Oktoberfest exclamation / TUE 10-7-14 / Klugman's co-star on Odd Couple / denied Supreme Court phrase / Lee who led Chrysler 1978-92

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Constructor: Mark Skoczen and Victor Fleming

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: TOASTs (66A: 9- 20-, 28-, 37-, 48- or 53-Across) —with each theme answer clued as [Oktoberfest exclamation]

Theme answers:
  • "SALUD!"
  • "L'CHAIM!"
  • "CHEERS!"
  • "TO YOUR HEALTH!" (which is essentially what "SALUD!" means…)
Word of the Day: "CERT denied" (4D: ___ denied (Supreme Court phrase)) —
"Cert" is short for "certiorari," which refers to the appeal (petition for a writ of certiorari) a party files with the Supreme Court requesting the justices review the case. If the justices decide against hearing the case, they deny the petition. This is usually abbreviated and referred to as "cert denied." (answers.com)
• • •

I spent a lot of time today (Monday) in my crossword class (which I teach for the local Lyceum—a "lifelong learning association" for people of roughly retirement age) talking about easy puzzles and grid smoothness. It was very instructive to look at the fairly ambitious theme in the NYT, the somewhat less ambitious theme in the LAT, and the not-at-all ambitious theme in the Newsday, and to see what the fill was like in each puzzle. Newsday had just three theme answers, so the grid could breathe, and Stan Newman is ruthless when it comes to making sure his grids are free of crud. He's probably the most exacting editor in the business on that front. So though the Newsday theme was awfully basic, the fill was junk-free: this made the Newsday a good puzzle for the total novice. The LAT and NYT had a higher thematic bar, and their themes were more or less successful (really liked Monday's NYT theme, btw), but they also allowed so much more dubious short stuff: crosswordese and abbreviations and other less than ideal stuff. There's always going to be some kind of trade-off between themes and fill. As the complexity / density of the former goes up, the quality of the latter tends to go down.

The problem today is that while there are indeed a lot of theme answers, all that really does is extend a pretty dull theme while simultaneously taxing the grid—the denser the theme, the harder the grid is to fill cleanly. The north, with ILIE EELER and *especially* CERT, is just godawful. And since the theme is far from stellar, the bad fill is more intolerable than it might be otherwise. The phrase DOWN THE HATCH is great on its own, but there's really nothing to this theme as a whole. It's a bunch of TOASTs. The attempt to unite them all through the vaguely timely [Oktoberfest exclamation] clue seems forced. If I saw all these theme answers lined up, I would never in a million years think that the thing that unites them is Oktoberfest. Beer, drinking, sure. But "Oktoberfest" is overselling it. The theme is a list, and that list has only one interesting item ("DOWN THE HATCH!"). Without a clever theme, attention turns to the fill, and … that's bad news for this puzzle. To be fair, only the north is truly bad. But too much of the rest of it is truly blah. Yesterday's puzzle had its fill issues too, but the theme sparkled more, and those open corners in the NE / SW were truly wondrous to behold (esp. on a Monday, where one does not expect such things). This puzzle sputters by comparison.

There was nothing tough or tricky or particularly memorable about solving this puzzle. Had no idea about CERT (thought maybe WRIT, but I just waited for the crosses to help me out). Misread [Flight-related prefix] as [Fight-related prefix], which made a Very easy clue much, much harder. Someday someone will invent a better clue for TOFU than the horrendously stale and not terribly accurate [Vegetarian's protein source]. There are carnivores who eat tofu and vegetarians who won't touch the stuff. At least drop the apostrophe "s." Better yet, come up with a non-recycled clue of your own devising. That would be … something. Cluing is particularly stale today. Straightforward throughout. Not surprising for an early-week puzzle, but still, no reason "Easy" has to mean "unimaginative."

Thanks to Annabel Thompson for her lovely write-up yesterday. She'll be back the first Monday of every month until … well, until whenever she wants, frankly.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


PeterW 12:02 AM  

Did anyone else find 28A just a little bit creepy?

ZenMonkey 12:05 AM  

@PeterW, I came here just to say that I seriously doubt that one is heard at Oktoberfest. :-/

Matt 12:11 AM  

A list of toasts united by Oktoberfest without 'Prost!' is disappointing.

ZenMonkey 12:20 AM  

Will Shortz at Wordplay says "I hope I didn’t stretch this puzzle’s theme conceit too far, as L’CHAIM (28A) would be an odd thing to exclaim at an Oktoberfest. But at least the theme is timely!"

I wish my grandma were still around. She'd plotz.

Pee 12:34 AM  

To expand on @Matt's comment, shouldn't the toasts be, you know, German? Or at least contain all the German ones? Or at least one German toast? Are there enough Spanish Oktoberfests that SALUD would be a common shout this time of year?

BYW, Oktoberfest ended 2 days ago.

Whirred Whacks 12:35 AM  

Attended Oktoberfest in Munich several years ago. Actually starts in mid-September. Fun time. Many good-natured drunk people with their friends.

Interesting event to observe as a non-drinker.

