TUESDAY, Sep. 1 2009 — Hot car's destination / Was a Lady Ethel Merman tune / Precursor of reggae / Woody Allen's trademark emotion

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Constructor: Steven Ginzburg

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: BY HOOK OR BY CROOK (37A: How 18-, 24-, 47- and 56-Across may be defined) — HOOK is the clue for the first and third theme answers, CROOK the clue for the second and fourth.

Word of the Day: CROOKn.

  1. An implement or tool, such as a bishop's crosier or a shepherd's staff, with a bent or curved part.
  2. A part that is curved or bent like a hook.
  3. A curve or bend; a turn: a crook in the path.
  4. Informal. One who makes a living by dishonest methods. (answers.com)

Very EASY (29A: "Careful, now!") except in the theme answers, which are essentially unclued until 37A is discovered (and even then the relationship between BY HOOK OR BY CROOK and the theme answers isn't self-evident). Theme answers are somewhat arbitrary phrases, passable definitions of "HOOK" or "CROOK" but chosen more for reasons of rotational symmetry than for aptness. RACKETEER, for instance, could have been a million things — that definition of "CROOK" is very, very broad. SHEPHERD'S CANE took me the longest (of all the theme answers) by far — even as I was writing its last letters in, I was thinking "is that a thing?" Aside from TYR (a recent Word of the Day, 9D: 49-Down war god) and "EADIE" (which I also singled out for examination not that long ago), everything else was right over the plate today, with CHOP SHOP being the most interesting entry by far.

Theme answers:

18A: SHARP TURN (hook)


56A: RACKETEER (crook)

Had the most trouble with 34D: Utah, Omaha and others, on D-Day (code names), as my brain wanted only "BEACHES," and even with CODE in place I refused to believe that the answer was something as generic as CODE NAMES. It's a perfectly accurate answer for the clue, but the clue misdirected me with its beachness. Probably intentional. I like that there is a kind of boxing subtheme in the puzzle, with both TKO (36D: Fight ender, for short) and CUT (41A: Director's "Stop!") hovering right above SWINGING PUNCH. More martial action at the KWON in Tae KWON do (38D). And then HE-MAN underneath at 59A: Rambo type). If we extend the subtheme to cartoon boxing, then BOING works as well (32D: Spring sound).


  • 1A: Moody's rates them (bonds) — completely and utterly blanked on this. Needed almost every cross. Ugh.
  • 15A: Gross, in kidspeak (icky) — yeah ... KIDspeak ... 'cause I never say this.
  • 23A: "_____ Was a Lady" (Ethel Merman tune) — the insidious thing about this title is that if you don't know it, and you're given a fill-in-the-blank clue like this, the name that wants to go in there is SADIE (my downfall last time this name appeared). EADIE doesn't even rhyme with "lady!" Here, the "E" cross is easy ... unless you have some reason for believing there might be PSAs in your frozen vegetables (19D: Accompaniers of carrots in a Birds Eye package => PEAS).
  • 64A: "Guarding _____" (1994 MacLaine movie) ("Tess") — did anyone actually see this? I think Nicolas Cage was Shirley MacLaine's bodyguard in this. Seems an odd / obscurish clue for a Tuesday (though a gimme for me), harder than [Hardy heroine], though easier than, say, [Poet Gallagher].
  • 3D: Food package datum (net weight) — man I dislike the word "datum." The most irritating singular form in the English language.
  • 6D: Baseball cap part (visor) — more often called the "brim," I think.
  • 7D: Needed a massage, maybe (ached) — I'm there. LOMI LOMI, take me away. In related news, today is the first day of the new semester for me.
  • 8D: Precursor of reggae (ska) — I always think of reggae as a precuror of SKA. Weird.
  • 30D: Epitome of simplicity (ABC) — With this type of clue, I'm always torn between ABC and PIE.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


dk 7:50 AM  

Just waltzed through this one. My only problem was spelling BOTANY as boteny until I go to EADIE which I knew for some reason.

Today is recovering from State Fair gluttony day in the dk household. No new food on a stick but found some macaroons to die for and had maple syrup flavored soda that was surprisingly good.

This years big pig was so so, but the giant vegetables (yes including a beet and string beans) delivered.

CODENAMES was my favorite.

dk 7:51 AM  

that would be got to EDIE that I knew...

John 7:58 AM  

Had SADIE first, before PEAS.

And Yes, I have seen "Gaurding Tess".

