Smear with wax old-style / SUN 9-12-10 / What Fels-Naptha banished old ads / Alderaan royal / Watts who hosted 1990s talk show / Swiftian brute

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Constructor: Paula Gamache

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: "IT'S GOING TO COST YOU" — ... an ARM and a LEG (a rebus puzzle with five ARM squares in the western section and five LEG squares in the eastern)

Word of the Day: CERE (42D: Smear with wax, old-style) —

tr.v., cered, cer·ing, ceres.
To wrap in or as if in cerecloth.*

[Middle English ceren, ciren, from Old French cirer, to cover with wax, from Latin cērāre. See cerate.]


Cloth coated with wax, formerly used for wrapping the dead. (

• • •

The theme, I liked, though I'm really surprised it hasn't been done before. I know I've seen a CATs and DOGs puzzle, and I could've sworn I'd seen an ARM and LEG puzzle, but apparently not [whoops, spoke too soon: Thursday, Apr. 26, 2007]. Theme leads into some interesting (DOUBLE-GLAZED) and not so interesting (CALENDAR MONTHS) territory. I enjoyed wrestling with a Sunday puzzle (for once) — most Sundays of late have been Tues/Wed level rather than the Thurs level they're supposed to be — but in the end, today, I found too much of the fill slightly ridiculous, and the cluing just a little SMARMy. At least half a dozen French words/places/ideas ... literary stuff that even this literary Ph.D. found a little recherché (now there's a pretentious word), e.g. MONODRAMA (62A: Beckett's "Krapp's Last Tape," e.g.), MALLARMÉ (62D: "L'Après-midi d'un faune" poet Stéphane ___), etc. ... but mainly it's the preponderance of Absurd proper nouns. I mean, name after name I'd simply never heard of. Some, I should have known (e.g. MBEKI, 67A: Mandela's presidential successor), but some ... let's start in the NE, where the second-most ridiculous clue of the puzzle resides: 25A: What Fels-Naptha banished, in old ads. Fels-Naptha? Fels ... Naptha? I could not design a more unlikely, or worse name than that. Is it a brand? A person? What kind of ads? How old? Must be Really old. Whoa, it seems to still exist. But even if I'd known what it was, I certainly had no way of knowing this alleged slogan. I figured Fels-Naptha was a hair dye—what else could TATTLE-TALE GRAY refer to? (just simple dinginess, I guess). But it appears to be a bar laundry soap. And this is a *theme* answer? Maybe you are all big Fels-Naptha users, I don't know. But the intersection of this utterly unheard-of slogan and "RHYE" (!?!??!), as well as ESAS (which could easily have been ESOS): just ugh. Whole section needs to be lashed (not UNLASHed, whatever the hell that is).

Worse, however, was the SW, where I finished with a blank square. Didn't even bother guessing. See, I would've quit this puzzle up at TATTLE-TALE GRAY / "RHYE" (18D: "Seven Seas of ___" (early Queen hit)) (in this puzzle, even the Queen hits are old) if I hadn't had to blog it. By the very end, I just called it quits and looked up the so-called adventure writer guy: looks like we've got FENN (109D: George Manville ___, English adventure writer). And SENNAS (122A: Some flowering shrubs). Those are "flowering?" I think of SENNA as a laxative. Not sure SENNAS would have occurred to me (if I'd bothered thinking/guessing). I was probably willing to entertain a large handful of letters in that "N" spot. But I didn't even care enough to be upset at that point. I was just glad to be done. One great consolation was getting raving email from a friend who was less happy than I was with this puzzle. Again, the basic idea is cute, and there are some winning answers here and there, but the corners were just too much Fail for me. Oh, and too many partials with "A" (at least four ... — would've been five but they went a different route on the SETA clue (87A: Botanical bristle).

Big structural plusses — ARMs and LEGs always stretch across two words, all Across theme answers exhibit rotational symmetry, and all ARMs are on one side of grid, all LEGs on the other. Nice work there.

