Vanzetti's partner in 1920s crime / MON 10-30-17 / Chickens for roasting

Monday, October 30, 2017

Constructor: Jay Kaskel

Relative difficulty: Medium* (actually, no idea ... see below)


THEME: witches' brew — ordinary phrases are clued as if they related to witches, because it's October 30, which is of course Hallo ... wait a minute ..

Theme answers:
  • SPELLCHECK (18A: Computer help for a witch?)
  • CHARM SCHOOL (26A: Educational institution for witches?)
  • WARTS AND ALL (41A: How one might be forced to accept a witch?)
  • CURSE WORDS (53A: Utterances from witches?)
Word of the Day: INCUS (12D: Ear bone) —
noun
Anatomy
noun: incus; plural noun: incudes
  1. a small anvil-shaped bone in the middle ear, transmitting vibrations between the malleus and stapes. (google)
• • •
The plural of INCUS is "incudes"!? WHERE DID THE "D" COME FROM!!?!?!?! Now *that* is EERIE.

 [SCHELL game]

This is actually fine. It's a cute-ish little pun puzzle about witches, and though it's not actually Halloween, it is Halloween-adjacent, so ... fine. The fill is very very very very average (i.e. not great), but it wasn't dreadful. This one is a "C"—average, OK, fine, you pass. You shouldn't have to go to either SCHELL (!) or INCUS on a Monday, but you pass. I thought SCHNELL, as so tried all Kinds of spellings. My main gripe today is not with the puzzle itself, but with the NYT crossword website, which would not not not cough up a .puz version of the puzzle for me to solve on my desktop with AcrossLite software; that is, it wouldn't give me the damned puzzle in my preferred format. Instead it gave me this stupid error message:


And so I had to solve on the NYT website itself. The "applet," I think it's called. And that was dreadful, because I'm used to how the keyboard behaves with AcrossLite, which is slightly, eerily, but significantly different from how it behaves on the applet. At high speeds, that difference is amplified, i.e. I move through the grid like a drunk person moves through an obstacle course, i.e. humorously badly. My time was slow, but I can't lay that all on the puzzle. Hence my default (i.e. "I don't know") "Medium" difficulty rating.


Had CLOT for CLOD (26D: Dirt clump). Both seem right, and OTS looks OK in the cross ... this is why you check your damned crosses. Now that I look at CLOT and CLOD, CLOD is obviously the better choice. CLOT = blood, CLOD = dirt, or some dumbass, I suppose. Can we all agree that [U.K. award]s are among the lowest forms of crossword answers. A notch below [Schoolyard taunt]s. I had the most trouble with WURSTS, because I wanted only BRATS and then no other words would form in my head. It was very frustrating. I like the little bonus themers of HAGS and EERIE, and also CRIES and PAINS crossing in the center. Very Halloweeny. All in all, a tolerable amuse-bouche of a Halloweenesque puzzle.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

73 comments:

puzzlehoarder 12:25 AM  

No one should have any trouble with DEKE or CSPOTS today. Other than the minor switching of the pluralization we just had them yesterday.

Almost zero resistance from this puzzle. Coming down into 41A from that center stair I couldn't immediately come up with the answer. I needed that W from WURST and that was the one piece of fill I can recall hesitating on. I'm unaccustomed to seeing it without brat or some other such term.

Beside from those minor glitches it was read and write.

Puns are the WURST kind of humor.

Robin 12:53 AM  

I'd classify this as easy-medium. Finished it faster than my average, but nowhere near my best.

INCUS was a strange one for a Monday. I had no problem with SCHELL, but I watch TCM a lot.

Not too much crossword-ese in here, possibly due to lack of three-letter answers. There was ESL and ODS and ACERS and that was about it.

@puzzlehoarder: BRATS mean Wisconsin to me, not Germany.

Decent enough theme and no silly revealer. I'd give this a B or B+

chefwen 1:24 AM  

It was a race to the bitter end between puzzle Partner and me. He thought he was going to win because he saw me using my Liquid Paper. False hope, my friend. Edged him out by a good minute.

