cousin of an English horn is easy, but writing the clue in French? Needed every cross. ENTS are new; no Tolkien fantasms here.

I finished with mANGa for TANGY. Italian seemed fair game. That gave me DPm and STaLO for my vaccine cocktail and French pen, both credible guesses. Other errors were at PiM/OiS crossing. Also not unreasonable. PYM is new.

onEND and poetS before NOEND and EZRAS slowed me down in SW. Ok, EZRA Stone was not a poet. Neither was Izzy Stone, of whom I was thinking. eTOI before ATOI in SE. fAnnIE before SALLIE. sEt point before DEW point and Ade punch before AWL punch made West slow.

Oh, and the theme? Sensing the silent 'silent' was easy compared to the cluing for the fill. At least that was in English.

There wasn't a single corner of the puzzle that simply fell into place. Medium challenging, for sure, based on French language and deep, well connected rabbit holes, and facts-beyond-my-ken.

Steve J 12:38 AM  

I got the {silent} word part quickly - sniffed it out with {silent} PARTNER, confirmed it with {silent} MOVIE - but I never picked up that the crossing initial letter of each was silent. That definitely makes the theme more interesting and a little more clever - without that, this is a one-trick pony, and that pony's rail-thin. But then there's the question of how many people are going to notice this. If it's very few - if a theme's so, well, silent - does it really work?

If there are other letters that are part of this, well, I certainly didn't notice them. From reading the constructor's notes over at Xwordinfo, I'm inclined to think that's not the case, as he makes zero mention of that.

He also mentions that he recognizes that there's some ungainly stuff. Personally, I don't think the theme's strong enough to make up for that, but I've seen a lot worse. Just yesterday, in fact.

Liked PORKPIE, MNEMONIC and AESTHETES. Did not like SEES INTO (it feels made up; LOOKS INTO is more natural-sounding), UKASE, DEMESNE and that NE corner.

Overall: interesting theme that was a little too obscure for its own good and, as a result, wasn't good enough to outweigh a lot of awkwardness.

jae 12:48 AM  

Mostly medium for me but the NE corner took some staring.  Had to cycle through childhood diseases to dredge up DPT (it's been 40 some odd years since I've had to think about vaccinations except of course shingles which everyone should get) which I needed because DAMNS and PLAIT just weren't coming to me.  So, medium- tough in the end.  Also, I never heard of the SILENT HILL movie or video game so I would have been fine with just HILL except that symmetry demanded another SILENT and that was the only place it made sense to put it.

WOE: DEMESNE and it's been a while since I've seen UKASE

The rebus was pretty obvious from 4d and the theme was very clever.  Tricky and subtle, my kind of Thurs.  Nice challenge Mr. Guzzetta!

wreck 12:48 AM  

Again, I'm with Rex with this one. I appreciate an (h)onest critique that is on the merits of the puzzle and not a personal diatribe on the constructor or editor.
I first suspected a rebus when I got to (silent) NIGHT. When that wasn't quite right, I was on to the theme. What really threw me off, was the extra "silent" letters that did not fit the theme. This made for a very tedious slog. I liked the "idea" - it just wasn't executed very well. I think some kind of revealer would have been very helpful.

Kyle 2:20 AM  

I starte don the bottom right section, and "silent spring jumped out. Upper right section the hardest, Manon / etc.

Moly Shu 2:56 AM  

DNF here at DAMNS/MANON, had DArNS/rANON. Seemed reasonable enough given my utter distaste and complete lack of familiarity with all things opera (hi @Oisk).

PYM crossing OYS was also a struggle and did not know DEMESNE. Caught on to the theme at MOVIE and saw PARTNER was already in, so that helped with the fill. Like @Rex, thought SILENT COUP might also be a theme answer.

I mostly liked it as a puzzle, but thought the theme and its disjointedness (?) detracted from the finished product. No aha moment here, just a WTF did I just do feeling.

Ellen S 4:22 AM  

Ha ha, finally a use for my expensive college education. I took a Russian civilization course half a century ago, so UKASE and CZAR or tsAR were gimmes. Also took a Latin American civilization class, so OLMEC was not a toughie. Plus, as my doctor points out, I got some weight-bearing exercise when I was young, carrying heavy books between classes.

Like others here, I got the missing word "silent", but did not notice the silent letters in the crosses. Still, thought it was fun.

Gill I. P. 5:46 AM  

Oooh, this was very different but quite satisfying. It took getting to [silent] MOVIE to yell AHA! (scared the puppies) but it was worth it...
Had lots of head scratchers though. ELLISIS LAND being the first. Good grief, I couldn't see ELLIS for the life of me. Was looking for a Harry Potter something or other in that Great Hall. SPIT is a narrow projection of land? I'm thinking a wad of chewing tobacco.
So living in sin and tying the knot made the girls HONEST? Dang, that sound like a lot of PORK PIE.
Liked it John Guzzetta, your invited to my DEMESNE.

Danp 6:25 AM  

The theme is quite brilliant, but it needs a revealer. SILENT PARTNER is begging to be just that.

George 6:47 AM  

I was shocked when I entered the last letter and found it to be all correct. So many strange words that I got only by crosses: demesne, pym, ukase, manon, plait, stylo, etc. although by time I guess it ends up being "easy", but I don't think time should be the only factor in judging difficulty.