Anonymous 8:09 AM  

Icky puzzle. Flowerlady9

Jeffrey 8:26 AM  

Nice puzzle. Fastest Tuesday ever.

Newbie 8:37 AM  

Easy puzzle, though got bogged down in the SE corner for a bit. Re: Rex's comments about Ska and Eadie - my thoughts exactly!

joho 8:44 AM  

I enjoyed this puzzle, seemed just right for a Tuesday.

Liked OPERA over ARTSY. RAW AHI. And when dogs get FLEAS which are PESTS they BARK!


Thanks Steven Ginzburg ... so much better than yesterday.

Jim in Chicago 8:46 AM  

The word of the day should be something that isn't in the puzzle - FEWER.

The clue for 48D just makes my teeth hurt. The checkout sign needs to read "10 items or FEWER". There is at least one major grocery chain I won't shop in for this single reason. Whole Foods, among others, gets it correct.

Anonymous 8:49 AM  

A shepherd's crook is a staff...not
really considered a cane. A cane is
meant to be leaned on while walking. The shepherd's crook is more of a protective weapon.

Elaine 8:52 AM  

I'm in the "Sadie was a Lady" crowd, and felt disappointed I had to put in EADIE. Have never heard of it; will add it to Trivia in the overcrowded closet of my brain.

Otherwise, easy-peasy--theme answers included. Along with yesterday's, this reminds me of why I stopped doing MTW puzzles.

As of Sunday, we're heading off to TN, KY, WV, and OH--17 days away from NYT. Is there a methadone clinic for puzzle withdrawal symptoms?

Humorlesstwit 8:58 AM  

I too think of reggae as a precursor to SKA, probably because reggae preceded SKA in my consciousness. It takes an alarming amount of documentary evidence to convince me that my perceptions don't override reality. Way, way too much.

@Jim in Chicago - I'm with you there. I find it difficult to watch baseball, having to listen to "He's leading the league in hits with men in scoring position with less than two outs" I scream at the TV "Since when are there partial outs? Is he batting with 1a man on second and 1 1/2 outs? It's fewer than two outs you idiots!" Scares my wife, the dogs, quite possibly the neighbors.

ArtLvr 8:59 AM  

Fun and quite an original concept, well executed! I enjoyed new fill like CAKY, CHOPSHOP, and CODENAMES. I liked Joho's doggy connections too!

I'll never forget the fierce shepherd in Greece who threatened the little car I was riding in down to Cape Sunium south of Athens. My host whispered that we were not to move, not to say a word and above all not to show any expression. The old man might have smashed the huge crook at us for being in the way of his flock... Archaic HE-MAN, very scary!

PIX 9:00 AM  

@9D: “war god” = TYR. Professor Wikipedia says that Tyr became Tiw in Old English which became Tiwsday which became Tuesday. Today happens to be Tuesday. Coincidence or planned?

Anonymous 9:01 AM  

Why should "Eadie" rhyme with "Lady"? Song titles don't normally rhyme. That song has family lore for me---my grandparents had an Irish wolfhound who was such an imperfect specimen they had to sign some paper promising never to breed her, and so they named her Eadie, because she was a lady, though her past was shady....

@Jim in Chicago: I actually thought it was clever to make the puzzle word "items," saving us all from the pain of giving "less" even the marginal endorsement of "well, it's the one that fits so I guess that's what the constructor wants me to fill in." I suspect Ginzburg is on our side.


JannieB 9:06 AM  

Much fresher and more fun than yesterday. Never saw the Eadie business (was doing the downs in that corner) so no problem there. Really no bumps or bruises today- feel so much better than I did this weekend.

PlantieBea 9:07 AM  

Easy breezy okay Tuesday. Nothing to add.

@dk: I heard a piece on NPR last night about an interesting state fair event of "husband calling".

@ Jim in Chicago: Agree and thank you for pointing this out.

slypett 9:34 AM  

Rex, allow me put my oar in the water on the matter of baseball cap lingo: The sticking-out part is called a visor, in-so-far-as anyone mentions it at all. I mean, no one will come up to you and say, "Your visor is looking mighty perky today."

I'll just bet there are countervailing opinions on this .

Ulrich 9:39 AM  

I always think the sign should read "12 items or else"; i.e. if you exceed the limit, you'll be publicly flogged and then banned from the store forever.

