Lobbying org that fights music piracy / MON 12-12-16 / Chaim who played Tevye

Monday, December 12, 2016

Constructor: Mark McClain

Relative difficulty: Challenging (3:34, about 35-40 seconds slower than normal)


THEME: LANGUAGE BARRIER (41A: Communication problem ... illustrated literally by the black squares before 5-, 19-, 26-, 54-, 65- and 73-Across) — languages are in circled squares, broken in two by black squares that form a "barrier" between the two parts of the "language":

Theme answers:
  • SHIN / DIEU
  • MASUR / DUTY
  • SEEGER / MANIC
  • TOPOL / I SHALL
  • KITH / AILED 
  • SELA / TIN
Word of the Day: TOPOL (51A: Chaim who played Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof") —
Chaim Topol (Hebrew: חיים טופול‎‎; born September 9, 1935), mononomously known as Topol, is an Israeli theatrical and film performer, singer, actor, comedian, voice artist, writer and producer. He is best known for his role as Tevye the dairyman in the production of Fiddler on the Roof on both stage and film. He has been nominated for an Academy Award and a Tony Award, and has won two Golden Globe Awards. (wikipedia)
• • •
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Now on to the puzzle!

---------------------------
Should've been a Tuesday puzzle, both because Tuesdays normally suuuuck and this didn't, and because it played like a Tuesday, i.e. a tough Monday. Although LATIN? Really? You couldn't have stuck to "languages people actually speak"? Oh well, it didn't say "non-dead languages," so I guess it's fair, if not completely consistent. This puzzle played hard for me largely because of the proper nouns, vague cluing, and theme density (fill is always iffiest / toughest / least Mondayish around the theme answers). Forgot MASUR and then thought MAZUR (18A: Maestro Kurt ___)—didn't help that that answer crossed EPSOM, which I continue not to be able to spell right at first pass (EPSON? EPCOT?) (7D: English racing venue). ARENA got a bull-riding clue?? Total disconnect for me. I know TOPOL mononymously, so "Chaim" was a disaster for me, as my knee-jerk instinct, plus the placement of the "O"s, led me to enter POTOK right away. Ugh. Also LILLE as [City NNE of Paris]!? Not much to go on for a not-terribly-famous French city. I had I SWEAR for I SHALL (54A: Formal-sounding commitment), could not find the handle on SHRIFT (50D: Short ___ (quick work)), had no idea what Roman numeral of OLAF was called for (47A: Norway's patron saint), and once again had no idea about the ... Recording Industry Association ... something? (25D: Lobbying org. that fights music piracy).


Had SEE IN for LET IN (56D: Admit at the door). Could not get BAD ACTOR from the back end (i.e. -CTOR) (9D: Troublemaker). And I *knew* "ANTI" (43D: 2016 #1 album by Rihanna), which is definitely not a Monday clue, at least not with this crowd (i.e. you all ... I know you). Puzzle would've been even rougher, obviously, if I didn't listen to that album a lot (TRY IT!). Anyway, the theme is solid, I think, and if the fill's not Great, it's largely because the theme is very dense—plus, given ongoing declines in NYT fill quality, the fill here doesn't actually *feel* subpar at all. Far less demanding grids have had fill much worse than this. So I'm counting this a winner of a puzzle, despite my miserable solving experience. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. actually one of my readers has an objection to add:

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

87 comments:

Larry Gilstrap 1:02 AM  

When I was a young teacher, the grammar texts were old and the first person future tense singular and plural called for SHALL. Since it is first person and the speaker is an ACTOR in the future action, I like the distinction. I SHALL be home for Christmas implies a guarantee, if only in my dreams. He will be coming 'round the mountain, not so much.

I'm no linguist, but those are some pretty mundane languages. Just yesterday we saw PAPISTS, now today LATIN, despite OFL's IPSE dixit about the irrelevancy of a dead language. I guess he has an IOTA of truth in his opinion.

Nice looking grid-spanning revealer. N'est-ce pas?

Let's slug it out again about the plural RBIS. I guess the way it is clued works. After all, people argue about such things as whether a SCONE is a biscuit, for example. Imagine this scenario: Opening Day Mike Trout hits a sacrifice fly and is credited with one RBI. Later, he hits a three run home run and ends the game with four RBI. Now that is a retronym.

The ODE guy 1:12 AM  

'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,' that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

jae 1:46 AM  

I have no idea how hard this one was. Could not print the Across Lite version for some reason so went with the PDF which I have set to print the black squares in light gray. The resulting grid with a bunch of varying shades of gray squares was confusing at best. So, it seemed very tough and @Rex seems to agree.

@Rex - Yeah, ANTI was a WOE.

Nice to see a somewhat tricky Mon. puzzle, liked it.

Anoa Bob 2:09 AM  

Surprised to see "Opposite of omega alphabetically" as the clue since ALPHA (14A) was the answer.

If your OKRA (58D)is "gooey" when you cook it, you're not doing it right. We grew lots of OKRA in our garden when I was a kid. I liked it best when it was cut into small sections, drench in egg wash, rolled in seasoned cornmeal, and fried in about a quarter inch of lard in a cast iron skillet. My lord, that was good.

