TUESDAY, Aug. 4 2009 — NPR newsman Adams / Clothing retailer starting in 1969 / Gondolier's need / Arrive on the Enterprise via transporter

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Constructor: Alan Arbesfeld

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: OBAMA (71A: President born on August 4 whose name can be found backward in 17-, 31-, 47- and 63-Across) — a birthday tribute puzzle

Word of the Day: Yawl (19A: Yawl or yacht => BOAT)

n. 1. a two-masted fore-and-aft-rigged sailboat with the mizzenmast stepped far aft so that the mizzen boom overhangs the stern.

2. a ship's jolly boat with four or six oars. (US Military Dictionary)


This one had a ragged feel — maybe because it's all chopped to hell by black squares. Grid looks like the corpse of Bonnie or Clyde. Seems as if there have been half a dozen OBAMA tribute puzzles in the NYT alone this past year, but the number is probably something closer to three. I like the wacky inventiveness of this one, with OBAMA's name running backwards in the answers. Is it a tribute, or an indication that he's taking the country in the wrong direction? You decide. Was there ever a single Bush tribute puzzle? I misremember. The only other presidential puzzles I can remember aside from this recent rash of OBAMA puzzles is the famous BOBDOLE/CLINTON puzzle of 1996.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Envision in one's sleep (dre AMABO ut)
  • 31A: Sleepwear component (paj AMABO ttoms)
  • 47A: The Chattahoochee River forms part of it (Alab AMABO rder) — iffiest of the lot, by a long shot.
  • 63A: Arrive on the Enterprise via transporter (be AMABO ard) — best of the lot, by a long shot.

Puzzle felt about average in terms of difficulty. I stumbled horribly right out of the box when I could not dredge up the Mayflower guy's name. I needed Every Single Cross, in fact. Had AL-EN and was thinking ALLEN until DREAMABOUT gave me the "D" for ALDEN (1D: John on the Mayflower). I've seen the name before, but it's oddly meaningless to me. I wonder if it'll stick this time. I also tripped a bit on WEBCAM, which should have been easy, but I misread the clue (6D: Online video equipment). Specifically, my brain inserted the word "game" after "video," so I was looking for some kind of flipper or button or something. After I escaped the NW, the rest was fairly easy. This puzzle has some fantastic Down fill. BARTABS (27D: What some drinkers run up) and SHADOWED (39D: Tailed) gives it a great noir feel, while JAMPACK (32D: Fill to capacity and then some) and GETS MAD (23D: Sees red) add a dynamic punch. Good stuff.

  • 24A: NPR newsman Adams (Noah) — Not the NOAH I would have expected on a Tuesday.
  • 41A: Dishful near a restaurant door (mints) — I love this clue. "Dishful" is adorable.
  • 51A: Classic family name in Florence (Medici) — wanted DEMICI (!?). Then MEDECI. I think DON AMECHE was impishly cavorting around my brain, gumming up the works.
  • 60A: 2006 Verizon purchase (MCI) — a step up from [Early twelfth century year].
  • 3D: Clothing retailer starting in 1969 (The Gap) — like me, it turns 40 this year.

  • 8D: Big name in morning radio (Imus) — completely off my radar since he lost his MSNBC TV show (which I enjoyed from time to time).
  • 38D: Gondolier's need (pole) — true enough.
  • 49D: Subject of a Hemingway title (old man) — weird: I did a puzzle yesterday where the clue was [Part of a Hemingway title] and the answer was THE SEA. I, of course, wrote in THE SUN.
  • 54D: Fabric for theater curtains (scrim) — maybe "scrim" should have been the word of the day, as I don't know what kind of fabric that is:

  1. A durable, loosely woven cotton or linen fabric used for curtains or upholstery lining or in industry.
  2. A transparent fabric used as a drop in the theater to create special effects of lights or atmosphere.
  • 59D: Bug chaser? (-aboo) — first thing I put in was "-aloo." Damn you, Sid and Marty Krofft! (click on their names to see the Worst Birthday Song Ever)

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Eric Berlin 8:29 AM  

I believe this is the FOURTH Obama puzzle, which, really. I voted for the guy, but enough already.

