TUESDAY, Jan. 27, 2009 - Jim Hyres (Nation once known as Dahomey / Game with "Out of Gas" cards / Big name in retail jewelry / Myopic Mr.)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "BORN" homophones - four theme answers end with them

Word of the Day: PROWL CAR - a car in which policemen cruise the streets; equipped with radiotelephonic communications to headquarters (freedictionary.com) - since all police cars today (I think) have radiotelephonic communications to headquarters, you can tell the word originated in an earlier time period. It's not used as much today, but I encounter it every time I read Chandler's "The Long Goodbye":

He hadn't mentioned the girl again. Also, he hadn't mentioned that he had no job and no prospects and that almost his last dollar had gone into paying the check at The Dancers for a bit of high class fluff that couldn't stick around long enough to make sure he didn't get tossed in the sneezer by some prowl car boys, or rolled by a tough hackie and dumped out in a vacant lot.

Today's puzzle is very light on the theme answers - only 40 squares of coverage in all. The homophones are fine - every possible one appears to have been used. It's almost an add-a-letter type of theme - BORN, BORNE, BORNES ... but then JASON BOURNE comes along and breaks the that trend's neck with his sexy, stealthy, special ops training. I was wondering as I solved this whether MILLE BORNES is terrifically well known. I barely know it - I think I knew one family once who had it among their games, and so I have vague recollections of playing. And I've seen it at least once in xwords before. But it doesn't strike me as universally known the way "Monopoly" or "Clue" might be.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Game with "Out of Gas" cards (Mille Bornes)
  • 11D: Heir to the throne, typically (first born)
  • 33D: Like the dust in a dust storm (wind-borne)
  • 58A: Robert Ludlum protagonist (Jason Bourne)

There were a few answers in the grid that felt a bit wobbly to me, the wobbliest of which was AIR TASER (21A: High-voltage weapon). I have heard of TASERs, but not AIR TASERs. Are there SEA TASERs? I googled "AIR TASER" just now and there wasn't a ton of clear action.
I see that there are "high-voltage weapons" for sale that have that name, so it's a real item, but does anyone who doesn't own one know them by this name? I was thinking also that maybe there could be a limit on lawn-related clues - maybe one per puzzle? Neither SODDED (43A: Like newly laid lawns) nor RESEED (64A: Start over with, as a lawn) is an answer you want to call attention to, and when you double-lawn it, that's exactly what you do. TABSET felt like a much uglier cousin of PROWLCAR, in that its heyday was probably well over thirty years ago (5D: Typewriter formatting feature). Further TABSET crossing TEASET (5A: China shop purchase)? That's ... one more SET than should be in the grid, probably. Lastly, ENERGIES ... it's a valid word, but the way its clued makes it seem odd and hard to imagine in context (9D: Vigorous feelings). [Gas, electricity and steam, e.g.] might have worked.


  • 20A: Spots for spats (ankles) - "spats" should have been my word of the day. Again, as with PROWLCAR and TABSET, I feel like I'm in 1954. Are they supposed to keep mud out of your shoes, or just look cool?
  • 34A: Big name in retail jewelry (Zales) - I see their (horrible) commercials, but I have no way of gauging if they are local, regional, or national. We're not big jewelry consumers. No, wait, it's the De Beers commercials I can't stand. This one looks like an ad for a horror film. If only there were real bloodshed ...

  • 40A: AOL alternative (MSN) - on top of SODDED. This tiny section would not have been hard to rewrite. You could get rid of corp. abbr., plural abbrev. (DEMS) and, well, SODDED, in one swoop. What about TAWNY over ERIK over MEN over PADDED? Or you could change DEMS to DERN and MSN to REN, but that pop culture swerve might make some folks nauseous. I'm just saying ... there are other options here.
  • 41A: Nation once known as Dahomey (Benin) - this one fell out of my brain some time in 7th grade, I think. Needed several crosses.
  • 62A: Larry who won the 1987 Masters (Mize) - when you grow up as a sports-loving kid, all kinds of names stick in your head, even from sports you pay no attention to.
  • 39D: Rugrats' outbursts (tantrums) - I guess the plural here couldn't very well be TANTRA without causing serious confusion.
  • 42D: Myopic Mr. (Magoo) - Watch him dance...

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 7:52 AM  

Pretty typical Tuesday puzzle, only "MILLE BORNES" surprised me. I'd never heard of it, but it wasn't tough to get because all of the crosses were Tuesday easy.

JannieB 8:09 AM  

I think it's time to add a third day of themeless puzzles and quit trying to pretend we're being clever and creative.

joho 8:13 AM  

What I thought odd about this puzzle besides what Rex has already pointed out (ENERGIES???), is seeing SNIP, EENSY, NEE and RYE soon in puzzle again. I guess NEE is a staple, but the others just appeared, two with just about the same clue.

I, too, have never heard of MILLEBORNES but it didn't make a difference in solving the puzzle.

I had WINDblown briefly before I got the theme which I find so so.

@rex ... that is a creepy DeBeers commercial. I think they used the shadows to avoid paying the actors for being on camera. The writing is cheesy, too.

I say, on to Wednesday!

HudsonHawk 8:43 AM  

To add to joho's comment, EENSY was in the grid for the second straight day as a down answer, clued exactly the same way (not that there are a lot of options). MILLE BORNES didn't come to me at first, but I have heard of it (but never played).

Doug 8:43 AM  

Easy and not very interesting puzzle. I saw one Mille Bornes game and there must be a reason that it was not much of a hit. Glad that Erik Satie made it in. Never heard of Attlee. Larry Mize was easy but obscure. Johnny Mize, the big cat slugger for the old A's might have been better. I have a photo of him with Ruth and Gehrig and nobody ever guesses who he is. Pre-steroid bashers all.