NYer 7:20 AM  

Most of the words were right in my wheelhouse so I had to check to make sure it was a Thursday puzzle. Had to choose between DPT and mmr (measles-mumps-rubella) but the crosses took care of that. Also, writeover at tsAR. Found it to be a clever theme and fun puzzle. I don't mind obscure fill or unknown words; I always look at them as learning experiences. One can never be too told to learn something new.

Thanks, Mr. Guzzetta! A nice way to start my day!

mathguy 7:24 AM  

A new kind of rebus puzzle, the invisible rebus! The word "silent" is entered invisibly in five squares, squares which contain a silent letter in the crossing entry. Unfortunately, these are not the only silent letters appearing in the grid. I agree with Rex's friend that these squares should have been circled or shaded.

I was thinking that another possible invisible rebus might use the word "double." For example, the entry HAPPY coming across might sit on top of the entries PUMP and PLAY coming down.

James Dean 7:39 AM  

The "t" in listen is silent? Who knew?

Anonymous 7:42 AM  

Boy, are you cranky. There's nothing wrong with stylo or Manon, and what would you have used instead of "girl" (since you can't repeat "woman")? A female? A lass?

JohnnyMao 7:58 AM  

@ Casco Kid

Cor anglais and english horn are interchangeable in English. In fact cor anglais is the preferred term for the instrument.

Susan McConnell 8:07 AM  

Agree with Rex and @wreck. I often feel like revealers or clues give away too much making the solution too easy or obvious, but in this case you really needed something to help you fully appreciate everything that the constructor was going for. @Danp is right, (silent) PARTNER would have been the perfect place to clue something about the non-theme answer silent letters.

Glimmerglass 8:13 AM  

I got half the theme at [silent] PARTNER, but I missed the clever use of silent letters in the theme crosses. Thanks to Rex and others for pointing it out. Because I never saw this gimmick, I couldn't be upset by all the other silent letters, could I? This puzzle was more clever than I am, but not any harder for me than without the gimmick.

Mohair Sam 8:18 AM  

DNF'd ala @Molly Shu on DArNS, and threw in mANGY for a kicker. For us it could have been any three letters on DPT. Hey Will - next time clue MANON as Best revenge movie ever: "_____ of the Spring". Thanks.

Thought it was a very tough Thursday - OLMEC, UKASE side by side is brutal, a couple of crossword only words. AESTHETES, MNEMONIC, DEMESNE all tough ones. And you had to know some French (we do), and a little Spanish (we don't).

Never got the silent letter theme within a theme but think it is clever as hell. A great aha! moment for those who sussed it.

Very tough Thursday, but no complaints.

btw - Is OYS now official crosswordese? If so, let's work on better cluing - thankful here for the PYM crossing.

Anonymous 8:28 AM  

Got the "silent" theme right off silent partner and guessed that the silent "P" in COUP was no accident right away. Confirmed by DAMNS/(silent) NIGHT. I don't have any problem with the abundance of non-theme silents in the grid, as these made the puzzle slightly trickier and more amusing. The emphasis on formal "rules" for good puzzles sometimes seems a little arbitrary to me. I guess I am not one of the AESTHETES.

AliasZ 8:38 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
joho 8:42 AM  

One letter wrong gave me my favorite wrong answer ever! I had fANGY for "Having a bite." Never heard of DPT so DPf looked good to me. That corner was the toughest part of this puzzle for me.

No matter how you feel about the execution of this theme, you must admit the concept is really clever and oh so original.

Thank you, John Guzzetta, for pushing the envelope!

AliasZ 8:44 AM  

What a neat idea! I like multi-layered themes tremendously. The concept is ingenious and tough to execute in a symmetrical pattern. It must be near impossible to find words with silent letters in the right places, so that phrases starting with "silent" can be placed symmetrically. It worked well with HONE ST. WOMAN and EL LISIS LAND but not with the others.

I confess I was looking for some added wordplay, like silent kNIGHT (medieval noble of few words) or some such. That would have added an extra layer to the cake that would have made it too rich perhaps. I also confess that having been accustomed to strict adherence to symmetry -- a feature I don't always find endearing or even necessary -- I wasted some solving time figuring out where "silent" comes into play at 17A as the silent PARTNER of silent TREATMENT.

I like SMARTNESS and AESTHETES, but most of all, I love an HONEST WOMAN. I found ELAL, ELAN and ELON a bit repetitive, and despite only 15 threes, they jumped out at me because they appeared in critical places in the grid that required them to be more familiar or easy to get initialisms or abbr.s, unlike DPT, TSA and CDS (IRA?). OYS...!

THEN should have been clued as "What's silent in 9A"

I am not sure the H in KOHL is silent. IBET native German speakers think they are pronouncing the H which non-natives fail to hear.

Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon PYM of Nantucket (or is it Natick?) has the following subtitle:

Comprising the Details of Mutiny and Atrocious Butchery on Board the American Brig Grampus, on Her Way to the South Seas, in the Month of June, 1827. With an Account of the Recapture of the Vessel by the Survivers; Their Shipwreck and Subsequent Horrible Sufferings from Famine; Their Deliverance by Means of the British Schooner Jane Guy; the Brief Cruise of this Latter Vessel in the Atlantic Ocean; Her Capture, and the Massacre of Her Crew Among a Group of Islands in the Eighty-Fourth Parallel of Southern Latitude; Together with the Incredible Adventures and Discoveries Still Farther South to Which That Distressing Calamity Gave Rise.

