Fictional character who "died" in 1975 / MON 8-3-15 / News service inits. / Singer K. T. / No-sweat shot / Capital of Senegal

Monday, August 3, 2015

MADAM, I'm ADAM. Nah, just kidding...I'm Annabel! Which doesn't really have a palindrome with anything.
 
Constructor: David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: Hard (to be fair, maybe it would be easier if I had actually been alive in 1975)



THEME: HERCULE POIROT — This theme can be summed up by "I need to read more Agatha Christie." Seriously though, all theme clues are related to her fictional detective Hercule Poirot, who was so beloved that he was the only fictional character ever to have an obituary in the New York Times.

Theme answers:
  • MOUSTACHE (18A: Notable 23-Across feature)
  • HERCULE POIROT (23A: Fictional character who "died" in 1975)
  • LITTLE GREY CELLS (39A: What 23-Across thinks with [as illustrated by this grid?])
  • EGG-SHAPED HEAD (50A: Notable 23-Across feature)
  • DETECTIVE (62A: 23-Across' occupation)

Word of the Day: LITTLE GREY CELLS (39A: What 23-Across thinks with [as illustrated by this grid?]) —
Grey matter or gray matter is a major component of the central nervous system, consisting of neuronal cell bodies, neuropil (dendrites and myelinated as well as unmyelinated axons), glial cells (astroglia and oligodendrocytes), synapses, and capillaries. Grey matter is distinguished from white matter, in that grey matter contains numerous cell bodies and relatively few myelinated axons, while white matter is composed chiefly of long-range myelinated axon tracts and contains relatively very few cell bodies.[1] The color difference arises mainly from the whiteness of myelin. In living tissue, grey matter actually has a very light grey color with yellowish or pinkish hues, which come from capillary blood vessels and neuronal cell bodies.[2]
• • •


Wait, wrong French detective. Here:



Ah, there we go! So anyway, as I mentioned above, the Poirot theme that I knew nothing about made this puzzle very challenging. Too challenging, perhaps, for a Monday? It might have been a LOT easier if all the theme clues helped us figure out Poirot, rather than expecting us to know Poirot to figure out the rest of the theme clues. But hey, Steinberg wrote this when he was 14 (!!!!), cut him some slack.

The rest of the puzzle was pretty rad. Loved the identical clues for SET and LOT as well as for ACHE and LONG. BTW, Davide Steinberg, did you take French in 9th grade? Because  with MASSE, ILS, MLLE, and APERCU - for that matter, HERCULE POIROT - it sure seems like it. Pretty decent fill overall. ALSO, I had no idea that NEAP was such a staple of the crossword world (the crossworld?).  I had HIGH in that spot for the longest time, you know, because high tide is actually a normal concept that normal people know.

Bullets:
  • KEY (22A: Item on a custodian's ring) — That's the name of the school I just graduated from!!!!! The good old Key School, home of the Fighting Obezags. "Obezag" is...just the word "gazebo" spelled backwards because we didn't have a mascot in the 70s and had to make one up so sportswriters could write about us. We even won a contest for Top Mascot. *PTA mom Rex's BFF Liz Glass voice* If you live in Annapolis you should send your kids there!! www.keyschool.org
  • PLUTO (8A: Former planet) — I LOVE THAT WE TOOK PICTURES OF PLUTO I LOVE IT SO MUCH IT'S SO EXCITING AND PRETTY!!!!!!
  • EGO (35A: Big feature for Donald Trump or Kanye West)— Cue outraged commentors. 
 


  • MOUSTACHE (18A: Notable 23-Across feature) — Speaking of French...
Signed, Annabel Thompson, tired rising college student

102 comments:

Steve J 12:05 AM  

I've never read any Agatha Christie, let alone any of the Poirot novels, so the theme neither helped nor had any resonance for me. The rest of the puzzle? Perfectly fine for a Monday. Nothing remarkable, good or bad.

I did have to accept that APERCU (apparently, aperçu in reality) was correct. All the crosses confirmed, but even with the puzzle done, it still looks wrong.

GILL I. 12:12 AM  

Alors, mon ami...it is zee Papa Poirot....

"Poirot said placidly, "One does not, you know, employ merely the muscles. I do not need to bend and measure the footprints and pick up the cigarette ends and examine the bent blades of grass. It is enough for me to sit back in my chair and think. It is this-" he tapped his EGG-SHAPED HEAD-"this, that functions!"

Fun, perfect, Monday puzzle...If OKRA had been left in its pickle jar in the back of the pantry where it belongs, I would have given this a 10+

JFC 12:13 AM  

The kid did this puzzle when he was 14. I think it's quite good for a Monday. I wonder what Acme thinks.

JFC

da kine 12:16 AM  

I knew the name 'Hercule Poirot' and got it pretty quickly, but I knew very little about him. I think he used to wipe his eyeglasses with his necktie. I didn't think it was difficult to suss out the theme answers after revealing the first few letters, though. I'd say it was easy-medium for a Monday.

jae 12:37 AM  

I'm with Annabel, this was on the tough side for a Mon., more  like a medium Tues.   Plus there  were quite a few answers I knew only from doing a lot of crosswords, which could make this even tougher for the early week beginning solver... APERÇU, OSLIN, EATON, THRACE, NEAP, ENOCH, ILS...

Also, Mynah before MACAW didn't help.

Nice tribute with a couple of lively theme answers.  Not a lot of dreck, liked it.

Ellen S 12:51 AM  

Nobody got moderated in yet. feels funny to be commenting alone when I know I'm not first. I finished reading the yesterday comments while I waited for the blog to appear (good job Annabel, as always). I quit yesterday's puzzle about a third of the way through -- Like @Leapfinger said, I found it an INTERMINabLE slog, had to fight for the answers and when I got them, there was no joy. I wondered if I should rethink that when I saw the cleverness @LMS pointed out, like "Lush locales?" for SKID ROWS", and yet, even though there were a lot of clever clues, they just didn't delight me.

Today's, I mean, tomorrow's I mean David's, the one we're discussing here -- I liked it, or do I have to say "me likey"? It was easy, because I'm more familiar with POIROT than Annabel, but still enjoyable. And -- DNF because I was filling in so fast I was kind of remembering clues and remembered Consumed--EATEN, so when I saw EAT_N for 55 down I put in an e; and it didn't bother me because I remembered the clues for SET and LOT and, I don't know, I thought SCeNE was one of those answers, never read the clue. Don't care, still enjoyed it.

Sign me up for enjoying the civility. Maybe benevolent dictatorships are our proper form of government.

Music man 12:52 AM  

Hmm I don't think I liked this one as much as you did. I did find it challenging though, an d for the same reason. No clue who poirot is.

Wasn't happy to see a mention of Trump...or Kanye for that matter...ugh. At least they didn't throw Christie into the mix. Ugh.

Beatiful pic of Pluto there. I think I can even see a heart shape. <3

DebinSac 1:33 AM  

Annabel, I always enjoy your write-ups, and this one is now my favorite. It never occurred to me that this puzzle would be hard for someone who'd never read a Poirot book or seen a movie (try the PBS adaptations -- they are marvelous). But yes, that makes complete sense. Smiled at your speculation that Steinberg took French in HS and your enthusiasm for Pluto. I liked this puzzle because it was a little harder than most Mondays and because I like Poirot. But I don't understand the little grey cells business. Is there something more going on than the fact that they are shaded in? What did I miss?