Ah, the puzzle--yes, much more satisfying than yesterday's. easy, too, except that I didn't know what a rush week is, nor did I know the movie, and therefore had to guess the T in TESS, using the old go-through-the-alphabet method, which I did--thank you very much SG!

CoolPapaD 9:41 AM  

Overall, not too much to add - also fell into the SADIE den, but quickly found my way out. My favorite clue / answer combo was the Woody Allen - ANGST was so obvious without any crosses!

@Elaine - I feel your pain. I just got back from a five day trip from AZ to... the Minnesota state fair. The only positive about being away from the NYT for that long was that I discovered a new puzzle that I love. Picked up a copy of The Onion in a restaurant, and the puzzle (who knew it had a puzzle?), edited by Ben Tausig, was fabulous - nice and edgy! The fair was the most unbelievable collection of humanity that I've ever seen - 120,000 people wall-to-wall! After years of hearing about pork-chop-on-a stick, I had to experience it. dk - that was a HUGE pig - my kids loved that, and the sow next to her who had about 50 piglets suckling simultaneously.

@Jim in Chicago - less / fewer has always stuck in my craw, but it doesn't bother me nearly as much as when a print advert or article uses "it's" improperly - makes me nuts!

HudsonHawk 9:51 AM  

I had SHEPHERD'S BANE momentarily before the definition emerged, and was ready to complain aboout BAKY.

Yep, I've seen Guarding TESS. Austin Pendleton had a significant role in the movie and lives in my neighborhood. Last time I saw him was on the 6 train...doing the NYT crossword puzzle.

Glitch 9:51 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Greene 9:57 AM  

I believe this was covered last time EADIE appeared in the puzzle, but here's a recap. The song "Eadie Was a Lady" appeared in the long forgotten musical comedy Take a Chance (1932). This was Merman's third hit show after her startling debut in Girl Crazy (1930) and she played her trademarked tough nightclub singer. It was a secondary role, but she got the best songs including "You're an Old Smoothie" and, of course, "Eadie Was a Lady," a sort of blowsy comic saga of a loose woman that owed a bit to "Sam and Delilah" and even more to "Frankie and Johnny."

"Eadie" was a major hit in its day and served as Merman's signature tune until it was replaced by "There's No Business Like Show Business" in the 1940s and "Everything's Coming Up Roses" in the 1950s.

Here's a sanitized version of Ethel doing "Eadie" from a television program in the 1950s. The lyrics have been cleaned up quite a bit, but you get the idea. I don't think this clip was available last time we had Eadie in the puzzle.

As for the rest of the puzzle, I liked it just fine. Little bit more meat than yesterday and not quite so easy.

Stan 9:59 AM  

Cool puzzle, and nicely clued. It was fun to have everything but the center filled in and still no idea where the theme was going.

PuzzleGirl 9:59 AM  

I like Ulrich's take on the express lane sign!

@pednsg: You can find the Onion puzzle online every Wednesday, here!

Liked the puzzle. Smooth for a Tuesday. CHOP SHOP definitely the best answer in the grid.

Anonymous 10:00 AM  


I'm with you all the way on the misplaced apostrophe. A friend of mine is recruiting volunteers to wave banners that say THE APOSTROPHE: IT'S RARE TO SEE ITS CORRECT USE.

Elaine2 10:06 AM  

Hi -- to Rex -- yes, I've seen Guarding Tess. It's not profound, but I enjoyed the interaction of McLaine's and Cage's characters in this movie. He plays the head of the Secret Service team assigned to her, the widow of a former president.

Anyway -- puzzle was fun, did not love the theme.

Hobbyist 10:20 AM  

Yay for Jim who read my mind. One chain here in Va. corrected itself owing to customers' uproar but Chicken Out still exhorts its consumers to "eat good."
The decline and fall of grammar is so depressing that I wax maudlin at times.

CoolPapaD 10:29 AM  

Thanks, PuzzleGirl! The one I did was Matt Gaffney's sh** - themed puzzle!

@Frances - I'd wave that banner any time - if I could find that on a bumper sticker, I'd slap it on in a heartbeat!

Kurt 10:39 AM  

Really liked the puzzle. Really, really liked Rex's commentary. Really, really, really liked all of the back and forth on less, fewer and or else.

retired_chemist 10:43 AM  

An OK puzzle. Agree that, technically, "fewer" is correct and "less" not in the 48D clue, but you do see the sign.