Anonymous 8:47 AM  

My what-the moment was Millebornes, which I have never heard of, so I called to my husband, is there a soap called Camay, and he said yes, it's the soap of beautiful women. What-the? I guess we must listen to commercials because when I got Zales, the name popped right up and I have never been in one of their stores.

My cross moment was Dems/MSN, which of course, has political overtones, but don't blame me, I didn't put it in there. The word of the day for me was belie which is a nice, descriptive word, I think. I read that word all the time, but I rarely hear anyone use it in everyday conversation. There are lots of words like that.

The repeat word from yesterday is eensy. The name I knew that I didn't know I knew - Attlee.

And I thought yesterday's puzzle was harder than this one.

Anonymous 8:52 AM  

We played Mille Bornes when I was growing up. Didn't help me with spelling it, still. It was a little bit more complicated than Uno if I recall correctly. And I think the cards were in French. These days the cool games seem to come out of Germany (ie Settlers of Cattan).

Glitch 8:55 AM  

Not much to get excited about in today's puzzle, so I'll just add the following factoid (from the mfg's website):

TASER is an acronym for "Thomas A. Swift’s Electric Rifle".


dsf 9:02 AM  

With all the Madoff news, we've been due for a "Ponzi," right next to "Orrin" of Judiciary no less.

dbg 9:05 AM  

Mille Bornes appeared in the NYT puzzle on march 19th of last year. It generated a lot of comments in Rex's blog then, too. I'm lucky in that I remember playing it a lot with my brother and it's actually still buried in my game closet.

deerfencer 9:06 AM  

Guess I'm one of the few who grew up playing Mille Bornes, which was a favorite of my family in the 1960's, so I had a big leg up at the start. Zipped through most of the rest, but got stuck at the end in the middle on Benin--can't say I've heard of either Benin OR Dahomey, which sounds like
prison slang to me, as in "da homeys tasered me."

Agree with Rex that airtaser is redundant nonsense (as far as I know all tasers use airborne "darts" that are tied back to the gun with a thin line that carries the charge, so the term used here just doesn't make much sense). My guess is the puzzle writer transposed the idea of air rifles on the taser.

Carisa 9:08 AM  

I got the theme after I got Jason Bourne.

My grandparents owned Mille Bornes but we never played it!

Jon 9:11 AM  

This puzzle was chock full of things I didn't know I knew. I'm with Rex, MIZE just popped into my head, even though I don't think I've ever watched more than 30 seconds of pro golf. MILLE BORNES sat in our family's game drawer, unplayed, for my entire childhood. I saw Dahomey and BENIN floated through my mind, yet I couldn't tell you anything meaningful about the country. SONIA Braga came the same way, as did ZALES. All in all a weird experience, like a yard sale for my brain: all this useless stuff that had been stored in some attic thrown out together onto a table.

SethG 9:13 AM  

I thought this was easy, and finished faster than yesterday. I guess I have an old-timey soul or something.

Anyway, turns out Zales is pretty big. In all 50 states + Puerto Rico, with more stores (944) than, say, Barnes & Noble. Plus 1000+ kiosks, according to the Wikster. Who knew?

Oh, yeah, doesn't MILLES BORNE refer to the stone distance markers on many French roads? That, if you've been at this as long as I have, you knew.

Anonymous 9:15 AM  

In my never-humble opinion, this was one of the worst puzzles in a long time. Never heard of Mille Bornes. Sounds boring. I agree with Rex: Airtaser? What the hell is that? Tabset? Huh? My grandfather was a telegrapher...maybe an obscure clue for "bug" might work too.

And the theme itself. Who sits around and comes up with "born" homophones and says, "awesome theme!"

The rest of the puzzle looked computer generated. I also agree with JannieB: how about a themeless Tuesday.

Anonymous 9:24 AM  

Rex, that Mr Magoo clip is a reeeeeal treasure! You have to love the guy! Such good manners, and the way he speaks.... I'm sure he would be a great puzzle solver... if only he could read the page.

Kurt 9:30 AM  

I thought that this was too much of a stretch for a Tuesday. MILLEBORNES, AIRTASER (Huh??), BENIN and BELL JAR didn't feel like Tuesday answers, even though they were deducible from the crosses.

All in all, a pretty unimpressive puzzle in my view.

Hydromann 9:35 AM  

"Prowl car" is probably more commonly known as the simplified version, "prowler." I can't think of this term without a smile since it evokes a line near the beinning of one of my favorite flicks, "Fargo," namely, "Hey Norm--the prowler needs a jump."

Ulrich 9:38 AM  

On the upside: Someone had "A line" yesterday in an alphabetical list of phrases that start with an isolated letter. I had never heard of it and bingo! it's in today's puzzle! These are the small pleasures one derives from doing puzzles.

@Karen: Interesting what you say of games coming out of Germany. It's true, whenever I visit my brother over there, my niece and nephew want to play a new, cool game with me (the last one involved vampires hidden in graves that you did not want to open--a very elaborate take on Memory)

Orange 9:40 AM  

I want boarn to be a word.

Rex, if it's blood and gore you're looking for with your diamonds, have I got a movie for you: Leonardo DiCaprio in Blood Diamond. It is brutal and put me in the mood to never buy diamonds again for the rest of my life. It's notoriously difficult to trace the lineage of a diamond and know for sure that it's not a conflict diamond (sales funding the purchase of weapons used to destroy African lives) or one mined on the backs of exploited laborers. I don't want any part of that.