Moly Shu 2:06 AM  

I'm with @Annabel, no idea about the theme, and I was alive in 1975. But no harm done, it was a Monday, and it was straightforward and mostly easy. Very clean also. Don't know APERCU, but there again, fairly and easily crossed. Liked it.

chefwen 2:33 AM  

Fairly easy Monday puzzle. HERCULE POIROT, MOUSTACHE and DETECTIVE were easy, but LITTLE GREY CELLS and EGG SHAPED HEAD were a little iffy for me. But, got her done with few write overs.

JTHurst 4:12 AM  

Does it count as cheating if you look up 'apercu' even though that is your answer. I double checked all of my surrounding fill and it verified 'apercu' but I still was skeptical.

The delay of comment moderation does cut down on repartee and makes you want to wait later to post to see what other comments are made so you can comment on them but it does skim the froth off of a pot of home made soup, which is generally bitter but Chefbea or Chefwen can speak to that better than I.

Some of us are die-hard mystery novel readers and Hercule is of the same elevation as Sherlock Holmes, Sam Spade, Inspector Maigret, Marlowe, Kojak, Morse, Charlie Chan, Miss Marple, Lord Peter Wimsey, etc.

And I could probably state with some assurances that we all got our start on Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy stories.

Therefore, this puzzle was not too stressful on those 'little grey cells'.

Loren Muse Smith 5:16 AM  

Hey, there, Anabel – I guess you're starting your countdown for Wellesley. Best of luck. I liked the picture of PLUTO, too. Poor disgraced little planet.

I have to go stand over with the solvers who've never read any Agatha Christie. Heck, I would have believed that Mr. MOTO was one of her characters, too. Fictional detectives just aren't my bag. I'm with @da kine, though, and filled the name in off just a couple of letters. Fair enough.

I liked the clue for LITTLE GREY CELLS - "what (he) thinks with." I guess we've all met DIPS who think, well, with their PEERS?

Anabel – I noted all the French, too. Glad David clued SOI as a partial. Poor Dad.

@JTHurst – I wouldn't count that as cheating. Agree on the reduced repartee here, but I'll take it. Just imagining all the childish, nasty anonymice on the outside, watching, but unable to enter and soil this place… my mean little heart sings.

@Steve J – agree with you on APERÇU - I've just looked into this word, and I like it. This place is full of our personal APERÇUs, no? Wait. It says "brief". . . Let me AMEND; ahem, most of the comments here are APERÇUs. I just can't stop running my mouth. The problem is that I live among people who don't care about crosswords; my friends here in Rexworld are my only outlet for grid/language talk.

Because this theme didn’t involve any wordplay, this one-track mind instead was drawn to the "queue" clue. What a cool word with its four vowels in a row. What are some more? Hawaiian. Sequoia. I could be a Four Vowel in a Row Word obsequious little toadie.

This will shock most of you, but I want to share this. I don't have a MOUSTACHE because of an article Mom sent me back when I was in grad school about the supermodel, Paulina Porizkova, and the most important skin-care routine of mega supermodels. Well, I actually don't have a MOUSTACHE problem – I could have more of a werewolf thing going if I weren't careful.

David was 14 when he constructed this? Wow. Impressive.

DrLee77 6:06 AM  

@Annabel I feel your pain but obviously you and others used your LITTLE GREY CELLS correctly. This wasn't my best time ever. but it wasn't much longer. I always enjoy your commentary. I also picked up the double clues you mentioned as well as the duplicate clue for MOUSTACHE AND EGG-SHAPED HEAD. One small NIT; POIROT was a Belgian detective as he always had to point out in his stories.

@JTHurst I enjoyed your reading list that was nearly identical to mine. Definitely started with the Hardy boys ( and Tom Swift Jr. as SCI-FI is my other fiction favorite). After HER was in, I threw down the theme answers very quickly. One had to look in which order the LITTLE GREY CELLS and EGG SHAPED HEAD went into the grid. Today I didn't feel like Col Hastings did in most of the POIROT stories (or for that matter Dr. Watson in the Holmes stories.)

I didn't know the word APERSCU, but it fell easily from the crosses. @David Steinberg Thanks for a fun puzzle about a favorite character. Great Monday puzzle, especially if it wassubmitted at age 14

Thomaso808 6:11 AM  

@DebinSac - little grey cells refers to his brain, as in grey matter brain cells. Poirot took pride in thinking through the case rather than being a gumshoe. Sorry if twenty people have already answered, but this is now in the queue.

I agree with Annabel that this was a little hard for a Monday.

Great review but I had to smile at the "if I was alive in 1975" line, since the constructor David Steinberg was also not alive then. I was alive then and about Annabel's age, not that it helped much!

When Annabel's review first came out, there was an embedded video clip of Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau, hence her comment "wrong french detective". The clip seems to be gone now - maybe a copyright issue? Anyway, that was a great idea, Annabel. I have wondered if whoever created Clouseau (Blake Edwards?) was inspired by Poirot. In Neil Simon's "Murder By Death" the Poirot character says, "I'm not a Frenchie, I'm a Belgie!" Peter Sellers was also in that movie, but sadly not as Clouseau.

This moderated mode does take away some of the liveliness of the chat, but I am SO happy to not have to sort out all the faux whoevers! What nonsense that was.

smalltowndoc 6:14 AM  

@Music man said, "at least they didn't throw Christie into the mix".

Well, Chris, no. But Agatha? She's all over this puzzle.

Aketi 6:39 AM  

@Anabel, lovely to see you back. I especially enjoyed your link to the MOUSTACHE song.

I now have an earworm of HERCULE POIROT's voice saying LITTLE GREY CELLS. I cannot imagine anyone else saying LItTLE before GREY CELLS. Did he actually use that phrase? I can't remember. I compulsively tried to look up the difference in size between GREY CELLS and white cells. I miss Lewis. I'm sure he would have come up with a factoid about them if he weren't on vacation.

After AGAPE and AGAZE I was prepped for APERÇU. Even though that is a GIMME for me, I thought it might be a bit much for a Monday puzzle since it's not one of those Frenxh words that has crept into use in English. I did like GIMME as a GIMME.

@Ellen S, I was not thinking benevolent dictator, I thought cranky fed up schoolteacher laying down the law when there's an unruly bunch of kids that disrupt the class. His posts on the new policy instantly reminded me of my sister who is nicknamed the Dragon Lady. Despite (or perhaps because of) her reputation, her students will tell her years after that hers was the only class where they actually learned something because she actually expected them to be capable of doing the work.

JFC 7:07 AM  

This was a cute puzzle, but I thought it was more of a Tuesday than a Monday.

Anonymous 7:08 AM  

It's a Poirot-ism

Lost Love 7:15 AM  

I have been scouring the comments over the past few days because I need the help of an amazing spellcaster to get my husband back. Alas, such information is nowhere to be found. Rex, thanks to you, I will now never get my husband back.