Agree with Ulrich about supermarket lines and the honoring in the breach of the 10 (or 12) item limit. Perhaps the practice has an architectural basis.

Mies van der Rohe said "Less is more." So those in the fast checkout line who have fifteen or twenty items are simply recognizing the incorrectness of "less" and, not knowing how to deal with such a grammatical faux pas, equating it to "more" per Mies. I'll have to try that sometime....

Two Ponies 10:47 AM  

Peas two days in a row?
I have never seen Noodges before but it's a funny looking word.
Agree about less/fewer but
I hate "You've got mail."
You have got mail?
No, either you have mail or you have gotten mail.

mac 10:49 AM  

Nice, professional puzzle today, with some very good clues and answers. My favorite: boing.

I moved South from the NW, and after I got shepherd.... I thought we might have a food theme: ..pies?
Everything was gettable through crosses, even Eadie, no I didn't think Sadie. Tyr is becoming as crosswordese as Thor. Never heard of noodges, another word learned! Agree with the griping on its, it's, less and fewer; my personal one is "exetera".

I saw Guarding Tess; nice movie, Shirley MacLaine is very good in it.

Susan 11:14 AM  

I didn't find this puzzle very hard, but my time wasn't very good, which was a mystery, until I remembered typing the first half one-handed with my cat on my lap.

@Humorlesstwit: "He's leading the league in hits with men in scoring position with less than two outs" The less/fewer thing is what makes you scream at the TV when you hear this? For me it would be the mind-numbing boredom induced by a game so dull it has to manufacture interest through complicated statistics: "Well, you know, Bob, this is the first time since 1986 that a left-handed pitcher in the AL has pitched a three-hitter in September when his team was 71/2 games behind in the standings."

jeff in chicago 11:27 AM  

Apostrophe people: Apostrophe Abuse is a web site that may amuse you.

Found the puzzle to all right. Smooth fill, but not much zing. Liked CHOPSHOP. CAKY is ugly.

Oscar 11:27 AM  

Easy peasy.

Ruth 11:45 AM  

@Susan, LOL! I don't hate baseball but I'm pretty sure I heard that exact comment during a game once!

Humorlesstwit 11:46 AM  

@Susan: Sure, and as Karl "Lefty" Marx said, "Baseball is the opiate of the masses". Some of us just need our opiates, preferably uninterupted by (picayune) bad grammar.

Stan 12:01 PM  

Ska (oversimplified)

Ska: 1960s, Jamaica (The Skatalites, Desmond Dekker, Roland Alphonso)

Ska revival: 1980s, England (The English Beat, The Specials)

Ska-punk: 1990s, U.S., esp. Orange County, CA (No Doubt, Reel Big Fish)

fikink 12:05 PM  

@Humorlesstwit, always heard it about religion, never heard it about baseball. Soon it will be video games. Mafia Wars is in the running.

@Stan, thanks for the context!

Karen from the Cape 12:11 PM  

I had two errors that I didn't double check: I put HEE with HAW (and wanted WE AIM to please at the cross and couldn't get it) and SHEPHERD'S LANE which was weird because I was imagining a shepherd's pie with the peas and the carrots and all...wow, LAKY is a real word, a bright red from dissolved corpuscles.

And I feel like I've seen Guarding Tess several times in repeats on the tv. A good lightweight flick with some memorable scenes (like the grocery shopping).

Stephan 12:13 PM  

I didn't care for this theme. It was one of those days where realizing what the relationships are between the theme clues elicits no reaction.

Greene 12:22 PM  

@Jeff in Chicago: What a funny web site: page after page of apostrophe errors. My copy of "Eats Shoots and Leaves" has a photo of militant punctuationista Lynne Truss on the back cover "defacing" the movie poster Two Weeks Notice with a well placed apostrophe. You gotta love a woman like that.

@Karen from the Cape: I too had SHEPHARD'S LANE the first time through the grid. I have no idea why. Fixed it later. LAKY is a real word? Awesome.

Blackhawk 12:31 PM  

classic Tuesday puzzle. breezy but clever. an original hook (so to speak). nice job.

CoolPapaD 12:36 PM  

@Jeff in Chicago - that site is priceless. Now I know what to do whenever I spot an error - I'll post a pic on it's site!!!! (hee hee)

@Rex - Since this is my first day back to civilization, I have to let you know that your Wonder Years-style pic on Sunday made my day (yesterday)!