Theme answers:
  • BEAR MARKET / "STAR MAN" (3D: David Bowie single with the lyric "If we can sparkle he may land tonight") — that's where I picked up the rebus...

  • DOUBLE-GLAZED (59A: Like some doughnuts and windows) / PHLEGM (Mmm, double-glazed phlegm...)
  • SOLAR MASS (61A: Unit of star measurement)/ ALARMS
  • WAR MEMORIALS (77A: Arc de Triomphe and Nelson's Column) / ARMANI
  • CALENDAR MONTHS (114A: April, May and June) / SMARM (you know what my favorite kind of months are? CALENDAR MONTHS. You don't want to mess around with any of those months that aren't in calendars. Really unreliable.) ("Lousy SMARCH weather!")

  • 4A: Electronic music pioneer Robert (MOOG) — of synthesizer fame
  • 19A: Cry after poor service? (LET) — boo! Poor service = fault or double fault. A LET is just a do-over. "Poor?" No.
  • 20A: River with the Reichenbach Falls (AARE) — crosswordiest river of all.

  • 27A: Where N.B.A. coach Rick Pitino played college ball (U. MASS) — guessed it, based on fact it was "U" something and I knew Pitino had coached in Boston.
  • 28A: Relating to songbirds (OSCINE) — strange: this is an odd word, but one I didn't even blink at. Must've seen it in xwords before.
  • 31A: French ice cream flavorer (MENTHE) — eat it on the SAONE while you sip your OAK-flavored Chardonnay, why don't you?
  • 48A: Heavenly body that humans will never set foot on (GAS PLANET) — ooh, this I like. A lot.
  • 52A: Alderaan royal (LEIA) — Yeah, that'll get googled.
  • 55A: Alternatively, in Internet lingo (OTOH) — on the other hand...
  • 81A: Bet in craps (PASS LINE) — Noooooo idea. Craps tends to conflict with my MONODRAMA-watching and MALLARMÉ-reading.
  • 84A: Company that introduced NutraSweet (SEARLE) — like OSCINE, a word I know without knowing why. SEARLE sounds like a mattress brand.
  • 101A: Mezzanotte is one (ORA) — and now we're just in a different part of Europe. So ... "midnight" is an "hour." OK.
  • 118A: Subject of the 2008 biography "Somebody" (BRANDO) — four proper nouns, three of which I've never heard of ... you cross them all with BRANDO and *this* is how you clue him??? I think this corner wants me to hate it.
  • 125A: Like a three-card monte player (SLY) — I think of the player as the pigeon, i.e. the idiot who's getting conned. The non-SLY one.
  • 38D: Kyushu volcano (ASO) — Now *that* is how you clue ASO! [Also, I cannot believe there is a MTAPO and a MTASO out there. Yikes.]
  • 40D: "Do I dare to ___ peach?" ("EAT A") — I dared to eat two today. Absolutely perfect. The best piece(s) of fruit I've had all year.
  • 41D: Rinkitink ___" (L. Frank Baum book) ("IN OZ") — please look at that section. The Downs are: Three partials and *$&#ing CERE!? (42D: Smear with wax, old-style). Painful (P.S. that CERE clue is one of my all-time "favorites"—beats the Fels-Naptha clue hands-down. It also raises the important question: what is the hip, new, modern word for smearing something in wax?)
  • 44D: Hooch holder at a ballgame (FLASK) — must be some context for "ballgame" that I don't get. I've been to ballgames, and guys just get hammered on beer and more beer.
  • 58D: Swiftian brute (YAHOO) — yeah, that'll get googled.
  • 75D: He taught Mowgli the law of the jungle (BALOO) — after AKELA, I'm out of "Jungle Book" characters.
  • 89D: Watts who hosted a 1990s talk show (ROLONDA) — I remember the 90s, vaguely, but I do NOT remember this person. She headlines a quartet of yuck names down there in the SW. OLAN I've heard of (all too often), but FENN, ROLONDA, and ERDOS (98D: Mathematician Paul)? Hell no. "But ERDOS is an eminent..." Yeah, yeah, I'm sure. He'd have been fine in a less obscure-name-drenched portion of the puzzle.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Why would anyone care about this? 12:22 AM  