Unknown 7:34 AM  

Hercule's egg-shaped head and little grey cells are akin to Sherlock's violin and syringe. It can be argued that the timeline of odd detectives goes from Sherlock to Hercule to Adrian Monk.

It's only my growing up reading every Hercule ever written that led to my blazing through this puzzle in personal record time, and I still paused at non-Monday aperçu and Thrace, and agape crossing agaze.

AN
Former CMS parent and current Creek parent...Annabel will know what I mean)

AliasZ 7:36 AM  


What a fine puzzle by David Steinberg. Perhaps a little tougher than average, because I don't think APERÇU and K. T. Whoever are suitable for Monday, but aside these two, it is a solid and easy-flowing puzzle with an Agatha Christie theme. Mustachioed HERCULE POIROT's dependence on his LITTLE GREY CELLS hiding in his EGG SHAPED HEAD is a notable feature of his DETECTIVE career, however I didn't really see the necessity of 39A being grayed in. It is a self-descriptive answer, but besides adding a touch of cuteness, it did little to help in solving the puzzle. Perhaps it did for new solvers who may have found it a revelation.

Sure, there were lots of ADS, ENS, ILS, CEE, SOI, etc., AGAPE, AGAZE, ALOOP, EATEN and EATON, but at least we see CZARS instead of tsars. Then reading David's notes at xwordinfo I find out that this was done four years ago when he was 14! That explained a lot.

I liked STILETTOS, COCKTAILS and THRACE and yes, APERÇU too.

Too bad another detective, Mr. MOTO (instead of Jane Marple, say) photobombed the grid to stir things up a bit, but it gave me the only piece of music suitable for today: MOTO perpetuo by Niccolò Paganini.

Happy MOTOring!

Hartley70 7:37 AM  

Oh, HERCULE, as you aged, you looked just like David Suchet in my mind's eye and always will. The photo in your obit does not do you justice. It's hard to be reminded that you're gone, but thank you Annabel for reprinting that wonderful obituary! Today's write-up is one of my favorites.

Agatha Christie was my entre into the British mystery genre and I've never fallen out of love with her characters. I moved to NYC right out of college and knew very few people in the "City", the only one for me except the London financial center. One lunchtime I picked up a Christie paperback, took it home after work and began to read the evening away. I was hooked. Night after night, when my social calendar was empty, I would read another and I worked my way right through her books. It wasn't possible to be lonely when I had HERCULE to dine with that night. By the timeI had read all those available in 1970, I had met lots of NYers and had plenty to do in the evenings, but I'll always think of HERCULE, Jane, and Tommy and Tuppence as my first NYC best friends.

Naturally, this was a favorite Monday for me. I might already say with confidence that it gets my personal "Puzzle of the Week" award. Great theme for a Monday, great fill, much thanks DS.

joho 7:41 AM  

Fantastic write-up, Annabel! You really brightened this dreary, thunder and lightening sleep- deprived morning.

I was struck by how unusual LITTLEGREYCELLS and EGGSHAPEDHEAD were. For this reason alone they made the puzzle more interesting than your average Monday fare.

The matching APERCU and THRACE both seemed like Monday grid crashers, though. However the crosses were more than fair so so harm there.

APERCR, PER, PEERS.

Loved the STILETTOS on the woman having COCKTAILS.

Very nice start to the week, thank you, David Steinberg!

Lindy 7:47 AM  

Really a snap if you know Poirot, but I can see how tricksy it would be otherwise-which is how I feel when overwhelmed by basketball clues.

Anonymous 7:47 AM  

Hercule Poirot was anal about neatness. He would never wipe his glasses on his tie and he wore bow ties!

Glimmerglass 7:48 AM  

@JTHurst: I have a personal standard of not Googling or otherwise looking things up. For example, I wont look at a a phone to see which letters are 6. I don't care if anyone else does -- it's just my own challenge. However, when I've finished, I often spend a few minutes with Google. That's not cheating -- it's learning, which is also fun and yet another reason I do xwords. It's the same as coming here or reading other blogs.

Charles Flaster 7:54 AM  

Liked this EZ puz and never read M. Poirot.
Write overs---MACAW for MynAh and MOUSTACHE for MOUSe trap.
Liked cluing--- KEY and DETECTIVE .
Thanks DS and ANABEL( good luck in college!)

The Rhino 8:07 AM  

Me, five minutes ago:

"What the hell is aperce? No, that can't be right... What the hell is apercu?"

dk 8:27 AM  

🌕🌕🌕 (3 mOOOns)

Great start to the week as HP is a PBS favorite. The rest of the puzzle was a smooth as HP's MOUSTACHE.

Spent last week explaining to nieces that Mordor is a depression (valley) on Pluto's moon as I was encouraging all to consider a broad liberal arts education. Once I pointed out that Draco was a constellation representing a snake their LITTLEGRaYCELLS started to fire.

A had a harder time explaining why one coats/mists a COCKTAIL glass with Absinthe before making a Sazerac…. something about drinking poison…

Thank you David and as always Annabel.

quilter1 8:30 AM  

Super easy for me as I have read all of Christie and seen all movie/TV adaptations. And, Annabel dear, as M. Poirot was constantly pointing out, he is Belgian, not French.

DavidR 8:32 AM  


Nice review, Annabel! Just one nit to pick...Poirot was very sensitive about being mistaken for a Frenchman, see eg this quote from Death on the Nile:

Mrs. Van Schuyler:
You perfectly foul French upstart!

Hercule Poirot:
Belgian upstart, please madame.

That said, according to Wikipedia, he was the inspiration for Inspector Clouseau, so linking the two is perfectly correct!

Anonymous 8:40 AM  

Let's see - 14 year old constructor. 18 year old reviewer. Damn, 54 is starting to feel old!

Nice puzzle, but felt APERCU (apparently some French word)inappropriate for a Monday.

Generic Solver 8:40 AM  

I was born well before 1975 and that didn't help me one bit. My knowledge of Hercule Poirot is limited to whatever crosswordese I've picked up over the years. Still, the puzzle was entirely doable and full of good fill, just not particularly interesting to me, probably a niche market of Christie lovers will dig it.

NCA President 8:42 AM  

@jae: I agree the puzzle was more Tuesday-ish than Monday-ish...and given the amount of French words including APERCU, it would be a left of the middle challenging even for a Tuesday.

If Mondays are the entrees for newbies into doing an NYT xword, this one may turn a lot of people away. I think it would be nice if WS found a way to offer two puzzles for these early week puzzles...an "expert" puzzle and an easier "beginner" puzzle. Certainly, with today's technology he could at least have two sets of clues waiting for the same puzzle. I don't do the LA Times often, but it seems there is something like that there where you can choose your poison/difficulty level.

As for the puzzle itself, I tend to agree with JC at xwordinfo about the colorless MOUSTACHE and DETECTIVE entries. Maybe this is why WS put this in the Monday slot. POIROT was a colorful character and those two entries couldn't be more generic...that small ding against the puzzle may be more attributed to the age of the constructor (at the time) than anything else. It's a slightly inelegant puzzle that way...you have bold words like APERCU, THRACE, and maybe ILS...set against limp themers like MOUSTACHE and DETECTIVE.

Otherwise, I liked it. I was probably as surprised as DS that one of his puzzles was a Monday puzzle. Very unexpected.