There was also the David Kahn puzzle that Clinton commissioned for his presidential library, which also ran as a Sunday puzzle.

treedweller 8:39 AM  

This was one of those "can't believe I'm doing this well" days. A minute faster than yesterday. I tend to follow the cursor in Across Lite, so I ended up getting the theme revealer early, though I'm not sure it helped much. And I agree, enough already with the Obama tributes.

I liked a lot of the same words as Rex, plus SHOEHORN and JAMPACK.


nanpilla 8:39 AM  

I really liked this puzzle. The theme may be a bit tired, but the fill is fantastic and smooth as silk. I loved JAMPACK and SHOEHORN both trying to get stuff into THEGAP. AMIABLE and GETSMAD both in the same grid. This seems to be the type of fill ACME was talking about being hard to do in an early week puzzle. Kept it easy, but nothing too boring. REDO and RESHOT were a little repetitive, but that's a small quibble. The word VIA appears in the clue for BEAMABOARD, but that's such a great clue I don't even mind.
Thanks, Alan, for a great Tuesday!

Brendan Emmett Quigley 8:48 AM  

If there's any question (still) that the New York Times is in the tank for the Democratic party, this puzzle shall remove all doubt. Four in one year? I can totally understand one, maybe two, for the historical nature of it (and yeah, while I'm here, David Kahn's puzzle documenting it was especially amazing). But four? So when's the Obamacare puzzle going to run?

chefbea 8:58 AM  

I saw AMA in all the theme answers and figured it was going to be about healthcare!!!

fun easy puzzle

dk 9:09 AM  

More old chestnuts than a hardwood forest. EPSOM, KAT, RIP, LAVA, SLO, DNA and EMMA to name 7.

The OBAMA/B-day thing is cute but chestnuts rule: IMHO.

For those who wonder about my use of a text analyzer to gauge and make causal (not casual that is THEGAP) inferences on Rex's ability to tilt the mood of our posts, please see the Mind article in the Science section of todays NYT. Myself I am working on songs about short selling.

@twoponies (from yesterday) we had a great time on Madeline Island. The weather was great and the boys jumped from cliffs into a chilly Lake Superior. My ability to make espresso over a Wisperlite camp stove was overshadowed by lovely wife's prowess with the dutch oven. Imagine fresh baked cinnamon rolls, wild blue berries and espresso for breakfast all from cookstoves and fire pits (berries from bushes) with tents, trees and Lake Superior as a back drop.

If you are ever in Duluth stop at Sara's Table for a great meal and pies to die for. Alas, no MINTS.

Thank you Alan

Denise 9:15 AM  

So, what is the matter with ALABAMABOARDER? It was easy to get from the crosses.

It's not so much that the president is so wonderful (although I think he is), but he has an O and THREE As in his name!! So many nice vowels.

It's Tuesday -- bring on the rest of the week.

And, Happy Birthday, Mr. President.

Anonymous 9:22 AM  

I agree with DK about the dense growth of old chestnuts. I was ho-humming my way through the grid, mildly puzzled by the frequency of "am" and "ab" syllables, until the (literally) bottom line gave the puzzle some retroactive pizzazz.

joho 9:33 AM  

Maybe somebody should do an Obama puzzle in the shape of birth certificate. Just kidding!!!

I'm with @treedweller & @nanpilla ... loved SHOEHORN and JAMPACK. Plus I'm with @Rex on BEAMABOARD. Other than that it was OK. I do agree that the NYT should veto any more Obama-themed puzzles.

PlantieBea 9:36 AM  

An easy Tuesday. My only rewrite was NOAH after entering NOEL. Like Rex, I wondered if the backwards Obamas were supposed to make a statement.

I liked seeing BEAM ABOARD and mention of the CHATTAHOOCHEE which is called the Apalachicola in Florida. Lots of debate over who can use the water from that river--a tri-state battle. Speaking of colas, as per yesterday's coke conversation, even colorless sodas can be called cokes down here.