Erdos was, essentially, a hobo. He just travelled from college to college, staying with people, writing a paper or two, then moving on after a week or so to the next college, next collaborator. Mathemiticians are rated by their "Erdos Number": 1 means you wrote a paper with Erdos, 2 means you wrote a paper with someone who wrote a paper with Erdos, ...

NDE's Erdos number is 2.

I don't know if Erdos had a bag, though I would assume so.

ArtLvr 1:03 AM  
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ArtLvr 1:05 AM  

ArtLvr said...
Spot on, Rex! I hadn't heard of the craps term, had to look up some of those names too. And as joon noted over at Amy's, I was surprised to see MALLARME without a rebus.

MBEKI/KUNTA didn't leap to mind, nor did FENN/ BRANDO/ERDOS -- but congrats to Noam for being a #2, I guess. I didn't bother to look up ROLANDA, as that was the only thing to fit in the end.

Favorite answers SMARM at 99D,and IDLE GOSSIP. I also got a kick out of TATTLETALE GRAY .

I really chuckled at 38D ASO, the Kyushu volcano, after all the comments about “Ah, so” here of late. No MIDDLE GROUND on that, seemingly.

Some of the rebuses made me a bit dizzy to look at, especially WARMEMORIALS, and I doubt if ENROOTS is reallly used much anywhere. OTOH I mostly enjoyed it though, and am quite impressed with Paula's clever theme.


Hungry Bird 1:39 AM  

None of my felonious buddies would ever say they were "in stir." In THE stir, yes. In stir never.

Coma in Sonoma 1:57 AM  

OAK is associated more with California Chardonnay than with French Chardonnay.

How is it that one with a lit. Ph.D. finds MONODRAMA (62A: Beckett's "Krapp's Last Tape," e.g.), MALLARMÉ (62D: "L'Après-midi d'un faune" poet Stéphane ___) a little recherché?

So many things blogger has not heard of! Caveat emptor.

Anonymous 2:19 AM

syndy 3:49 AM  

Is a monodrama watching someone play with themselves? guessed brando from the (I could'a been)somebody !but frankly my dear i stopped giving a damn

r.alphbunker 5:35 AM  

Needed three googles to get through. Thank God RP did not find this an easy one!

imsdave 8:01 AM  

I enjoyed most of the workout, but was absoluted snookered by the names in the SW, and ashamedly could not finish without cheating.

Put me in the disappointed camp with MALLARMÉ. Besides meaning absolutely nothing to me, it seems like a major constructing flaw.

Anonymous 8:48 AM  


JenCT 8:56 AM  

@Rex - agree with the three-card-monte player being the non-SLY one - had SAP there at first.

Had to Google to finish this. A lot. Pfflt (or however you spell it) - a Bronx cheer for this one.

Lonely in Manhattan 9:13 AM  

Outside of the hundred or so of you serious crossword fanatics, the point of the Sunday Crossword puzzle is a simple one. It is intended to be done in bed, with someone you care about, with coffee and bagles on the end tables. The process of solving it should be a soft, warm, cuddly one, engendering soft, warm, cuddly feelings. Inter-couple conversations should be "How did you know that?", "Remember when we did that", etc, not "How the F#$# am I supposed to know that", "You know, now that you mention it, these sheets are kind of a dingy gray"
I absolutely guarante you that this puzzle will set a record low for post Sunday puzzle solve coitus throughout the NY Metro region.