Thought this was a fun and a very good pre Halloween puzzle. WARTS AND ALL was the best.

S. Kramer 1:32 AM  

Anyone who beat out Spencer Tracy for the best actor Oscar (competing for their performances in the same film, no less) is Monday-appropriate for me.

L S 1:48 AM  

When a puzzle clue irritates my political sensibilities, I can usually count on Rex's indignation to soothe me. So I eagerly clicked over to the blog looking for a tirade about "Vanzetti's partner in 1920s crime" as a clue for SACCO. Since Rex let me down this time, I will contribute a tirade of my own.

Not only has the guilt of these two men been loudly contested for nearly a century, it's widely accepted that they were tried more for their political beliefs than for their alleged crimes, and that racism and xenophobia were contributing factors in their conviction and execution. Even at the time, court decisions were seen as so obviously prejudicial that they incited changes to Massachusetts law on judicial proceedings. We still remember Sacco and Vanzetti, 100 years later, precisely because of the controversy and outrage and the suspicion that these two anarchists were victims of a political execution.

Is it possible to capture every nuance of history in a crossword clue? Of course not. But "Vanzetti's partner in 1920s crime" has ZERO nuance and a famously disputed truth value.

da kine 3:35 AM  

"Incus" is a third-declension noun, so: incus, incudis, incudi, incudem, incude; incudes, incudum, incudibus, incudes, incudibus.

Lewis 5:46 AM  

In addition to the Halloweeny bonus words Rex mentioned, there's also EVIL and "ghost" in the Muir clue.

Bonus themer: Witch's favorite English city?

The theme was cute and fun, and appealed to my inner kid, which also liked the cross of TOPLESS and OOPS. The puzzle left me with a smile, and that is a gift.

Virginia Johnson 6:07 AM  

At xwordinfo.com:

60 Results for CNOTE

16 for CSPOT

I never heard of cspot. Most google replies say it beats the gspot and is easier to find.

Brett 6:24 AM  

Any write-up with an Elvis Costello video is A+ out of the gate. I saw him and the Attractions last year here in Pennsylvania, and Steve Nieve just about stole the show. He’s pretty great in this video as well.

Anonymous 7:19 AM  

How is it that David MUIR is currently hosting ABC World News every night and the NYT still went with a movie from 70 years ago?

Joe Welling 7:28 AM  

A quibble: ONUS is any burden, not just a burden of proof.

Hungry Mother 7:29 AM  

Very quick solve for me today, but I went with downs most of the way (accidental rhyme).

kitshef 7:42 AM  

I hope that Loren Muse Smith has time to read Rex today, as incudes is right up her alley.

Puzzle didn't do it for me. WARTS AND ALL has no wordplay the way the others do (using a different meaning of SPELL, CHARM, and CURSE). Also, didn't like the SPELLCHECK clue; better: ‘Magical aid for a witch’.

And then there are Lit CRIT and ACERS cluttering up the SW. Clue ACERS as computers and I’m OK with that one, at least.


Anon 7:47 AM  

I found this hard for a Monday. CLOD/ODS cross. DEKES/INCUS/SCHELL all in the same corner would not expect on a Monday. Good thing we saw DEKE yesterday.

Birchbark 7:52 AM  

FIRST WITCH: Where hast thou been, sister?
SECOND WITCH: Killing swine.

Just a little witch small talk before they tell Macbeth and Banquo their futures. I liked SPELL CHECK.

chefbea 8:01 AM  

what a fun Halloween puzzle!!! Actually 41 down could have been Weenie...as in happy halloweenie!!

QuasiMojo 8:02 AM  

C SPOT RUN. Fun with Dick and Jane.

Amusing Monday puzzle, even with my pet bugaboo CINE. Kudos and INCUDES to Mr. Kaskel.

According to an article I recently read 60% of Americans are OBESE. How's that for a scary figure. Happy Halloween's Eve.

Francoise Brasier 8:02 AM  

I am so tired of seeing the word cine as a translation for french film. French people go to le “cine” short for movie theatre to see “un film”

Two Ponies 8:13 AM  

Nice fun Monday.
Charm school made me think of Harry Potter and Hogwarts.