Here is a belated BARcarole, a few days and a month late but better late than never.

Now I am going to have a café au lait, then take my PORK PIE hat and head off.

Arlene 8:52 AM  

I start puzzle-solving with the fill-ins, so got the SW first - with SPRING - so I knew something was up with this silent stuff. But I finished still wondering why the theme answers weren't symmetrical, and there was no reveal clue. So I missed the silent letter feature totally until reading about it here.
I did think that MNEMONIC was a wonderful crossword word, as one never sees that MN combination. The reason for it was right under my nose and I missed it.
But I still did finish quite quickly for a Thursday - so I guess ignorance is bliss.

Charles Flaster 8:54 AM  

Liked the puzzle a lot. Liked it even more after reading Rex as I solved without quite seeing any theme but knew there was a missing word
somewhere. Solve took 24 minutes -same as yesterday.
Decree is usually clued as edict,ukase, or irade (good crosswordese). Again I see most constructors relying on a lot of French and this is helpful to me. In upper right Stylo led to Plait led to A LA King and reminded me of Kohl.
Anyway I enjoyed the solve and thanks JG.

dk 8:55 AM  

🌕🌕 (2 MOONS)

Great idea. So so execution. The use of UKASE and DEMESNE are something I needs to SEESINTO… maybe I am just DAMNing this puzzle as I did not know a couple of words… ah well: my post -- my OOZE.

The use of silent and silent letters shows a degree of SMARTNESS that I often do not appreciate in rebus puzzles. My OOS came when filling in MNEMONIC (with my STABILO STYLO fine point). When I saw the relationship between the silent and the silent letters -- I wanted more. I also liked POM in the grid.

Thanks John

Kim Scudera 8:56 AM  

I enjoyed the concept, caught the theme early on, yet what Rex said. I wasted two minutes staring blankly at the tiny little corner of CDS, ZEE and AWL before the light went on. Good thing this wasn't competition!

Great synchronicity on 39A PORKPIE: i'm working on a version of the song "Goodbye pork pie hat," the tune by Charlie Mingus and lyrics by Joni Mitchell. Here's Pam Bricker's take on this great tune: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=AOcxTYVlBaM

Anonymous 8:57 AM  

Really appreciate and agree with yesterday's and today's posts. Two problematic puzzles rightfully called out for their deficiencies in a constructive, professional, yet still entertaining way. This is the Rex Parker I love!

Regarding today's: unless I've missed something, the execution was so random and asymmetrical that I was just left confused by what I was supposed to do. I guess as a solver I really rely on that symmetrical consistency (unless there's a valid reason for asymmetry) and cleanliness (i.e., no extra theme-like imposters) to experience my daily enchantment.


Sean D.

Leapfinger 9:06 AM  

I now know that slipping a little M into the beginning of MNEMONIC is not usual.

So, OFL didn't like this Aujourd'hui, maybe DEMESNE will be better (hier, hier!). MANON, this is @Rex we're talking about, so likely unlikely. All this is probably just sour grapes for having fallen for PLUME, which apparently no self-respecting French person says anymore, tant MEW.

Can't see the reason for confusion: Entries that take [SILENT] at the start are themers; entries that cross the [SILENT] square with a [silent] letter are theme adjuncts. All the other words with SILENT letters are 'true but unrelated': all those final E's? S-THETES? That would be much VERSE.

Admit that I skipped past PARTNER and MOVIE with only a 'that's weird', till the light shone with the Rachel Carson clue. Was pleasanly surprised, and remembered Asimov's quote about the most interesting words in the language being. "Hmm, that's funny".

@ret_chem: OY is an entire mini-vocabulary. In one of his humour books, Asimov presents an entire conversation consisting of nothing else. Variations are provuded by posture, hand gestures, facial expression and intonation.

@James Dean: Not Sonny.

@Gilly, I tried to remember the Harry Potter school, couldn't get past Dumbledore. Even with PORKPIE in plain view. It really was hard to 'see' 24D half filled. I' m sure the trouble was ISIS.

Very taken by HONEST WOMAN, easier for some when single, and occasionally wish I could get more SILENT TREATMENT. LIGHT-hearted SMARTNESS USE SELDOM ZEE.

What WIT! This was pure COUP DEW SOIE.

Nancy 9:08 AM  

Another example of a constructor doing something very, very, very difficult and admirable, but completely irrelevant to solving the puzzle. I didn't see the silent letters on the crosses either and could have gone to my grave never knowing--if I hadn't come to this site. I should think it's hard enough to construct a puzzle without setting yourself a herculean task that mostly won't be seen or appreciated. As for te missing "silents", I saw them early on and solved pretty easily.

Hartley70 9:18 AM  

SPRING gave me the silent theme because I couldn't believe another book had had a greater impact. Of course I too missed the silent letter on the crosses. The fill was fine for me until I got hung up on using RARELY which morphed to RANDOM before I finally saw SELDOM which let me finish the two crosses above. It took forever and had me smacking my forehead.

jberg 9:19 AM  

This one was easy except for one letter, the W in AWL/DEW. @Kim, congratulations for getting that in 2 minutes! I had ZEE, but the other part took me about an hour -- admittedly, 50 minutes of that was because our house guest came down for breakfast just as I was staring at it. I finally had to really run the alphabet -- as opposed to thinking I was doing so, but actually only trying the plausible letters, namely the vowels and L -- to get it.