@dk, your camping meals sound wonderful--especially the blueberries. We used to collect bowls full when we sailed up in the northern Great Lakes area.

Ulrich 9:47 AM  

Don't you get it? This is an anti-Obama puzzle!!! Beam aboard from the Alabama border in pajama bottoms is not my idea of a tribute--and pushed by Newt, to boot. Plus we have STY in the center and Dumbo ears at the sides. It's obvious:


JC66 9:47 AM  


I never saw the theme revealing clue at 71A so, until I came here, I did think that AMA was the theme.

Anonymous 9:48 AM  

I had "DUH".... (doh!)

slypett 9:51 AM  

Another barn-burner for me. Had the hardest time trying to figure out what the hell an ABOO might be, but the light in the attic finally worked.

The way I look at it is 'If you can't give me a fight, show me a good time.'

PurpleGuy 10:00 AM  

I thought this a rather ho-hum puzzle again. Like the others, enough tributes already.
Obama birthday trtibute ? Big Whoop !

@Ulrich- very funny. Agree with you.

@Rex- thank you for explaining SCRIM. I always (mistakenly) thought it referred to the actual set piece. Learned something new today !
Great writeup.
When does your vacation start ?

Karen from the Cape 10:10 AM  

I agree with the iffiness of Chattahoochee, it should really be the Georgia border. (Speaking as someone who lived in Atlanta two blocks away from the often flooded river.)

Susan 10:21 AM  

1) Nothing wrong with Chattahoochee clue. It certainly forms part of the border of Alabama and is the marker from Eastern time (Georgia) to Central time (AL).

2) Madonna did a GAP ad?! When?

3) I really liked this puzzle. I found all the short two-word answers fun.

4) Madonna did a GAP ad?! When?

Two Ponies 10:30 AM  

Nice Tuesday. The chestnuts are offset by the other nice fill. I'm OK with the whole thing.
Like Denise said, how can you avoid a guy with to many handy letters in his name? It is his birthday after all.
Anyone try a way to work in some form of North Carolina where Ohio went?
Small Italian mini-theme with the gondolier clue crossing the Medicis.
Never heard of scrim, only scrimshaw. Wonder if there is any connection.
@ dk, Your trip sounds like my idea of Eden! My trip to that area showed me more bald eagles than I even knew existed.

slypett 10:37 AM  

@Two Ponies: I was flabbergasted when North Carolina failed on take-off!

archaeoprof 10:40 AM  

@Two Ponies: NC license plates say "first in flight."

Who was the last president with such a crossword-y name? Isn't that a historic event in itself?

Anonymous 10:41 AM  

Obama is crosswrod target! I really enjoyed the fill.

Anonymous 10:42 AM  

Obama is crossword target! I really enjoyed the fill.

retired_chemist 10:44 AM  

Typical Tuesday IMO. Seemed like there were a lot of names. Fortunately, none were obscure. SCRIM (54D) was a new word for me. Is it related to scrimshaw?

RP’s definition of YAWL is incomplete – it is also the second person plural pronoun.

PurpleGuy 10:51 AM  

I believe scrimshaw is engraving on whale bone for items of jewelry and art.

Captain Ahab 10:55 AM  

Gotta love dictionaries. Went to research the SCRIM / Scrimshaw question.

Scrimshaw - of uncertain, possibly from scrimshander.
Scrimshander - one who produces scrimshaw.

Jeffrey 10:58 AM  

I had a funny and insightful comment on point. Then I watched Happy Birthday Joy Bugaloo and my brain was sucked dry.

Two Ponies 11:06 AM  

@ archaeoprof, Thanks, I knew it was something very similar. I think the Wright Bros. bike shop might have been in Ohio.
@ PurpleGuy and Capt. Ahab, I realized the whale bone thing, that's why I was wondering how such similar words could have such different meanings.

retired_chemist 11:10 AM  

re SCRIM/scrimshaw - My search through online reference material had yielded no clear answer either. We are a community of at least amateur philologists, so I was hoping someone had inside info.....