@deerfencer: If someone is your homie, he's probably not going to Taser you. He might take you out for a beer, though.

thornibus 9:41 AM  

Don't knock 59D being there!
NEE also means 'born' (Fr.)

Jon 9:47 AM  

@Karen & Ulrich: indeed, the Germans seem to have mastered boardgames, along with sausages and the art of combining sandals & socks. A couple of years ago, a friend turned me on to "German-style" board games, and I've been hooked ever since:


I second Karen's recommendation of Settlers of Catan, and I HIGHLY recommend Carcassonne, which is endlessly fascinating.

Anonymous 9:51 AM  

That china shop in 5A had a larger selection than I expected. I had TEACUP at first, abandoned it for TEAPOT, and settled on TEASET only when the down crossings refused to fall into place.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:02 AM  

Nothing particularly difficult, but took me a bit longer than usual, so I will second Rex's Medium rating.

Two unfamiliar words, AIRTASER and PROWLCAR.

Three write-overs: WINDBLOWN for WINDBORNE (like joho, before I caught on to the theme), TEACUP for TEASET, and CAMEO for CAMAY. (It seemed so safe to just throw words in on a Tuesday!)

With all the Bernie Madoff news, a bit embarrassed to admit that I had to guess at the cross between MIZE and PONZI - "S" or "Z"? (Sorry, MIZE is unknown to me.)

Anonymous 10:03 AM  

We played a game called Touring, which was I think the English version of Mille Bornes, and we loved it--lots of big fancy cars to move around, as I recall-- this clue brought back nice summer memories. Not too bad for a Tuesday--

Anonymous 10:10 AM  

When we were kids (a million years ago)we tried playing Mille Bornes a couple of times. It was too complicated and we couldn't agree as to what the rules were so we gave up. Easy clue if you are of a certain age.

Tony from Charm City 10:21 AM  

My family also had Mille Bornes when I was a lad back in the late '70s - early '80s.


Yes. The name Mille Bornes is French for Mile Stones. If I remember correctly, to win the game you had to collect or proceed through all the mile stones.

retired_chemist 10:28 AM  

I guess it's all in your frame of reference. This one was very easy for me. The obscure words (Mille Bornes? REALLY?) were easily gettable from crosses.

I submit that there is no job description for TESTERS (10D) - lab personnel are described by their specific specialties or contributions. And not all lab personnel are testers.

Re 62A (MIZE) - It emerged from crosses in its entirety and I thought to myself, Ah, THERE's a neat one. Haven't thought about Johnny Mize (HOF baseball player of the 40's and early fifties)in years. He was an erstwhile idol of mine. I had a Johnny Mize first baseman's mitt when I was a kid. But no - it's the more nearly contemporary but far less distinguished Mize, golfer Larry. From his wiki: ". Despite a creditable career on the PGA Tour he is mainly known for just one shot - the chip from off the green at #11 - which secured his only major title, the 1987 Masters."

Johnny - yay. Larry - meh.

Anonymous 10:29 AM  

Larry Mize is famous for holing out from a bunker in a sudden death playoff. Just one of many to hole a fantastic shot to deny Greg Norman another major title.

Anonymous 10:38 AM  

I liked this one because not only did I play a ton of Mille Bornes as a kid, I had completely forgotten about it. So it was fun to look it up on wikipedia and see the art again. From the lengthy write-up they make it sound like you need a PhD to understand the rules, but I think in practice it was pretty easy.

Jeffrey 10:45 AM  


We should be discussing BORN songs. Born To Run, Born in the USA, Born to be Wild of course. Born Free.

And who can forget "Born to be Alive" by Patrick Hernandez. The lyrics still bring a tear to my eye:

We Were Born To Be Alive
We Were Born To Be Alive
Born Born To Be Alive
Born Born To Be Alive
Yes We Were Born Born Born
Born Born To Be Alive

People Ask Me Why
I Never Find A Place To Stop
And Settle Down Down Down
I Never Wanted All Those Things
People Need To Justify
Their Lifes Lifes Lifes

Yes We Were Born Born
Born To Be Alive
Born To Be Alive
Yes We Were Born Born Born
Born To Be Alive

It's Good To Be Alive To Be Alive To Be Alive
It's Good To Be Alive To Be Alive To Be Alive
It's Good To Be Alive

Time Was On My Side
When I Was Running Down The Street
It Was No Fine Fine Fine
A Suitcase And An Old Guitar
It's All I Need To Occupy
A Mind Like Mine

Yes We Were Born Born
Born To Be Alive
Born To Be Alive
Yes We Were Born Born Born
Born To Be Alive

Yes We Were Born Born
Born To Be Alive
Born To Be Alive
Yes We Were Born Born Born
Born To Be Alive

Yes We Were Born Born
Born To Be Alive
Born To Be Alive
Yes We Were Born Born Born
Born To Be Alive

Born Born To Be Alive
Born To Be Alive
Yes We Were Born Born Born
Born To Be Alive

Born Born To Be Alive

jubjub 10:48 AM  

My family played Mille Bornes when I was a kid (80's-90's), but I thought that was just cuz I spent a fair amount of my childhood in France. Out of boredom, my brother and I played a game of it last time I visited home, and it was really boring. I think we liked it as kids because of the French on the cards. We got to say things like "I'm Increvable!" Mille Bornes means a thousand milestones.

I had trouble with spelling on a number of clues. BENIN/RAMIS, MIZE/ORRIN/PONZI.

DJG 10:49 AM  

I played Milles Bornes with my family as a kid in the late '80s. It was all in French. The gasoline card said "Essence" on it.