I'm with those who thought the extra silent letters were a fault, not an added feature. I'll give you the dipthongs, but not the GHTs and SN.

I was troubled by the asymmetric theme answers until I saw the silent letters; that makes it OK, I think. No need to circle them, that would make it a little too easy. (Although I never saw HILL as a theme answer, not knowing the movie or the game HILL is just as good by itself.)

Wikipedia confirms that MANON is an opera comique, but how? She ruins her life an dies in the end, pretty much like the heroines of Boheme or Butterfly -- isn't that the definition of tragedy? I saw it at the Opera Bastille a couple of years ago, and wore out a couple of handkerchiefs.

@leapfinger, I'm glad I'm not the only one to put in 'plume' before STYLO. I thought everyone would have done that, although I guess many would have had DAMNS already (or at least DArNS).

@Casco, you must be older than I thought if you remember Izzie Stone! I arrived in Washington in the summer of 1964, already a subscriber to his eponymous Weekly, and had the pleasure of seeing him give talks several times. A wonderful man and a great journalist-- too bad blogs hadn't been invented yet!

Welcome back, EEL!

Sir Hillary 9:24 AM  

Odd puzzle. Figured out the missing "silents" pretty quickly, but had no idea how they tied to anything until I realized that the crosses were silent letters. Still feels weird. Oh well, that's what Thursdays are for.

Agree with @Danp that SILENTPARTNER would have been a great revealer.

Fabulous clue for TANGY.

Only writeovers happened to be symmetrical: asif/IBET and Lulu/LEAP.

Bob Kerfuffle 9:29 AM  

Got both aspects of "silent letter" and "need the word 'silent' " very early, so it was a fun solve for me, though difficult in places, and Minnesota was the very last to fill in.

Didn't put it in, but count me among those who wondered, "Don't the French call a pen a PLUME anymore?"

John V 9:32 AM  

I thought this was very good. I got the implied SILENT but didn't see the silent letter bit. Got hung up around SEESINTO. The little West spot wiht CDS, AWL, etc, was not wonderful, IMHO.

All in, good Thursday, John Guzzetta!

Z 9:37 AM  

Bravo! A puzzle with an invisible rebus that works one way across and a totally different way down. That is some good stuff. As for the other silent letters, if they are intentional I see them as giant red flashing HINT HINT signs. If they aren't intentional, well, English.

Regarding "girl" - a little history (working from memory so some of the specifics might be a little off)... In the late 1800's the average age of first menstruation was 16 and the average age for woman getting married was 18. In the late 1900's, thanks to better diet and health care, the average age of first menstruation had lowered to 12 while changes in culture had raised the age for women getting married to 22. Drama and hilarity have ensued. Having said all that, it is still sexist, but isn't a sexist clue for a sexist answer akin to hinting at a French answer by using "in Paris" in the clue?

retired_chemist 9:40 AM  

@ leapfinger - OY!

I just realized that I used an isomorph of a three year old's vocabulary-learning style to solve this puzzle. Try something, and if it works don't worry about it until/unless it is proven wrong. Like my daughter used to want clean sheeps on her bed. Theory, shmeory. OY!

Thus a partial understanding of the theme was adequate to solve the puzzle, and the subtleties of the theme were as lost on me as grammatical distinctions are to a three year old.

chefbea 9:56 AM  

Hand up for getting the theme but not the silent letters. DNF...too many words I did not know.

Use to have chicken ala king al the time as a child. Haven't made it in years.

Leapfinger 10:23 AM  

Odd to have this theme distribution the day after @r.alph raised the questions about symmetry. Didn't bother me once I recognized it as lack of pattern; guess I've learned to live with a certain amount of random variation.

A nod also to the ELAL clue: TLV fooled me into thinking of Las Vegas.

@MoHairSam, thanks for reminding me of MANON of the Spring. A great trilogy! Am also getting into @dk's [charming] mOOning around...

@Alias, may I be HONEST? Your post elicited a reaction somewhere between "Hats off!" and "DAMNation!"... although "I'll have the PORKPIE" seems, AmOI, equally unappealing in a restaurant or haberdashery.
Will be LISTENing in my BarcaLounger tonight.

We awl missed THE N in ALA_ KING, didn't we?

Some MOVIE SCENES SEE SIN TO advENTS ELON AWL fronts, NO END incite, but that's not my STYLO. My hopes SPRING eternal, and DEMESNE thing is not to let de FEAT fail you now.


Martin 10:34 AM  


"Opéra comique" does not mean comic opera. It's a genre that includes many tragedies. "Carmen" is an opéra comique, for instance.

Le Acadamie 10:42 AM  

Perhaps we should change the name of "Opéra comique" to "Opéra graphique nouvelle"?

Anonymous 10:43 AM  

Am I the only one who believes an over reliance on foreign words/phrases is indicative of a weak constructor?

jdv 10:46 AM  

Medium w/one error. DArNS/rANON. Liked the theme. The trouble I had trying to spell DEMESNE and MNEUMONIC caused me to notice all the other silent letters in the grid. Even though I wasn't sure what was going on during the solve, I was able to put it together for a post-solve-aha. This was a unique theme (to me). Nice job.

@Mohairsam. Best revenge movie I've seen is Oldboy (not the Spike Lee version)

Cheerio 10:47 AM  

Oooh. I loved this puzzle! My favorite clue was STONE or POUND for Ezra. Two Ezra's with last names that are both British weights? That is simply...awsome.