BAD ACTOR (9D) is a "Troublemaker"? Not familiar with that usage. Tried BAD Apple at first.

chefwen 2:15 AM  

@Vijay - SCONE/BISCUIT they are both short breads, so close enough for me.

Have the same problem as Rex with EPSOM always spell it with an N, but nANIC didn't make sense, so I knew I spelled it incorrectly yet again.

Didn't know 25D, didn't need to, never saw the clue.

I was shocked with Rex's rating, I thought we were having a continuation of last weeks collection of easy as pie puzzles.

Loren Muse Smith 3:45 AM  

Cool idea! The reveal is perfect.

Rex – somehow I didn’t run into the problems you did. (And, yeah, I didn’t know ANTI was a song.)

I have to admit that I didn’t really know the meaning of SHORT SHRIFT. I think deep down I thought it was the same as short change. How do you use it in a sentence? My husband is a spendthrift who can make SHORT SHRIFT of Christmas shopping in a GIFT SHOP. Do you make short shrift of something?

I PRAY, I SHALL, I LAY…

I OTA be happy I RENEwed my AAA membership; it’s nasty outside this morning.

KITH always surprises me. Weird word. A cousin in Lille would be part of your French kith, I guess?

Will the Scones Are Not a Biscuit argument upstage the AIOLI Is Not a Mayo argument this morning? Let’s just all agree not to put aioli on our scones and sing Kumbayah, k?

Mr. McClain - gotta make short shrift of this comment because, I swear, we’re reading Romeo and Juliet in my 9th grade classes. So serendipity to have MERCUTIO and Stratford-upon-AVON in the grid this morning.

Lewis 5:41 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lewis 5:44 AM  

@lms - French kith! Good one!
@anoa -- Agreed with your every point.
@rex -- I like the non traditional clue for ARENA. Non-traditional accurate/fair clues make me think as opposed to regurgitating something I've heard before.

Solid Mondayish theme. Love the word FLIT. I was almost Naticked at UHURA/MASUR. I learned this meaning of BAD_ACTOR. And I loved the puzzle's grit: It was enough to make it challenging for new solvers, but IMO not overwhelming for them, and woke my brain up.

I looked around the grid for other possible "language barriers" to no avail, but found a lovely Indian "sliced bread" going down at ARENA/ANTI.

Steve Hardgrave 5:57 AM  

I liked it, Mondays are usually dead boring, this had at least a little bit of resistance.

As an American living in Ireland, maybe I can help with the scone/biscuit controversy: In the US, a biscuit is a sort of roll, and is indeed rather like a scone. In the rest of the English speaking world, a biscuit is what Americans call a "cookie", and not remotely similar to a scone. So, hey, everybody's correct here, yes?

Crane Poole 5:59 AM  

Ever catch yourself one clue off, especially when solving at an off-hour? In what way does a BAD ACTOR go down a fallopian tube... and without a (?) and on a Monday?

Anonymous 6:33 AM  

I agree with Anoa Bob about ALPHA. I thought Rex would be jumping all over that one.

Glimmerglass 7:00 AM  

Despite one or two WOEs, I found this much easier than @Rex did. I'd rate it easy-medium. But I don't understand why the homeland of a trouble maker (BAD ACTOR) is Ireland (EIRE). Sounds like a 19th century Protestant prejudice. I don't agree with the clue for SHRIFT. SHRIFT is a form of the verb "shrive," to grant absolution after a confession. "Short SHRIFT" means for a priest to do a perfunctory or less than thorough job of it (as for a convicted murderer, in the time the phrase was current). The phrase has come to mean shortchanging a job or a favor, that is, "poor" not "quick" work.

Hungry Mother 7:17 AM  

I did more downs than a usual Monday, where I can rip through it using sequential acrosses. Got the language theme immediately, but I don't think the theme helped me though the puzzle.

Eric 7:19 AM  

You don't put clotted cream and jam on a " biscuit"

kitshef 7:23 AM  

If you OKRA is gooey, throw it away. Better yet, cut out a step and throw it away before cooking it.

On the one hand, I admire that six languages were worked in with only one -ish, and not a single –ese.

On the other hand, RIAA – no. Not on a Monday, not on a Saturday, not in a puzzle where every answer is a ridiculous initialism. Never.

Anonymous 7:28 AM  

i thought it was easy. typically i do the monday puzzle "across only" so i didn't see many of the issues mentioned so far.

but,...

a scone is not a biscuit.

if you want a biscuit with tea, have a McVitie's chocolate digestive. Plain, or chocolate. the chocolate ones are orgasmic.

From their website: "Our McVitie's chocolate digestives are perfectly sized biscuits. From dark to milk chocolate biscuits, find all McVitie's classic treats on our website."

a break in the middle is not a barrier. "barrier to entry" "great barrier reef" you get the picture.

zippy

Hartley70 7:29 AM  

I had some strange color going on this morning. There were no circles. There were YELLOw strips that included more than the appropriate language. For example, I had a YELLOw series of letters for UR DUTY, and HIN DIEU. When the puzzle was completed, I "wondered where the YELLOw went" (no Pepsodent in the house) and each language was properly highlighted in gray. I'm guessing that Siri was just messin' with my head. She probably gets bored in there.