Shamik 11:23 AM  

Easy puzzle and OBAMA won't be leaving puzzles anytime soon. But he'll become (if he hasn't already) merely chestnut filling.

Glitch 11:25 AM  


2) July 2003

4) July 2003


Rex Parker 11:35 AM  

No one is complaining about OBAMA's being an answer. Both early complaints in today's comments are from veteran constructors who know perfectly well that OBAMA has a long life ahead of him as a crossword answer due to his delicious voweliness. The issue is with how many times the puzzle as a whole needs to genuflect. Four times in less than a year is a Lot. Arguably, too much.


edith b 11:36 AM  

As a rule, I work the puzzle from the NW and move in a generally Southeastern direction so I didn't see the clue to the puzzle till the very end. I enjoyed this one quite a bit from the theme entries through the spicy long fill. Even though the grid seemed to be shot with a shotgun, I forgave the chestnuts in exchange for a good puzzle.

Two Ponies 11:37 AM  

Possible etymology:
From a Dutch phrase meaning "to waste one's time." (Sailors did it during slow times at sea.)
Old English surname from Old French "escremissoer" meaning fencing master.
There was an Admiral Scrimshaw who might have been skilled at bone carving.
No connections to fabrics or weaving although a synonym was canvas. Some vague sailing/whaling relation?
Three and out.

Glitch 11:42 AM  

Re: SCRIM vr Scrimshaw

Other than finding the latter is NOT named for Adm. Scrimshaw, all roads lead to "origin unknown" for both.

Maybe THAT is the common thread? ;-)


Anne 11:46 AM  

The word Obama is perfect for crosswords, plus he's the man of the hour whether you like him or not, and therefore an ideal subject for constructors. There is no conspiracy here - so back to your homes.

And the puzzle was so so with the only unknown word being scrim. Just doesn't sound like fabric to me.

ArtLvr 12:03 PM  

I thought this B-Day Tribute most timely, even if I really expected to find a USA or Honolulu or Hawaii answer as to the birthplace of the puzzle's subject. One of the other crosswords today at least has HI, though!

A stage curtain made of scrim is very handy -- if painted and lit from the front, the audience can't see through it, but if backlit then the scenery and action behind it are visible to those out front. It can be very effective! I especially recall one movie which climaxed when a singer or stripper in silhouette behind a scrim was shot with a gun and then sank slowly to the stage -- Help! what was the title of that one? It was of the noir detective genre, maybe even with Bogart...


Dough 12:04 PM  

I enjoyed this Tuesday puzzle. I have no problem with celebrating Obama on his birthday. And, anyway, I was speed-solving and didn't stop to decode what "AMABO" in the answers meant, until the denouement was provided in the last clue. @Rex stated, "Grid looks like the corpse of Bonnie or Clyde." The alternative is the stairstep black square design. I prefer this "bullet-holes" style (if that's how you see it) as words from different sections intersect and it's more fun to solve. Rather than something to criticize aesthetically, it is something to praise, and generally makes for a more interesting solve, imho. As it did for me today.

foodie 12:07 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alan B 12:08 PM  

The number of pro-Obama NYT puzzles is directly proportional to puzzle editor's desire to be invited to the White House,imho...the genuflecting has just begun.

foodie 12:09 PM  

I liked it and found it easy. But it created some dissonance for a while. There were two lovely theme answers relating to sleep- DREAM ABOUT PAJAMA BOTTOMS... hmmm I thought, will they be coming off next? And then comes ALABAMA BORDER-- Whaaat? BEAM me up.. So, I thought it was like a good old fashioned whodunit, in setting up expectations, destroying them and then giving you a resolution at the very last moment.

Of course, @Ulrich's hypothesis adds a whole other layer to the intrigue.

And although I understand the complaint about too many OBAMA puzzles, can I say that I'd rather see a NYTimes puzzle than a Marilyn Monroe flirting openly with the President on his birthday?