Steve J 12:59 AM  
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Steve J 1:01 AM  
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John Child 1:02 AM  

My first entries were AAR, EELERS, STA, ACTI, and LAS. I said YUCK! Rex is right that things are better in the south of the grid, but AERO / REO / ORE isn't pretty either.

Steve J 1:03 AM  

It's just incredibly clunky to have a theme that features the repeated clue "Oktoberfest exclamation" not include the one that you actually will hear at Oktoberfest over and over: Prost.

I see from reading the constructor's notes over at Xwordinfo that the choice of this clue and its repetition was Will Shortz's. I don't think it was a good choice. Again, you don't have the actual German toast that's said there. L'CHAIM isn't totally outside the realm of possibility, but it's incredibly unlikely. And Oktoberfest is already done (it ended Sunday). So the theme isn't even timely. (The last point is minor; while there's *the* Oktoberfest in Munich, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of local celebrations called that in other locations, and many will still occur later this month.)

Outside that: Nothing much exciting, either in fill or cluing. Which probably made the seeming ton of abbreviations and partials stand out more. Add that with a swing-and-a-miss theme (not really the constructors' fault, as what made it miss was the editor's doing), and this failed to satisfy.

(Sorry for the multiple posts; my proofreading sucks to tonight.)

Anonymous 1:19 AM  

I think we should cut some slack for CERT given that the Supreme Court issued what was quite possibly the most consequential and noteworthy cert denial in its history today (see news re gay marriage cases).

Moly Shu 2:00 AM  

Agree with OFL and the above comments. Clunky and disjointed. I figured the only good thing to come out of this puzzle would be @Rex's embedding of the Eurythmics Would ILIE to You. Not to be....

jae 2:24 AM  

Medium-tough for me.  Yup, went looking for German and all I could come up with was Skoal which I had to erase to put in SALUD.

So, what @Rex, Steve J, & Moly Shu said works for me.

LHS 888 3:34 AM  

I guess my standards are lower than the pros. Yes, I was looking for German toasts, but I enjoyed solving this one anyway.
One write-over: Rank before RIPE. Fortunately, I already had DOWNTHEHATCH in the grid, or I would have entered SAssY before SAUCY.
Didn't know CERT or ERITREA and needed crosses for every letter in those words.
Favorite word: ASPHALT.
Thanks MS & VF!

John Child 4:50 AM  

Yes, @LHS 888, ASPHALT was good. My inner 14-year-old sniggered. I didn't like the clue much, though.

Gill I. P. 6:02 AM  

Make mine a double... CHEERS to Herr Skoczen and Fleming for this TIPPI TOAST of a puzzle.
SAUCY LUSH ENID will RAISE her glass to this cute Tuesday theme. (I'm so easy to please)
Short stuff doesn't bother me but TOFU does.
"My friends are the best friends
Loyal, willing and able.
Now let's get to drinking!
All glasses off the table!"

Muscato 7:02 AM  

I'm with Anonymous up above - CERT was far and away the most up-to-date clue of the day, even if it's a coincidence that it popped up among the toasts the morning after yesterday's good news.

Mohair Sam 7:13 AM  

Rare case today when I totally agree with a negative Rex review. Totally.

And yes, @Peter W, 28A does feel a little odd if not creepy. Give anyone a list of every known toast on earth and ask which is most likely to be heard at Oktoberfest and which least likely . . . "Prost" (which ain't in the puzzle) will be on very top and LCHAIM (which is) on the very bottom.

Childish chuckle over ASPHALT because of how an English friend pronounced it, but not particularly clever cluing in this one.

I would have clued 43d as what rabbits left after they ate.

Airymom 7:20 AM  

I asked my mother what she thought of 28A. She left Germany, via the Kindertransport in 1938, when she was 16. Her mother was deported to concentration camp about two years later. She doesn't know when, where and how she died, which haunts her to this day. My mother spent 9 years on the run, in Switzerland, Belgium, France and then a displaced person's camp. She arrived at Ellis Island in 1947. She never saw anyone in her family after leaving Germany. To her, Oktoberfest is the ultimate expression of German nationalism. She cringed when I told her of the Oktoberfest-L'Chaim clue/answer. She said, "It is a 'schande' (disgrace)that someone would imply that 'l'chaim' would ever be a toast at Oktoberfest. And this in a newspaper in the city with the largest Jewish population in the world?...Shameful."

No need to add to her thoughts, except to write that I agree and was stunned the NYT accepted this.

NCA President 7:47 AM  

Will S only need read the first few comments here to realize he did indeed stretch the "Oktoberfest" theme and should have just gone with some double entendre with TOAST. L'chaim alone should have kept him from choosing.

My first entry was prost at 9A...it was just a guess, obviously, and then saw a number of other "exclamations" and figured I'd find prost eventually. Which I never did. I could be wrong here, but from my German 101 class I seem to recall that pros't is actually a contracted form of prosit...as in "ein Prosit!" Ah well, that's obviously a moot point vis a vis this puzzle.

DOWNTHEHATCH, at least for me, is something I usually say when I have to drink something terrible and usually preceded with "Oh, well..." Like, "this is going to taste terrible but here goes nothing!"