Charles Bogle 12:48 PM  

Ouch another bummer. Today's "New York Times puzzle" in the Seattle Times is not what you all have--and it's a real stinker to boot!
WA ew

Ulrich 12:51 PM  

@pednsg: Youll have your hand's full with THIS site!

@re-chem.: Did you know that Mies was no the inventor of "less is more"? It appears earlier in Robert Browning's Andrea del Sarto monologue.

Noam D. Elkies 12:56 PM  

@PIX: interesting point. Is Tyr likelier to appear in a Tuesday grid than any other? What of Wotan/Odin, Thor, et al.?

@Ulrich: I like your version of the sign too. I suppose everybody here has already seen the "Do you go to Harvard and can't count, or at MIT and can't read?" joke.

Not much to add to the puzzle discussion. Not sure why "datum" should be so irritating; e.g. is it worse than "erratum" or "agendum"? It seems the word Datum is much more common in German, used for "date" (as in September 1, not the fruit), which indeed derives from the same Latin root; Ulrich may clarify.


fikink 12:57 PM  

@Ulrich, Nice! Lets say you are very subtle!

Clark 1:11 PM  

@Two Ponies -- “You’ve got mail” didn’t sound odd to me until you mentioned it. Interesting. Turns out that ‘gotten’ is the past participle in American English while ‘got’ is the past participle in English English. I poked around just a bit on this. The most interesting web page I found on the subject was this one: gotten/got .

Ulrich 1:18 PM  

@NDE: The funny thing is that the plural is not Data, but Daten, which means not only "dates", but also what's [!] called in English, in all seriousness, "data items" (now, THAT is cringe-inducing)...

BTW the fruit is called Dattel in German.

@fikink:Thx--I guess I found another soulmate here.

3 and out!

CoolPapaD 1:33 PM  

@Ulrich - I can't see the link!

Anonymous 1:38 PM  

Could someone please explain to a non-football watcher what LGS means? (46 down) My googling of the term leads me down a garden path.

Stan 1:38 PM  

@Ulrich: My wife thought your 12 items comment was "priceless." We are always getting in line behind these people...

3 & out.

Unknown 1:50 PM  

@stan, yes!

great wikiread on the emergence of ska.

joho 1:50 PM  

@Anon 1:38 ... LGS = Left Guards

dk 2:29 PM  

@plantbea, do they whisper sweet and low?

Doc John 2:40 PM  

I thought it was pretty easy, too.

Apostrophe abuse is like nails on a chalkboard to me; especially making words plural by adding apostrophe-s. My rule of thumb to the uninitiated is "if you think it needs an apostrophe, it doesn't."

Which, coincidentally, is one of the pet peeves of Lynn "Eats Shoots and Leaves" Truss.

jeff in chicago 2:41 PM  

You apostrophe fans may also like The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks.

chefwen 2:53 PM  

Headline in the Honolulu Advertiser a few weeks ago - WHERE THE SURF'S AT, Yeah, I wrote them a letter; no response, wonder why.
They are probably still trying to figure out what is wrong about it.

@Elaine - you can find the NYT just about anyplace you go these days, I even found it in the God forsaken place of Menominee, MI where I have to go to visit the MIL. Just head to the largest grocery store and take it to the one item or less line.

Liked the puzzle but fell into the Sadie trap also 'til I found the peas and had wide instead of VAST at first.

JannieB 3:11 PM  

Sign in one of my favorite grocery stores: "Incontinents" - above the aisle where they sell Depends.

Ben 3:21 PM  

As a former ska nut, I can tell you that it did indeed precede reggae - something that sad ska fans nationwide, disgruntled by the inexplicable social acceptability of reggae vis-a-vis ska (i.e., you'll hear Bob Marley at a frat party but not, say, Mephiskapheles or The Slackers), cling to for dear life.

PlantieBea 3:41 PM  

@dk: No sweet nothings, although one would think that might be the most effective. You can listen for yourself.


One of my cousins in Alaska told me that he saw a billing for a skunk demonstration yesterday at their state fair. There's so much more to these events than food on a stick :-)

sanfranman59 3:43 PM  

Tuesday midday report of relative difficulty (see my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

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

Tue 8:15, 8:30, 0.97, 49%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Tue 4:21, 4:23, 0.99, 50%, Medium

SethG 3:49 PM  

chefwen, I am also still trying to figure out what is wrong about it.

I liked this fewer than I did yesterday's.