As a longtime NYT solver, I would love to have more Mondays like this. I would also like to see the graduated difficulty throughout the week abandoned too. Again, maybe offer two sets of clues, or two separate puzzles (there has to be a lot of submissions to choose from), but I really enjoyed today's puzzle just because it was a bit more interesting than the usual fare.

One last thing: I am surprised that I liked this DS puzzle since I haven't cared much for especially his earlier puzzles. Maybe he wasn't trying so hard in this puzzle to be challenging for its own sake. This puzzle seemed honest and overall very fair...it wasn't trying too hard to be provocative. It's interesting, quirky, but smooth and without the ugh-factor I usually have with an early era DS puzzle.

Maybe you constructor-types can help me here, but is there any kind of additional prestige being attached to having constructed a later week puzzle versus one in the early part of the week?

Carola 8:50 AM  

Having read much of Agatha Christie, I found the puzzle easy. I loved HERCULE crossing APERCU, of which he had many, using his 39A, and the pairing of POIROT with fellow DETECTIVE Mr. MOTO. It's a bit of a stretch, but 71A might also be theme-related, as I recall POIROT as TENDing a garden of vegetable marrows. I also liked the little grid jokes of AGAPE x AGAZE and EATON x EATEN.

Wonderful write-up, Annabel!

Ludyjynn 8:56 AM  

Merci beaucoup, Annabel for your write-up.

I laughed to see no DRAMA OBAMA and EGOmaniacal Trump in the same grid. BTW, @MusicMan, you can find Christie in the puzzle after all, Agatha Christie, that is, the author of the HERCULEPOIROT mysteries.
I read her entire oeuvre as a teenager, consumed by the genre. (Hi, @JTHurst).

So Steinberg was 14 when he authored this puzzle? Makes perfect sense then to see STILETTOS and HEIDI Klum, as the LITTLEGREYCELLS of teenaged boys are frequently focused there!

GIMME more Mondays like this one, s'il vous plait, DS and WS. Tres bien, monsieurs.

Robert Konigsberg 9:00 AM  

The theme was easy enough for me, but the northeast fill was irritating. A non-standard like CZARS? APERCU? On a Monday??

Anonymous 9:03 AM  

Nice puzzle, nice write-up. (I'm still highly impressed by the cleverness of yesterday's, and still not sure why the reception was so lukewarm. I thought it was terrific.)

Annabel, if you want to become a palindrome, you could change your name to Annabellebanna...

Anonymous 9:09 AM  

Poor Poirot. All these years later and he's still being mistaken for a Frenchman. When of course as he would be quick to remind us of the mild insult. He is, of course, Belgian.

Steve M 9:16 AM  

Way to start the week 👍

Nancy 9:25 AM  

I didn't need extra help with this easy Monday puzzle and neither will you, but there has never been -- and never will be -- a puzzle as completely in my wheelhouse as this one. I'll explain:

Long before I was made Editor of Mystery Guild (at the Literary Guild), I had been a lifelong Agatha Christie buff. I had not only read every book of hers once; I had read many of them more than once. I adored her. But the new Christie manuscripts that were coming across my desk in the '70s had become sloppy, disorganized and scatty, the worst of them being the quite unreadable POSTERN OF FATE. By now, Christie was very, very old. "The old gal has lost it," I thought sadly. "Someone should tell her to stop writing, before she ruins what is left of her reputation." Then she died.

Almost immediately, I got a phone call from the Sub Rights Director at Dodd Mead, whom I knew very well. "I'm sending something over by messenger, Nancy. It's top-secret. You can't discuss it with anyone. It was written by Christie many, many years ago, with instructions that it could only be published after her death, and it's been in our vault for all these years."

The manuscript was CURTAIN, the book in which Christie kills off HERCULE POIROT. I read it with trembling hands and heart a-flutter, for I knew immediately that it was out of the author's top drawer. Written when she was still at her authorial, brilliant best, the novel was on a par with such classic works as THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD, AND THEN THERE WERE NONE and MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS. I called the Rights Director back the next morning. "It's fabulous," I said. "It's going to be a huge bestseller."

And, of course, it was.

chefbea 9:29 AM  

Fun puzzle and great writ up Annabel!! Lots of fried okra in these parts!! I use a lot of feta but not with my scones

Malsdemare 9:36 AM  

Well, huh! Maybe all the folks here aren't antiquarians. My guess is, with absolutely no evidence, folks of my generation (pre-punic wars) grew up on Christie (the Agatha one). POIROT was a slam dunk with just a couple of letters and the rest just filled itself. I never finish in 7 minutes -- I tend to plod along - but this was easy.

Someone may have answered this but in case not: little grey cells are what we think with. Grey, I suppose, is to distinguish them from our little white and red cells. See also, grey matter. Come to think of it, pictures I've seen of the brain show it as pretty grey.

I liked it, but wish it were bigger or harder or something. Now I get to go read the news; saw the headline about Greece's banks and groaned. Lunch today with my favorite Cuban emigré (not Desi). Expecting an earful about lifting the embargo.

Arlene 9:38 AM  

I wasn't familiar with Poirot, but managed to fill it all in. I agree that this moderated forum lacks some of the zip and spontaneity. I guess the bad boys ruined the party - as usual.

Nancy 9:45 AM  

@JTHurst (4:12 a.m.) -- No it's not cheating, it's "checking." My mother, who was a highly ethical person, thus defined it to me when I started doing crosswords. I continue to follow all her precepts. When I very, very occasionally look up something I don't know (and never by Googling, always by consulting something analog) I call it "cheating," and award myself a DNF. If I check something I think I know, even if I haven't written it down yet, I call it "checking." If, however, when I'm checking in a dictionary and find my word doesn't exist, but inadvertently stumble across the right word, I now call it "cheating," and award myself a DNF. It may sound complicated, @JTHurst, but it's really quite simple.

Aketi 10:03 AM  

I think I've read and watched too mugh Sci Fi with time travel, time loops, time slicing and mutiple time lines that the time lag from the new system is causing my LITTLE GREY CELLs to overload. It requires the extra concentration of reading novels and watching movies employing flash back and flash forwards (and catching typos which is clearly not my forte).

@Hartley 70, STILLETTOS caused me to flash back on your commentary about SEX KITTENs and SEXY BEASTs. Somehow, I don't see STILETTOS as being appropriate wear for SEX KITENS. I envision kitten heel slippers with fluffy pink pompoms. STILETTOS have always struck me as more appropriate for the dominatrix look. I see you as having a more sophisticated unique look with your spectacular gold Birkenstocks. Because I have always envisioned you riding on a motorcycle I surreptitiously took a picture of my Martial Arts instructor's motorcycle and turned it into an avatar just for you. He may not be BURLY but he is cute and his motorcycle is certainly a SEXY BEAST. So I now have an image of you flying down the highway into the sunset with your gold shoes on this motorcycle with him riding in back.

I just read your comments on KARO syrup from last night. @Nancy, I hope you don't take offense that coffee went up my nose.

@anonymous 9:09 am, good reminder that not everyone who speaks french is french. Love Belgian beer, chocolate and Poire Williams.