"Here goes nothing" might have worked as a toast too, maybe a toast right before you bungie jump off a bridge into a gorge, or a toast at a bachelor party.

Lewis 8:00 AM  

I also misread "flight" for "fight" and thought the answer might be "pugi". The puzzle felt easy for Tuesday, and the "Octoberfest" theme seemed arbitrary to answers that were simply toasts.

I guess it's too soon for LCHAIM, but hopefully one day it won't be.

A dozen double letters in the puzzle -- quite high. It does help to know crosswordese like STA, AGT, AAR, but my preference is to keep things in the language.

Good writeup, Rex. I was expecting an elevated-or-above judgemental alert level, and you delivered low-to-guarded. Maybe that day off had a calming effect!

joho 8:09 AM  

Hey, it's October... seems a fitting time to run an Oktoberfest theme. Imagine the complaints if this ran in September when Oktoberfest really runs!

I added to the theme thinking that before anybody gets too KEYEDUP and GOESMAD perhaps they should join in a TOAST and put a drink DOWNTHEHATCH!

ArtO 8:11 AM  

Astute comment by @NCA President re. DOWNTHEHATCH and excellent write up by @Rex.

Agree with creepiness of l'chaim for German themed puzzle.

Lewis 8:23 AM  

Factoid: Just west of Mt. Airy, North Carolina, is a town of about 2,000, and its name is TOAST.

Quotoid: "Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand, as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love." -- CLAUDE MONET

Susan McConnell 8:29 AM  

I thought the LCHAIM inclusion and Shortz's weak defense of it were in poor taste. Not that any theme would be great enough to justify it, but this theme certainly was not.

Barklestork 8:30 AM  

An incredible little factoid regarding 45D and an odd pairing from ancient history is that King Herod, who I believe was the architect who built the wailing wall, and Cleopatra joined together in a business venture to mine asphalt from the bottom of the Dead Sea.

AliasZ 8:30 AM  

How many threes are too many? 28.

I was AT ONE with this puzzle's theme, even though I would hardly call myself a regular Oktoberfest participant. There is nothing wrong with wishing each other good health and hearty drinking whatever the reason or circumstances, and in whatever language. I also think there may have been a time in history when L'CHAIM was uttered at Oktoberfests in München, but not within the last eighty years or so. That was a bit off the mark, Will.

There were some nice STANDOUTS around the grid, so I didn't mind the plethora of threes too much. I liked the goat PELLETS a column away from ASPHALT, and the BOOSTERS at the bottom and AT THE TOP at the top. The UFO|TOFU cluster in the East, and the AERO|REO|ORE cluster in the West were fun to see. For my MONET, this was a SAUCY, KEYEDUP, TIPPI and CERTifiably deLUSHous puzzle (except for AAR EELER).

I RAISE my stein to you, Matt Skoczen and Judge Vic. Prost! À votre santé! На здоровье! Skål! Sei gesund! Cin cin! Egészségedre!

Now I have to run -- my TOAST is burning. But not before The Last Words of David (hint: one of them was not L'CHAIM) by American composer, RANDALL Thompson (1899–1984).

Sir Hillary 8:32 AM  

The ten downs of 7+ letters make this a cool grid, but I'm sorry, the theme is about as thin as it gets.

chefbea 8:35 AM  

Easy puzzle . I agree with everyone else about the L'chaim problem.

Of course loved 27 down...being the punster that I am!!!

jberg 8:43 AM  

Me too on 28A; and the theme didn't need both repetition of the clue AND the revealer -- one or the other.

I didn't read flight as fight -- but I did misread the clue for 1A as 'erection.' Trying to think of a 3-letter fix for that was the high point of the puzzle, followed by the little foreign article grouping (UNE, DER) up in New England.

As for AAR EELER... I want to think of some joke answer for "Fisher with a pot" but I'm coming up blank.

On the plus side, very easy for a Tuesday.

Bird 8:43 AM  

Oktoberfest? No
Wine Bar, Dinner Party, Toga Party? Yes



Charles Flaster 8:44 AM  

EZ in 7 minutes. No stumbles at all.
Agree totally with Rex's writeup.
Did not like l'chaim clue.How about using" probably NOT heard at Oktoberfest" as the clue?
Did like the loses one's grip scenario.
Thanks MS,VF.

TH 9:04 AM  

I made the mistake LHS 888 mentioned. Wrote in SASSY first. For out-and-out, I had S--ER, so in went SHEER.

On top of that, I inadvertently misspelled ATTHETOP as ATHHETOP, and led myself to believe there was an alternate spelling of hatch as HATSH. It's amazing what cognitive violence can sprout from a synonym...

I was only rescued when I realized that LOE was not a word, corrected to LOT, which gave me SHTER. Blank stares for about 30 seconds.

Z 9:12 AM  

Thanks @airymom, for the explanation. For much of the world the Holocaust is no longer the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Germany, especially when Man's inhumanity to Man continues to make the front page. I'm not sure I agree with the "ultimate expression of German nationalism," but I can see how this would offend.