Anonymous 12:12 PM  

Clue 71a ("President ... whose name can be found backward ...") made this puzzle way too easy. Once I had DREAMABOUT, all the themes went down too easily. Would have preferred a more challenging and cryptic clue for 71A -- and to have figured out the AMABO repetition myself.

Can't say I see any problem at all with ALABAMABORDER. The Chattahoochee does run 1/6 of the state's border, after all. What's your beef, Rex?

ArtLvr 12:17 PM  

p.s. My daughter KAT reminds me that the "Red Shoes" had a SCRIM dropping down behind Moira Shearer in the last scene, where she is running toward the open window to leap to her death, thus shutting out the world she needs to leave behind.


retired_chemist 12:18 PM  

Just realized - for you wrong direction hypothesizers, the backwards *(sdrawckab) AMABO is not a covert putdown but a covert paean - just translate it into Latin!

still_learnin 12:22 PM  

Thi8 puzzle went down fairly quickly (for me). I liked the cluing for DIME [It's smaller than a penny]. I've heard the word SCRIM before, but didn't have a clue what it was.

As for Obama... Happy Birthday, Mr. President. And, I hope to see at least 7 more years of Obama-themed puzzles. His name just seems to open up so many more possibilities for clever puzzles as compared to most of his predecessors. FWIW, I don't think Will Shortz is trying to push a political agenda... he's trying to push good crosswords.

still_learnin 12:25 PM  

Ooops, OK what I meant to type is that Will is NOT trying to push a political agenda.

PlantieBea 12:28 PM  

@R_Chemist: Good one :-) Not having taken Latin, I didn't pick up on AMABO before. Puzzle approved.

Stan 12:30 PM  

So, rotating the puzzle 45 degrees counterclockwise, we have Obama on the East Coast (south of Mass.), Ohio in the upper Midwest, Newt in the South (east of the Alabama border), and in the West, Las Vegas and the letters C A L (squares 2, 1, and 14) reading downwards.

How could y'all have missed this?

slypett 12:47 PM  

@Stan: I guess it wasn't esoteric enough. Nice spoof.

ArtLvr 12:49 PM  

p.p.s. re "scrimshaw" etymolgy, you might want to play around with the possibility of English "scrimp", [perhaps of Scandinavian origin; akin to Swedish skrympa = to shrink, Middle Low German schrempen = to contract] , i.e. pare back. Add to this the New Latin adjective "Shavian" as in works by G. B. Shaw, and you get a careful shaving or paring back in sculpting the whalebone surface. One can DREAM ABOUT it, anyway...


Anonymous 1:00 PM  

anyone who has a problem w/ the puzzle dedicated to our Presidents birthday need to lighten up a tad.

Anyone else read Noah Adams book entitled, I believe, "Piano Lessons"? It is a true account of his experience of learning to play piano as an adult. As a piano player myself, I really enjoyed it.

Cheers - Mike (my birthday is TOMORROW..... 50th)

PS Seems to me "WEBCAM" has appeared often of late...

That kid that only listens to MP3s 1:05 PM  

Can someone explain the clue and answer to 55 down? SIDEA ? Record? What's a record?

Bob Kerfuffle 1:24 PM  

Thought this was a good Tuesday puzzle, although I got the theme rather early. But I hadn't gotten the Hidden Theme until I read Rex's write-up and saw AMABO highlighted in blue.

Sorry, Retired chemist and PlantieBea, but I think we should share our Latin openly with the rest of the world: ABAMO means "I shall love".

Bob Kerfuffle 1:25 PM  

Oh, God, I spelled AMABO wrong! It is AMABO which means "I shall love".

Anonymous 1:40 PM  

Subliminal messages running backwards through other words. Is it just my imagination, or it Big Brother at work again? The NYT is definitely a tool for the State...

Jeffrey 1:44 PM  

It gets worse. I saw this at another blog:



Blanche 1:47 PM  

Another VERY easy, fun puzzle. I agree with Anonymous about dedicating a puzzle to our President's birthday; I think we sometime take ourselves and our puzzle pastime a bit too seriously.

chefwen 2:51 PM  

I, for one, have had my fill of Obama puzzles, they are, IMO, way too predicable and therefore too easy. Got the last answer right away and just went back and filled in my backward Obamas. Was finished with the puzzle before I started to have fun. Only write over was WAIL over bawl.