I think that oddity probably slowed me up a bit, although I could see each language easily. It made for a more interesting Monday because I found the fill mundane. I didn't know RIAA or ANTI but they were easily guessed. The theme, however, was above average and made me give this two thumbs up.

Anonymous 7:40 AM  

Fried okra is never gooey and is always yummy. Stewed okra can get gooey or slimy unless you add tomato. Then the gooey goes away, and the yummy returns. I always get bumper crops of okra and tomatoes even if the eggplant bellies up early. Keeps the freezer filled for winter.

Z 7:50 AM  

I usually have my SCONE with Mello YELLO. Ymmm. As for whether or not a SCONE is a biscuit, you biscuit-deniers have been confused by fake news stories. You might find this interesting. I do wonder about that earliest awesome citation, anyone have an OED handy to confirm?

chefbea 7:52 AM  

Thought this puzzle was very easy!!! like a Monday should be. A scone is a biscuit!!! People who live in England call a lot of sweets biscuits. As for okra...the only slimy okra I have ever had came out of a can...so I always buy fresh...love fried okra!!!

GILL I. 8:00 AM  

I LAY
I PRAY
I SHALL
Mon DIEU....and I'm with Vijay. A Brit would never expect a SCONE if he ordered a biscuit...A biscuit should be flaky - a scone is not and OKRA, no matter how you cook it is the most vile green thing on this planet and AIOLI is not mayo.
Hey, this was a good Monday puzzle. SHIN TINS and all.

AWS 8:18 AM  

Thumbs up for @cranepool's BADACTORs in fallopian tubes. Thumbs down for EP_OM x MA_UR and LILL_ x S_LA, on a Monday no less... Nice theme execution, though.

Anonymous 8:20 AM  

Another one here who was startled to see this one called "challenging"! I raced through it and assumed that the comment would be more like "my pen couldn't write fast enough." Before anyone rolls his/her eyes, let me say that I am not an ace puzzle solver by any stretch; I don't even try for fridays or saturdays.

I think what is going on I am so used to having to guess at answers that I don't get fazed by not knowing things like Rhianna's album or whatever.

Anyway, the reveal was obvious and then the theme answers were easy and the whole thing was a piece of cake.... or scone ... or whatever.

It's snowing here in the northeast .... happy winter!

CS

thfenn 8:26 AM  

I made short SHRIFT of this puzzle and that's always a joy. One pass through the acrosses, one pass through the downs. Repeat. Fill in a couple blanks. Done. That still takes me more than 9 minutes, but the feat alone is fun. Filled in the revealer on the first pass just having HIN_DI, _DU, and GER_.
EPCOT over EPSOM slowed me down - an embarrassing confusion alleviated by seeing Rex (is OFL "Our Fearless Leader"?) trip on the same. Didn't know TOPOL or MASUR or UHURA. LILLE brought back fond memories of an outbound flight that got moved from ORLY to LILLE for some reason years ago and necessitated my first entry into France, a fun train ride, and killing several hours in a cozy romance-filled little cafe - an answer that deserved more than the usual XXX direction from some other better known place...A nice start to the day, though now I have to do something else on my TENAM coffee break...

Mark McClain 8:31 AM  

Thanks, Rex, for your nice write-up on my puzzle - unanimous agreement that this was a bit tough for a Monday (didn't expect it to be there - also, I didn't have the circles/shades in my puzzle view). I absolutely know that a biscuit is not the same as a scone (my clue: "Cream tea pastry"), but regrettably some American dictionaries use "biscuitlike" to define scone, and the English scone is a bit like some American biscuits (while an American "scone" - at least the ones we get around here - is not much like a biscuit or an English scone). Confusing?

Nancy 8:52 AM  

Curious as to what the revealer would be, I hung around long enough to see what it was. It was cute. Then I ducked out -- finding the puzzle ridiculously easy, with no thinking required. Then I came here, saw that others had found some challenge where I had not and thought: maybe it gets harder towards the bottom? So I picked up the puzzle again. When it didn't get harder, I dropped it for good. Kerplunk.

jberg 8:52 AM  

I loved this puzzle -- first, it crosses the two basic items of crossword sports gear, EPEE and TEE; and second, it reverses the ever-annoying "Paris to Lille direction" with the equally annoying but at least novel "city NNE of Paris." Aside from that, I thought it was pretty easy; my only problem was putting in 'calf' at 1A.

Now for the real issue: while I love non-gooey fried okra, it's true that some people use it in gumbo specifically for the purpose of making it gooey. So the clue is partially correct.

Julia Chillun 8:59 AM  

@Loren, nobody said AIOLI is Not a Mayo, ma petite. As I recall, a gastronomically sensitive minority claimed that it's criminal to make aioli by simply adding garlic to mayonnaise.

AI OLI OLI oxen free.

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 9:04 AM  

Filled this in about as fast as I could write,

Someone wanted an update on the little drummer boy at my church. There were so few children at children's Sunday yesterday the Sunday School director decreed (without consulting me) that all the parents and teachers would sing with the kids. Consequently half the kids who were there didn't sing at all, and the parents did not follow my cues. But the little drummer boy did well; I decided that instead of accompanying on piano I would drum with him, and with leadership he stayed on beat 9/10 of the time. I think he may have actually begun to understand the point.