Whenever the original Oktoberfest may occur, the fall celebrations of beer are now, and all over. That Bavaria's fall fair has become an international key word for autumn celebrations with beer says more about the general crappiness of beer through much of the 20th century than the quality of Oktoberfest brews. Today, Oktoberfests in the US are more about craft brewing than anything German.

SAssY before SAUCY hung me up in the NE. My handwriting isn't overly neat, so GOES MAD looked like GOES MAo, which arched an eyebrow until I looked at the cross again.

RooMonster 9:17 AM  

Hey All !
Easy fill puz, took my time and still finished quick. Not too much else to exclaim. One nit was the clue for NCO. A LT is the lowest NCO, below that is a Private (PVT), so clue wrong. Maybe if Will wasn't so hell-bent on changing so many clues, he'd have caught that. IMO.

Also, on xwordinfo, Jeff Chen says he was impressed with the theme density, seven themers. One of my recently Not Excite Me Enough puzzles had 9 themers, with a 15 letter down answer right in the middle crossing 6 of the across themers. Sure, there was a little dreck, but only 15 threes! But, it is what it is...

Back to the puz, nice easy solve, smooth as a Tues should be, fun to see IACOCCA. Oh, and TOFU is nasty! (The food, not the answer!)


gregg 9:25 AM  

The crossing of UFO and TOFU brought to mind the palindrome title of an early Bela Fleck and the Flecktones CD. This alone made the puzzle worthwhile for me and worthy of a toast.

Norm 9:34 AM  

It's not "cert denied"; it's "cert. denied" and you are not allowed to leave out the period for the abbreviation. So, I believe the clue was incorrect for not signaling. (And, I don't care what answers.com might say: I'll stick the Blue Book, the California Style Manual, and the U.S. Supreme Court Practice Guide. Harrumph!

Anonymous 10:01 AM  

A "foreign language toast" theme would have been much more interesting. Prost, skoal, kan-pie, l'chaim, sante, salud, yamas, etc. Pretty much none of today's theme answers were likely to be heard at Oktoberfest, in Germany or anywhere else.
Hey Virginia: No cert. for you! NEXT!

quilter1 10:02 AM  

Very easy and I didn't mind the theme. We have a big Octoberfest here which we don't go to because it is too crowded, but a big deal is made of it.

quilter1 10:06 AM  

Of course, I meant to type Oktoberfest.3127

Arlene 10:11 AM  

I agree that L'CHAIM did not belong in this puzzle, and found the various perspectives very telling. That in itself is an education on the ways of the world.

Numinous 10:12 AM  

L'CHAIM? Oktoberfest? I seriously doubt it. @Z, for much of the world the Holocaust is omnipresent. My second wife's family lives in New York. I thought their friend and next door neighbor was pretty cool until I found out that, whenever he could get away with it, he'd key Mercedes and BMWs merely because they are German. One TV show I worked on had a young producer who refused to let me use music by Richard Strauss that was performed by the Berliner Philharmoniker conducted by Herbert von Karajan merely because . . . . I think Will did something nasty to the pooch on this one.

This puzzle was very easy for a Tuesday. Hands up for SAssY but that was easily corrected. Looking it over, I can't find anything cute or clever that redeems it so I have to agree with @REX "There was nothing tough or tricky or particularly memorable about solving this puzzle. . . Cluing is particularly stale today. Straightforward throughout. Not surprising for an early-week puzzle, but still, no reason 'Easy' has to mean 'unimaginative.'"

Again, I'd like to thank Annabel for an excellent write-up. I'll join with several others in saying that I'd like to see her more often than once a month but I'll happily take what I can get.

Ken 10:20 AM  

Having lived in Germany for 13 years, I agree with those who wrote there should be at least one theme answer in German. In addition to Prost, one could use Prosit (German, from Latin, I believe) or Zum Wohl.

Casco Kid 10:27 AM  


Hartley70 10:36 AM  

I was pleased with the very topical CERT today. I don't think I've come across it in puzzledom before. I'm abashed that I didn't see the horrific incongruity of LCHAIM until I got here. It was I hope a thoughtless choice on the constructor's part.

wreck 10:44 AM  

Obviously, Will took a simple "Toast" theme he had on file and tried to shoe-horn it into an Oktoberfest theme. Horribly mis-guided!
The puzzle itself was fairly easy, not particularly memorable except for it's shortcomings!

Steve J 10:45 AM  

@Z: Not sure how the popularity of Munich's original Oktoberfest is a damning comment on the quality of beer throughout the 20th century. Even the poorer Munich beers are still miles ahead of the standard fizzy yellow lager template used throughout the world.

Back to Germany and L'CHAIM: Agreed that Oktoberfest isn't really an expression of German nationalism, if for no other reason than that most contemporary Germans range from nervous to horrified at appearing even in the slightest bit nationalistic. Not that I can imagine anyone who's a Holocaust survivor or who lost family in the Holocaust is going to want to partake of a large party that is steeped in stereotypical Bavarianness. At best, the experience would be highly awkward for most. While Germany's a very, very different place now than it was 80 years ago, the painful memories of that era are going to linger for a long time to come. The Oktoberfest-themed cluing choice by Will was an incredibly poor one.