Andrea Ojeda 10:09 AM  

You don't need to read Agatha Christie to know Poirot, since countless films and series have been made. Here's one they re-aired recently on Masterpiece Mystery:
http://youtu.be/AKPrq5dhkts
I recommend everyone to get acquainted with this, somewhat eccentric Belgian, and his investigative abilities.

Indypuzzler 10:11 AM  

If this is a Monday that should have been a Tuesday then "me like" because like @Nancy this was so within my wheelhouse that I almost felt like I was speed-solving (a practice I refuse to engage in because I'm sure it would destroy enjoyment). I liked Annabelle's write up. Note how she cleverly says "skews old" in a nice way!
@JTHurst, I would only object to Sherlock being placed on the same level as the rest of the list of fictional detectives. To me he is in a class by himself at the very top.
@LMS, when I was a kid I remember my Dad saying that men didn't get as many wrinkles because they "scrape their face every day with a razor!"

Andrew Heinegg 10:21 AM  

I thought this was a delightful puzzle albeit more Tuesday or perhaps even Wednesday appropriate. But, the best item of the day was Nancy's 9:25 post. Very interesting;

Nancy 10:34 AM  

Wow, @ Andrew Heinegg (10:21 a.m.)! Thanks so much!

Pete 10:37 AM  

AGAPE crossing AGAZE in the NW left me aghast. APERCU just doesn't belong in a Monday Xword puzzle. Worse still, for some reason I thought an aperçu was a French diacritical mark for reasons I still don't know. While I know it's pointless to try to find the source of one's ignorance, I've spent way too long trying to find the source of my wrongness about aperçu. Further, you've got to dig pretty deep to find a definition of aperçu which matches the clue - way back to Webster's 1913, definition 23 (or such).

I've found the Poirot movies / BBC adaptations un-watchable, until I saw some very early David Suchet hourlong BBC shows. There, Poirot's idiosyncrasies were part of the character, not overblown overacting defining the character.

Joseph Michael 10:42 AM  

I'm AGAPE at the news that this was constructed by a 14 year old.

Only vaguely familiar with Poirot so the theme itself didn't do a lot for me, but I had a good time solving the puzzle. Seemed hard for a Monday due to entries like APERCU, OSLIN, DAKAR, and THRACE, but all were easy to infer from the crosses. Great job!

Funny to see Kanye and The Donald paired in the same clue.

@Nancy, I enjoyed your tale from the editor's desk. Must have been exciting to have that manuscript in your hands.

@Annabel, good write up and thanks for the link to Poirot's obituary. I enjoyed reading that.

Jim Q 10:42 AM  

Whatever you do, don't gloss over Nancy's 9:25 comment. Great story, and it brought this puzzle to life for me (I've read most of Christie's plays, but am unfamiliar with the character).

Aketi 10:45 AM  

@Nancy, ditto what AH said about your 9:25 post.

Anonymous 10:54 AM  

I was alive in 1975, but am only vaguely familiar with Hercule Poirot and have never read anything by Agatha Christie. This puzzle is simply hard for a Monday. APERCU? Really?

Bob Kerfuffle 10:55 AM  

Good one all around - including Comments which make me wish I had more time to read books!

Anoa Bob 11:08 AM  

I thought that the grid shape played into today's theme because of its unusual layout---an almost completely closed-in center area---and because of the 39A clue phrase "[as illustrated by this grid?]". But apparently not.

Was "LITTLEGREYCELLS" a catch phrase of Poirot's? Used to teach Physiological Psychology (these days it's Biopsychology) and that's not part of the standard lexicon.

OKRA is not only a Southern dish in the USA, it's grown in warm temperate to tropical regions world-wide. It's related to the hibiscus. Here's a picture of an OKRA flower, and here's one of a hibiscus.

old timer 11:12 AM  

Eight minutes from freezer to fork -- no, that can't be right: Eight minutes from writing the start time at the top of the puzzle to filling in the last square. I must have 40 or 50 Agatha Christie books. The Poirots are not my favorites, but I've read them, so as soon as I knew it was POIROT, the LITTLEGREYCELLS went in in a flash.

I've always wondered, though, how a war refugee from Belgium got so rich -- rich enough to have a manservant and a very nice London flat, at least. I guess we are to assume that Poirot charges high fees for the kind of detective work that does not involve stray corpses.

Thank you, Anabel, for a first-rate review, and especially for the Clouseau clip. Although you were born many years after the last Pink Panther movie (the ones without Sellers don't count), I hope you have had time to see them. Peter Sellers was among the best actors ever, and certainly a star in comedic roles. His *three* roles in "Dr.Strangelove" were a tour de force.

allan 11:13 AM  

@Anabel how I love the first Monday of the month. Your write-ups are always wonderful. I literally laughed out loud at the Pink Panther clip.

Please put me in the column that felt aperçu was an outlier for a Monday, but still loved this puzzle. I'm one who read every Poirot novel at least once, many two or three times. And yet I learned something today. I never knew that the NYT did an obit for Monsieur Poirot.

And finally, @Nancy I truly got chills reading your little piece about Curtains. Something else I did not know about it's origin. Thanks

Leapfinger 11:16 AM  

What @La GILLaumette said, esp about that blankety-blank OKRA. Even the fabulous Mama DIPS in Chapel Hill can't make it umami enough for me to be EATEN the stuff.

Very fun write-up, Annabel, but zut alors! Monsieur POIROT (were he still/ever alive) would be the first outraged commenter to expostulate "Mais je ne suis pas Francais, MLLE! Je suis Belge!!!"

@Music Man, 'didn't throw Christie intothe mix', Ha! Author, author!!

MADAMe ici was AGAPE as the NW unfolded, on APERCedillaU the start of a definitely non-Mondayish puzzle. Pure pleasure to see HERCULE and his LITTLE GREY CELLS emerge. It was great fun to see some of his trademarks emerge (What? No hot chocolate?), but I was sorry we didn't get the vegetable marrows that he retired to raise. Maybe tomarrow, eh? I also want to point out that the MOUSTACHE that Albert Finney is sporting, though nicely waxed, is not nearly luxuriant enough. Christie wrote over 80 detective novels, and over the years it feels asif I've read that many, yet still I come across some that are [or seem] new to me. Perhaps the fact that I never remember who murdered Roger Ackroyd has something to do with it... I'm fairly sure that I've reread that one 3 times.

The NE was my merriest chase: I also started with MYNAH (hi @jae et al), hoping that DS hadn't played with the spelling, and thinking Ivanovic was possibly YNA. That made the before-dinner drinks a NICE_TOUCH, and I thought young David was really developing one. It felt like a STILETTO to the heart when ACHE and ENOCH made that fade aWHEY, but even with COCKTAILS, I'll maintain that DS still has developed a NICE TOUCH.

Other off-tracks: PLUS before ALSO, and THEBES (in the night) before THRACE (to the swift). More evidence against Mondayosity.

I SET A LOT of store by a puzzle that (as @Lewis says) can make you both think and smile. This one was WHEY more EGG HEAD than HEAD ACHE, though at some points I could have used an ANVIL or two. Did anyone else notice that the famous POIROT vehicle, Murder On The OrientExpress, initializes to MOTO? Is that clever or what?