Unknown 9:10 AM  

If Mark had read Paul Theroux's pulse book on Africa, last train to Zona Verde, he would have not clued Bono as a humanitarian. Far too kind

GILL I. 9:14 AM  

Hi Mark McClain...glad you popped in. I liked your clue for the SCONE better - at least it made more sense or, why not just say quick bread treat with tea? While I'm at it, could you give Will a call and tell him that AIOLI is not garlicky mayo. I would clue it as sauce made with garlic and olive oil. Gaaah that gets me all in a dither.
Salud...

I am not a robot 9:19 AM  

As a child, I said that little prayer every night before I got into bed, fully accepting the possibility that death could come before morning. Just a little Catholic neurosis to take into adulthood! Do other religions have a prayer for future neurotics?

Anyway, two things here. First, maybe a little rewrite on that one if kids are still praying it, and second it's not a good idea to include prayers from various religions in puzzles because the various religious holidays are hard enough. But all in all, the puzzle was a good way to start the work week.

Leapfinger 9:19 AM  

I also wondered who LET IN LATIN.

Thought it a damn fine touch of geopolitical brilliance to pair HINDI with URDU, which highlighted (highlit?) the longstanding presence of more than just a LANGUAGE BARRIER. Or something to that effect.

That implication carried over into the next pairing with GERMAN and POLISH, if you think back to the events of Sept 1, 1937. Sadly, that was the end of that; I'm sure Siam THAI'd one on in some historical kerfuffles, but I don;t think they ever involved any LATINists, Ancient, European or South American. Oh well Two out of Three Ain't Bad.

I'm convinced too many of these problems just involve SECTS.

GILL I. 9:33 AM  

@I am not a robot: When I would visit my grandmother (on my father's side) she always made me kneel and say that prayer before getting into bed. That prayer scared me to death (pun intended) and so when I'd go see my other grandmother she taught me another version:
If I die before I wake
Would it be ok to have some cake (now)
Kids!

NCA President 9:54 AM  

AIOLI!!

I guess we have to define what we mean by "gooey," but I've always considered OKRA that has stewed or not deep fried as "slimey." It is a natural thickener for sure. But fried okra and beer (along with fried pickles) are pretty decent football watching fare.

@Eric...I would indeed put clotted cream on a biscuit...especially some of those buttermilk biscuits they make in the south.

As for scones, do we Americans (or anyone else in the world) have anything similar or equivalent? I've had Americanized scones...they are fluffy and breadlike...they are terrible. A real scone has a texture all its own...not flaky, not fluffy, not sweet, "dense" but not in the same way a quick bread or fruitcake is dense, dry, and crumby. I guess Americans have a kind of dried out form of a buttermilk biscuit, but they aren't near as popular as the ones that are crisp on the outside and moist on the inside.

I found this puzzle very easy. I was really surprised at Rex's struggles with it. In fact, I got a lot of the acrosses the first time around and then filled in so many downs that all of the challenges Rex had were mitigated by my just filling in the blanks. I didn't know TOPOL had a first name either, but I got it from just a couple of letters. LILLE is actually French for "French city most often found in crossword puzzles."

As for LATIN being "dead," I had a producer/engineer friend who produced a record by a homeschooled songwriter who wrote all of her lyrics in latin. It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever heard. It wasn't the kind of latin I knew from my experience with Requiems or Masses, it sounded more Gaelic. But listening to her sing it, it is anything but dead.

jessica cohn 9:56 AM  

Is epsom a famous place ? Never heard of it. Only part of puzzle I got stuck .

Anonymous 9:57 AM  

Thanks @glimmerglass for your explanation of "shrift." Now I will remember how to spell it. I'm always going "schrift" because of an imagined connection with German.

Nice blast from the past on the Topol toothpaste, the smoker's tooth polish. It also worked well if you drank too much Chelsea, Tab, or Billy Beer.

Nancy 9:59 AM  

Sorry, @Loren (3:45 a.m.), but I won't agree not to put AIOLI on my scones. As long as it's made by real FR ENCH chefs, sans mayo, I will happily put my AIOLI on anything. (Though maybe not at 3:45 in the morning.)

Ny first discovery of AIOLI was in a very fine (I was being treated) French restaurant outside of Cannes. The bouillabaisse I ordered brought tears to my eyes --that's how good it was. And the generous dish of garlicky AIOLI on the side, which I was instructed to add in great globs to the already rich and deeply flavorful soup, was certainly a factor in making this dish so memorable. (It must have been memorable -- I can still taste it 50 years later!) I spent many ensuing years, on my publishing expense account, seeking a bouillabaisse to rival it in French restaurants in NYC. I never found a bouillabaisse that came remotely close, more's the pity. I finally gave up and began ordering dishes that NYC French restaurants were more successful at making. I've been told that the reason that bouillabaisse in France is so much better is that they have varieties of fish that we don't have. Maybe and maybe not. I think it's more a matter of how long the stock is simmered, how much AIOLI is used, and mostly, what seems to be the complete absence of tomatoes in the French version. The sauce in France was a deep brown, everyone. There wasn't a trace of red nor a hint of the tomato-ey taste you get in American versions. It also was much thicker than the watery versions you get here. Blog chefs -- I'm curious as to your various takes on this.