Leapfinger 11:16 AM  

This LEO's eyebrows literally raised as LCHAIM became apparent. A German TOAST to Jews? What's next in the theme, I wondered: a Turkish toast to Greeks or Armenians? A Hutu toast to Tutsis? Iraqis toasting Kurds, Russians toasting Chechens, Khmer Rouge toasting everyone they deemed dangerous? There's certainly enough examples to pack even a Sunday grid... One thing I discovered: Russians (who have been on both sides of the genocide issue, having lost twice as many as did Jews in the Holocaust) really have no equivalent for "Cheers1". While they might say 'Budem zdorovy'(Let's stay healthy), mostly they just drink in silence. Pretty dour drinkers, it seems.

I had thought my reaction would be more idiosyncratic, but apparently not, and I think background is the key in this case. As one of only 6 individuals that survived WWII out of a combined 12 families, I could hardly have had a neutral reaction, and others have their stories also.

In any case, I was sure there was no evil intent, and went on to enjoy the puzzle. Besides which, I had woken up in the middle of the night (not AT ONE, but somewhat later) to find a Very Nice surprise waiting for me, so I was in a good mood.

What did I like?
*AT THE TOP, with 'nowhere to go but DOWN' as clued
*The double 'losing one's grip' row
*The PUNnish 'Knight's ride' clue -- a long night's ride, you know
*The @Child in me also having fun with 45D: If you lose the Great Bod contest, it might be the ASPHALT
*I also managed to shoehorn 14A into 34A to come up with PESC-AAR-I, but that's just weird.

@Lewis, I've lived here over 35 years, thought I knew every town, but TOAST, NC is new to me! Thnx also for the nice Monet.

@ALIEN-Z, I'm working on David's Last Words. If not LCHAIM, am guessing they also were not 'TIPPI San Hedrin'.

Looking forward to reading more great comments tonight.

Z 11:22 AM  

@Steve J - Oktoberfest was roughly the equivalent of a state fair. It's rise in popularity post WWII was, I think, due to the beer being something better than was available anywhere else, even better than what was usually available in Germany (stronger, too). Having a bunch of American soldiers and their families around certainly didn't hurt, either. Suddenly, your State Fair becomes an Event. I sincerely doubt that a deep interest in seeing guys running around in lederhosen is behind Oktoberfest's popularity.

@Numinous - Just because everyone should know something does not mean most do. I would hazard that most American's knowledge of the Holocaust is based on what they remember from a couple of days of instruction in 10th grade, with a select few having spent some time with The Diary of Anne Frank and fewer still Night. @airymom's comment was the first explanation of the inappropriateness of the answer. I can imagine many people puzzling over why L'CHAIM was a "creepy" answer. It didn't even occur to me that it was Hebrew when I was solving.

Anonymous 11:23 AM  

I'll chime (chaim?) in with many others to say that running an Oktoberfest puzzle today is like running a July 4th puzzle on July 7. With the fancy internet we have today it's not too much to ask that people look up something like the scheduling of Oktoberfest.

In fact, it's very mildly insulting that people don't bother.

Darryl 11:25 AM  

@Leapfinger - your use of the present participle "toasting" is kind of unfortunate, as there are Iraqis "toasting" Kurds even as we speak, and not by raising a glass to them.

Fred 11:33 AM  

RooM -

Military rank factoids ;)

LTs (there are two, 2nd and 1st) are the lowest-ranked commissioned officers in the Army and Air force.
Below them are non-commissioned officers (NCOs): in downward order, several grades of Sergeant, then Corporal, then two grades of Private.

mac 11:34 AM  

I have to agree with Rex's critique. I was all set for some German toasts, and when LCHAIM appeared I figured it wasn't about German Oktoberfests, but about any feast in October, such as last Saturday's breaking of the fast. Using Oktoberfest was a big mistake.

Looked twice at "TOY....., but the rest filled in easily.

Anonymous 11:37 AM  

Saying there are Oktoberfests all over is akin to saying everyone can afford a Rolex. Sure, you can buy a 'Rolex' for $50 on any street in NYC, it doesn't make a 'Rolex' a Rolex(tm).

jdv 11:50 AM  

Easy-Medium. Really good write up by Rex about theme vs fill. You can't say it any better than that. Had SALUT before SALUD. Had to spend extra time ensuring CERT was correct.

Cheery 11:59 AM  

My first guess for the first theme clue was prost, and in the second I wrote ein Bier, bitte, before realizing that I and/or the puzzle were completely off the rails.
Regarding the L'chaim answer, this puzzle gets a golden Godwin award. I didn't really think about its being out of place because everything was out of place. Now I have a black eyed peas earworm, which song I'm pretty sure has been played in the tents, which means it is could qualify as an exclamation heard at Oktoberfest.
I do like DOWN THE HATSH - something you say when you should no longer be putting anything down the hatch.

Lewis 12:01 PM  

@leapy -- Given its current government, the whole state of North Carolina has been TOAST for a while.