Victor in Rochester 4:00 PM  

I enjoyed the puzzle, cringed over the less/fewer issue and came to write about it only to find that this erudite group is "all over it". @jeff in chicago, thanks for the blog referral. (Note period outside of quotation mark to begin another favorite punctuation kerfuffle.)

Wegmans (no apostrophe, another story) supermarkets, headquartered here in Rochester, gets less/fewer right.

Unknown 4:08 PM  

Chop Shop is a lovely answer, so much so in fact that I hesitatingly filled it in with no crosses thinking, it can't be...here's to being wrong.

I didn't care for the theme though. Bit, meh. :shrug:

Last letter I filled in was the D in Drs.

Me: MASH, that was the doctors in the war, what were they? Oh, ERS? no, that can't be. Oooh, ORS. Oh, wait...Does Moody's rate Bongs? GRS? Hmmm... WTF! OH, right!

Here's to stupidity.

fergus 4:21 PM  

Jim in Chicago -- I'm also one of those who fuss over the grammar of signs, especially at places of business. Last week at the Whole Foods, there was a flat-out omission in the note below the Chef's Special: A salesperson, if you need to know.

Anonymous 4:29 PM  

My favorite sign of all times - Attached to the top of a beat up old Chevy, advertising for their advertising service on top of same beat up old Chevy,

"You're competitors are reading this sign now."

chefbea 4:40 PM  

Never got my puzzle delivered to my inbox today. Had to spend $2.00 for the dead tree version. Was in and out of the store in record time cuz I had only 2 items and was able to get in the 10 or fewer lane

Rex Parker 4:40 PM  

"Did you mean: Woody Allen's trademark emoticon?"

Sure, why not?

Elaine 5:00 PM  

Will actually be in wilderness areas much of the time, but I will check with the skunks and possums in case they don't want their NYT page w/ the puzzle...

Did you know that you can carry a little "Correct-It" white-out tool and a Sharpie pen at all times for Apostrophe Catastrophe events?
My personal fave find:
Oh, and the reason I started carrying weapons of mass correction: I was substitute teaching and couldn't stand the misspelled/punctuated teacher-made posters in the classrooms. We must all try to do our part!

Anonymous 5:04 PM  

@JanieB Maybe the grocery store was describing the people who need depends rather than the condition for which they need them. Those people with incontinence are the incontinents.

fikink 5:10 PM  

@seamus, I love the idea of Moody's rating bongs!! ;)

Shamik 5:19 PM  

@Elaine: No methadone clinic needed. You could print up a bunch of puzzles before you go...plenty online or actually...go buy a crossword puzzle book. They come in all levels of difficulty.

Easy-medium for me at 4:36. Loved CHOPSHOP.

@Ulrich: Like your take on the speed aisle. Count me as one of those people who count other people's grocery...and apologize profusely on the very rare times I've had more than the stated allowed number.

BTW...is buying 12 individual cans of cat food considered 12 items or 1 item? They're cheaper buying them individually vs. the 12-pack.

Shamik 5:20 PM  

Oh yeah, and count me as one of those who has seen "Guarding Tess" and I liked it.

bodz 5:49 PM  

I think that CHOP SHOP (without question mark!) is pushing it a tad too far beyond a Tuesday

Glitch 6:13 PM  


I regularly purchase 6 bottles of selter at a time, often putting me just over the "limit".

I put only one on the "belt" and tell the clerk "I have six of those".

Old time clerks punch 6 and scan once, newbies scan the same bottle six times. The former keeps me within the spirit of the rule, the latter is rationalized as not my fault.

The receipt however, lists the item count as six either way --- busted!


One of my favorite signs at the mall:

"Manicure's While U Wait"

"Speaking" of signs, the tangents in the comments are a "sign" of a "just OK" puzzle. But educational none the less ;-)


Jeffrey 6:26 PM  

All this punctuation talk is fascinating given crosswords don'''t use any!!!!!!!!!;;'"":,.,?.....

Doc John 6:41 PM  
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slypett 6:53 PM  

Elaine: You needn't be so quick to ascribe ignorance to others: PEACH'S could be correct! Perhaps the apostrophe stands for the missing E, for which there was no room on the sign. I mean, it's possible, isn't it?