Agree with @ chefwen that Warts and All was the best.

Hopefully two days in a row for deke and c-spot is enough reinforcement to help the new solvers remember.

Canines were actually dogs not teeth today.

The witches are my favorite part of Macbeth.


Now this is just for @Shelby Glidden, I hope you read this before you post. Your posts may be interesting but who would know by the way they show up on the blog. Please figure it out. This might be a personal bee in my bonnet alone but it annoys me. Thanks.

Ted 8:19 AM  

SCHELL crossing CINE and SLID (both very lightly clued) crossing INCUS = DNF.

On a Monday.

That's not good.

Jacob Roth 8:21 AM  

Isn't there a fatal flaw in the themers here: three of them are spells, and one is not. Seems like it could be tighter.

Anonymous 8:28 AM  

Never heard of Lit CRIT. Took Brit Lit in college...kept wanting to transpose the words to make that fit. SAC_O not exactly a Monday-level helper. Cost me precious seconds en route to a quick but not record-territory finish.

Joyce Davenport 8:34 AM  

I read that Sacco & Vanzetti were executed for Murder and Italian Descent, charged with two counts of Wopness.

Is that true? It's very distressing.

Anonymous 8:35 AM  

Didn't even see schell. Probably my best Monday time. Smiled at all non-stop Halloween gags.

Nancy 8:44 AM  

Cute theme, especially the WARTS AND ALL answer, but boring clues for everything else. With better cluing, TOPLESS, CAPONS and WURSTS might be interesting fill. Also, I wouldn't define either moans or groans as CRIES -- not if you're doing them right. And didn't we just see DEKE and CSPOT yesterday? A meh puzzle that with a little tweaking could have been a lot better.

Suzie Q 8:47 AM  

This puzzle reminded me of all of the predictable regulations this year regarding Halloween costumes. All of that fuss could be avoided if people would stick with themes actually connected with Halloween. More ghouls, zombies, demons, ghosts, and...witches!

Nancy 9:05 AM  

@Suzie Q (8:47) -- Halloween costumes are regulated?? Really? How? By whom?

Suzie Q 9:20 AM  

@ Nancy, Colleges are now posting forbidden costumes so no one gets their feelings hurt. So, for example, if you are not an Indian you can't dress as Pocahontas. These are young adults we're talking about here. I thought costumes were for pretending to be someone you were not.
Sorry if I've opened a can of worms. I just remember when Halloween was fun.
Ooh, a can of worms. There's a good costume.

Nancy 9:24 AM  

@Susie Q -- I think I'd rather be Pocahontas then a can of worms. But that's just me.

Nancy 9:27 AM  

Than. Sorry.

Yaffa Fuchs 9:31 AM  

Easy for me but had sped for slid.

Carola 9:35 AM  

I loved this puzzle with its wit and CHARM, with WARTS and ALL especially cackle-worthy.

@Nancy and @Suzie Q - As an example, from last year: "UW-Madison has revoked season tickets held by two groups of fans who officials say were involved in a costume that depicted a noose around the neck of President Barack Obama during a UW football game last month, ...." Details.

Nancy 9:39 AM  

@Carola -- I see I shouldn't have made light of the subject. I had no idea. There is so much ugliness, viciousness, and bile in our country right now, it scares me to death.

pabloinnh 9:40 AM  

I can't believe how long it took me to connect "deke" and "decoy", even though I love hockey. Also the memorable collision between my palm and my forehead. Nothing as annoying as an obvious truth.

Whirred Whacks 9:48 AM  

Why couldn’t the witch have any babies?

Her husband had a Hollow Wiener!

Joke I learned in the fourth grade many decades ago, but still remember every year at the end of October.

Z 10:01 AM  

I’ve never been much into Halloween or Day of the Dead. Just not my thing, so this was cute enough, just not my cuppa.

@Brett - Pretty sure you saw the Imposters, not the Attractions.

anon7:19 - I assume that’s a rhetorical question.

@Jacob Roth - Good point.

