French filmmaker who led Cinéma Pur movement / SUN 8-31-14 / British author who wrote Old Devils / Careless hands crooner / Rush-hour subway rider facetiously / Former Oldsmobile model

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Heard At The Movies" — random words strung together, which, when said out loud, sound like the names of BEST PICTURE WINNERs (109A: What you get when you say 23-, 31-, 47-, 64-, 79- or 97-Across out loud):

Theme answers:
  • CHALLAH BOWED HEAVE (23A: Jewish bread / Played, as a violin / Throw (1950))
  • HONDA WATT AFFRONT (31A: Toyota rival / Measure of power / Insult (1954))
  • DWELL FIERCE SUSS LAVE (47A: Reside / Savage / Puzzle (out) / Wash (2013))
  • THUG ODD FODDER (64A: Hooligan / Strange / Silo contents (1972))
  • WARDEN HAIRY PEEPHOLE (79A: Wildlife protector / Difficult / Hotel door feature (1980))
  • HOW TOUGH HAVE RIGA (97A: "In what way?" / Like overcooked steak / Possess / European capital on a gulf (1985))
Word of the Day: RENÉ CLAIR (20A: French filmmaker who led the Cinéma Pur movement) —
René Clair (11 November 1898 – 15 March 1981) born René-Lucien Chomette, was a French filmmaker and writer. He first established his reputation in the 1920s as a director of silent films in which comedy was often mingled with fantasy. He went on to make some of the most innovative early sound films in France, before going abroad to work in the UK and USA for more than a decade. Returning to France after World War II, he continued to make films that were characterised by their elegance and wit, often presenting a nostalgic view of French life in earlier years. He was elected to theAcadémie française in 1960. Clair's best known films include The Italian Straw Hat(1928), Under the Roofs of Paris (1930), Le Million (1931), À nous la liberté (1931), I Married a Witch (1942), and And Then There Were None (1945). (wikipedia)
• • •

Joel Faglia-Yes! So the first and last of these theme-answer concoctions don't really work (not the way I speak, anyway), but the others are remarkably close to the actual movie titles they purport to sound like, and even though the theme was supremely easy to figure out, figuring out individual titles was kind of fun (I somehow never noticed that we'd been given the years of the films in question—for which I'm grateful; puzzle was easy enough without extra hints). This is a highly segmented grid—outside of the theme answers, you get mostly short stuff, so that prevents the fill from being especially noteworthy, but there's no question that this grid is solid, smooth, polished. Joel is Shortz's right hand man at the moment, and not for nothing. He has mad skills for someone who only just graduated from (the greatest) college (on earth).

I don't know how you get around the initial [HCHCHCCHHCHC-] sound on CHALLAH. It's such an obtrusive, noisy sound that it kind of obscures the "ALL A-" sounds it's supposed to be imitating. Bigger problem for me in that answer, though, was BOWED. I thought that violins were BOWED (rhymes with TOAD), not BOWED (rhymes with Maureen DOWD). So between the extra sounds and apparent non-rhyming, I had no idea that I was looking at an aural simulacrum of "All About Eve." Not at first, anyway. "Out of Africa" was a tough one too. Even a best-case pronunciation makes you sound like an early version of Stephen Hawking's voice simulator. There's just no good way to get stress on HAVE, the way you'd have it on the first syllable in "Africa." Also, I say REEE-ga for "Riga," so "HAVE RIGA" is a very bad sound likeness of "Africa," to my brain. But as I say, the others are damned good, as insane as they look.My brain is kind of terrorized right now by the phrase "WARDEN HAIRY PEEPHOLE"—I'm a B-movie fan, but I don't think I could stomach "WARDEN HAIRY PEEPHOLE."

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Whirred Whacks 12:04 AM  

My favorite answer by far is WARDEN HAIRY PEOPLE.

The 1980 film "Ordinary People," however, was just a schlocky piece of mediocrity.

Interestingly, it won a best director Oscar for actor Robert Redford. This started an interesting trend over the ensuing two decades in people usually thought of as ACTORS -- and who had previously been bypassed as Oscar winners in the acting categories -- won their Oscars in the best Director category:

Robert Redford, Ordinary People
Warren Beatty, Reds
Kevin Costner, Dances With Wolves
Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven
Mel Gibson, Braveheart
(We might also add Richard Attenborough for Gandhi to this list)

Steve J 12:29 AM  
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Steve J 12:30 AM  

I hate puns. This puzzle did nothing to soften my stance. Two were reasonably close - "On the Waterfront" and "The Godfather" - one was tortured but sussable ("Twelve Years a Slave"), and two were absolutely atrocious and were not even closely phonetically related to what they alleged to stand in for. Bleh.

So, I choose to ignore the painful theme on this one and look at the rest of the puzzle. The nice thing is, with pretending those puns never happened, the puzzle works pretty well. Fill's nice and clean, EMAG and TOR aside, and things were nicely clued. Nothing's particularly scintillating, but it's all solid. The non-pun puzzle was one I enjoyed.