Casco Kid 11:00 AM  

@jberg Hah, I beat you to Wasington by six months. I arrived in DC in late December back in 63. Via stork. That makes me "The New Thirty," and as such, I have stopped trusting myself. One thing is sure: society is expecting me to work another 35 years. Greatness, yet!

Zeke 11:02 AM  

@Anon 10:42 - No, not by a long shot.

I noticed the silent m in MNEMONIC and said to myself that can't be a coincidence. However, I was so put off with the solve experience that I couldn't go back to see if the pattern was present throughtout.

I dislike puzzles where pronounciation is a key factor, as I get caught up in whether or not the reliance on pronounciation is strictly correct. As an example, the H in HONESTWOMAN isn't really silent, it's just very soft. Say "heavy" out loud while paying attention to the formation of the sound in your mouth. You'll find the H sound is an exhalation from the back and bottom of your throat. Now say "honest" and you'll find the same sound formation, which you won't find when you say "on", which is formed on the palate.

You find that last paragraph painful? Well, just think of what I went through the puzzle, evaluating each and every instance of a 'silent' letter. Hence my dislike.

Gene 11:16 AM  

Disagree with criticism of "girl" in 5D; can't use "woman" as it's in the answer. It's perfectly appropriate here.

mac 11:29 AM  

I enjoyed it, and got the theme quickly, but I was even more impressed when I read about the silent letters.
I Tried chicken a la Kiev, but of course that wouldn't work.

I ended up with one mistake: thinking of a mangy dog instead of tangy.

Still, a Thursday rebus is always fun.

Mohair Sam 11:37 AM  

@jdv - read Amazon reviews on the original Oldboy, and added to Neflix list. Thanks for the tip.

Manon's revenge, btw, is non-violent. But complete.

Casco Kid 11:40 AM  


Cors anglais is preferred! Huh! I'll remember that.

My direct experience with orchestra ended early in high school, where we were lucky to have oboes, let alone bassoons or English horns. I wonder if the instrument is called a Cors anglais in München, Москва, or 東京, or whether a local translation is available, as it was for us in Bethesda, Maryland.

Z 11:47 AM  

@anon10:43 - Sure, but when is it "over-reliance?" For that matter, when is it "foreign?"Are COUP, ELAN, or CZAR still foreign? How about a MANON? It's French but it is the title? Are we to only have American pieces appear in the puzzle? Or MISO? Only American spices? TWA is okay but EL AL isn't? Personally, I really wanted to complain about MANON, but upon review it is perfectly legitimate. I don't think this came anywhere near using too many foreign words or phrases. Including both ELAN and ELON, on the other hand....

Point-on @Gill I.P. - Between Musings, the Masked one, my Alias nalter ego, the athletic digitmeister, and others I can barely keep up. Naturally I presumed your creative constructioneering to be another pointed word play at OFL's expense.

@Le Acadamie - perhaps done Manga style - Manga Opéra Graphique Nouvelle would surely draw the hipster crowd.

r.alphbunker 11:54 AM  


Interesting posts last night.

I have created http://runtpuz.blogspot.com as an experiment to see if the stuff you object to will move there.

Since you seem to be one of the founding fathers of this blog I would like to ask you what exactly qualifies as commentary on the puzzle (sort of like having the chance to ask Thomas Jefferson if it is okay for someone to own 10 AK47 assault rifles)

Which of the following are okay?

1. Discussing the etymology of an answer

2. Commenting on whether you like or dislike a play, movie, opera, song, etc that was an answer in the puzzle.

3. Making a pun on an answer

4. Suggesting other theme entries

5. Referencing a wikipedia article that is related to some answer.

6. Making a comment that would be completely natural in a coffee shop setting while doing a puzzle with a friend, e.g., commenting on the World Cup - the type of comment that would be inappropriate during a presidential debate.

Please advise

chefbea 11:59 AM  

@r.alfbunker I'm adding #7..talking about red tubers!!!

Fred Romagnolo 12:03 PM  

Classic revenge movie: Count of Monte Cristo; Robert Donat in a great performance. I wanted "oaths" & "plume," but since they couldn't cross I put the N E corner off til last. I bet they don't serve PORK PIE on EL AL. "Conde" is a better clue than the tired "old political cartoonist." I still bristle (silent t) at the carelessness of the use of tsar vs (silent ersu) CZAR. The Cyrillic alphabet uses a single letter signifying "ts," that's how the issuer of UKASES is spelled. CZAR is generally used when referring to a political appointee with vast powers over a field of activity. Both words are derived from Caesar, as is Kaiser. O.K., my diatribe is over.

Master Melvin 12:06 PM  

So after all those "La plume de ma tante" exercises in French I, you're telling me the French word for pen is STYLO? Merde.

Dick Swart 12:11 PM  

I thought it was an interesting hardish puzzle but didn't have a clue to 'silent' until I needed 'night' to finish the NE corner and the puzzle. Saw the relation to 'partner'. But I pronounce the m in mnemonic, and the e in aesthetic, so the point of the puzzle was lost on me.

Certainly the missing silent as a word before or after another word would be a Thursday-ish device.

But some silents letters are like the unlaut sound. You make it if you know it.

Zed 12:15 PM  

plume is more like quill while STYLO is more like Bic, n'est-ce pas?