Put me in the camp who favors Johnny Mize over Larry Mize. Johnny actually didn't play for the A's he played for the Cardinals, Giants and Yankees.

dk 11:02 AM  

The puzzle was fine. My Grand-ps had Mille Bornes as well, but us kids were Monopoly and Scrabble players on those rare rainy sumer days in Maine.

The best part of the day: Rex's blog. Living in LA was great for a Chandler fan. I visited all the spots, lived in the Los Feliz area, Silver Lake was right down the "road" etc.

PROWLCAR reminds me of Broderick Crawford and Highway Patrol one of my all time favorite TV shows, most because it was on after bedtime so we only got to see it over vacations and the seemingly much rarer in the past teacher conference days.

Lastly, we got my niece a typewriter so should would know the origin of many of the words she only uses with a computer. She loves carbon paper, knowing what a platen (roller of a typewriter) and TABSET

So I guess Nostalgia is my theme for the day.

Today is lovely wife's birthday: Her gifts include: Sugar Babies, the movie Stardust, a crossword lottery scratch card and flowers.

retired_chemist 11:02 AM  

@Z.J. Mugildny -

I remember Johnny Mize as the 1B the Yankees got from the Giants in 1949 to torment my Indians, who had won the WS the year before. (I took this trade far more personally than I should have.)

You're right of course - Mize never played for the A's.

Shamik 11:15 AM  

I'm in the "grew up playing MILLE BORNES" camp. It was complicated as a kid, fairly boring as an adult. My 22 year old niece still likes to play it when I'm back in CT to visit.

Liked this puzzle a lot and found it easy.

WINDBLOWN for WINDBORNE (before I got the theme)

No matter...just finished doing the 11/16/08 puzzle on Cross Synergy that I hadn't done back in November. It was a Klahn and it took me two sittings...last night and this morning...but I finished and it was correct. Smug I am.

retired_chemist 11:20 AM  

and on the subject of BORN - would have been a good day to use MAX BORN - physicist who won the 1954 Nobel Prize, and who was one of the premier minds of the 20th (or any other) century. He touched nearly all of modern physics. He trained (and trained with) many of the most prominent 20th century physicists.

Another idol of mine ....

PlantieBea 11:22 AM  

As usual, Rex's comments were spot on for this puzzle.

We had Mille Bournes in the family game drawer when I was growing up, although I remember never figuring out how to play the game. We just liked the cards as kids. We bought Settlers of Catan for Christmas--recommend.

I have a student who's living in one of Plath's old residences right now, so that was a gimme. We've all enjoyed viewing the Bourne movie trilogy, especially the third film.

This seemed like a solid Tuesday puzzle, but it wasn't as much fun nor was it as interesting as yesterday's.

Anonymous 11:23 AM  

I played a lot of MILLE BORNES as a kid, at home and at certain relatives. So when I saw "Out of Gas" card, I happily started to fill in COUP FOURRE, the name of the big trick punishment play in the game. You didn't, of course, just play the coup fourre, you had to shout the phrase in a "hahahaha" gloating style.

For the life of me I couldn't actually remember the name of the game until I got a few crosses. For that matter, I couldn't remember how to spell "coup fourre" either, so I didn't damage my grid too much.

For the record, the name means 1000 milestones, the standard "distance" you were accumulating.

Anonymous 11:51 AM  

My problem was the crossing of Benin with Ramis (my Natick), as I wasn't familiar with either. In addition, I thought 35D "Asocial sort" was Loser (which I thought was rather politically incorrect!) before finding it was Loner (better). So that crossing left me with Benon, Ramos, Loner. Bah, humbug.

Anonymous 11:56 AM  

Part of the fun of doing the puzzles these days is trying to guess what Rex will complain about. I was surpised about the discussion about the Prowl Car - an image that always brings to mind the old cartoons where the police car's big white tires turn into cat paws.

In terms of the TABSET, I would think that anyone who uses tabs in their writing would know the phrase (for Microsoft's WORD, the first line of the help section about tabs refers to "Set tab stops ...").

Anonymous 11:57 AM  

For those old enough to remember....clement attlee was a deputy PM and then PM in england.....He was very much in the headlines during ww11.

edith b 12:08 PM  

I've never been in a Zales store but I have been by one when I am forced by circumstance to go to my local mall.

As a girl, my family had a "game drawer" and Mille Bornes was in it. I'm just surprised so many others did too.

When I was in college I typed many a paper and am familiar with the word tabset.

The only way I can describe this puzzle is evocative as any puzzle with Jason Bourne and Al Capp in it has this certain "feel" to it. Steve in CA described it as computer generated and I agree.


I saw a "Law and Order" once that dealt with conflict diamonds and I was interested enough to look into it and was horrified to find what a part they played in modern African history. I also saw "Blood Diamonds" which cemented the whole disgusting mess in my head.

This was probably my favorite Tuesday of all time.

ArtLvr 12:09 PM  

I liked the puzzle! Thornibus beat me to mention of the buried nugget, NEE meaning "born" in French...

Just before the evening newspaper in DC folded, the Washington Star?, I won a copy of "Bourne Identity" as a prize in their weekly xword contest! It was a type constructed so that each blank could lead to one of several answers, with all possibilites fitting the ambiguous clue. (e.g. FL_P could be flip or flap or flop, etc.). I don't know what they called it, but your chances of getting all the choices right in any one week were very slim! "Mille" odds...


Anonymous 12:14 PM  

I just skimmed the comments while up early to feed the cats, before going back to bed...but now I find I can't sleep till I respond to your comment.