Now that I've polished off a cherry DANESh for breakfast, I think I'll honour this puzzle with a Belgian endive salad for lunch.

Happy Monday all around!

Nancy 11:39 AM  

And many, many thanks to @Aketi, @Jim Q and @Joseph Michael, also, for your very nice comments.

Agatha Christie has given me more hours of reading pleasure than any other author. I'm not especially proud of this tilt of mine towards the middlebrow, but it's the truth. And this seems like an appropriate time to share my love of, and knowledge of, the Christie opus with any of you who may be interested. In particular, with those of you too young to have encountered her the first time around. With a few exceptions, the books are immensely better than even the best films and TV shows. First the exceptions: If you've never seen the movie WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION, rent it ASAP. MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS is a better film than book (mainly because I don't think it's one of Christie's better books; I think the denouement is unfair.) And now for the book list -- both the classics and also my favorites, even though they're not classics:

CLASSICS:

AND THEN THERE WERE NONE (#1). The 1945 movie is great but the book is even greater.
THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD
THE ABC MURDERS
CURTAIN

OTHER FAVES OF MINE:

FUNERALS ARE FATAL
A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED
THE MIRROR CRACKED
ENDLESS NIGHT (more Gothic in style than her usual work, but with a terrific ending.)

NON-CHRISTIE MYSTERIES NOT TO BE MISSED:

A KISS BEFORE DYING by Ira Levin (Not the movie, for heaven's sake!)
DAUGHTER OF TIME by Josephine Tey.

That should keep all of you busy during those rare waking hours when you're not solving puzzles. :)


Natticus 11:49 AM  

I know nothing about Hercule Poirot beyond the name "Hercule Poirot," but all the fill made it easy enough to infer the theme clues without being particularly familiar with the Christie ouvre. But, holy hell, apercu? Apercu. Apercu? I may refuse to learn that word out of spite.

mathgent 12:06 PM  

@Nancy: Great story!

I haven't read any of the novels but knew "little grey cells" from the movies. Hadn't heard that M. Poirot had an EGGSHAPEDHEAD. I suppose that is how Agatha Christie described him.

I'm beginning to be annoyed by too many three-letter entries. They are generally gimmes. Today had 15 which is OK. We've had some recently with threes in the thirties. Does anyone know the average?

@Rex/Rex minion: Is there a schedule for releasing vetted comments? That would be helpful for deciding when to check back.

old timer 12:09 PM  

I loved your publishing story too, @Nancy. And I like the Marples better than the Poirots, though I think "Orient Express" is a fine book as well as movie. I think my favorite Poirot is Halloween Party.

I grew up with the Ten Little Indians movie. When I was a very small child, circa 1950 we got a TV, and it being a pre-1948 movie, it was in heavy rotation on one of L.A.'s local channels. I never tired of watching it. (Pre-1948 movies were made available for TV; for many years no later movies were available for broadcast).

But some of Christie's best novels had neither Poirot nor Marple. "Towards Zero" (later a very good play), and, especially, 'The Pale Horse", which is IMO the best *tale* she ever came up with. I believe Christie herself thought that was her best full-length book.

weingolb 12:15 PM  

The themers were great and the high point of this puzzle.

The low point wasn't so much ENS, ILS, SGT, SOI, CEE, RTOC, UPI, DIR and ASST but the weird EATON-EATEN, AGAZE-AGAPE crosses. Déjà vu also hits you with OBAMA DRAMA, and ATONE AMEND. Seems stuck in first gear. Leaves a kind of binary impression that crosswords should avoid, no?

Leapfinger 12:32 PM  

@lms, 'Tinkle' on your face? Someone has to be kidding. FMP, I'd rather sailplane than 'dermaplane'.

@Hartley70, you're absolutely right about David Suchet having the perfect Poirot look, better than Finney by a country mile. (Bear in mind that Suchet was born in Paddington.) My spot-on role was Margaret Rutherford in the Jane Marple movies; I remember a thousand years back the Time magazine review that described her as a 'sackful of doorknobs': perfect. Her chin and lower lip were nonpareil.
@old timer, one Peter Sellers movie that is largely overlooked is The World of Henry Orient, I always thought it had great comedic presence, as well as a knock-out Paula Prentiss role. Strangelove [without saying], and also The Millionairess, I'm All Right, Jack, the list can 'goon' and on.

Lovely shot of Pluto, and a very good likeness, I think.

Nice to read all y'all's additions to the Poirot-Moto ring.[Thanku, @AliasZ] I was similarly hooked on the Wimseys and Teys (Thés), and we could add a spate of Wolfes, Hammers and Spades, without ever spillane over into that large Westlake pseudonym pool

Happy Erev Birthday to you,
Happy Erev Birthday to you,
Happy Erev Birthday, Mr. President,
Happy Erev Birthay to you.

And I come from Annabellebanna with a banjo on my knee...
Can we possibly have any more Brussels sprout?
Agatha Christie buff, @Nancy? Wonderful story, shaking hands and all.

Aaahh, row 8 is 15 LITTLE GRAY CELLS... (Boink)

John V 12:49 PM  

Theme/detective meant nothing to me, neither read nor seen. Okay puz, some clunky, non-Monday fill. Not David's best, IMHO.

Seth 12:52 PM  

An anagram for Annabel:

Assume she's in, say, an acting class, and one of her lines in a scene involves trying to get the attention of the actress Ms. Kendrick on the street. The teacher of the acting class doesn't like how Annabel has been saying that particular line, and so she asks Annabel to repeat it exactly the way she is saying it:

"Annabel, echo: 'Oh, celeb Anna!"

Masked and Anonymous 1:13 PM  

Oh, man…
If I'd been subbin for @009 today, I'da gone by the title Apercu of Thrace. Or Thrace of Apercu. Sounds good, both ways. But, hard to beat a good Blu'Bel sub job. Primo work and very nice bullets.

What did they do for the Across-Lite version? LILCIRCLEDCELLS? Hard to get Across-Lite to do darn near much of anything. Grey cells? No way. Probably why the Shortzmeister was stallin around on publishin this lil jewel for years and years. Waitin and hopin for Across-Lite to advance past Flexibilty-Lite. But, I digress…

PLUTO is truly cool. Gets no respect, tho. Most planets have U's in em; so PLUTO was trying hard to play ball. Looks like a planet, to m&e. [see blog pic] Has even got moons, like a planet. Orbits a star like a planet. Has one of them major Roman, Greek or Disney god names, like a planet. Couldn't it at least get an honorary planette status? But, I did it, again…

fave weeject: SOI. fave cameo detective appearance: MOTO. fave moo-cow-eazy-e MonPuz clue: 58-D {Eve's man} = ADAM. Better clue for SOI, since it is a Down entry: {Top soil??}. fave jewel of Taoist thought: moderation.

M&A
"Let yer smile change the world -- don't let the world change yer smile"


**gruntz**

She Who Must Be Obeyed 1:14 PM  

Wonderful write-up Annabel.

dick swart 1:30 PM  

Great write-up, Anna bel! And an interesting puzzle far above the usual Monday. I knew it was going to be interesting when I saw 'apercu' ... or is that redundant.

I also noticed right away the middle column in the color pink. I knew it was a Poirot puzzle by then and wondered why 'pink'.