George Barany 12:51 AM  

@Rex analysis interesting and erudite. In the parts of NYC that I grew up in, "challah" has a silent "h" ... as this sound clip seems to support. The pronunciation of "bowed" might vary depending on the region ... I've certainly heard both the rhymes with toad and with dowd versions. But points well taken, and should lead to a lively further debate as the day unfolds.

The comment by @Whirred Whacks about marquee actors being snubbed for best actor, but winning best director Oscars, is made particularly poignant by his inclusion of Richard Attenborough, who passed away within the past week. His career might be a Rorschach test for the commentariat, since some may remember his original career as a distinguished actor, others his stint directing "Gandhi," and yet others his role in "Jurassic Park." His obituary makes for fascinating reading.

ANON B 12:54 AM  

I give up. What movie is

jae 1:07 AM  

Medium for me too.   Had mUse before FURY and WARrEN before WARDEN  and that was about it for erasures. 

@Casco - Like @r.ralph I don't put anything on paper unless I'm 70% or more sure.  I think staring at wrong letters could be a recipe for rabbit holes.  Case in point 77d.  I almost put in ALERO but saw that the crosses wouldn't work.

Liked this partly because it took some SUSSing to figure out the movie titles.  As Rex pointed out All About Eve and Out of Africa were especially TOUGH to decipher. 

@ANONB - 12 Years A Slave.

thursdaysd 1:12 AM  

I'm with Steve J. Despise puns, and these were so bad I had to come here to find out what four of them were supposed to be. That said, the answers - fortunately! - didn't depend on the puns.

John Child 1:14 AM  

More groans than chuckles here. Thanks @rex for explaining Out of Africa. Made no sense to me initially.

@ANON B: Twelve Years A Slave.

I hate ENLACES and other related terms. Dictionary words that have never been seen in the wild have that @M&A smell of desperation. EYELETS in the opposite corner is nice though.

Good fill as Fearless Leader noted, as long as you don't peer too hard at the nonsense theme answers.

ANON B 1:17 AM  


Thanks. Never heard of it.
And it won a best picture

Ellen S 1:40 AM  

I love puns, so thank you Joel! These were awful! Yay!

Moly Shu 3:20 AM  

Found this extremely difficult. Felt great when I finally finished. Yep @Jae, alero for me also. Caused all sorts of problems. Didn't like or dislike the puns, but I liked the puzzle overall. AVOCET is a cool looking word. Gotta catch my breath now.

paulsfo 3:24 AM  

I thought all of the puns were good.

However,the cluing was awful. I don't how it could possibly have been any more boring. Okay, except for "Number by a door?", which was clever (though I suspect that's not a new clue, to longtime solvers).

Mr. Shortz, *please* get some fun, indirect, clever cluing into every puzzle. If neither you nor the composer has the time nor inclination (nor, in some cases, maybe, the wit) to do so, ask for volunteers.

Questinia 3:46 AM  

☹ This puzzle was awful.

..................................How awful was it? ☺︎

☹ Item worn around the neck/Color some people become in the summer/ What you might exclaim upon seeing a HAIRY PEEPHOLE that rhymes with "lick".

Danp 5:50 AM  

Great theme. F for execution. Just awful. HAVERIGA? Where is the H sound in the movie? Same with HEAVE, HONDA, HOW, HAIRY and CHALLAH. I can live with mixing V's with F's or D's with TH, but don't expect me to read the answers with a combination of NY, Asian, Italian and Cockney accents. I wonder how many people would get the themers without the years listed. You might as well add a laugh track so the audience knows what parts are supposed to be funny.

Loren Muse Smith 5:55 AM  

À chacun son gout, eyes up ohs. I got HONDA WATTA FRONT very early, was delighted, and rushed to figure out the other themers. Like others, I've come to expect a lot from Joel, and this one delivered in spades for me.

I liked lots of the clues – especially the AYES, YEAS pair. Wanted "hanger" before HAMPER.

But before that, I really, really wanted "load bearer?" to be "diaper." Note to new parents – that weight range on the package of Pampers describes the baby, not the "load."

The idea of a WATER RAT fascinates me, and I've actually thought about this many times before. What. Are they the Navy Seals of rats? "Hey, Willard, we have some testy groundhogs causing some dust-ups down at the pond. I think it's high time we call in the WATER RATS to show'em what for." And then I have this ridiculous image of a bunch of fit rats stealthily swimming over to the rescue.

It had to have been hard to put these themers together. Sure, they're puns, but they're amped up with the phonetic manipulation. Rex – I didn't hesitate at the first and last themers. Whenever I say CHALLAH, I avoid that throat-clearing initial sound. Fair enough on the "reega" issue, though. And @jae, CHALLAH BOWED HEAVE was my second, very early, themer.

@Questinia, how 'bout this one...

Kind of pie fruit/Potato chip brand/Blue gem (1981)

Joel – loved it. *And* it inspires some of us to come up with more! Certainly

___Karenina/Just/__ of duty/Dodge truck/ash!

Anonymous 5:59 AM  

I don't know what Rex saw in this puzzle. The theme answers were universally tortured as if Joel had an idea for a them and then had to desperate eek out clues. After completing the entire puzzle I had to google CHALLAH BOWED HEAVE and HOW TOUGH HAVE RIGA to see what movie they were referring to.