Masked and Anonym007Us 12:06 PM  

I noticed that Jeff Chen (over at xwordinfo.com) picked the MonPuz as NYT puz of the week. So we are now reviewin the runners-up. See 10-D clue, for a pep-talk.

Still, today's puzmanship sample had its moments:
* Seven themers. Toastfest.
* Seven U's. (See also the bonus emphasis aspect of 61-A's clue)
* ASPHALT. Which seems like it'd be a cool toast, among members of the road constructor's union.
A few asphalts, and that get-together could get downright TIPPI. Maybe even plowed and paved over.
* CERT. Altho M&A has no idea why the Supreme Court is ruling on a breath mint.
* Weejects galore. Y'all probably had yer personal faves, but I gotta go with DER.

That N sectionette that @63 singled out:
is actually 50% good, 50% shaky. But once BREAKTIME and DOWNTHEHATCH are nailed in there, it's just gonna be a tough area to fill. U all of a sudden need a bunch of words that play nicely together and end with H's and B's.
Best I could do was:
Obvious advantage: extra U (@63: be sure to stress, in yer xword course). Obvious soft spot: OCAT. Which could be smooooothly clued as {Mexican lunch, coming up??}, if only the NYT would someday embrace the powerful ??-clue option.


AliasZ 12:08 PM  


How did I miss "Knight's ride"? Here it is now with sunrise thrown in as a bonus.


Questinia 12:21 PM  

Re LCHAIM at Oktoberfest. Absolutely! Shows indomitable spirit and flagrant survival despite the horror. It's not like saying Prosit in Tel Aviv.

I'll have a knish with my Weissbier.

Cin Cin!

Gordon 12:28 PM  

It seems that it may be too soon for Germans to be using "L'Chaim as a toast. Of course, if they are Jewish and German ... that may be a problem since it doesn't quite fit in well with the ethos of these comments. But it shouldn't be a problem. But if it's better that German Jews should only say, for example, "Prost", it seems that that may not be right either if it prevents anybody from using a toast they're used to. Then it seems, from these comments, that Jews who are German might be encouraged not to participate in a beer festival that celebrates the country the are members of. But that seems to be problematic if they might feel unwelcome in their own country to participate in a local custom. There are thousands and thousands of Jews who are also German. In a way it seems nice to invite them to drink beer and let them say "L'Chaim". There are paradoxes -- but as usual with comments on the internet everything tends to get black and white and whenever scorn can be heaped -- we heap it, without thinking twice.

old timer 12:29 PM  

If Rex doesn't know something, he blames Will, or the constructor, or anyone but himself. "Cert" is understood by all lawyers and by a lot of folks who aren't lawyers, and who have no idea how to pronounce "certiorari" but who know that a petition for cert is the usual way to get your case to the Supreme Court.

But I think the whole Oktoberfest thing was just *wrong*. Oktoberfest is German. There once were many young Germans who drank beer and might have said l'chaim. But I can't imagine anyone there saying "down the hatch". Which in any case is not a toast, not "drinking one's health", just, you know, drinking.

jae 12:43 PM  

@Fred and Roo - Privates are not NCOs. From wiki:

The NCO corps usually includes all grades of corporal and sergeant; in some countries, warrant officers also carry out the duties of NCOs. The naval equivalent includes some or all grades of petty officer, although not all navies class their petty officers as NCOs. There are different classes of non-commissioned officer, including junior non-commissioned officers (JNCO) and senior (or staff) non-commissioned officers (SNCO).

RooMonster 12:44 PM  


*Headslap* You, of course, are right. I was thinking Corporal for some unexplained reason! Wow, is there a way to tweak brain cells?


Leapfinger 12:47 PM  

@Darryl, yes, but I knew what I was saying. I figured I'd paid the dues to indulge in that bit of noir.

@Airymom, your mother's 92? Kein ayin hara! The Nazis kept generally excellent records, and decades of personal testimony have been collected for more complete information on what happened to people. You might search for your grandmother's name on this site; perhaps you'll find something to bring your mother some late comfort.

@RooM'ster, your theme-dense puzzle sounds very interesting; is it posted on runtz.org yet? Anyhoo, Roo, nil desperandum! We'll all be solving yours as soon as WS gets his excitation level stabilized. (I liked your racy one a ton.)


Dick Swart 1:05 PM  

This puzzle is toast!

Anonymous 1:42 PM  

I thought exactly the same thing!

Davis 2:01 PM  

Ditto what @old timer said.

CERT is the absolute least obscure legal term that's used as crossword fill. 100% of lawyers know it, anyone who's been to law school knows it, and any lay person who pays some attention to the Supreme Court probably knows it.

In contrast, probably 90% of the other legal terms that come up in crossword puzzles are words I have never once seen used during my time as a practicing lawyer, and in many cases not even during my more theory-focused law school years. Even common legal crosswordese like RES and ESTOP are way more obscure than CERT ("estoppel" is a common term in law, but the verb "estop" not so much).

Which is to say, it's a bit silly for CERT to be the legal term that Rex complains about.