Roo Monster 10:02 AM  

Hey All !
Well, the theme was good. The revealer was good, tied the split up shaded squares themers together. But the fill...

Three I-things, I LAY, I PRAY, I SHALL, plus ERIES, EIRE, OLAF II, RIAA, HUIT, and BAD ACTOR and ANTI as clued. Sorry Mark, but it's how I see it. But, it made it in.

So a 50/50 puz for me today. Did like the various LANGUAGEs. One writeover, onus-DUTY.

DAM AIOLI
RooMonster
DarrinV

G.Harris 10:04 AM  

Bravo Rex, finally a positive review for a puzzle that gave him a bit of difficulty. Not for me. Found it rather easy.

chefbea 10:08 AM  

@Mark Thanks for stopping by

anne weaver 10:10 AM  

28 across got my anxiety up way too high. Did we really NEED that as a CLUE???? Puzzles are my escape from reality mode, that reminder of said unfortunate reality was NOT OK.

QuasiMojo 10:25 AM  

Fun Monday puzzle. Although I didn't quite grasp the "barrier" part of the theme. I wanted it to be literal. A couple of questions to fellow commenters here, harking back, I suppose, to yesterday's British English idea. Isn't "biscuit" in England what we here in the States call a "cookie"? And why do they pronounce "scone" as if it is "skahn" rather than "skohn"? Like in "absconded." I've always wondered. But then don't they say "bathe" for "bath" and vice-versa?

Agree with others here that American scones are usually awful. Too big, too moist, too sweet and too "crumby." Then again, muffins these days are as big as grapefruit. And don't get me started on the demise of good old-fashioned cupcakes. Nowadays they look and taste like wedding cake.

Numinous 10:29 AM  

@Mark McClain, believe it or not, we are cousins. At clan gatherings on Mull, they say that all MacLeans, regardless of spelling, are related. That makes Sean Connery your cousin too. His mother was a MacLean.

I didn't find this puzzle hard at all. I did fall into the printer vs. the race track trap but that was easily fixed. I also spelled the mercurial MERCUTIO with an A at first and didn't notice, for a while, that the GERMANS were speaking GPS.

I suppose this is a bit of trivia: Nichelle Nichols was thrilled to death to be the first African-American woman to play a regular and significant part in a television show where the cast was predominantly white. UHURA was, I believe, in almost every episode of Star Trek. Just by the way, Whoopie Goldberg had always dreamed of being on the show. When she was cast for a bit part, she told Gene Roddenberry and he stuck her in the cast and had scenes written for her.

For years I resisted seeing Fiddler on the Roof. I still haven't seen Sound of Music. Most people my age have seen those so TOPOL should have been a gimmie for anyone older than OFL.

I used to bake scones all the time. My grandfather used to make drop biscuits all the time. The processes and the results are vastly different IMO. When I came back to the U. S. from living in Australia, it took me a long time to start calling biscuits cookies again.

The theme was only of passing interest to me as I solved this, In fact, I didn't really notice it while I was solving. I always figure I can go back and look at what was going on when I'm done so I didn't use any part of the actual divided theme answers to help me solve. Still, I thought this was a pretty good, if a bit challenging for a newbie, Monday puzzle.

Ta, Mark.

Numinous 10:35 AM  

I forgot. Thank you, @Z for that AWFUL article. I bookmarked it.

DJG 10:42 AM  

"the fill here doesn't actually *feel* subpar at all"

I disagree. I thought the fill was quite poor. Reading the constructor's notes, I feel for him, as he admittedly struggled with the theme density, but there is just too much iffy fill in this puzzle. It majorly detracted from my enjoyment of a puzzle with a very clever theme.

Mark McClain 10:42 AM  

Since someone mentioned 28A, I'll disclose that the puzzle was completed by me in March, so my clue for ERIC ("Clapton on guitar") got trumped.

anne weaver 10:51 AM  

Thank you, Mark McLain for clarifying re 28A. Would have infinitely preferred it to be a Clapton clue! Lol.
Anne

Warren Howie Hughes 11:10 AM  

TOPOL the morning,everyone,MASUR definitely rubbed moi the wrong way, but EPSOM saved me on the 7 "Downs"
Constructor McClain was on the Mark by pulling off a COUPE with this Monday outing, as it surely didn't arrive DOA! IOTA go now, as I'm over DIEU for my dental appointment, a MERE bagashells---MANIC overboard!!!

Joseph Michael 11:30 AM  

Amusing that a rave review from Rex amounts to the conclusion that the puzzle didn't suck.

Thought the theme was fine and liked the fact that it was a little more challenging and inventive than the usual Monday puzzle. So good on that.

But boy did this have some RIAA lousy fill.