Enough already!

archaeoprof 2:52 PM  

@Two Ponies: Wright you are. The bicycle shop was in Dayton.

BTW, the economy cabin in a 747 is longer than the Wright brothers' first flight.

Joe 3:31 PM  

@MP3 Kid
SIDEA is "Side A," the first half of an album. Our parents had to flip the record over to listen to the rest of it, the "B side." Which is, I suppose, why outtakes and remixes are sometimes released as "B sides." (Radiohead has, like, fifty)

I stared at S_DEA for a long time.

andrea wail michaels 3:42 PM  

Loved it!!!!!!
At first it was shocking another Obama-puzzle but it's his birthday!!!
ya gotta love that!
The fill was fabulous, really JAMPACKed with wonderfulness, I really enjoyed this. I like AA's puzzles in general.

bleedover: LAB
tho this time without the pretentious rat

I found PAJAMABOTTOMS a very exciting answer and couldn't wait to see what the theme was. I'm with you!

Alas, I could never compete in the cooking department. If you were with me, you'd starve to death. :(

Funny about birth certificate.
But how could we POSSIBLY veto
the puzzle possibilities having just learned that AMABO OBAMA means "We shall love" in Latin???!!!!!!!!!!!!

That's what this is all about!!!!

treedweller 3:45 PM  
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treedweller 3:46 PM  

Just got back from the day's climbing and had to come curse Rex. I never even clicked on the Kroft link, but I had the Bugaloos' theme song stuck in my head all day.

Chris 3:52 PM  

Really enjoyed the fill. Like it's been said before, today's puzzle flowed better than yesterday's. Dishful of MINTS and JAMPACK were favorites.

Is it just me, or did Hemingway make two appearances in this puzzle? AMABO isn't the only one getting xword-love, apparently...

andrea reshot michaels 3:53 PM  

that is funny "No conspiracy here, so back to your homes"!


I can't wait to make a puzzle entirely in Latin with the central theme answer AMABO OBAMA (We shall love Obama).
ALtho at ten letters it will need a little rebus picture of him in the middle to balance it, like in those People Magazine puzzles!

Anonymous 4:00 PM  

I love (AMO) the connection between (7D) and AMABO of the theme!


Meg 4:04 PM  

Well now I'm too curious. AMO = I love and AMABO = We shall love.....Not we will love? Just add BO for future? Who's the Latin expert?

Had fun with this pretty easy puzzle, though I've never heard JAMPACK used as a verb. "I had to jampack my backpack with trailmix"? You can't just take any adjective and back-invent a verb.

retired_chemist 4:27 PM  

We shall love = AMABAMUS. AMABO is I shall love.

Sweet home AMABAMUS? With or without borders?

I hadn't even thought of 7D as part of the love-in, unless it was in my subconscious when I started this thread. Glad Anon 4:00 found it!

Bob Kerfuffle 4:31 PM  

@ Meg -

From memory:

amo, amas, amat (i love, you love, he loves)

amamus, amatis, amant (we love, you (pl) love, they love)

Amabo, amabis, amabit (I shall love, you shall love, he shall love)

amabimus, amabitis, amabunt (we shall love, you (pl) shall love, they shall love)


The difference between shall and will is for us purists - shall implies simple futurity; will implies volition.

Bob Kerfuffle 4:31 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
retired_chemist 4:35 PM  

Stick with Bob K - Wiktionary says he is right.


1. first-person plural future active indicative of amō.


1. first-person plural imperfect active indicative of amō.

Ulrich 5:09 PM  

@Andrea: I admire your youthful enthusiasm, and this may look like a wet blanket, or like rain on your parade, or whatever, but I must warn you: If you construct a puzzle around "amabo Obama", classicists will be all over you pointing out that it has to be "amabo Obamam"; i.e. Obama has to be in the direct object (accusative) case. But then again, given your constructing skills, you may be able to take this in stride. In any case, amo Andream.