Casco Kid 2:12 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Casco Kid 2:13 PM  

This puzzle also gives us the complex crossing of DER, UNE, SALUD. A NATO-ick is born.

An first take, I thought the theme was greetings-in-October, and LCHAIM was a nod to Rosh Hoshannah or Yom Kippur or whatever. then, when BOO or YOURCANDYORYOURHUBCAPS did not materialize, the true horror set in.

Oktoberfest is a Bavarian thing, no? What is it called in Swabia? Or any other German state? Same? Different? Anyone know?

chefbea 2:22 PM  

Maybe 4 down should have been clued...One breath freshener!!!

Carola 2:34 PM  

I liked all the TOASTS, just wished the theme clues could have been reworded without Oktoberfest. I liked SAUCY over LUSH (after too much of the sauce).

In the non-beer department, TEA next to BREAK TIME is nice.

Thanks to those who commented on L'CHAIM and the topicality of CERT.

Anonymous 2:38 PM  

Perhaps what Rex disliked about CERT wasn't its relative currency in the English language but rather a loathing for lawyers who've never come within a country mile of writing petition for writ of certiorari to the US Supreme court acting as poseurs claiming they bandy about "CERT"on a daily basis.

dk 3:12 PM  

OO (2 mOOns)

Liked the PUNs intended or not. Specifically the use of TIPPI. I also liked the personality references to those who "drinks a bit." You know: ALIEN, BROOD, SCORN, GOESMAD, SAUCY, the need to ATONE and in AA when you SLIP.

Would have loved to see throw up in the grid.

All in all a double shot of fun but a little too much water in the wine as Rex might say…. and did.


sanfranman59 3:20 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)

Tue 7:05, 7:50, 0.90, 21%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Tue 4:53, 5:21, 0.91, 16%, Easy

Leapfinger 3:28 PM  

@Gordon, you present some telling points that are persuasive, and might even be considered perfectly rational. However, based on things I'd experienced or heard, I decided some time in my early 20s that no-one who had been directly or indirectly touched by the Holocaust could be entirely rational on the subject. What sorts of things? For one, the gentlemanly old family friend who used to visit us, always bringing a box of Black Magic chocolates, whom I later learned had been suspended by his scrotum in order to test how long the tissues could survive when deprived of vascularity. For another, the uncle who was an engineer at the Skoda Munitions Works, and had his tongue torn out for refusing to reveal what was being developed there. In general, I'm a reasonably rational person, but I find the fully rational approach almost as hard to understand as the Holocaust deniers', and, since @Z's post, the view that it's all just another 10th grade history topic.

One residuum is that now, whenever I now meet someone with a German accent, I'm conscious about presenting an open and friendly approach, on the assumption that this person had absolutely nothing to do with any of that history, and is perhaps sensitized to lingering associations. And I've never keyed a German-made car.

Um, I usually try to avoid rants, so Sorry! if this was over THE TOP. I'm blaming Will, I am.

Gill I. P. 3:29 PM  

Early this morning when I posted my thoughts on this puzzle, It never occurred to me that the word LCHAIM could be such an outlier when paired with Oktoberfest.
In my life, I've been fortunate in that none of my family members fell victim to the Holocaust. After ready @Airymom, I could feel a flinching pain and sense that both words perhaps don't belong together. But then, I believe @Questinia said it best:
"Re LCHAIM at Oktoberfest. Absolutely! Shows indomitable spirit and flagrant survival despite the horror."
Saluti Tutti to my Italian friends!

retired_chemist 3:29 PM  

Nothing new to say about l'chaim. Not good.

Puzzle - OK. 3 letter fill is frequently ugly and today provides no exception. Longer answers are nice.

Enjoyed it (with one exception). Thanks, Messrs. Skoczen and Fleming.

Steve J 4:12 PM  

@Z: I've never seen or heard GIs posited as a cause of the increase in popularity of Oktoberfest. I think more logical is the overall increase in travel, the fact that most of the world thinks things that are traditional Bavarian (like Ledersosen and felt hats) are representative of all of Germany, and the overall appeal of a big drinking party. Just like people go to Mardi Gras or Carnival for the revelry and/or debauchery.

@Casco: There are tons of big local festivals throughout Germany, but they have their own local names. Non-Bavarian Germans would typically refer to Oktoberfest as Oktoberfest, or, given the overall impression most of Germany has of Bavaria, something derogatory. (Note: Locals don't often call it Oktoberfest. It's usually just "the Wies'n", which is short for the event's location.)

wreck 4:40 PM  

@Steve J
Maybe not quite on the same scale, but St. Patricks's Day for the Irish and Cinco de Mayo for the Mexicans is along the same lines. Just another excuse to drink rather for than actually recognizing someone else's actual culture.
People aren't going to Mardi Gras to actually "honor" the beginning of Lent.

wreck 4:43 PM  

.. by the way, most Mexican's don't even know what Cinco De Mayo stands for. It is not a major hoilday and it certainly is not the same as our July 4th!