@Joseph Welling and @Francoise Brasier - We get crossword clues, not crossword definitions. Getting locked into a definition is a sure way to tie yourself into a knot on challenging puzzles later in the week. As for any “theater” vs. “Theater” debate, when social conservatives complain about “Hollywood” do you think they are complaining about a neighborhood in L.A.?

@Joyce Davenport - Probably.

Sir Hillary 10:02 AM  

Nice Monday fare, although I agree with @kitchef that WARTSANDALL is far more literal and nowhere near as good as the rest of the themers.

Cnote for CSPOT, but it's Monday so easily fixed.

INSEAM rankled. You see, I'm a 33, and off-the-shelf pants (like jeans) rarely come in odd-numbered INSEAMs, so I'm left to hike up or cuff a 34, or low-ride a 32. Life is so hard.

Suzie Q 10:02 AM  

@ Carola, Agree that's going too far but the restrictions also include a lot less evil examples. Those are the ones I meant.

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 10:04 AM  

I thought the cuing on WEAN was odd. 'as from the bottle'?I thought it was at heart withdrawing from the breast. It's not that the kids doesn't drink milk anyu more, it's that the kid doesn't drink Mother's milk.

CashPo' 10:26 AM  

Why did the emasculated rooster fly across the road? Because he had his CAPON.

Joseph Michael 10:47 AM  

The theme brings to mind Arthur Miller's play "The Crucible" about the Salem witch trials. Written as a parable about the McCarthy era, the play is a reminder that being called a witch was a lot less amusing than this puzzle would suggest.

However, it is just a crossword and it is almost Halloween, so I guess the theme does HAVE a certain CHARM. Perhaps that's why I keep seeing "incubus" when I look at 12D.

But if I had a C SPOT for every DEKE I encounter, I'd be a rich man.

Austenlover 12:11 PM  

I thought it was a very amusing puzzle and loved WARTSANDALL. Maximilian Schell also beat out Paul Newman for best actor, and I’ve never forgiven him for it. Roles in big epic films often win over roles in smaller films like The Hustler, but Newman should have had that Oscar.

Anonymous 12:13 PM  

@Shelby Glidden

See the post above from @Z for a good example of how to comment on other posts so that people actually know what you are referring to.

mathgent 12:20 PM  

I'm trying to imagine how someone could dress up as a can of worms. I like it when people dress up as inanimate objects. My favorite was a pretty young woman who came to a Halloween party as a bottle of Heineken. She wore a tight green body stocking, a correctly shaped and lettered label taped on to her front, waist to ankles, and a green cap pleated all around just like a real beer cap. I can't remember whether the body stocking covered her face or whether she painted her face green.

jb129 12:27 PM  

I usually try to get into the "heads" of the constructors - if I know them, that works.

This was EASY, Rex.... hard to get into your head. What I think is easy, you think is Medium & vice versa - what's going on with you? IT'S MONDAY!

OISK 12:56 PM  

Easy for me as well. I was sure someone would comment on the "Sacco" clue, and while I generally dislike political comments on this blog, I thought this one was apt. It is easy enough to clue "Sacco" without implying that he was actually guilty.

I also want to apologize for my post yesterday. Without spoiling the puzzle for those who haven't tried it, a term that I referred to as "nonsense words" is actually a real term in a foreign language, and my comment might be interpreted as "demeaning" the use of that language. I plead not guilty by reason of ignorance. Thank you.

Teedmn 1:10 PM  

I'm not a huge Halloween fan, unlike many people. I ascribe it to a story my mother told me - when I was 3 or 4, I had a pair of sunglasses. Mom told me that people would come up to us and ask, "Who's the movie star?" After this happened a couple of times, I reportedly ripped the sunglasses off and declared, "I'm not going to wear those any more. Nobody recognizes me." And so, I believe, began my aversion to dressing up.

But I love giving out candy to trick-or-treaters and I love Halloween themed puzzles. Thanks Jay Kaskel.

On the subject of INCUS, is there another Halloween tie-in with the foreshortened INCU[bu}S? And if the Greek plural form of octopus is octopodes, why isn't INCUS incodes? Just asking...