I'm bumming you say Bah Humbug towards the puzzle, even tho you do take responsibility that it is your Natick...
BENIN and RAMIS might be a pinch hard
but one is a COUNTRY (hardly a made up place) and the other is probably a generational thing as Harold Ramis has done everything from star in iconic comedies like "Ghostbusters" to directing "Groundhog Day".
But crossing a country with an actor/director is the very essence of a puzzle!!!! That's what it's all about!!!!

"Who sits around..."
I do!!! Again, sitting around and realizing BORN can be spelled four different ways and can be in everything from a childhood card game to a modern role in film is again what a Monday/Tues is all about!!!
(altho I agree with Rex that just adding a letter and then not is not the most elegant...but I totally applaud the theme...and even tho there were but 40 letters (again I say, who's counting?!) there were four entries (as my pal Michael Blake says, "Four is the new three")!
I've made puzzle for years with just three themes of 41-45 letters and all seemed right with the world and now you have to do four or five, so I've been sidelined to an extent.

For me, theme is EVERYthing...
I'm bumming that you and even my pal Jannie B is crying out for more themelesses :(

That is a knife in my heart...if you don't like themes, just don't do Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday puzzles!!! But don't suggest more themelesses. :( double :(

This is a totally sad day blogwise for me.
That said, I'm going back to bed, will re-awake(n?), read the comments in toto and see if I feel less devastated.

Doug 12:21 PM  

Losing my mind guys. I confused Mize with Foxx, as in Jimmy, who is in that photo with Ruth and Gehrig. Got brain lock this morning. Foxx played for the old Philadelphia Athletics, I think. Mea culpa.

Parshutr 12:25 PM  

@andreacarlamichaels...(s)he's a newbie. Relax. Let's not get so dramatic as a knife in your heart.
Then again, I get peeved when I see the second EENSY in as many days.
And Larry Mize played the 11th at Augusta the same way Hogan did, purposely missing the green on his second shot because it's easier to chip in on that hole than to sink a long putt. Smart, as opposed to Greg Normanesque.
Norman managed to lose yet another major that he led going into the final round in 2008, with new bride Chris Evert [cringing] at his side.
Even at age 53, he's the best golfer from the neck down, and the weakest between the ears.
Rant over.

retired_chemist 12:34 PM  

@ Ulrich - "A line" was in the syndicated puzzle (12/22) this morning.

JannieB 12:35 PM  

Andrea, my friend, I like theme puzzles when they are clever and fresh like yours! I especially enjoy the gimmicky ones that make me work for that aha moment like some of those we've enjoyed from the newer, younger constuctors. My point is that the well seems to be running dry of late - many of the "themes" are retreads with only minor variations, and give us puzzles with fill that seems forced. I guess i"m just getting bored.

Anonymous 12:39 PM  

@andrea--That wasn't me. It was Steve in CA.

foodie 12:40 PM  

@andrea carla, take heart, many of us love theme puzzles. They add this "je ne sais quoi" to the solving experience, and offer help when stuck. How can you resist playful help?

@retired-chemist, I'm totally with you re TESTER. I've run a lab for 25 years and this was literally my last entry. No way.

I'm in Arizona, and it feels like a different world-- sunny, amazing looking saguaros everywhere, and coyotes howling at night! I decided that was part of my reseach-- what are they thinking/feeling?

Ulrich 12:48 PM  

@Jon: In my family at least, wearing socks with sandals was streng verboten. If you got caught, punishment was cruel and unusual: no sausage for an entire week!

@retired_chemist: that was my point!

Anonymous 1:02 PM  

the knife in my heart was not about the newbie, it was the suggestion that we get rid of themes!
(Don't worry, it was a butter knife...since my days in prison, I'm not allowed real silverware)

But crossword puzzles = my passion.

If I can't be slightly over-the-top on a blog devoted to (almost) everything I think about in life, where can I be?

all is forgiven...a little flattery goes a long way! ;)

oops! All you Steves look alike to me when I'm half-asleep...

To be honest, I stared at --NI-
for the 41A Nation once known as Dahomey for a long time, thinking it would end in --NIA and then I lost my place in the grid so when I saw 45A S-DAN I put in SUDAN for SEDAN thinking I had finally solved the mystery!

(I'd think up a word for that sort of misgridding, but I'm too tired!)


NEE!!!! TOTALLY Missed that! THANK YOU.
You take the thorn out of my bus! That makes the theme even better.
I'm born again!

Margaret 1:07 PM  

@Orange and Edith B. -- Interesting that there should be a side conversation about "Blood Diamond," since it starred Djimon Honsou who is from... BENIN!

mac 1:08 PM  

Good Tuesday, and the theme works for me. I was really lucky I got Mille Bornes and Mize through crosses, because they were both completely unknown to me. I grew up on German-made board games and puzzles. I liked a lot of the words, like pull rank and tantrums, dedicate and bell jar. I wanted air rifle, of course, never heard of air combined with taser, and prowler (don't know where I knew that from, must be TV).

I guess spats must be getting popular again, I saw different kinds at Saks 5th a few weeks ago, even bright yellow ones. This winter you would get a lot of use out of them.

A couple of months ago the Ponzi name was in a puzzle, and afterward I read about the meaning of a scheme named after him. Isn't it amazing that one after another is popping up now? This morning someone named Cosmo was arrested, accused of mail fraud and losing $ 100.000.000 to Madoff for his customers.

Pete M 1:10 PM  

@rex: Best take ever on the De Beers ads is by comedian Ron White. It's about 55 seconds into this clip.

dp 1:26 PM  

Where other kids would sit in the high school cafeteria and play poker, my crowd used to play Mille Bornes. It's a really fun game.