Doris 6:17 AM  

Nitpicker here—Was it a typo or an out-and-out mistake? The clue for OUT OF AFRICA says that it won in 1985. At least my online copy says so. (I like ink on paper, so I print it out and do it the Old Fashioned Way.) But the Oscar winner in 1985 was AMADEUS. OUT OF AFRICA won in 1986. Am I the only one who noticed this? Rex said he didn't pay attention to the years. I have to confess that I cheated by looking up the Oscar winner for 1985, and when it was AMADEUS, looked at the previous and following years. So there

All in all, though cringe-worthy (and, unlike Rex, I love puns), a clever and challenging workout.

pmdm 7:02 AM  

Doris: There can be a year's difference with when the picture was released and when it received the award. I think this accounts for the discrepancy. I think the years refer to the date of release, not the year of the award.

Interesting that the write-up is quite positive (somewhat unusual these days) but most of the comments seem negative. Go figure.

Gill I. P. 7:26 AM  

@Questinia: My sides hurt...and I'm not talking about cold slaw!
I was really, really hoping that @Rex would enjoy this one. I don't think you have to enjoy or hate puns to appreciate this evil, fun, In Your Face, I pronounce It this Way, puzzle. Come-on...this was great! HARRY PEEPHOLE alone made up for my not knowing that CRAB and not avocado is stuffed in a California roll.
Yay Joel for bringing a grin on. I'll take a few more of these please (hold the mayo)

Doris 7:35 AM  

@pmdm: Thanks. Mea maxima culpa. I spoke (wrote) too soon. Now trying, unsuccessfully, to think of a pun for AMADEUS.

chefbea 7:50 AM  

I love puns but found this puzzle too tough. Thanks for explaining 12 years a slave. Couldn't get it. Also couldn't figure out - out of Africa.

Now to find some more puns to put on face book!!!

Arlene 8:06 AM  

I'm quite amazed at the creativity of this puzzle - perhaps too creative? I solved it all - didn't even take that long, but like a good Sunday puzzle, slowly but surely, things filled in, until it was done. (@Casco - I put unsure letters in lightly until I know they are correct.)

I'm reminded of a murder mystery drama aired on television decades ago, where the victim received a note that seemed cryptic, but when said quickly and repeatedly, came out "Beth is poisoning you". Yet the first words of the message were "The boy is . . ."

It seems that when you say things quickly out loud, the sounds can start to merge, and the brain can make them sound like familiar words - even if they aren't exact when said slowly.

And that's the case in point with these puns. If they don't sound punny enough for you, say them faster and repeatedly. Try it - it's another fun thing to do on a Sunday.

Glimmerglass 8:32 AM  

I like puns. My father used to tell long stories (as long as he thought his audience could stand), which he called "shaggy dog stories." They always ended with an atrocious pun as the "moral." One was (make up your own tale for it), "The shortest distance between two pints is a strafed lion." They were "shaggy dog" in the sense that the ending was monumentally disappointing. Today's puzzle was not disappointing, but the puns were atrocious.

Maruchka 8:37 AM  

I liked it. The snarky stuff especially. Sounding out can be a groaner, but also hours of fun - well, minutes. Required a little GHOTI thinking (shout out to @Numinous's pal).


Ground-breaking early 20th century prison safety expert?

I felt my mouth going every which way while SUSSing the pronunciation.

@ George B - Agree. I've heard, and said, CHALLAH in so many ways.

@ Gill - I love CRAB/p with coleslaw! See below.

@ Questinia & @ Loren - Sex, food, and excrement. It's going to be a propitious day.

Thanks, Mr. Fagliano.

ArtO 8:40 AM  

A tough slog and never could SUSS out OUT OF AFRICA from HOWTOUGHHAVERIGA. Nice to come here to find others with the same issue. ALERO has been such a common answer to the given clue in most xwords that it took a while to overcome. Happy to finish with no errors.

Anonymous 8:40 AM  

FUN FACT - word combonations like this are called MONDEGREENS - "mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase as a result of near-homophony, in a way that gives it a new meaning."
THe first time I saw one of these was
MUG HUMP LEMONS TOO DASH HALF and it took me forever to figure it out.
Now there is a game my kids have called Mad Gabs which is all about who can figure them out the fastest.

Sir Hillary 8:42 AM  

Bing, for one / Slugger Mel / "On Language" writer >>> CHERRY OTT SAFIRE

RAD2626 8:48 AM  

Another extremely clever effort from Joel whether you like puns or not. Plenty of misdirection clues. Small clues in theme answers all pretty easy. Good long fill. Fun Sunday puzzle. Surprised at the number of nay-sayers.

Anonymous 9:01 AM  

Nice groaners, lots of fun -- why are so many so negative? Had MECCAL for 1D (which just seemed weird) and PAMPER for 86D (ewww) for a while.

Leapfinger 9:10 AM  

So bad that it's fabulous. Half the fun was knowing how p.o'ed some of the campers would be. Had no idea which way Rex would jump, and agree that CHALLAH BOUGHT HEAVE and HOW TOUGH HALF RIGA would have homonymed better, but ya gotta make the crosses.