All the "l" words made it feel like we were back in that Apple theme.

iPray - electronic missal from Apple
iLay - virtual hammock from Apple
iShall - online affirmations from Apple

Waded through MASUR, TOPOL, EPSOM, DOA, OLAFII, and other muck that gets gooey when cooked to finish this puzzle ASAP.

Was dismayed to find yet another reference to Trump KITH. Whatever happened to ERIC Clapton, Holder, or Idle?












George Barany 11:31 AM  

Congratulations to @Mark McClain for your second New York Times puzzle of the year, thanks to @Rex for a reasonably positive review, and kudos to the commentariat for their range of insights (nearly fifty, at this writing).

Many years ago, perhaps at a scientific conference on blood-brain barriers, someone remarked that the number one language spoken at such meetings was broken English. I had that remark in the back of my mind, so encountering the actual reveal was an "Aha" moment.

r.alphbunker 11:43 AM  
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Carola 11:44 AM  
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r.alphbunker 11:45 AM  

Only 5 three letter answers! Initally had BADAPPLE for 9D {Troublemaker} BADACTOR

ENG.LISH would be broken English. I read recently that the French use parler Français comme une vache espagnole (to speak French like a Spanish cow)

I wonder how other languages use to describe poor speaking ability.

Details are here.

old timer 11:46 AM  

A SCONE is ideal with English afternoon tea. The version you find at American coffee places is never ideal and rarely edible. Nice to see @Mark jump in and tell is that he submitted a proper definition, which WS or some editor ruined. (Now a proper American biscuit would also be good with tea. My wife makes excellent biscuits, so good with butter and jam though we most often have them for supper with homemade soup).

I am surprised to be the first one to admit to messing up the NW corner by writing in "calf" instead of SHIN. Equally surprised to be the first to mention Donovan's Mello YELLOw. For a brief time some hippies thought you could get high using banana peels.

What made this hard for a Monday was the obscure MERCUTIO crossing OLAFII.
What made this a tasty Monday was AIOLI. At SF's Zuni Cafe they used to put AIOLI on their hamburgers. Still will, but you need to ask.

AliasZ 11:59 AM  


I had fun with this LANGUAGE BARRIER game, more fun than I expect on a Monday. Could ginsENG LISHán Didán* be called broken English?

I will use my trusted e-MAG YARdstick to assess the taste of a non-sequiTUR KISHke I just consumed. Let us spy on the ragTAG ALOGical Ricardo MontALBAN, IAN Fleming et al. through the Big BEN GALIleo telescope, even aS WE DISHonor the cofFIN NISHimura the sensei was laid to rest in, with an inaNE PALIndrome.

*Lishán Didán is a modern Judeo-Aramaic language, spoken mostly in Israel.

TGIM!

Carola 12:02 PM  

Aside from starting off on the wrong foot with "calf" instead of SHIN, I found the puzzle easy - just one of those things where I knew all of the proper names except for CARL and ANTI (which I never even noticed).

I liked the pairing of I PRAY with SHRIFT; from reading medieval literature I'm familiar with characters concerned about being properly shriven (apparently it wasn't unusual to be given short SHRIFT, with worrisome consequences).

As for the pair BAD ACTOR and MERCUTIO, I've ever actually seen that combination. Most recently I saw a movie theater showing of Kenneth Branagh's "Romeo and Juliet," in which the hothead MERCUTIO was played by 76-year-old Derek Jacobi, as Romeo's older, gay friend. An interesting take on the character, but it drained the tragedy (and even likelihood) out of the sword fight.

kitshef 12:28 PM  

@jessica cohn - EPSOM is famous for two things: EPSOM Downs, home of the original Derby, and EPSOM salts, which may be good for what ails you.

Masked and Anonymous 12:43 PM  

This constructioneer looks like a real nice older gentleman, and this here is just his 2nd NYT-er (
both in 2016). So … M&A wants to be extra encouragin and positive, just sorta like @RP was. [Primo write-up, btw]

Assets:
* Clever theme idea. Also, no (woulda been pretty desperate) FRE NCH themer. thUmbsUp.
* Has a neat, underlyin Five-theme: 5 U's. 5 weejects [staff pick: DOA]. 5 letters in M&A's fave Star Trek character [UHURA]. Coincidentally, M&A's solvequest time was 5 nanoseconds slower than normal, for a MonPuz. Also, 5 H's and 5 M's [combinin with the 5 U's, y'all get 5 HUMs. Christmas related?!]
* Excrutiatin memory-scourin moment: Comin up with MERCUTIO. Haven't read any Shakespeare since the high. school. fave play: Midsummer Night's Dream. schlocky. But, I digress ...
* Stupendous-lookin letter combo winners: OLAFII. RIAA. YELLO. SHRIFT. AIOLI. LSATS (yo, @Anoa dude).
* SELL,SELA. Sounds like a potential themer, in an alternate puz universe.
* MASUR. Learned somethin new. Fun to do, on a Monday.
* Decent moo-cow eazy-E MonPuz clues, sprinkled thru-out. fave: {"Now ___ me down to sleep"} = ILAY. Also, {Apt title for a potato chip dude's auto-biography??}
* Grid has yer white, black, *and* gray squares. (Yer circles may vary.)
* LA TIN lives today! toesUp.