Doug 1:28 PM  

Have never heard of Mille Bornes, so am either too young or not from far enough east. I just looked at the Wiki entry and think I'll stick with checkers.

I looked up Al CAPP because L'il Abner was just a quaint strip when I was growing up, and I never read it. He was some kind of guy! Have a look at his wiki.

Anonymous 1:28 PM  

@pete M
Who is that Ron White? Why have I never heard of him! VERY funny...
which begs the question, where the hell is Wade???!

retired_chemist 1:41 PM  

@ Ulrich: I just thought it interesting that A LINE appeared in both the real time and the syndicated puzzle on the same day. I do take your point that yesterday's pangrammatic (is that a word?) post re (letter) (word) combinations was remarkably timely.

Only a few more days and I'm done with the syndicated puzzles.....

Anonymous 1:43 PM  

I want some of what Andrea Carla is on!

Bill from NJ 2:01 PM  

Boy, what an educational place to be . . .

If I want detailed information about Broadway, there is Greene; about golf, we have Parshutr.

And Orange and edithb with their discussion on conflict diamonds . . .

And Andrea, we love you no matter what

Anonymous 2:08 PM  

!!!!! :)

If only you had grown up playing Mille Bornes, you'd be fluent in French by now!
It's interesting that the Mille in Mille Borne (which I just thought was French for Milton Bradley)
is for "thousand" and has nothing to do with "mile" as in milestones...
Is that just a coincidence
or does it somehow? Linguists?

Anonymous 2:20 PM  

@Andrea--Yes, it does. See the following Wikipedia excerpt:

The unit of distance mille passuum (literally "a thousand paces" in Latin, with one pace being equal to two steps) was first used by the Romans and denoted a distance of 1,000 paces or 5,000 Roman feet, and corresponded to about 1,479 meters, or 1,617 modern yards. This unit is now known as the Roman mile.[2]

This unit spread throughout the Roman empire, often with modifications to fit local systems of measurements.

Full article at


HudsonHawk 2:22 PM  

@acme, Ron White is part of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour with Larry the Cable Guy, Jeff Foxworthy and Bill Engvall. White is probably the lesser known, but absolutely the funniest, IMO.

A friend dragged me along a few years ago to their show and I was laughing so hard at Ron White that I had to carefully time my drinking so that my cocktail didn't end up coming out my nose. Loved his take on DeBeers, thanks for posting Pete M.

HudsonHawk 2:22 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Doc John 2:24 PM  

I used to see Mille Bornes in the toy store when I was a kid but just from the title it seemed like some weird thing with too many pieces that I wouldn't enjoy.

I like puzzles with themes a lot. I just think that a theme should be more than just "how many similar words can I think of"? I think that a puzzle of NYT caliber (even a Monday or Tuesday) should be more creative, there should be more things to tie in the theme than just the four long answers. (Although I guess NEE would count a little towards that end.)

I look at crosswords as an art form. Not just a grid to be filled in but something to be really enjoyed. My faves are always the ones that when I'm finished I look back at and think, "Hey, look at that! Well, whaddya know?"

A little snooty? Perhaps. But it is the NYT crossword we're talking about- the supposed premier puzzle.

As for blood diamonds (and diamonds in general), the de Beers company artificially inflates the price and rarity of diamonds by hoarding them and only releasing a certain amount at a time. I.e. they're not worth as much as you think they are.

Interesting point about Djimon Hounsou's being from BENIN!

chefbea 2:27 PM  

I liked the puzzle today. And I love Mille bornes. When my kids were little we played it all the time. I think one of my daughters still has our original game.

Ramis/Benin was my Natick moment also

fergus 2:27 PM  

Not long ago I saw the cops using a taser on some guy. There were tinsel-like wires connecting the taser to the moaning miscreant/victim, so maybe there is something to this air distinction. Needless to say, the cops didn't come off looking too good in this incident, as they hustled the guy into the prowl car (?) and sped away.

The voice of Mr. Magoo is none other than Thurston Howell III; well OK, Jim Backus.

My favorite security card was the unassailable spare tire, the Increvable. I like the gleaming tanker truck too.

jae 2:46 PM  

Did not know MILLEBORNES and like joho and others tried BLOWN at first.

The best ATLEE clue I've seen was the one that used the Churchill quote "A modest man, who has much to be modest about."

If you want theme puzzles that will actually make you chuckle try the BEQ link at the top of Rex's blog.

I though this one was OK but not as clever as yesterday's.

Kurisu 2:58 PM  

I played MILLE BORNES quite a bit as a kid so that was a gimme, but I got stymied in the center because I put DONUT instead of DOZEN and nothing in the surrounding area was enough to fix it since they were all names -- RAMIN, ZALES, and BENIN are all things that I've heard of, but apparently not enough to get them immediately.

RodeoToad 3:03 PM  

Ron White's from Texas.

Seriously, the next time anybody makes Andrea sad they'll have me to contend with, and I'm 6'5" and 240 lbs (as far as you know), though it's true that I enjoy holding hands and watching sunsets and doing watercolors in my spare time, but they're very violent watercolors.

Orange 3:34 PM  

Oh, hello, Wade! Ain't you a sight for sore eyes.

The scientists tell us that TESTERS do not work in any lab they've ever seen. Maybe if Will Shortz were a woman, we'd have [Germ sources at a makeup counter] instead. There's not a single TESTER or TESTER clue in the Cruciverb database that reflects this very common usage. There are a few [Sample bottle of perfume] sorts of clues, but no makeup.