As a long-time Mondegreen lover, had to try my hand. Sans clues, opted to go for quantity over quality. Shan't be apologizing to the Boo-sters, who won't read this anyway. Look, it could have been worse: there's aloong list of Best Pictures, and I stopped at L.

THUG RATE CAR OUZO ('51)[for @FredRoma, get well soon!]

Also noticed a little Mondegreenery bled into the grid, cf, Marshall McCUEIN, remember him?

@Questeen, @loren: Fantabulous!! Welcome back, both.

Hope everyone who thought this a MISSUSA good space gets over it.

SALAAM Aleikum, y'all. I'll just be opening hotel doors directly from now on.

Casco Kid 9:10 AM  
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Nancy 9:12 AM  

Ouch. My title for the puzzle would not be HEARD AT THE MOVIES. My title would be:


Bad puns. Groaners. None of the answers really sound that much like the movie in question. But a very cute puzzle anyway. And I didn't need to figure out which movie in order to solve. So entertaining -- which is all I ever ask.

jberg 9:17 AM  

@Glimmerglass -- my favorite one ended with "crossing straight lions for immortal porpoises."

I loved the puns, the worse the better in this context -- part of the challenge is to figure them out, right? So if the sound is too perfect then the puzzle is too easy.

I was slow, though, because I thought at first that the idea was to figure out the pun and then write in the name of the actual movie. Then I noticed that the crosses gave you the words in the clues, and finally got the idea with HOW TO UGH HAVEV R IGA. I didn't even mind BOWED, but I guess it would have been better clued as 'curtsied.'

I also went with BEST PICTURE TITLES, which slowed me down. Solo before ALTO, prizes and then crazes before GRAILS.

@John Child, I think it's common enough (at least in books) to say someone ENLACES his or her fingers, but not so much in the way it's clued.

My only real problem was trying to understand why 'Ca, Ce, Co, or Cu' for ELEM did not require an 'abbr.' while 'Only non-U.S. M.L.B. team' did. But then, why expect a reason?

@Doris, I recommend @Rex's FAQs - they explain many things, including Oscar dates; and, well, they're by Rex - fun to read.

Casco Kid 9:19 AM  

103 min. Clean line score. COLDWAR took forever as I began with thebomb and went to nucleAR then gOoDWAR then justWAR. CAROL also took forever and finally came out of the crosses. Fate before FURY.

I had WUSSY early then took it out as I couldn't believe Will woukd let it fly. ReniorS before RUBENS. YALE before UCLA. nixon before GRANT, but that's just me being lazy.

New here: JINN AVOCET. I think we saw EGESTS once before.

Incredulous: VIVIFY. And all the homophones. Sigh. But I guess that's how the Navaho code talkers won World War II. It had nothing to do with thebomb, after all.

@r.alphbunker has my solution pathway. He may post a link to the animation. We're working on a way to compare his and mine graphically.

@jae @arlene. I do have a hair-trigger. It is hard NOT to write down a responsive solution that fits. (Naturally, I bit on alERo for CIERA.) I don't know how I can get better about that. Not everything can be solved from the crosses!

Leapfinger 9:21 AM  

Aargh. My left brain took over. That was supposed to be:

I think more than three pitchers went into the making of this puzzle.

So good, Joel and Will!

Casco Kid 9:27 AM  

Alternative title "Voice Recognition Software Goes to the Movies". @leapfinger's litany reminded me of my first dictated memo years ago. Good times.

mskmoorthy 9:29 AM  
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charlesr55 9:35 AM  

tip of the tongue? = ese? Please explain

Kenneth Wurman 9:38 AM  

Simply put -- horrible. Easy to fill but impossible to sound out the movie titles..

Maruchka 9:47 AM  

@ jberg -Haha. Also heard as, "transporting gulls across staid lions for immoral porpoises".

@ Glimmerglass - Mabou Mines did a play titled, "Shaggy Dog Animations" back in the 70s. Very punny, and evolving still.

F.O.G. 9:53 AM  

Thoroughly enjoyed this puzzle. Solved it on Across Lite and my final correction to get the Pencil's congrats was "OSS" (never saw Inglorious Basterds, so had no clue).

Couldn't sound out "All About Eve" or "Out of Africa", but got the fill. Good start to a Sunday morning. Now, if only the Acrostic were a weekly feature.

Whirred Whacks 10:02 AM  

Regarding @GEORGE BARANY's above comment about the recently departed Richard Attenborough:

I think of him as an actor having first seen him in 1963 for his role as "Bartlett" (Big X) in "The Great Escape."

This past Friday (on what would have been his 91st birthday), I watched Attenborough's directorial debut -- the 1969 film Oh! What A Lovely War, a powerful anti-war musical set in WWI featuring an all-star cast and using WWI songs. If you've never seen it, check it out.

George Barany 10:11 AM  

@Whirred Whacks: thanks for the additional thoughts on Richard Attenborough

@Leapfinger: your posting brings to mind this unforgettable scene (2.5 min) from "Annie Hall."

@Questina and @Loren Muse Smith, could you please translate your mashups into English, if not for the entire crowd, you can at least contact me via e-mail.

Nancy 10:11 AM  

@charlesr55: tongue as in language. So ChinESE, JapanESE, et al.