It was, of course, gray.

The characterization of Poirot by the remarkable David Suchet is so indelible. Certainly on a par with Alec Guiness as Smiley in the LaCarre series.

Adain, a vert nice write up!

Alicia Stetson 1:34 PM  

Fine and challenging Monday today.
It seems we've lost the Haiku Nerd and Mr. Porker to the new rules. I, for one, will miss them.

Anonymous 1:35 PM  

Considering that I'm still steaming about the social media and facebook puzzles of late, this was a great puzzle. As a dedicated Agatha Christie fan, this was the easiest puzzle I've ever seen in this paper. I blew through this thing in under 3 minutes, which knows almost a full minute off my prior record. Thank you. thank you. A puzzle for once that didn't make me feel like an idiot for not knowing the movie stars of 2014.

Tita 1:47 PM  

@Carola - thanks for pointing out the grid jokes...

I've read several Poirot and other Christie novels, and seen Ten Little Indians (movie version of And Then There Were None) and of course Murder on the Orient Express.
I think the movies and tv series make this topic broad enough for a Monday - all is sussable.

@Nancy - very awesome!

@Anoa - I am AGAPE re: your APERCU about OKRA being related to hibiscus!!! Gives me newfound respect for the former. I will AGAZE upon my Rose of Sharon and wonder if I can make a stew out of its pods.

We planned a weekend stay In 2002, we planned a weekend stay in the sleepy and historical town of Arras in northern France. Little did we know it was the new start of the DAKAR rally. The beautiful central square was jam-packed with huge trucks equipped with snorkels, and restaurant tables were hard to find.
I suppose Arras is too obscure to be a common xword word.

@mathgent - seems that comments are being moderated on a catch-as-catch-can basis. Can't ask for more than that! Remember that you can always get an account, then you'll get email notifications whenever something happens. Just create a yahoo address just for this purpose.

I didn't mind just jumping past all the dreck, but looks like this is our lot for now, and I'm just happy that Rex et al. are willing to take this step that is truly a very lop-sided task - they get little value from moderating our APERCUs - we benefit immensley.

Thanks David, and thanks Annabellebanna!

Anonymous 2:24 PM  

Can someone explain why the answer is LITTLEGREYCELLS? Is this an actual phrase used by this character? If not, why is it in this puzzle? It was easy enough to figure out by filling in around it, but...it doesn't mean anything! Who has ever used the phrase little grey cells???

Anonymous 2:30 PM  

APERCU should never, ever, ever find it's way into a Monday puzzle, full stop. THRACE, kt OSLIN, and mr. MOTO are all pretty obscure for a Monday as well, imo. But maybe it's just me, as I felt the entire theme was a bit obscure for a Monday...I mean the last book the guy was in was published nearly 40 years ago....really?

Anonymous 2:38 PM  

Who? Why Hercule Poirot himself of course!

Masked and Anonymous 2:50 PM  

p.s.
Puz was a bit lite on U's. But, hey -- the Steinbergmeister was only 14, at the time. Don't want the young-uns to hurt themselves, on some poor, under-respected vowel's account.

Puz was slightly challenging (yet hardly Herculean) for a MonPuz, which is plenty ok by m&e. Was somewhat conversant with the whole Agatha Christie-Poirot dealy, thanks to the great "Murder on the Orient Express" flick.

I was out of state all of last week, so M&A has many miles of blank grids left to fill, before he sleeps…

Masked and Anonymo3Us

Hartley70 3:15 PM  

@Nancy, wonderful anecdote today! My brow is happily in the middle too when it comes to Agatha's charms. I would have liked this as a Sunday with 5 or 6 more themers to amplify the fun. Heck, why stop there, go for 10. I'm sure we could come up with lots of possibilities with perhaps a moustache as a visual. No, no annoying little circles of course! .

@Aketi, that avatar, while colorful, does not scream "Made in America" to me, and bikers are nothing if not overtly patriotic. They stream up Rte 7 here for hours to commemorate 9/11 and it's quite moving. My chopper of choice would always be a Harley and those sandals are silver to match the chrome exhaust. No BURLY BEAST needed. We agree on the STILETTO ISSUE. Pointless.

@Leapy, yes three cheers for Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple. But oh my, Joan Hickson was awfully good too. She's much fresher in my mind.

Doug Garr 3:42 PM  

Easy Monday for me, even though I haven't read much of Christie. I'm only disappointed that the constructor couldn't fit in the word MONOCLE for a theme answer

Charles Flaster 3:52 PM  

Love reading your comments and hope there is no more negativism.
Disagree about cheating on APERCU but I can certainly live with it.
I also live in a non-crossword world and I was told by a psychiatrist friend that " others do not share your enthusiasm".
So I thoroughly enjoy this blog immensely!!
Thanks

GILL I. 4:44 PM  

@Anony 224...Ah, "the little grey cells of the mind."
Christie used this phrase in a lot of her books. She favored the use of that part of the brain in order to solve the mysteries!
@Nancy...Well, wow girl. Did you really keep it a secret? I would have had to blab it to someone at least!!!!
@Leapy: Margaret M....Finest jowl wagging puddin this side of the pond. I was really sad when she no longer graced Agatha films.

The Rhino 5:19 PM  

@Seth - Annabel echo, "Oh celeb Anna!" <-- Well done on the palindrome!

mathgent 5:43 PM  

It just struck me how I am so familiar with the phrase "little grey cells." It was part of the intro for a radio show of Hercule Poirot mysteries. It aired for one season in 1945 starring Harold Huber.

Nancy 6:08 PM  

@Gill -- My boss at the Literary Guild at that time of course had to know. (She was a mystery buff, herself, and in fact had run Mystery Guild before handing it off to me when she was made Executive Editor in 1974). She also insisted on reading the ms. immediately after I'd finished it. (It wasn't all professional; she was positively salivating.) And the Rights Director at Dodd Mead knew she would be reading it, too, along with perhaps other editors at the Guild. BUT I TOLD ABSOLUTELY NO ONE ELSE! Not even my mother, as much of a die-hard Christie buff as I was. Only after the book came out in hardcover (but before it appeared as a Mystery Guild Selection) was I allowed to talk. But, by then, the reviews were out, the fact of Poirot's death revealed and the history of the book having been in the publisher's vault for all those years also revealed.

Thanks to everyone for all the really nice comments. And to @Hartley70: 1) I think we get on because we both share a middle brow :) and 2)I so much preferred Joan Hickson to Margaret Rutherford, I can't even tell you. MR played it as rather low comedy: Aren't I just the cutest, funniest thing and aren't my murder-solving skills absolutely adorable? Joan Hickson EMBODIED Miss Marple exactly the way I had envisioned her for lo these many years. I found her performance absolutely uncanny.

@Aketi -- It amuses me that you still see Hartley70 on a Harley. I guess first impressions never quite die.

evil doug 6:21 PM  

You can help Michael out if you do a little self-policing and limit yourself to 3 posts.