Anonymous 3:37 PM  

@BillfromNJ, Wade, Foodie, stevel and all....
My heroes!
Don't know why I'm taking everything so personally today. Apologies to all (wow, that's vague...very Blogodonavichewitz)
OK. 8 and out. Sorry!

SethG 3:48 PM  

"I always thought I was 5'8" but people the same height as me say they're 5'9". I don't think it's possible for a man to be 5'8". I like my height. No problems on airplanes and you're allowed on pretty much any ride you want at Six Flags."
-Wade, 12/7/2008

But don't worry, I've got Andrea's back. And I am not 5'8".

Monster.com had several hundred TESTER positions open right now, but they all appear to be software-related.

RodeoToad 3:51 PM  

(Stupid never disappearing stuff on the internet . . .)

Anonymous 3:53 PM  

I saw recently that the use of less than lethal weapons (i.e. air tasers) by police has skyrocketed. Apparently certain civil liberty organizations predicted this and lobbied against the wide spread distribution of these weapons because of the potential for abuse thatleaves less than obvious signs such as bruises, breaks and holes.
Now authority figures can distribute a dose of Hammurabi and do away with all the checks and balances that discharging a lethal weapon brings down.
Weird how something that seems beneficial winds up detrimental.

retired_chemist 3:55 PM  

@ Orange - love your TESTER clue. A big improvement.

@ SethG - Sorta kinda not the same thing, but maybe. Hadn't thought of that, was more in the test tube and smelly stuff mode....

I promise not to get TESTY....

Jeffrey 3:57 PM  

As Andrea's favorite poster(*), count me in, Seth and Wade. I'm 6'3" and ready to rumble.

*as said in a 4:16AM post on Saturday, January 24, 2009, to be on the Internet forever.

Orange 4:07 PM  

@Seth—Oh, yeah. My husband and a whole team of his colleagues are in software testing. TESTERS ≠ their job titles, but testing is what they do.

Seth sitting on Wade's shoulders = Big Scary Tall Man with double the vengeance, double the fun.

evil doug 5:13 PM  

Never played Mille Bornes---I mean, it's French, how good could it be?

But I seem to remember commercials that had people saying "It's the second most popular game in France" over and over, until someone asks: "What's the most popular?"

"Monopoly, of course."


mac 5:17 PM  

@Seth - you are particularly good at digging up old facts and quotes! Good to see Wade back, it takes an Andrea to make him show up.

@Andrea Carla: maybe the winter blues? I'm glad we're all on your bandwagon (I'm probably mangling a couple of expressions...).

Loved Ron White. I realized I've never been to a comedy club, have to make a change there.

Anonymous 5:20 PM  

Ok, now you guys are scaring me.

It took me 5 days to recalibrate my list of pet peeves (for the record, my new number 1 is people who say "less" when they mean "fewer", as in "man on first with less than one out..." Since when are there partial outs?), and you guys can pull up what Wade said about his height in 5 seconds flat? Threatening each other with bodily harm?

Anonymous 5:24 PM  

Anyone out there like chocolate?
Not you Wade

Glitch 5:46 PM  

attempted to post a pithy "on topic" comment back around post 22 this morning.

checked back in around post 84.

noticed earlier post missing, (I guess I forgot to hit post after I previewed).

though about re-posting if still relevent, but my lips got tired trying to read the intervening 60 or so chat room entries.

maybe tomorrow.


Chip Hilton 5:49 PM  

The company that markets MILLEBORNES is going to wonder why their sales spike this week. I find myself dying to play it after reading the comments, both negative and positive, here at Rex World.

chefwen 5:49 PM  

Had loser instead of loner and thought, never heard of Benis, I'll have to google it and see whats going on there and where it is; now I'll have to google Benin.

Wade don't disappear again, you always make me laugh.

Anonymous 6:40 PM  

the CAMAY / CAPP crossing was blind to me. i've never heard of either answer and put an S there.

Anonymous 6:59 PM  

This was one of my slowest Tuesdays. I don't know if I was groggy from a too-big late lunch or there was just too much stuff (such as millebornes) not quite on my wavelength.

I like themed puzzles in the first part of the week -- otherwise these puzzles would be without interest for me.

And 5'8" is a fine height for a man, especially if you're (like me) really 5'7.5"

retired_chemist 7:06 PM  

Sad News.

John Updike died today (1/27/09). The connection to this blog is only slightly obscure - RABBIT RUN was 17A in today's syndicated puzzle.

I am sad.

Anonymous 7:09 PM  

@acme: Please start working on four theme answers (at least) from here on. Three doesn't work anymore (I like MB's "Four is the new three" - how true!).


Rex Parker 7:15 PM  

3 good theme answers are just fine. No need to overdo it if you have three long ones that sing, and the rest of your fill is gold. If your theme is crap, or even just meh, you can cram in all the theme answers you want - nothing will save your puzzle.


foodie 7:17 PM  

@wade, driving through Texas last week I kept thinking-- where IS Wade? What is he doing in there? (that clip was the funniest. I sent it to my sister who has a neighbor just like that, and it freaked my niece out).

@Orange, YES! re the TESTER clue. I kept thinking there is a "tester" word, used in an odd way.. couldn't think of it. Perfect.

@seth, wade, crosscan et al, I guess the macho puzzle whiz is the new "sensitive man" from the 80's. And the violent water colors are a nice touch.

fikink 7:24 PM  

I'd prefer my TESTER clued with "the good Senator from Montana."

Doug 9:11 PM  

Dangerously close to the magical 100 blog entries. Is there no one else lurking who can opine on MILLE BORNES, the PCness of TESTER as a job, or how many themes could a constructor construct if a consructor could construct good? (Sorry, couldn't find a better rhyme...)