Doc John 6:54 PM  

@ Crosscan- that's not exactly true. There was that one puzzle in recent memory that did use punctuation in some fashion.

retired_chemist 7:03 PM  

@ Ulrich - didn't know that. Also just discovered that the Isaac Newton quote about seeing farther because he stood on the shoulders of giants was originally said by Bernard of Chartres in the twelfth century.

Two Ponies 7:03 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Two Ponies 7:09 PM  

@ chefwen and SethG, I looked at chefwen's example and took it as the contraction of "surf is" so it is a correct usage, right?
@ Elaine, For me Weapons of Mass Correction is my word (or phrase) of the day!
@ Clark, Thanks. I'm surprised AOL has not heard more about that.

fergus 8:09 PM  

That's a tricky dilemma when you're in another teacher's classroom. I've felt more like a guerrilla surreptitiously adding something, as long as I have the right color of pen. Only enough to make the teacher feel like he/she had it right all along. Too timid to use any more explosive a device. Elaine, you're bold.

Elaine 8:24 PM  

@Xman et al.
Alas, I am in Arkansas.
No, no chance on a "missing E"
On the other side of the sign, the worried scribe had written:

I knew you'd try to git me, an' I wuz waitin'!

@ Fergus,
Trust me, I am a total Stealth Fixer. I wait til the students are out of the room, even.
Now that I am retired, many fewer targets! ("Less targets!" cackled the old crone! "Guillotine!")

Mike Lewis 9:01 PM  

Whoa, as a teacher myself, I would not be happy if a substitute changed made changes to posters in my room. I often make intentional mistakes, to see who catches them. If no one mentions an error (which doesn't mean that no one has noticed it), then I'll make it an assignment: find and explain the error on the signs. Often students will flounder and find errors in things that aren't actually wrong, if they're grasping for straws.

I'm a math teacher, so my intentional errors usually aren't in punctuation usage or grammar but instead the mis-statement of a formula or concept, but I would not be surprised if other teachers don't do the same thing with their quotation marks or apostrophes.

Mike Lewis 9:01 PM  

Whoa, as a teacher myself, I would not be happy if a substitute changed made changes to posters in my room. I often make intentional mistakes, to see who catches them. If no one mentions an error (which doesn't mean that no one has noticed it), then I'll make it an assignment: find and explain the error on the signs. Often students will flounder and find errors in things that aren't actually wrong, if they're grasping for straws.

I'm a math teacher, so my intentional errors usually aren't in punctuation usage or grammar but instead the mis-statement of a formula or concept, but I would not be surprised if other teachers don't do the same thing with their quotation marks or apostrophes.

Elaine 9:08 PM  

Ha, ha. Mike, that is so cute!
(Trust me. "Turn on the moniter.")

I taught mainly lower-functioning students; a wrong example never helps the struggling learner unless flagged, starred, and lit with neon. Even then, a suspect approach IMHO.

mac 9:39 PM  

I was at the Whole Foods in Westport, CT and saw a sign "12 items or less". When I pointed it out to the cassiere she said: "We know, Whole Foods uses "fewer" but this is still from the former supermarket, Wild Oats"!!

chefwen 10:13 PM  

@Two Ponies - Where the surf is would be correct, where the surf is AT is just wrong. Favorite being where are you AT? Aaargh!
Hear it all the time.

SethG 10:49 PM  

It's not wrong, it just means something different. 'At' is not redundant, as it is in "where are you at"--it indicates the central importance of those surf locations. William Safire likened 'where it's at' to "what the French still call au courant", and it gets a separate usage definition in some dictionaries.

Thank god theirs another puzzle soon...

Charles Bogle 10:52 PM  

Last and late...finally found today's puzzle. It's a lot better than what was in the Seattle Times-which was really from hunger--but in my view not as much fun as today's LA Times. Like all of you, I loved CHOPSHOPS and CODENAMES. And Rex thanks very much for the definition of CROOK-never realized I had no true idea what by hook or by crook meant...interesting how misused it has become over time!

ArtLvr 11:15 PM  

I've got a secret -- I don't think "you've got mail" is wrong... I've forgotten why.


Mike Lewis 11:17 PM  

@Elaine -
I have found this "suspect approach" to be very effective. In my classroom, it works quite well. Your mileage, obviously, may vary.

dk 11:30 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
dk 11:31 PM  

True words:

Hospital administrator made a sign for my door: phuchiatrist.

Most pompous teacher in the school where I volunteered wrote out the dessert on the menu: Puddin

In both cases above the scribes were well educated and adamant they were correct.