Anonymous 12:28 PM  

I know ukase from crossword puzzles, but it was used in a NYT article earlier this week, much to my surprise.

Martin 12:44 PM  

It seems to be French day.

"Plume" means feather or, in a poetic sense, "pen." "Stylo" is the everyday word for "pen." "Plume" is used in many expressions; as we would "pick up a quill" the French expression is "prendre sa plume." A penname will always be "nom de plume." A man of letters is "un homme de plume."

But if you're asking a friend for a pen, it had better be, "Tu as un stylo?" or you'll get a very strange look.

Zeke 12:48 PM  


I wouldn't presume to make such a list.

What I did point out was that having extensive discussions about something completely different from the puzzle, on a daily basis, merited moving those discussions elsewhere.

Thank your for your courteous response.

renee in tucson 12:54 PM  

I quite liked this puzzle. I guess I'd like any puzzle with Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and two Ezras. And maybe I'm a total freak (who once took Old French), but getting to fill in Demesne just made my day. Such a pretty word.

Gill I. P. 12:56 PM  

Athletic digitmeister...HAH! @Leapy are you listening?
@chefbea...I SO thought of you last night. The battle of the beets!

Anonymous 1:25 PM  

Strange looks are nothing new, in my experience.

@Anon 10:43, no, they are a sign of versatility.

I was wondering who would surface first, @Zeke or @Numin. @Zeke, unfortunately, you're somewhat wide of the mark, heavy-handed, as it were. Tongue and palate don't change, but the lips draw back going from HONEST to 'heavy', and there's a puff of expiration with 'heavy', HONEST there is. Check it out with a speech therapist.

'Another example of a constructor doing something very, very, very difficult and admirable, but completely irrelevant to solving the puzzle'
Solving a puzzle is more than just filling in blank squares correctly. There's also the appreciation of form, design, content, application and overall subtlety. Think of it as secondary gain. If anyone doesn't agree, why aren't we all living in Quonset huts?
No intention of picking on you, @Nancy; this sentiment is heard fairly often and you just happened to provide it now.

PS. My overall subtlety is hanging on the clothesline with the clean sheeps for my bed.

Thanks, dudes, for the usual amount of entertainment.

Leapfinger 1:36 PM  

@Gill I.P., I'm always LISTENing. Me and my phalanx of MeisterZingers.

Dolgoruky 1:45 PM  

Gee, some of you guys seem to whine a lot when some broad knowledge or reasonably wide reading help solve crosswords! I don't think that ukase, cor anglais, stylo, Olmec, Manon,and several others or are any more "obscure" than rappers' names or sitcom characters. I think it's nice when puzzles offer clues and answers from a number of areas. I hate crosswords that are too predictable or too narrow in the knowledge required to solve them.

GvtCnslr 2:09 PM  

Yea verily, the Czar should have sent out a ukase requiring identification of all theme answers in his demesne! I never got them all but breezed through in under 15. Unheard of for me on Thursday.

Lewis 2:16 PM  

I didn't mind the silent letters that were extraneous to the theme. Yes, the puzzle would have been more elegant without them, but I believe it's perfectly acceptable with them. The ones related to the theme are consistent with the theme, and the others simply do not relate to the theme answers.

Happy to learn PYM and OLMEC. I like ALAKING, which looks like a verb, and PORKPIE, and MNEMONIC. Surprised @ellen had nothing to say about EEL. The theme was clever and Thursday worthy.

POST PUZZLE PUZZLE (PPP): What is a word that has often been preceded by SILENT, and that has a J in it.

If you wish to post an answer, just write the word's third letter.

Anonymous 2:39 PM  

La plume de ma tante c'est sur la table. My first sentence in French, but no stylo.

AliasZ 2:49 PM  


N (not silent!). I was also thinking "but deadly" but it had no J in it.

Far be it from me to ignore my responsibilities, so please enjoy this dreamy little piece by Antonín Dvořák titled Waldesruhe or SILENT Woods, Op. 68/5.

zzzzzzz 3:03 PM  

shit puzzle idea

Anonymous 3:04 PM  

Feh. Not too tough, but the execution of the theme was sloppy. Hated "HONEST WOMAN": really, NYT, it's 2014 for God's sake, and she's not happy about THAT one at all. "DPT," incidentally, can also stand for dipropyltryptamine, a hallucinogen closely related to the more well-known DMT (dimethyltryptamine), a common drug of use among counterculture types in the '60s (see Tom Wolfe's "The Electric Koolaid Acid Test" for one of Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters' take on it; that person was very experienced with LSD but found DMT, with its high flashback potential, a scary drug). DMT is also apparently the active alkaloid in the now well-known South American vine ayahuasca (also known as yage, pronounce YAH-heh), which has enjoyed something of a vogue in recent years among spiritual seekers. All these are closely related to psilocybin (the active alkaloid in "magic" mushrooms) currently being researched as a possible treatment for depression, anxiety disorders, and alcoholism, and, of course, LSD, which is also enjoying some research vogue at this point.

Anonymous 3:09 PM  

Incidentally, I suggest if you are going to use "PORKPIE" as a clue answer, if you want to up your HQ (hipster quotient), reference jazz bassist/composer Charles Mingus's famous late '50s composition "Goodbye Porkpie Hat," written as a tribute to late saxophonist Lester "Prez" Young upon the death of the latter; he always wore a porkpie hat in public.