I know Ron White not by name, but by his whiskey and ice, cigar and catlike grin. He's sort of like a modern Will Rogers who replaces "shucks" with the a similar sounding word AKA the F-bomb (that's for Ulrich).

mac 9:56 PM  

@chip hilton: I also thought I would like to check out this game.

@retired_chemist: according to his AOL obituary John Updike spoke up very strongly in support of book sellers, and of reading the printed word. I still laugh out loud when I think of some of his lines in "Witches of Eastwick", and some of his earlier books made me a little more familiar with East Coast suburban life....

allan 10:45 PM  

Busy day, so I'm finally getting to post. I liked this puzzle, but agree the theme wasn't that strong. But at least there were some challenges, unlike most of the last 7, or 8 puzzles. To paraphrase Zed Leppelin: Does anyone remember Saturday? And I know it's Led Zeppelin.

Played Milles Bornes a lot when my kids were young, so that was pretty easy for me.

Hope you are all still around, cause I have lots of @'s. Here goes.

@Rex: I absolutely loved the Chandler excerpt, and you can never go wrong with Mr. Magoo.

@doug: Attlee was in one of the puzzles just last week.

@Thornibus: Let me be the next to thank you for that great pickup. I, too, missed it.

@auntiehattie: I don't think there was any connection between Milles Bornes and Touring. Touring sounds like a board game, and MB is a card game. It is still sold today.

"Mille Bornes - Collectors Edition Card Game
Since 1962, this classic auto race card game has been nothing short of a sensation among card players. For a while, it even outsold Monopoly. This special edition brings back the bright, charming artwork of the original 1962 cards. The 110 cards are poker-sized, the rules booklet is easy to read, and the score sheets are large and convenient - just like they were in the original game! Takes 10 minutes to learn and 35-45 minutes to play. For 2 to 6 players." C&P'd from the Meijer website.

@dk: Since you're from the west coast, it's not too late to go to Zale's and get your lovely wife a real gift for her birthday.

Speaking of diamonds, @ Orange: Will you marry me? My wife's favorite song is "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend", and I just can' afford them anymore. ;>)

@Parshutr: Phil the Thrill isn't far behind Norman.

@ Seth G: Incredible that you pulled that quote out of thin air. A memory like that is probably why you can do these puzzles so quickly.

And finally

@acm: I love themed puzzles also, but that's because I think they make the puzzles easire once you get them.
You know that I have your back (since you are my fav poster),
and I'm 6'4", a svelte 240 and used to play linebacker for the Steelers back in the 70's. All I need is my 4 SB rings and a bag to put them in. Makes quite a weapon! ;o)

Kelly 11:03 PM  

so, i've been reading this blog (and its comments) for a few months now but haven't felt inclined to say anything until today (but i love to read it all!). what a disappointing tuesday for me! didn't know camay or astor, went through teacup-teapot-teaset, didn't know millebornes (which obviously is questionable because of the use of the same spelling in 33d). i guess other than that it wasn't awful, but ugh! now on to wednesday's puzzle, which i normally wouldn't do until wednesday, but i need a chaser for that tuesday puzzle... gulp.

allan 11:24 PM  

@Kelly: I may be the only one to read your post because it is so late. Try earlier and boy you'll get some responses.

allan 11:24 PM  

@ doug: here's the magic c.

Doug 1:19 AM  

YAHOOOOO! It's nice to bust 100, and now on to Wednesday.

Anonymous 1:49 AM  

Wow, so many people have my back...and I don't even know what that means! why doesn't anyone want my front?
It's funny, I can't even remember what upset me...
note to self: never post before 11 am.
101 a silly mille-imeter longer

Anonymous 2:57 AM  

Diamonds-schnimonds! Give me a trip to
any place that requires a passport-sans
military action. Glitch, are you jagging re:
taser? Fun facts indeed. Never saw the Bourne
movie, or read the book; saw the trailer
though. Matt Damon? Never saw THAT

kreiz1 5:54 AM  

Matt Damon's best moment was in "Good Will Hunting"- "you like apples? How do you like dem apples?"

@Parshutr. Mize was one of several Greg Norman killers. Always wanted Norman to win the Masters- it never happened. He never knew how to throttle it back. Like the character in Costner's golf movie ("Dances with Two Iron?")

Anonymous 12:29 PM  

Five weeks later. No wonder I have the troubles I have with the puzzles. I obviously live in a different world from the majority of those who regularly comment. While I got Mille Bornes from the crosses, I certainly have never heard of the game. I did doubt that answer, however, since it seemed to simply add an "s" to the borne in "wind borne". I couldn't pull Benin out of the recesses even though I knew I had heard the name when I saw it. So I ended up with Benis/Loser which didn't seem to outlandish. I knew Ramis so that cross didn't get me.

Sharon 7:06 PM  

Hi to boardbtr,
I also live in syndiland. Thot I'd say hi in case you're still looking.
Had never heard of the game, but didn't see why the complaints about "prowlcar". True, that came out of my distant memory, which is better than my close memory, but there've been older answers with no complaints. "Prowler", which someone mentioned, I don't remember hearing tho I did see, and love, the film "Fargo".

Charly 5:38 PM  

Me and my fiancé are game enthusiasts (not to mention Francophones), so MILLE BORNES was a cinch. OTher parts were horribly clunky, though. Had FRENZIES for ENERGIES, WINDBLOWN for WINDBORNE (didn't even see the down theme answers till I came here, they're so short), YES for A NO, etc., etc.

If the Alous had a dollar for every time their name is mentioned in the crossword, they could take every minor and major league player out to dinner . . . twice.

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