Leapfinger 10:16 AM  

@charles55 -- ChinESE, JapanESE

@CascoK. re 'It is hard NOT to write down a responsive solution that fits'

One thing I do [most of the time] is check even the most certain of entries against some crosses, if any are gettable. It isn't fail-safe, but a pretty good first line of defense. There's always the chance of an IED, as the other day, when MADE IT SHORT had 3 crosses match with INANUTSHELL, but a body hasta start somewhere.

@ANON 8:40
MUGWUMP LEMONS right back to you, to Sir Hillary and all the other wordplayers.

Z 10:23 AM  

Puns, either you hate them or you love them. Hence, little middle ground for this puzzle.

Arched eyebrow for ENLACES and INTERNEES and NL EAST. Is that the sweet smell of desperation I smell? Yet, with this much grid to fill, that ain't bad. I do wonder about the POW clue. I would call a captured soldier a POW but non-combatants INTERNEES.

Hand up for ¿ESE? I'm sure I'll do the D'oh slap when it is explained.

Z 10:24 AM  


Casco Kid 10:36 AM  

Thanks to @r.alph's recent features, I can tell you that my solve today involved 108 smudges. Hah! Take THAT you pen-solvers. By contrast, my expert/pen-solving/blog-eschewing buddy here on Munjoy Hill (@r.alph can verify his existence) reports his daily smudges at 1 or 2. Like Rex, he DNFs about 3 or 4 times per year.

I had transient wrongness in 45 of the across clues and was errorless in only 20 of them! For downs, I was a bit better: 40 wrong and 31 right.

So I finished with no googles, no cheats, and no errors -- "a clean line score" -- but hardly a clean grid.

There were 21x21=443 squares in the grid. 70 were black. 373 were not. I had a 29% wrongness rate. CMINUS, Mr. Parker?

r.alphbunker 10:42 AM  

Like puns, liked the puzzle. Reminded me a bit of a Merl Reagle effort.

@Casco Kid

Awesome!! This played hard for me so I am impressed by your stats. You can take off your water wings now and proceed to the middle of the pool! :-)

You have given me some wonderful data to mine. I have put the initial results here.

I will be in touch.

joho 10:53 AM  

I laughed out loud when I got the theme at HONDAWATTAFFRONT and went on gleefully from there.

Utterly charming puzzle, Joel Fagliano .. you made my Sunday morning sparkle!

Bob Kerfuffle 10:54 AM  

Fun puzzle.

Write-over at 62 A, ENDO before ENTO. Will have to remember in future to check crosses on that one; seems to be no difference in meaning.

RooMonster 11:04 AM  

Was thinking "myth" or "not ever gonna happen " for 40A!


Norm 11:08 AM  

I love puns, but these were just plain atrocious.

Anonymous 11:23 AM  

For whatever reason, Rex didn’t provide the answers to the theme clues! Ergo here I go:

HONDAWATTAFFRONT = On the Waterfront

Steve J 11:27 AM  

@jberg: No abbrev needed in the clue for Ca, Co, etc., as the chemical symbols are abbreviations.

@questinia and @loren: I'm also not parsing your clues. I need some crosses.

quilter1 11:29 AM  

Yes, RIGA is pronounced reega.

Donald Barclay 12:07 PM  

Fact checking? In the book (yes, it was a book) "Legally Blonde," the protagonist attends USC. In the film she attends the fictional CULA. Neither USC or UCLA allowed their names to be used in the fim.

oldactor 12:08 PM  

Does anyone recall the original shaggy dog joke? I think the punch line was "Not THAT shaggy" I forget the rest.

Carola 12:12 PM  

Found it a labor, but not of love - and I like puns. This one flew wide of the mark for me, theme-delight-wise.

Anonymous 12:13 PM  

Please, can we stop with the gimmicky puzzles and go back to the days of Margaret Farrar!

Enough is enough.

Anonymous 12:47 PM  

I first saw something like this many years ago in Mad Magazine: "sway Donna ponder swami ribbed"

r.alphbunker 12:49 PM  


Would Will Weng and Eugene Malaska do?

Check out the puzzles at
brought to you courtesy of PreShortzian Puzzle Project spearheaded by David Steinberg.

Margaret Farrar's puzzles are currently being proofread.

I try to do 7 preshortzians a week and have grown to appreciate them in spite of an occasional {Vedic sky dragon}

I just did Jan 1, 1973 and put my solution movie here

Anonymous 12:50 PM  


heathcliff 1:07 PM  

All About Eve won Best Picture for 1951. Not 1950.

Religious service/Unmatched tennis-runner/plus/Roman year/lowish joint/riverrat relative (2014) 1:15 PM  

M&A laugh/One of two lurid nightspot entry posts?? (2012)

Ahhhhhhh -- Desperate themers. Say no more. Magnifico. sUnthUmbsUp. What the hey, just let Joel do all the NYT mini and maxi puzs.

CHALLAH BOWED HEAVE was an excellent start-up themer, too. Had no earthly idea what was going on there, so had to keep limpin along, into the puz depths. The HONDA movie CUEd me IN.