Ludyjynn 3:26 PM  

54Across fairly screamed at me from the outset, so I got the SILENT theme and liked it. Did not notice the silent letters til I came here. For a Thursday, this one went down easily despite Rex's and others carping about the fill. I agree w/ @Dolgoruky's comments on that topic. Re the "plume" v. STYLO debate, not an issue here, as I already had KOHL at 21Across. DEMESNE was a new word for me, but gettable from the crosses.
Overall, an enjoyable solve. Sorry more of you did not feel the same. A chacun son gout...

Thanks, JCG and WS.

C.J. 3:30 PM  

It would certainly be refreshing, if @Zeke commented about his own, puzzle-related interests, instead of about just what he thinks others should NOT comment about. But, it's a free country. Crab about anything you want to, even if that's your only noteworthy contribution to the blog.
I now know to bypass your msgs. And to look forward, with extra enthusiasm, to any runt puzzle postings.

Rex doesn't read his own blog's comments? I've never heard him say this.

LaneB 3:58 PM  

Had a lovely time with this one guessing wrong only once--the PYM and MISO cross [where I put a "r" where the M should have been.. As usual the degree of difficulty is in the cluing. Except that UKASE, OLMEC and MNEMONIC aren't often seen. I coult this one as a success.

wreck 4:45 PM  

@ Lewis

sanfranman59 5:03 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak to my method):

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

Thu 14:22, 16:47, 0.86, 23%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Thu 10:17, 10:17, 1.00, 48%, Medium

Lewis 5:23 PM  


I was thinking MAJORITY (WTG Wreck!), and there may be other answers.

@leapfinger -- Were you thinking NINJA?

Katherine Zeta, Co. Jones 5:24 PM  

@Z, I had to come back to apologize to you. I thought I'D been reading your posts with sufficient care, but apparently not. Reading 'athletic digitmeister' in your list, I thought you were referring to some famous personality, and it was only some time after @Gilly drug it into the open that I put 5 plus 5 together.

So I'm honoured, and shall pay attention, though with all the @Zs, @Zees, @Zeds, @AliaseZ and assorted supernumerary @AnonymZs, it's becoming hard to keep track of the playerz at your end of the alphabet.

[@Lewis, both N and J, no?]


Anonymous 5:24 PM  

Does anyone think that 47 Down "Listen" is the real revealer? "Listening" to the silent 't' reveals the silent crosses, and "listen" is an anagram of "silent". Also, did anyone notice that "Ellis Island" sounds like "Ellis Silent"? Or that "Elan" and "Elon" have 's' sounds around the corner, which on sounds like "seelan" and "seelon", or "silent" in French? Okay, I spent too much time on this puzzle... .

La Bamba 5:26 PM  

If the Ellis Silent, that would be a balm to my ears.

Lewis 5:29 PM  

Oops, I should have asked @aliasZ if he was thinking NINJA, instead of asking @leapfinger.

And, @leapfinger -- Yes, MAJORITY and NINJA work.

Leapfinger 5:36 PM  

@Lewis, you seem to be prescient.

[sigh] No, dear, I jumped the gun again today, and went from MAJORITY to MINORITY, which of course has lost its J. If I forget myself and blab again, please just ignore me.

Anonymous 5:39 PM  

I got the NW corner in a hurry and as soon as I saw PARTNER and read the clue for 4-D, I thought I saw the theme. And 12-D in the NE confirmed it. (I never did catch on to the silent letters, though.)

From then on, although there was a lot of miserable fill, the rest was easy -- until I tried to finish the NE corner. PLUME for 13-D had to be abandoned, and I eventually had STYL-, so I thought it must be STYLE, which to me looks more French than STYLO (I never seriously considered STYLO, in fact). And since I had 25-D as -OIE the only way I could think to complete the word was JOIE (SOIE is French????). That gave me the completely stupid SEEJINTE for 23-A and although I knew it had to be something like SEESINTO, I couldn't accept STYLO, so I ended up not finishing an otherwise easy puzzle. Faint 9-A's!!! Tomorrow had better be better.

Anonymous 6:30 PM  

Peau de soie translates as 'skin of silk'. Sorry for your troubles.

Carola 6:38 PM  

@r.alphbunker - Thanks for the new runtpuz discussion site - I left a longer comment there.

Z 8:50 PM  

@Leapfinger - I think you have established your fame in these here parts. Indeed, I am diligently working on my first Manga Opéra Graphique Nouvelle starring you, Muse, and Gilly. Perhaps with the three amigas saving the Lone Ranger (AKA M&A) from an Evil Duck. I'll do the Libretto and Alias can provide the music.

BTW - aside from my alias nalter ego, most Z's and Zed's are me avoiding the three post limit. I wouldn't want Zeke mad at me, after all.

retired_chemist 9:10 PM  

@ Anon 5:39 = soie is French for silk.

sanfranman59 10:04 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 6:27, 6:02, 1.07, 80%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 7:50, 8:33, 0.92, 23%, Easy-Medium
Wed 9:49, 9:40, 1.02, 59%, Medium
Thu 14:18, 16:47, 0.85, 22%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:11, 3:55, 1.07, 80%, Challenging
Tue 5:28, 5:25, 1.01, 53%, Medium
Wed 6:32, 6:08, 1.07, 68%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 10:02, 10:09, 0.99, 45%, Medium

Anonymous 10:10 PM  

This was fucking hard

Anonymous 6:10 PM  

What the hell is a "silent hill?"