Meg 5:23 PM  

@ Bob Kerfuffle:

Volition as in "The phone's ringing. I'll get it." and simple future as in "The movie will start at 7:00"? I always thought "shall" was kind of a combination of "will" and "should" denoting advisability along with futureness.

Max 5:38 PM  

When you got caught up with Medici...you may have been thinking of d'medici...as in Lorenzo D'Medici of Florence

that may be why you wanted demici

Anonymous 5:40 PM  

AMA BO = he loves Obama's pet dog?

Anonymous 5:45 PM  

Clue mistake at 38-Down
Gondolier's need (POLE)

According to Wikipedia:

"The gondola is propelled by a rower (the gondolier) who stands facing the bow and rows with a forward stroke, followed by a compensating backward stroke. Contrary to popular belief, the gondola is never poled like a punt as the waters of Venice are too deep."

retired_chemist 5:52 PM  

@ Anon 5:40 - in Spanish, yes. Latin requires the accusative for BO (cf. Ulrich's post) and I can't figure that out. I believe -O is not a nominative ending in any of the Latin declensions. At least as I was taught - perhaps it exists in the Vulgate.

Bob Kerfuffle 5:58 PM  

@Meg - Blame my 1950's elementary education. To quote "Webster's Universal Dictionary of the English Language", 1936: ". . . 'shall' is used to denote simple futurity, and simply foretells or declares something which is to take place, and is thus equivalent to 'am to', 'are to', etc. . . 'Shall' in this case expresses mere futurity, without any idea of determination or decision, to denote which in the first persons singular and plural 'will' is used . . ." and " 'Will' is never to be used as a question with the first person; as 'will I go?' A man cannot ask if he wills to do anything that he must know and only he knows. . . . Simple futurity with the first person is appropriately expressed by 'shall'. In colloquial speech there is some confusion in the use of 'shall' and 'will'; . . ."

I could say that in current usage 'shall' and 'will' are used interchangeably (to the anguish of those who were educated to hear the difference), except that 'shall' isn't really used much at all!

fikink 6:15 PM  

@bob kerfuffle, I bet your ear is tuned to the proper use of "may" and "might," too. God bless 1950s grammar teachers!

@Ulrich, did you have to diagram sentences in your early German education? Diagramming sentences in seventh grade got me through high school Latin later on.

Meg 6:21 PM  

@Bob Kerfuffle- Thanks for that bit. I'm an ESL teacher and though I do teach "who" and "whom" in addition to "If I were", I try to focus on grammar that is more or less in use. Next time I get a question about "shall", I'll do better than "Isn't that British English?"

We don't diagram sentences, but I loved it in school. Just another linguistic puzzle to solve.

Aviatrix 6:31 PM  

I second the question about what's wrong with the ALABAMABORDER. As soon as I saw the clue I knew from the OCHEE that the river was in the southeast USA, so that it must be some state border, so I just waited for enough crosses to see which one. Is it because Americans usually say "state line" instead of "border"? Foreigners call them borders, so it certainly isn't an alien phrase.

And foodie, you made me laugh for a while with the Marilyn birthday flirting.

foodie 6:34 PM  

@Bob Kerfuffle, this is exactly how I learned it! Oddly enough, that was in Damascus, in a French Catholic School, from an Irish nun : )

Came here and became totally confused about the whole shootin match.

fergus 7:04 PM  

So now I'm wondering where I got the silly notion that in the future tense, shall goes with the first person and will with the second and third? Glad I've never tried to stress that point.

I hope all this grammar stuff is not a turn-off for too many readers. Reckon they would have closed the window about 25 posts ago.

fergus 7:10 PM  

... and upon reading Bob Kerfuffle's last post I see that there was some reason, though I like all the precision he included. And the notion of separation of mere futurity and volition. I get a kick out of this stuff, but the predilection can ostracize one from quite a few segments of society.