Fun puz. Thought the cluing level was fine, given the weirdness of the theme. Cute that the other centerfold entry (COLDWAR) had a movie clue.


AliasZ 1:21 PM  

I do not see the point in expressing strong and highly negative personal opinions regarding puns. To me it is either a cry for sympathy, or search for a groundswell of support and agreement from all or most readers, or is simply a dismissive snub at all those who find humor and playfulness in language and enjoy it.

If this were a survey: "Do you like puns?" then these declarations would make sense.

Otherwise, to me they say: "I have no feeling for the playfulness in language; I need people to know this and agree with me or feel sorry for me, but either way, promise never to present a situation where I must encounter puns"; "I lack the genetic make-up that is required to see and appreciate the playful possibilities our language provides besides the mundane and obvious black-and-white meanings of words"; or the more general: "I detest playfulness"; "I am tone deaf"; "I hate to laugh"; "I do not have a sense of humor."

Whatever the case, honest declarations on the pro or con side of puns are expected in a case such as this, where the subject matter of a NYT Sunday puzzle is bad puns, but it would help a great deal if they were followed by explanations: "When I was a kid, a bully took away my favorite toy because I didn't laugh or groan at a bad pun he made. Since that time I just hate puns." or "When I was a kid I used to be punished if I couldn't make a pun; ever since then in my mind pun equals punishment." -- or something to that effect. That would clarify things a great deal.

My favorite novel: "Pun and Punishment" by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.


Now it's time for a little MEL TORMÉ.

Gill I. P. 1:35 PM  

@Leapy: I too LOVE Mondegreen's - especially the RAP songs my sister and I make up.
I don't know if this video is classified as one but every time I listen to it, I roar with laughter:
Lip Reading


wreck 1:36 PM  

I'm in the "dismissive snub" group today.

Mohair Sam 1:38 PM  

@Rex - Thanks for the tip on "Calvary". Thought provoking in the extreme, we loved it.

As to the puzzle. Found it challenging, finished it, and disliked it. Rare for us, usually challenging puzzles are our favorite, but this pronunciation game made little sense to us - no fun at all here.

Never got "All About Eve", probably because we got CHALLAH from the crosses, a new word to us, and could therefore never know the C was silent. Same kind of problem with "Out of Africa" . . . maybe I need a phonetics instructor.

Casco Kid 1:40 PM  

All About Eve, released on October 13, 1950 in New York and Paris and on Nov 9, 1950 in Los Angeles, won the 1950 Best Picture Oscar in a ceremony held in early 1951. It has always been thus. See

Gill I. P. 1:45 PM  

@Rats: I'm not having a good day and by the way that should be HAIRY PEEPHOLE:
OK lets try this:LIP READING

Steve J 2:08 PM  

@Alias Z: I do not see the point in expressing strong and highly negative personal opinions regarding rap music. To me it is either a cry for sympathy, or search for a groundswell of support and agreement from all or most readers, or is simply a dismissive snub at all those who find enjoyment in it.

I could go on, but the point's made.

And puns are hardly the sine qua non of linguistic playfulness and wordplay. Personally, I much prefer clever turns of phrase, witty banter and many other things that involve playing around with language. And I even appreciate the occasional well-crafted pun. Give me The likes of Oscar Wilde over puns - especially those with only the most tenuous connection to the phonetics of the words that are being played with - any day.

wreck 2:16 PM  

For clarification -- I'm in the @Steve j camp

Questinia 2:20 PM  

@ Steve J, George Barany, *Tie/Tan/Ick*. @ Leapy and @ Loren efforts more sophisticated.

Elephant's Child 2:25 PM  

Dang, I do love a well-spoken rant!!

Let me wax analytical just for a moment. I think that for some people, it's important that things be and remain exactly what they are: static, without fluidity, no shape-shifting, no drawing outside the lines; certainly, no sneaking 'may-urd' into a comment. If not, you're standing on dangerous ground, on quicksand, things could give way any moment and swallow you whole.

There are enough times, no doubt, when it's absolutely necessary to be defined and precise in language, but within the confines of a demarcated and well-defined play-area, can ANYone give a reason not to enjoy some beneficial laughter???

UMPH LOUVRED a bit myself. I think I see a 'chef' in there, but aren't sure someone isn't being called a slattern.

@Gill I.P., yer LIP READING still isn't working.

Haven't worked out Loren2; seems [maybe] to aim for ANNA MERE TOUR RAM DOH.
Doesn't seem to work with either Best Pics "An American in Paris" or "An American Werewolf in London". I might be completely on the wrong track.

Back to busyness.

Steve J 3:07 PM  

@Q: thanks. I couldn't get LEI out of my head for your pun.

@Elephant's Child: And thanks for Loren's. Never would have gotten UTZ on my own.

Martin 3:11 PM  

@Donald Barclay,

Fact checking, at your service.

The clue doesn't say anything about "Legally Blonde" being a movie. In the later musical version, it's UCLA with no coyness.

Gill I. P. 3:21 PM  

@Elefante: Try my 1:45...Ham Bone!

James Amodio 3:28 PM  

ERROR? "Argo" won in 2013 and "12 years a Slave" in 2014 according to Google.
Horrors! a miss-marked clue?
Awful (pun)ishment but I enjoyed it.