ZenMonkey 4:59 PM  

Argue however you want -- the majority of these comments and Will's own testimony show that most people were tweaked in some way by L'CHAIM. And as a Jewish person (which I really didn't want to have to say), i find it nasty to imply that this is some kind of weakness of character and people should just "be over it" by now. Considering Germany's own laws regarding the Holocaust, I find it inane to comment that most of the world has forgotten it. No, the Holocaust is not the first thing I think when it comes to Germany, but a Hebrew/Yiddish toast in a German context? I'd be more worried if someone *didn't* see that connection.

Loved the "Golden Godwin" comment.

Three and I'm out.

Ludyjynn 5:46 PM  

@Norm, I CERTainly agree with your correction. PERIOD. (I agreed w/ Rex's review, except for his whining about cert.).

@Leapy, your 3:28 pm "rant" was entirely "rational", IMO!

@Airymom, your mother said it best.

@ZenMonkey, as I saw the answer, L'CHAIM, unfold, early in the solve, I immediately had a visceral reaction of queasiness which did not abate until the puzz. was done. Then I came here, and was happy to see that most commenters also saw the sad irony of the inclusion of the toast, "To Life!" at a Bavarian celebration. And you don't have to be Jewish to get it.

Bad call, WS, sorry to say.

Z 6:20 PM  

@Steve J - I thought the role of American military personnel as cultural intermediaries post WWII was pretty well established. I really don't know what spurred the rapid growth, but Wikipedia cites 1960 as about the time Oktoberfest became a world famous event. This certainly suggests that my supposition isn't totally far-fetched.

The commentary today spurred me to look up some things. According to the latest stats only 15% of Americans are over 65 and one third of Americans are under 25 (i.e. born after Reagan was president). Also, please consider the 26th map here. I always remember Stephan Jay Gould's observation that the history of science is a series of discoveries knocking people off their pedestal at the center of the universe. Remembering this helps me in "presenting an open and friendly approach." Good advice for all of us.

sanfranman59 1:25 AM  

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 5:51, 6:03, 0.97, 35%, Easy-Medium
Tue 6:59, 7:50, 0.89, 18%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:53, 3:57, 0.98, 36%, Easy-Medium
Tue 4:42, 5:21, 0.88, 10%, Easy

old timer 1:58 PM  

Oktoberfest goes back to 1810 when the King of Bavaria created the event. For centuries, Munich had a large and important Jewish community. Jews in Bavaria were proud to be Bavarian, and proud to be German after unification. And Jews who became officers in the army were proud to serve, and were often awarded medals for bravery.

Since 1945, the Jewish population has grown to 11,000 according to one source I read.

I have no doubt that many of them now, and 100 or 200 years ago have attended Oktoberfest and drink beer -- and say "l'Chaim" to their friends. But I seriously doubt any say "down the hatch."

Jeffrey Dowling 8:33 PM  

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spacecraft 11:00 AM  

Incongruous TOAST #1: (as many have remarked) L'CHAIM. I can see the scene: Long table in the middle of, say, Hofbrauhaus, with the madchen coming along with her double fistful of liter pitchers (five each! FULL!!!), and someone yells "L'CHAIM!" Um...no.

Incongruous TOAST #2: TOYOURHEALTH! Ri-ight. Best thing for ya. Fix ya right up.

I had the same thought as @Mohair Sam about the, um, pellets. We who play cards call a trey a "row of rabbit s**t."

Unnoticed themer? TIPPI. Heh.

All this is an effort to derive SOME enjoyment out of today's mess. As OFL pointed out, just look at the fill difference between yesterday and today. AAR NCO REO/ORE AGT INA TEL ILIE (not clued as Mr. Nastase) EELER. Not many STANDOUTS, like...well, STANDOUTS.

Favorite memory jog, from "The Ascot Gavotte:"

Speed up
I have never bean so KEYEDUP.

I leave you with this thought, as Eliza might have said: "Move yer bloomin' ARSE!"


rondo 11:02 AM  

Just three words - Too many 3s.
I have mentioned my displeasure with them before, so not much need to go further on that.
Odd that we syndies get a drinking theme on Vet's Day.
Only 12" of snow to shovel yesterday, I'll drink to that!

Captcha = 6th ylstan (where is Ylstan on the map?)- so I'll take 6 - SALUD

DMG 2:00 PM  

Judging from all the above, perhaps a better revealer might have been "A breakfast staple or a clue to ....."
Once I realized there was nothing Germanic about the themers, this one just solved itself with the only pause waiting to see if the bus stop was a STa or STN. Skoal!

1214 Close!

Dirigonzo 3:29 PM  

There's a nine square mini-puzzle (starting at #40) that's made up entirely of OREOS.

764 - might be good enough on another day, but not today.

Waxy in Montreal 7:14 PM  

Canada's Oktoberfest is held in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario each year and while it may not be Bavaria, it's a whole lot cheaper to get to. Good beer but great sausages! Authentically German too - the original name for Kitchener was Berlin before being changed for obvious reasons during World War I.

Nothing much else to add to the earlier comments except Skål and Prost to all (and especially @Jeffrey Dowling who I'm just so pleased to learn has managed a reconciliation with his ex-wife by having a spell cast over her)!

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