Thanx, Mr. McClain. Fun stuff. Keep up the good work, and Happy Holidayz.

Masked & Anonymo5Us

p.s. Recent note from BobK.: Them four atomic-symboled Uu? elements recently got renamed! Uunthinkable. I blame Trump.


Christmas fix.
**gruntz**

Masked and Anonymous 12:48 PM  

p.s.
Agree with that Vijay-tweeter dude: Outrageous. Answer shoulda been C-ROLL.

M&A Biscuit Desk

Wordsmith 12:49 PM  

Enjoyable but extremely easy for this 89 yr old.

Teedmn 1:11 PM  

Mon DIEU, I did this puzzle a bit faster than an average Monday, but paid the price - my DNF at 51A/53D. The L of TOPOL did not pass the blood/brain BARRIER today even as I smirked at the misdirection of having Paris in 53D's clue but having the unspecified vILLE as the answer. A quick check of the gray squares against the theme would have saved me from the LANGUAGE of Povland but I didn't proof my answers so those 15 seconds I saved on my time did me no good at all.

I barked my calf on SHIN and reflexively entered a black Opal at 12D before my sense of DUTY came to my rescue along with a large credit balance on my AMEX. Off the _OUPE of 40A, I was expecting another gem/jewelry-related answer but COUPE had to be correct. (Why do chicken coops have two doors? If they had four they'd be a sedan. Yes, you can thank my mother-in-law for that groaner.)

@Nancy, thanks for your good wishes for a safe trip yesterday. Before we left Mankato, I asked my husband if he had renewed his AAA membership. Unlike @LMS, his answer was no, but we didn't need the services of a tow truck, just a masseuse to untighten the knots caused by the white-knuckle driving. It took us a MERE half hour more than it should have to get home.

Nice Monday, Mark McClain.

Dolgo 1:28 PM  

Actually, the texts added that you switch the shall and wills for the so-called emphatic mood. Fowler's Modern English Usage called that "rule" a phoney years ago and said it was pure Oxbridge snobbery. Fortunately, for lat least 50 years or more, "grammar" has become a DESCRIPTION of how most people speak instead of a PRESCRIPTION of how they should.

Dolgo 1:31 PM  

Your objector is probably a speaker of British. Their "biscuit" is our " cookie."

Anonymous 1:47 PM  

The discussion on American scones being a poor imitation of British scones reminds me of the "baguettes" you buy in America. They do not resemble French baguettes in the least since the outside is always too soft. Since Sasha (frequently) and Malia (less so) appear frequently in puzzles, there should be no problem having Trump's children appear. It rather reminds me of some folk who seem to go into an emotional tailspin seeing Idi Amin's name in the crossword. C'mon, it's just a puzzle. Let's relax!

Numinous 2:30 PM  

For a good crispy crust, @Anon 1:47, a high humidity oven is required. When I bake bread, I put a disposable roasting pan with boiling water in the bottom of the oven. There are also differences in the wheat used to bake French baguettes vs. ones made in the U. S.. I know of a place in Marietta, GA that bakes excellent baguettes. I also used to frequent a bakery in Berkeley, Calif. where they made perfect baguettes as well as the most amazing croissants. Both places are owned and operated by people from France. C'est la vie.

AliasZ 2:40 PM  


As I was solving Saturday's puzzle, the word CAVALIER stuck out, and reminded me of an amazing piece of music composed by one Emilio de' CAVALIERi (c.1550–1602), widely considered the originator of the oratorio. I meant to link to the piece right then and there. Alas, other activities prevented me from doing so on Saturday or on Sunday. Here are a few brief excerpts from the over one-hour-long work, belatedly: Rappresentatione di anima et di corpo.

Enjoy.

Unknown 4:12 PM  

TOPOL/LILLE cross would have been a European Natick for me if it hadn't been a part of POLISH.

Gregory Schmidt 4:16 PM  

Enjoyed all the music-related things today, since that is my "wheelhouse". Not too impressed with TOPOL, OBIES, LILLE, and SELA all in a clump.

Dolgo 4:42 PM  

Your objector is probably a speaker of British. Their "biscuit" is our " cookie."

Anonymous 5:41 PM  

Thanks to @Mark McClain for a fun Monday xword. Yes, it wasn't all that difficult, but after all this is Monday! And it had a clever tie in with the languages cut up. I'm always amazed at the whiny folk on this blog who complain about the "fill" or the almost not 100% accurate clue for some answer (e.g., slimy OKRA - hey, I'm from the south and fried okra, while crunchy on the outside IS a bit slimy on the inside, but still good!). Good grief, the perfect is the enemy of the good. How many of you have ever tried to create a crossword? Give the guy or gal a break. This one was just right for a Monday IMHO!

Chronic dnfer 6:44 PM  

Dnfd at masur/uhara. Disturbing little puzz. No fun.

Anonymous 7:26 PM  

A proper critique of anything should not dwell on the critic's ignorance.

jedlevine 8:02 PM  

3:34 is a miserable solving experience. Oh, to be Rex.

Rustic Anna 4:41 AM  

Yes, I see, Biscuit! Especially after umpty-seven replies to the effect. However, the famous American Seabiscuit was no cookie.