Masked and Anonymous 1:31 PM  

{What witches order for breakfast?} = CACKLEBERRIES.
{Coven's punny motto??} = WHICHEVER. [Some solvers might prefer HEXCELSIOR, tho]
Halloween-themed crosswords are almost always fun … this puppy of which is included.

fave moo-cow eazy-E MonPuz clue: {La ___ Tar Pits} = BREA. Honrable mention: {Clock sound at 6 am, maybe} = ALARM. I suppose some solver mighta thought of DONGS, or somesuch, for that one first.

staff weeject pick: OBE. Better clue: {Ear attachment, with earl??}. Then it ties in with the INCUS entry, real good. (A HEARHEAR pair, sorta.)

fave fillins: TOPLESS SAMURAI. BIRTHDAY STURGEON. WURSTS.

Thanx, Mr. Kaskel.

Masked & Anonymo6Us


This one here is kinda scary…
**gruntz**

Fred Romagnolo 1:35 PM  

Oh yeah? How about Judy Holliday got the Oscar for a role she merely repeated from her Broadway show over the FAR MORE deserving then living legends Bette Davis & Gloria Swanson! As to the puzzle: too easy, even for a Monday, and I do downs only on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. That award BTW was for 1950: Davis in "All About Eve," and Swanson in "Sunset Boulevard." I was 18 then and a passionate movie buff.

Lewis 2:00 PM  

Bonus themer was: "Witch's favorite English city?"

Answer is: COVENTRY

RooMonster 2:30 PM  

Hey All !
This probably sounds cliche, but . . .
Fastest MunPuz for me I can think of. Did in 6 minutes online, only holdup was the C in SACCO/CRIT cross. That took almost another whole minute! Ugh.

Liked puz, witchy things. Laughed at Rex's Halloween-adjacent comment. I'm sure tomorrow we'll get another, slightly better Halloween themed puz. This one was too easy for a TuesPuz.

Interesting split grid. It's basically Top half and Bottom half, with PAINS holding it together. Nice fill, though, OBE probably the most dreckish one.

Out here in Las Vegas, these crazy kids (read: club goers) make Halloween into a 5 night affair. Since it's on Tuesday, they go out to the clubs in costumes on Fri. night, Sat., Sun., Mon, and Tues. nights. Damn kids. :-)

NEAT CRIT
RooMonster
DarrinV

Teedmn 2:51 PM  

In keeping with today's theme, perhaps the SACCO clue should have referred to a "witch hunt". It sounds like that's what it ended up being.

Brett 3:49 PM  

@Z You're right, it was the Imposters.

evil doug 3:59 PM  

Anarchists? Close enough for government work. Off with their heads!

Unknown 4:01 PM  

Easy but boring

RooMonster 4:20 PM  

Speaking of Halloween costumes, a couple of years ago I was a Beer Keg! It was cool, had a dispensing tube and everything.

Love the Monty Python "witch" scene in "Holy Grail".
A witch!

RooMonster

iamjess 4:21 PM  

@puzzlehoarder: You forget that many people, esp. novices, are early-week-only solvers.

Nancy 4:35 PM  

Re Halloween costumes: I laughed myself sick reading about @mathgent's (12:20 p.m.) lady dressed like a bottle of Heineken. For me, it's the funniest comment on the blog today.

jessica cohn 5:06 PM  

Can someone explain ods ? Maybe I’m missing something . Thanks

DavidL 6:24 PM  

My son's fraternity (I will withhold the name of his university) was put on probation two years ago because someone posted a photo of someone wearing a a poncho and a Mexican sombrero at their Halloween party. This was considered culturally insensitive. Ironically, it turned out that the student wearing the costume was actually Latino.

BarbieBarbie 6:29 PM  

So. @Carola. If your neighbors won't let their kids dress up as some particular thing they believe is inappropriate do you complain about Hallowe’en being no fun anymore? Most colleges consider themselves in loco parentis to their students, and they make that clear at matriculation. Students agree to it before they come to campus. It doesn’t mean “they” are limiting what YOU can dress as. Lighten up. And quit conflating college rules with regulations. Frat boys need a little guidance.