Anonymous 10:37 AM  

Good puzzle and easy Thursday. I too thought of silent partner but it didn't click until I got down to silent movie. After that, it was a snap. One complaint: When has anyone used the words "sees into." Forced and ridiculous.

Ron Diego 6:35 AM PDT

spacecraft 11:29 AM  

Strange the way I experienced this. I bought into the stand-alone "PARTNER" as the 4d answer, so had yet to pick up on the silent aspect. Feeling some SMARTNESS (?) as I spread out from the NW, I was blocked going east; who SEESINTO that answer for probes? So I went south--and once again bought into MOVIE, though I really thought the 1927 clue part was weird. Then again, it IS Thursday, when they start really trying to mess with your mind.

Then I arrived at the seminal eco-book, which I figured had to be Silent Spring, but...AHA! And THAT explained 63a TREATMENT. And now back to the NE, where I was convinced the paper had lost an S in the clue "Popular Christmas carol [s]" because the only thing that fit was NOELS. No, no, it's another [silent] thingie. More ahas cascaded with the partner and the movie.

So, solving was a joy of discovery. Looking at the finished product, though, I was struck by the plethora of E's and S's. AESTHETES LESSE SEESINTO... Also, asymmetry is a problem. After the fact, I noticed the intersections of silent letters with the "silent" expressions--but it wasn't uniform. Elegant, but still...off.

SELDOM have IMETA more ridiculous partial than 55d, but at least it's original. Let's see if we can make it unique, by never using it again! This one gets a dual grade: A for the solving experience (I'd never use the word EASY anywhere near this one), and C for execution. I guess that's a B.

4527--hey, whaddya know! I win!

rain forest 1:57 PM  

My solving experience was eerily similar to @Spacey's, except it was with NIGHT where I had the aha moment. That twigged my back to MOVIE and then back to PARTNER which I had entered without seeing the trick.

That made HONESTWOMAN part of the deal, and then finally, SPRING, and TREATMENT.

The elegance of course is clear
when you realize that the crossing words contain the 'silent' letter. I also like that the silent letters sometimes start, sometimes end, and sometimes are found within the crossing words. I didn't mind the lack of symmetry. In fact I've never understood the need for symmetry.

This was fun, unique, creative, and well-done. Nifty.

Waxy in Montreal 2:07 PM  

So much to like about this puzzle - initially involved a great deal of head-scratching yet once the penny dropped (in my case at Silent SPRING) it suddenly became relatively easy to complete, as it should be.

Have to admit I completely missed the silent letters in the crossing words sub-theme until arriving here so that adds even more oomph to the grid.

Loved MNEMONIC, UKASE, OLMEC, KOHL and DEMESNE and especially the fact that a puzzle containing them was so doable. Kudos to constructor John Guzzetta for his SMARTNESS.

IBET 2186 so @Space beats me by at least a TKO!

Dirigonzo 3:57 PM  

What @Waxy said, except I stuck with DArNS so the opéra comique never materialized.

1215 is as good as it gets.

Dave Kennison 4:01 PM  

I liked this puzzle. A new and very clever idea.

No one else seems to have noticed an additional theme entry: the silent "C" in "CZAR" is part of the answer for 29 Down: "Silent CD's". I must confess I'd never heard of them, but a Google search turns up lots of information: You can jury-rig your vehicle's CD player to accept input from an MP3 player, but, while using it, you have to also play a totally silent CD.

DMG 4:27 PM  

Found this one pretty hard, but stuck with it as it dredged up words from the depths of my knowledge, e.g. DEMESNE. How did I know that ?! Finally getting the silent idea at Rachael Carson's book really helped! Without I would never have seen NIGHT, as for MOVIE, I, like @Spacey wondered why only pre .1927 work was considered. At any rate, my final O in KOHU sent me here to find I had actually aced this one. But there's always Friday and Saturday to,bring me back to earth.

@r.alph.. Thanks for setting up a separate Runt blog. Those puzzles really have created a devoted following and deserve a special spot. If they ever become available on the iPad, I'll probably peek in there.

373. No comment.

Anonymous 5:29 PM  

Agreed! Pooh on Pym.
Gave me demesnia : p

Solving in Seattle 5:34 PM  

Ala @Diri, similar experience to @Waxy. Really enjoyed John G's puz. I dub him the silent CZAR.
@Z, we should have a bet on the upcoming Mariners Tigers series. A beer? I leave tomorrow for a week in Desolation Sound so I won't know the outcome until I get back.

1225 - Rats!

Z 8:10 PM  

@SiS - Sure. I'll put up an Oberon. I'll cheer for your CF, even.

Solving in Seattle 9:35 PM  

@Z, we're on. I'll put up a Redhook Longhammer. Jackson is definitely an upgrade for us.

Margaret G 11:28 PM  

I first got the theme at "silent treatment" but when I looked for some sort of revealer, I only noticed that it was placed next to "listen" which is an anagram of "silent". That sent me on a hunt for other letter combinations that could be rearranged to make "silent" placed next to the other theme answers. I totally did not get the silent letter angle until I read the blog just now (having solved the syndicated puzzle yesterday).

Anonymous 4:13 AM  

One of the easiest Thursdays ever for me -- picked up on "silent" quickly, and trivia knowledge and crosses just seemed to click everywhere -- but spoiled at the end due to 19A fANGY, just like @joho.

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