Lisa in Kingston 7:18 PM  

@Anonymous at 1:00 pm (Mike): happy birthday, it's my 50th tomorrow too!

I thought this was really easy for a Tuesday puzzle. Happy birthday, Obama!

joho 8:07 PM  

@Lisa and @mike ... Happy 50th to the two of you!!!

3 and out.

Ulrich 8:25 PM  

@fikink: We diagrammed sentences with a vengeance. Since German still has 4 of the 7 cases that Latin has, word order is not essential to indicate if the boy bit the dog or the dog bit the boy; i.e. syntax can become much more intricate because of this.

As an aside: Unfortunately, German education has gone through the same dumbing-down that it has undergone here, where everything that smacks of "drill" is frowned upon: The goal is no longer to teach students something useful than to make them feel good about themselves. In fact, it got so bad in Germany that in an Europe-wide comparison (the by now infamous PISA study), German students ended near the bottom in many categories. As a result, a fundamental reorientation is taking place, and the results are already on record. (A side effect is that Latin is coming back as a subject to be taught--I wonder where they find the Latin teachers...)

sanfranman59 9:31 PM  

Here are this week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation.

All solvers (median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 7:26, 7:02, 1.06, 69%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 7:44, 8:29, 0.91, 28%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:53, 3:44, 1.04, 65%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 4:06, 4:22, 0.94, 38%, Easy-Medium

foodie 10:46 PM  

@Ulrich, it was hilarious to watch my father try to teach my daughter the complexities of Arabic grammar. She was a teenager when he came to live with us for a while (after my mother died) and her learning Arabic was their joint project. They did great together except when it came to any kind of drill. Like are you kidding me? Who does that? Are we in the Middle Ages? She would rely on her quickness and phenomenal memory but it was hit and miss. And he would shake his head and wonder what's happened to the world... He did win when it came to giving her daily dictation. I don't think he ever understood what a token of love it was for her to acquiesce to that routine. But remarkably, she can spell!

@sanfranman59, thank you for our daily data!

Noam D. Elkies 10:49 PM  

The palindrome "amabo Obama" is neat but Google says it's been known for a while. The flexible word order of Latin also allows "Obamam amabo", which isn't new either (possibly originated by Kevin Wald). But since Obama isn't a native Latin word or name it might not be subject to declension.


fergus 12:26 AM  

There's an engraved title on the repurposed building that now houses all the core alternative schools here. And it was clearly labeled as a Grammar School.

Dating from 1910, I wouldn't mind seeing a century's progress refined, or eliminated. When it comes to education I have some departures from some trends and orthodox theory.

Ulrich 10:04 AM  

NDE: As I remember, the old Romans declinated everything in sight--Jesus, Jesu, Jesum(?), Jesum, Jesu, Jesum(?)

Anonymous 11:40 AM  

Obama is an idiot!! Can we please have just one puzzle without him in it?

Nullifidian 6:30 PM  

I knew what scrim was, but I'm a theatre person from way back. My first paying job was as Mordred in Camelot when I was just thirteen. I'm a grad student in biology and sociology now, so I only act on a semi-pro basis now around local theatres.

Anyway, as was mentioned above, scrim is a semi-transparent fabric which appears translucent when backlit and opaque when lit from the front.

The original Broadway production of Sunday in the Park with George had some fantastic use of the material. The first act follows George Seurat completing Un dimanche après-midi à l'Île de la Grande Jatte while maintaining a romantic relationship with his artist's model, Dot. The completion of the painting in the first act is capped off with a beautiful choral piece called "Sunday" (there's a concert performance with Bernadette Peters here).

In the second act, Seurat's great-grandson, another artist named George living 100 years later, is struggling with his art until he is visited by all the figures in painting, particularly Dot, during a visit to Grande Jatte. As the notes of the "Sunday (Reprise)" fade, a blank scrim comes down, framing Dot. Then as the lights shift, she appears as a fading silhouette on this blank, white scrim as George intones one of the marginal notes from Dot's book: "White. A blank page or canvas. His favorite: so many possibilities."

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