Fertile Mind 3:33 PM  

Time honored graffito:

Fifty million flies can't be wrong... Eat s--t.

The first order of business is to recognize whether what's on your plate is tasty and nourishing, or whether it's just a steaming serving of fertilizer.

Carola 3:40 PM  

@Anonymous 8:40, @Leapfinger, @Gill I.P., and other mondegreen fans -

I thought you might enjoy this blog post on mondegreens. One of the comments mentions the line in "Onward, Christian Soldiers" that describes 'the cross old Jesus going on before." That reminded me of my cousin's hearing in the same hymn that "Christ the Royal Master leans against the phone" (leads against the foe).

Hesitantly crossing the line from word fun to pedantry - Are the puzzle's titles really mondegreens, though? I have trouble imagining someone saying, "It's Twelve Years a Slave? OMG, I always thought it was Dwell Fierce Suss Lave!

RooMonster 4:08 PM  

I am of the mind that "you can't help what you like". I believe it's ingrained from birth that you have certain likes and dislikes. For example, some guys like thin women, some guys like heavier women. Some guys like guys. (No offense to anyone, guys or girls, just using as an example) . There are a ton of people out there, each with their own likes and quirks. To try to have everyone on the same page is impossible. Take sports, on this blog, it's fifty/fifty ughs and yeas. Some people out there love rap, personally I don't think they like to do puzzles, though. The point is one person sees something another person either doesn't like or has never heard of, and disparages of it. The other person thinks, What a Dick, that's not right. But to the person who does like it, it's natural.
Speaking of What a Dick, I'm hoping my little summation of the brains of mankind hasn't tarnished anyone's view on me. But if so, then that is how you think, ergo, what you like.


Whirred Whacks 4:15 PM  

More suggestions:



Rex's FAQ 4:49 PM  

@James Amodio - Go back and read all of today's comments. You will see why you are wrong.

GaryG12345 5:34 PM  

Twelve years a slave

Anonymous 5:35 PM  

Or, ... the Oscar year is the year the film is made, not the year it's won. Mostly Oscar will be ahead one year.

Anonymous 5:57 PM  

In 114A, why the possessive apostrophe in "P.O.W.'s"?

Anonymous 6:24 PM  

A great puzzle.
So much interesting information in the blog.

Still working on Leapfinger's Mondegreens. Love them. Also love Magic Eye effects when images are buried (maybe by a computer) in monotonous backgrounds.

Here is some TMI:

Apparently Mondegreen refers to the Lady Mondegreen which is homophony for "...and laid him on the green," a line from a poem by Percy.

Malapropism relates to unintentional homophony.

Egg corn is to be used if there is some connection between the correct phrase and the incorrect one.

Mumpsimus is concerned with the refusal to correct the misspoken phrase after having been given the correct one.

Wikipedia the source.

D and A

Joe Dipinto 6:39 PM  

@heathcliff - it won at the 1951 awards ceremony, which honored the best movies/ performances/ etc. of 1950. Ergo it was the Best Picture of 1950.

M and Also 6:47 PM  



Martin 6:49 PM  

@anon 5:57

It's not a possessive apostrophe.

Here’s the relevant portion of The Times’s stylebook entry:

Use apostrophes for plurals of abbreviations that have capital letters and periods: M.D.’s, C.P.A.’s. Also use apostrophes for plurals formed from single letters: He received A’s and B’s on his report card. Mind your p’s and q’s.

But do not use apostrophes for plurals of abbreviations without periods, or for plurals formed from figures: TVs, PCs, DVDs; 1990s, 747s, size 7s.

Clues are considered editorial content and must conform the the stylebook.

dogbreath 6:50 PM  

I think it's pretty obvious that the execution here just didn't work for a large number of experienced solvers, and calling these nonsense answers puns is not really accurate IMO.

Interesting that Parker gives the constructor huge leeway here when on a typical Rex rag day he'd be climbing the walls in outrage.

In all I think this was a stinker based on the lack of gratification many reported whilst (and after) solving. The whole CHALLAHBODEHEAVE mess is just embarrassingly off/wrong linguistically unless you're stinking drunk--which may have been the key to enjoying this puzzle ;-)

Martin 6:55 PM  

@Anon 5:57

It's not possessive.

It's Times style.

LaneB 7:10 PM  

Even after completing the fill I still don't know what all the titles are. Shame on me, but I still think the whole thing was a LOW DOVE WHORES HIT. Too precious by far!

Anonymous 7:55 PM  

Thought this puzzle was lame though I finished it fairly quickly. I agree about "BOWED": no way on "got screen hearth" (say it out loud) that "about" is pronounced as "abode" with a long "o" sound, not even in the Anglophone parts of Canada, where it sounds like "aboot."

Last Silver Mini Bullet 8:06 PM  

If this don't mean anything to U, don't worry about it.



AliasZ 8:24 PM  

@Steve J,

Do not fall so easily for a tongue-in-cheek hyperbole that teeters on the edge of foolishness. If you didn't catch the subtle irony, "Pun and Punishment" should have given it away. If it didn't, it must have been the tone of delivery.