George Barany 7:25 PM  

Within experimental error, this puzzle's constructor (@David Steinberg) and blogger (@Annabel) are the same age, and are both college-bound (Stanford and Wellesley, respectively). The apparent time-warp relates to the fact that the Hercule Poirot puzzle sat in the accepted queue for 4 years, as you can learn by reading @David's hilarious commentary over at xwordinfo.com. I solved the puzzle on-line last night, and didn't realize until opening the print edition of "The Gray Lady" this morning that the central row of the puzzle was shaded grey.

While still in graduate school, I would occasionally run myself into the ground and then have to spend a day or two in bed recovering from whatever bug du jour those with less compromised immune systems would have fought off. Invariably, those portions of the day not spent sleeping or eating chicken noodle soup would be whiled away reading mystery novels which were suitably calibrated to my level of intellectual capability, rather than chemistry journals which required too high a level of concentration. I remember vividly when "Curtain" -- Agatha Christie's last novel -- was published, and I rushed to read it even though I was perfectly healthy at the time. The underlying twist is so ingenious ... (won't spoil it further) (... and thanks to @Nancy for her reminiscences of events from 40 years ago).

Incidentally, this is the second Monday in a row in which our current President with his crossword-friendly 5-letter name (3 alternating vowels) appears. The clue reminds us that tomorrow (Tuesday) will be his birthday. I wonder if the EGO clue was written by @David or changed during the editing process. Surely, it can apply to many of the actors -- past and present -- in the political arena.

Questinia 7:30 PM  

Always tinkle then shave, never the other way around @ Leapy @ LMS. Urea stings like a motherf$#%er.

Excellent story @ Nancy!

Loved the puzzle and appreciated APERCU is Steinbergian Monday fare.

Since this place is more like a cloisters, I'll now repair to weed the courtyard knot garden which is how I @ Leapy work off any and all peach cobblers....

Aketi 7:55 PM  

@ Hartley70, good point about the pointy heels of STILETTOS being pointless. Since the owner of the green Kawasaki is a fifth degree black belt and an inductee into the Martial Arts Hall of Fame, I think he can hold his own if the Harley riders took issue with his choice of ride.

@Nancy, how do you know that Hartley70 might not actually decide to hop on a Harley one day? My favorite Belgian nun, Sister Heronema, drove her moped at breakneck speeds through the streets of Aketi over the bumpy red sand roads while everyone leapt out of her way. I was only 21 at the time and of course thought she must be about 100 years old but she was incredibly young at heart and would have easily won a Motocross race.

@ Moderators, forgive my digressions, I'll definitely forgive you if you delete me. Just couldn't help myself.

kitshef 8:35 PM  

My first post post-moderation. What a difference. And who knew that moderation would make things more moderate?

Definitely Tuesday difficulty, primarily due to the Frenchiness. Some lovely longs - STILETTOS, COCKTAILS, and all the themers, plus great mediums like THRACE, SPIRO, MACAW.

Have not read much AC beyond Miss Marple, but I did have the curious experience of correctly IDing the murderer Aykroyd maybe 10% of the way through the book.

Thank you Annabelle for the Peter Sellers clip. Although clearly using a stunt man for most of the screen time, it was completely in keeping with his sense of humor, in which a long set-up enhances the eventual joke. This is in sharp contrast to the current trend in comedy, in which the absence or artlessness of the setup is part of the gag. See e.g. Anchorman 2 (or better yet, don't).

kitshef 8:51 PM  

Cheating versus checking. Well first of all, there is no cheating when one plays against oneself. But for me, if I look anything up before I declare myself finished, it's a DNF. If after that declaration I look things up, that's education. And if anything is incorrect after than declaration, we're back to DNF.

Anonymous 9:25 PM  

I've never been big on doing my own crosswords (helping others with theirs is so satisfying, after all) but i started working on them again a few weeks ago. Last week's puzzles really kicked my asp and today's was an absolute thrill and delight. So funny to read the comments that it was an asp-kicker to some!
I love the photos of Pluto! Thanks!

Malsdemare 9:49 PM  

@ Nancy. Thanks for the book list. I've read some, and since they were great (Daughter of Time!!!), shall put the others on my list.

And thanks, Rex, for letting the comments wander.

Teedmn 11:44 PM  

Great puzzle and great comments, now that I finally got to read them.

Hand up for reading Dame Agatha at my mother's knee and I kept some of Mom's AC collection though I think they fall into her later years' output which @Nancy has dismissed as lesser works.

@Nancy, loved the three volumes of Josephine Tey that I have, and when they found Richard III's body under that parking lot, my mind immediately flashed back to 'Daughter of Time'.

Thanks, DS and Annabel.

Anonymous 11:00 AM  

The LOT of you are giving DS way too much love on this one. Crossing AGAPE and AGAZE then APERCU followed later by ALOOP and ADAM and ATONE, and ALSO EATON crossing EATEN? It makes my EGGSHAPEDHEAD ACHE!

He PEERS AGAPE and AGAZE, and with DRAMA offers her a MATCH,
“MADAM, I’m no DETECTIVE, but I see you’ve a MOUSTACHE,
and with sweat socks, TAILS, and STILETTOS, you’ve the ODDEST panache.”
GIMME COCKTAILS by SGT APERCU OSLIN

And there are abbr.s galore, SOI think this is the ODDEST puzzle to give any kudos, even on Monday. No matter the constructor.

rondo 11:23 AM  

Way too much French lately, even considering the theme today. Did it really take 5 or so years for this Mon-puz to surface? Wondered how there could be a DS puz on Monday.

In my paper the LITTLEGREYCELLS are shaded to be just that. Similar on a device?? Anyone? Anyone? Just curious as I am considering such. Finally.

HEIDI Klum, a GIMME as yeah baby. I’d take AGAZE and give her ANA. Unlike this puz.

Hard to MESSUP on this puz, but somewhat unsatisfying.

rondo 11:29 AM  

Almost forgot - wanted Tunstall, but only OSLIN would fit.

And ODDEST that SPIRO is on the left and OBAMA is on the right. Only place that could happen is in a puz.

Anonymous 11:46 AM  

Easy puzzle and done fast since I've been an Agatha fan for years and know all about the Belgian grey-celled one. Fun puzzle and completely unexpected from the wunderkind Steinberg.

I really expected a more difficult puzzle on Labor Day, here in Cal.

Ron Diego, La Mesa, CA
(Where we actually place our lists in a bucket).

Ellen S 2:29 PM  

@Rondo, I do the puzzles using Puzzazz on an iPad. The app only holds onto 20 or so completed puzzles so I can't go back and look at how this one appeared on the tablet screen, but my recollection is that it was shaded squares, so the reveal made sense. Puzzazz is very good at rendering the puzzles the way they are in the NYT print edition.

leftcoastTAM 3:32 PM  

Knew Hercule from Public TV series (very good), not Christie. Giving the puzzle a little bite for a Monday were fill entries APERCU, ENOCH, THRACE, EATON, DAKAR, and OSLIN. I confused k.d. (Lange) with K.T. before crosses clarified it.

Mary in Oregon 3:36 PM  

About the "little grey cells" many posters have questioned: In the actual printed newspaper puzzle, the row is shaded GREY -- so they are considered grey cells.

I loved this puzzle!

leftcoastTAM 8:06 PM  

The comments are getting better since we've been put on notice about changes to come on the blog, and I hope that they become even better by deterring comments on comments on comments....

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