Easy puzzle, even for a Monday. Cute theme. Looking forward to tomorrow.

Austenlover 7:16 PM  

Jessica Cohn, ODS is an abbreviation for ove4doses, which means taking too much.

Jane Hudson 7:18 PM  

Because of the Halloween theme, The GHOST & Mrs. Muir works better today.

jessica cohn 7:41 PM  

Thank you for the answer. I did not make that connection . I was thinking it was a word not an abbreviation .

Nancy 8:01 PM  

@Austenlover and @Fred Romagnolo -- My greatest Oscar disappointment by far was in 1954 when Judy Garland won Best Actress for "A Star Is Born", beating out Grace Kelly who gave an enormously interesting and nuanced and subtle performance in "The Country Girl." Garland's performance was flashier, but I don't think it held a candle to Kelly's. Did anyone else have that reaction?

Anonymous 8:19 PM  

Not a fan of repeat obscure answers - the latest is "dekes."

Joe Dipinto 8:20 PM  

@Nancy -- um, actually it was Grace Kelly who won, beating out Judy. Grace was enormously popular, with three or four hit movies that year.

And I think both Maximilian Schell and Judy Holliday (a particular favorite of mine) deserved their awards.

Nancy 8:51 PM  

Good grief, Joe DiPinto, you're right!!!!! I just checked my Almanac. How can I misremember something so vividly???? I'm sure I remember feeling keen disappointment. Could it have instead been unmitigated joy that I was feeling? Now I understand why eyewitnesses disagree and can't be trusted. The mind plays tricks on us -- or at least mine seems to have. I am so embarrassed, Joe and everyone else -- I just may go and hide under a mushroom for a few days.

Carola 9:07 PM  

@BarbieBarbie, I was responding to the comments by @Nancy and @Suzie Q between 8:47 and 9:20 about Halloween costumes at colleges, with an example that I thought was relevant and interesting. I don't understand why that led you to tell me to lighten up.

Joe Dipinto 9:33 PM  

@Nancy -- I was barely three months old at the time, so I don't remember it at all. But I think it was probably a close contest, and maybe Garland was given a slight edge because she had had a longer career (although from what I've read she was regarded as somewhat unreliable around that time, which may have factored into her losing).

BarbieBarbie 9:44 PM  

Sorry @Carola. Must have meant @SQ. My apologies.

Acura Capons Merit 3:46 PM  

5A ICARE reminded me about the one and only time I met Steve Jobs.
At a Christmas party circa 1993? and was chatting with his wife for about half an hour, not making the connection who she was (other than a delightful down to earth gal).
At some point she made reference to her husband Steve across the room. I looked over and it was Steve Jobs.
I mentioned to her that I had gone to college with his brother-in-law Rich Appel who at that time was married to Mona Simpson (Jobs long lost sister).

Rich and I were good friends and so she called Steve over and introduced me, saying "Andrea is a good friend of Richie's!" and he looked at me and said "And, I CARE, why?" before walking away.
I was in shock.
This, after all, was a social setting, not an Apple convention, I had not rushed up to him and said, "Gosh, Mr Jobs, how great to meet you, I'm such a fan!" or any such thing.
It was actually the rudest interaction I had ever experienced. What a jerk!
And I practically forgot about it till I saw ICARE staring at me this morning!

(Confession I took my dad's computer when he died...as I didn't have one. It's a Mac and I then got a phone to be able to transfer info between the two...but at the time I swore I'd never own an Apple product! Managed for almost 20 years)

CNMLauren 6:04 PM  

That is a really interesting story. Jobs is of course a well known total jerk who actually denied his own child ((Lisa) so no surprises BUT What jumps out at me is that the person really being disrespected in the story is his wife who was making the introduction. I had not ever heard before that he was mean to her too. Enough to make me want to toss this Iphone I’m writing on in the garbage except at this point let’s face it, it is the lovely Laureen and Lisa who are benefitting.

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