@artlvr, you haven't either :0

slypett 11:37 PM  

Elaine: Thanks for the tussle. Just watched a film about lady wrestlers. They were a magnificent sel4ction of individualists.

sanfranman59 2:04 AM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

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

Mon 6:16, 6:55, 0.91, 22%, Easy-Medium
Tue 8:15, 8:30, 0.97, 49%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:19, 3:40, 0.90, 24%, Easy-Medium
Tue 4:14, 4:22, 0.97, 49%, Medium

liquid el lay 2:57 AM  

Days like this make me more and more a fan of the themeless.

There were some fun words, but they tend to make you wish for more. Badly wanted RACKETEER to be ROCKETEER, don’t know why- just like the word.

SHARP TURN was cool but the other themes were awkward and wobbly. What’s the allure of this theme stuff anyway?

ANGST BARK, the VAST ICKY, BONDS OPERA, ARMS BASE, OVERT PESTS have nice resonances. RACKETEER HEMAN is kind of funny, too.

I was shocked(!) by SAYSHITO.. kind of daring, funny.

Just curious: Is 7, say, less than 10… Or am I mistaken?

@chefwen: what the heck is wrong with “Where The Surf’s At”?

andrea boing michaels 3:08 AM  

Really liked the puzzle, but can't say exactly why, but I liked that it was sort of a double theme explained by a single line.

Still laughing 90 comments later at Ulrich's Or Else and the idea of Elaine sneaking around with a pen, which I used to do, but it's endless and hopeless.
It's esp odd on signs that a printing company made...

But just yesterday in huge type the headline of the SF Examiner misspelled the word BALANCE.

It was "Fate of hotel hangs in the Balence". I looked all over the website trying to find out who(m) to call! I imagine the copywriter's job now hangs in the "balence". Our major "newspaper"!

Was in the same catfood dilemma two nights ago and tried to give one can and announce softly that I had 20 (big sale on Friskies!)
The guy had to ring it up 20 times saying Cala had removed the quantity keys!!!!!!! He then went on a tirade about how no one in management had ever been a checker.
I offered to call someone and protest in his behalf! (And then I slunk out with all my cans, now a confirmed cat lady AND a "12 items or else" scofflaw.)

These discussions about the Minnesota State Fair are literally making my heart bleed I feel so nostalgic.
(Oops, did I just use "literally" wrong? Today's grammar notes are making me feel ridiculously self-conscious!)

The other night I was also explaining to my neighbor the difference between less and fewer.
She was eager to learn, and had asked, but by the end, I felt like such a pedantic asshole that it suddenly didn't seem to matter any more!
That said, I can't wait to check out the "quote" blog!
(Is there one for someone who uses too many exclamation marks and emoticons?!) ;)

And of course there is/are TONS of punctuation in crosswords...in the clues...and it's crucial!

Anonymous 3:59 AM  

Oh, "datum" is one of my favorite words. I only use it, though, for a significant data point... something that deserves some weight. Otherwise I say "data point", gleefully. Only dopes insist on using "data" as a plural, the enlightened approach is to say "the data(set) proves.." Tell me "the data prove.." and I know you are a grammadant fool!

Sometimes I say "these datum.." to emphisize that I am speaking of a descrete few, and significant, points of data.

Ok, honestly I could say "these data points...", but I like where I'm going here.

Anonymous 12:10 PM  

@andrea boing michaels said...


But just yesterday in huge type the headline of the SF Examiner misspelled the word BALANCE.


Our major "newspaper"!


I didn't know that the SF Examiner was still published! Last time I looked it was a freebie, distributed for the advertising revenue. There is a website, but I can't find any way to subscribe to a printed version.

Our major "newspaper" (retaining your well-considered quotes) is the SF Chronicle, which is on life support. Soon we (the SF Bay Area) will have none.

But the NYT will still be available to preserve our sanity.


Waxy in Montreal 3:35 PM  

Roger Bannister famously passed Landy as he (Landy) looked over his wrong shoulder in the straightaway of that famous "Miracle Mile" during the 1954 British Empire Games (now Commonwealth Games) held in Vancouver, B.C. Saw it live on TV which in itself was quite an accomplishment for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) back then.

Waxy in Montreal 2:06 PM  

Sorry, the comment above refers to yesterday's syndicated puzzle. I'm flummoxed as to why it appears today.

Anonymous 7:39 PM  

your crossword puzzle was no help for homework

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