Can't let the comments end with a disturbing note. I much preferred dis turbing to dat turbing Mondays usually dish up.

Okra starred in Ghostbusters.

Tita A 8:46 AM  

Am I the only one that thought the theme tied in the singers...I mean, in close proximity to the *nationalities* were BONO, SEEGER, ENYA, even RIAA continued he musical theme.
ERIC Clapton woulda been another.
I was thinking...hmm...BONO is HINDI???!

@r.alph...I've been told that the phrase "Parler Français comme une vache espagnole" was originally even more pejorative... it was "...comme une Basque Espagnole...
It was made slightly less offensive by slighting cows instead of actual people.

Gotta go fill some cookie TINS now.

Anokha 1:44 AM  

The languages were pretty clever for a Monday -- but Epsom/masur? Couldn't get that one. Is that an example of a natick?

rondo 11:38 AM  

I usually take at least 3 to 5 times as long as OFL to solve (when I check), but today a MERE factor of 2! That's about as fast as I can read 'em and write 'em.

Even in REC golf you can get an ACE off the TEE, even if you don't DOA DAM thing but hit it straight. I think I used all of the three letter answers in one sentence. Rare for any day.

Pretty sure the non-Anglicized version is OLAV.

Yeah baby SELA ward makes a return after quite an absence and ENYA from yesterday's syndi-puz.

Quick solve for the MLK holiday. How about the rest of the syndi CREW?

spacecraft 12:01 PM  

The EPSOM (town in Surrey, whose mineral spring yields EPSOM salts) Derby (pronounce it "Darby," please) is the the premier long-distance horse race in England, and the basis for naming the Kentucky Derby as well as numerous other competitions; the MLB All-Star game's event "Home Run Derby" comes to mind. I actually attended the race one year in the mid-60s to watch a most remarkable steed named--I'm not making this up--Santa Claus. Dead last coming around the final turn, he flew by the field like they were running backwards and won going away. Ridden by the great Lester Piggott, he was the odds-on favorite.

I did not know the crossing Mr. MASUR, though I would have recognized actor Richard, notably of "One Day at a Time." Nor did I know the doggonedest clue for ANTI I've ever seen...this on a Monday? Well, I guess that even the constructor saw that his grid was full of tired crosswordese (talk about your LANGUAGE BARRIERS!): EIRE ALTO OBOE EPEE ODES ASAP, so he wanted to clue ANTI another way lest it be added to an already too-long list.

I enjoyed the theme and don't object to the term BARRIER. It's part of a well-known phrase, and is a good enough visual description of what goes on in the grid. I also appreciate LATIN at the base of the grid, the base of so many of today's tongues. Quite the opposite of an outlier, I think it would have been remiss NOT to include it. Too bad we couldn't also have a line like oGRE/EKe.

I eagerly await @BS's use of 1-down as a homophone. We know it's gonna happen. Nice doublet of honorable-mention DOD UHURA (Nichelle Nichols) with ARENA, one of the best STTOS episodes ever. She'd a
have been the titlist were it not for the love of my life SELA Ward. I'll still never forgive the one-armed man. Some lows and some highs; guess we'll call it par.

Burma Shave 12:48 PM  

NEWAGE ALPHA ANTHEM

LATIN, GERMAN, or THAI - there's a MERE chance ISHALL marry her,
so IPRAY as ILAY that ISHALL INCREASE that factor.
Please NOTE: MANIC SECTS relieves the DAM LANGUAGEBARRIER,
it's my DUTY to TRYIT ASAP. Am I a BADACTOR?

--- CARL MERCUTIO MASUR

leftcoastTAM 2:08 PM  

Yes, a real Tower of Babel gathering, I'm sure quite different from the international elite gathering in Davos, Switzerland, this week.

Paused a bit to hear what UHURU, TOPOL, MASUR and BONO were talking about, but made little sense to me or to them, it appeared.

Still, a good time was had by all.

Diana,LIW 3:13 PM  

Nearly Naticked on EPSOM/MASUR, but the theme actually helped me out in that area.

I guess it was a bit on the mdium end for a Monday, but no major barriers that I experienced.

We see so much LATIN in puzzles - that gives it a pass.

Learned that OLAF was a II. Good to give him his props.

Day 3 of the demo/reno in the kitchen. The crew is zipping along at a MANIC speed. It all looks so easy on HGTV.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

rain forest 3:18 PM  

I found this almost acrosses-only easy as I crossed the LANGUAGE BARRIER multiple times with ease. URDU gave me MASUR, which I otherwise wouldn't have got. Well-chosen languages, avoiding Chinese, Japanese, and other -eses. Maybe a litle crosswordese in there, but this IS a Monday after all. 6 decent longer downs added a little oomph.

I believe a SCONE (pronounced "scawn") is a biscuit, made almost exactly like a baking powder biscuit. It's certainly not a cake, nor a cookie. However, it is about perfect to have with tea or coffee.

@Spacey - you can't have SELA; I want her. In fact I'd give her a big KITH.

Diana,LIW 8:02 PM  

Any Syndies oing to ACPT????

Lady Di

Diana,LIW 8:32 PM  

or Going?

dliw

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