Benko 8:36 PM  

Ordinary fucking people.

RooMonster 9:08 PM  

Ah, AliasZ, you got me again!! Here I am reading your post and thinking, "Wow, he's really irked to post a passionate throwdown like that!", and getting @SteveJ to post a rebuke, it actually made me respond (which I have never done here) with my own little ditty about human nature. My, my, will I ever learn? I need to take your posts with a huge grain of salt! *Sheaking my finger* You rascal! Funny thing is, this probably isn't the last time it'll happen to me...


OISK 9:14 PM  

Liked it. But I love puns, and even though some of these were real stretches, and I struggled to identify the movies, they were ultimately worth a smile. This completes a near perfect week for me, beaten only by David Steinberg's rapper Toneloc yesterday.

Alas, I used to have MONTHS that were error free, but as I grow older and the clues get younger, more Naticks are bound to pop up. Never heard of Kevin Hart in today's puzzle, but other than that, every answer made sense to me once filled in. So nice puzzle, Joel!

Steve J 9:58 PM  

@AliasZ: Ah, the perils of text-only communication. I totally missed that that was tongue-in-cheek. Nicely done.

Bad Hair Day 10:26 PM  

This was hard for me. Two Googles. Only had to change one letter at the end, though. I would appreciate someone explaining to me how the answer to "Cheeky" at 81 down, is ARCH.

Miriam Webster 11:14 PM  

@Bad Hair Day

3 arch, adjective
: having or showing an amused feeling of being superior to or knowing more than other people

Full Definition of ARCH

1: principal, chief

2a : mischievous, saucy
2b : marked by a deliberate and often forced playfulness, irony, or impudence

— arch·ness noun

Anonymous 11:20 PM  

It doesn't look like anyone has posted the MUG HUMPS translation - it was driving me crazy! Took the advice on saying several times quickly to eventually get to My compliments to the chef, one of my dad's favorite expressions.

Thanks for the entertainment.

Bad Hair Day 11:45 PM  

@Miriam Webster

Thank you. Arch as in arch enemy. Now I get it.

R. Chenemy 4:52 AM  

No Sir/Ma'am. Arch as in mischievous, saucy or impudentulous.

Anonymous 8:12 AM  

This was a great puzzle and cult leader rex and most of his blind followers are just whiners.

Anonymous 8:43 AM  

I enjoyed this puzzle, took a lot of hard work, no Googling even though I never heard of some of the movies. Rex is correct about "bowed" is illicit because it doesn't rhyme with "cloud" as it needs to for the pun. Kicking myself over two neophyte mistakes that held me up forever: penning in "shalom" for "salaam" and "tee" as the answer to "tip of the tonue". Little words, but they did enormous harm. Stupid mistakes!

Lauren Kerr 1:00 AM  

Also, Out of Africa won in 1986, not 1985...

spacecraft 12:56 PM  

Verbal rebi; OK, fine. But of all the great films to win the Oscar, did we HAVE to do "Out of Africa?" Of all the years this award has been given, this was the one year when everybody asked "WHAT WERE THEY THINKING???"

This was a slog, from end to end and in between. Clue brutality throughout tried to turn this into a 21x21 Saturday. There was barely a gimme anywhere. I got it done, but it felt like work.

I might have enjoyed this more if some of my favorite films had been included; I'm sure "The Bridge on the River Kwai" has rebus possibilities.

Yes, yes, the fill is polished; that should get an A. But for the overall experience? Can't muster more than a B. Sorry, Joel.

404, almost there.

Dirigonzo 4:14 PM  

Well, I'm on record as liking punny puzzles and I'm also on record as liking beer, so combining the two is almost guaranteed to make me a happy solver. Add in a glorious late-summer New England afternoon on the pool deck nothing could keep me from loving the puzzle. I caught the conceit at HONDAWATTAFFRONT which helped immensely with the rest of the grid. The last to fall was CHALLAHBOWEDHEAVE only because my shopping mall was Mobbed and I didn't know how to spell CHALLA. As to the best pictures named, I have seen exactly one and that's only because it's pretty hard to avoid seeing The Godfather at some point unless you live in a cave. Now it's back into the sunshine - summer is too short around these parts to mioss any of it!

100 - are you kidding me?!

Anonymous 6:52 PM  


Anonymous 7:15 PM  


Bananafish 12:21 PM  

The hairs on my neck are bristling at the long clues here being called "puns." A pun, according to the definition (and actual usage), is "a joke exploiting the different possible meanings of a word or the fact that there are words that sound alike but have different meanings."

These answers do neither.

These answers are instead reverse mondegreens. A mondegreen is when you hear an incorrect word or phrase because of its aural proximity to the words actually being spoken and intended to be heard, while a reverse mondegreen is hearing a correct word or phrase intended to be heard because of its aural proximity to other words actually being spoken.

An example of a reverse mondegreen is the song title "In-a-Godda-Da-Vida" by Iron Butterfly, which of course is intended to be heard as "In the Garden of Eden".

Also, I liked Appian Way, Mel Torme, Salvo, the Ash and Sandy blondes, Mr. Slate, Agatha, and yes, even Vivify.

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