Bob Kerfuffle 9:15 AM  

Finished correctly, with a few good guesses. Familiarity with the name SEARLE got me to change BABOO to BALOO. But it was the FENN/SENNAS crossing which made me want to ask, Do we have a name for such? A Maleska Crossing, perhaps?

glimmerglass 9:16 AM  

Brando saved me in the SW. Never heard of the biography, but could never forget the line from On the Waterfront. (About the same time-frame as Fels-Naptha.) Didn't know senna had flowers, but I did know it was a plant. The rest of the SW is crosses.
Good puzzle, better than most Sundays recently. I'm angry that I misspelled Leica (Leika). Should have known that cere (not kere) had something to do with wax (cerecloth, etc.). Took longer than most Sundays -- and that's a good thing.

Evgeny 9:27 AM  

got stuck a little at MALLARME, too, writing 'arm' into one square and wondering a) what to do with the two missing letters and b) what a MEGArmhertz might be.

absolutely agree with Mr. Parker, a tedious puzzle. didn't even come close to finishing it.

the FLASK bit may be another European reference in that at all Champions League and Europa League matches only nonalcoholic beverages are sold. Hence, yours truly found himself sneaking said FLASK into stadiums quite a few times in the last couple of years.
The ballgame in question would be football, btw. No, wait, i mean soccer.

Isabella di Pesto 10:24 AM  

TARA was O'HARA's place, not BUTLER'S.

nanpilla 10:24 AM  

Very cute theme idea, but tedious is the right word to describe the solve. I'm old enough to vaguely remember TATTLE TALE GRAY, but it doesn't seem worthy of a theme entry in this century.

Would have been more anatomically correct if the arms had been on the top half and the legs on the bottom.

Anonymous 10:27 AM  

In the southern states, where college football is king and alcohol is not sold in the stadiums, smuggling in hootch in a flask is a Saturday tradition. in my day, said flask was often secreted under the gal's clothing as pockets and purses were searched at the student entrances but females weren't patted down. Ah the memories.

Anonymous 10:33 AM  

Why clue Rick Pitino as an NBA coach? He only coached in the NBA for 5 years, in college for 24 years, and is way more famous, and successful, as a college coach.

JC66 11:14 AM  

I sometimes think @Rex is too harsh in his criticism. Not today. This puzzle was an absolute slog. Too many negatives (most already mentioned) for me to go into.

BTW, In my neighborhood, hooch refers to liquor, not beer or wine, so FLASK was a gimme for me.

@ Bob Kerfuffle

I think the cross like FENN/SENNAS is referred to here as a Natick.

Noam D. Elkies 11:27 AM  

Got the rebus from 69D:E[LEG]IES. Great theme, though yes, the NE and SW are unfortunate — somewhat surprisingly so as I'd expect the more open sections of the grid to show most strain. I think I finished with no 123A:ERROR, though only thanks to guessing correctly at several places, including those corners and the last letter of 38D:ASO/54A:SEADOO (which looks like it should be kelp fertilizer). Also lucky to guess 42D:CERE correctly from an old just-so tale purporting to give the etymology of "sincere". [The modern word that Rex asks for is of course "wax".]

As a mathematician I'm not sure if I should be happy to see 98D:ERDÖS Pál in the grid (last seen in 2004) or sad that his given name is not given in the original Hungarian. (Yes, I'm one of literally thousands of mathematicians with an Erdös number of 2.) Anyway I'm happier to see his name than many others in this grid...

While I'm at it, here is a brief introduction to the Erdös legend, and another (warning: lowbrow humor) takeoff.

20A:AARE you sure it's the crosswordiest? YSER is a strong contender (and it's ahead 88-61 on xwordinfo).

I figured that 101A:ORA is used in Italian for both "hour" and "time" as in "what time is it", in which case "midnight" is indeed an example.

Maybe add 40D:EATA to your collection of French literary items in this grid: as I recall this is said to pun on at least two meanings of the French "peche" (with different accents on the e's), which can be either "peach" or "sin" (and also "fishing").

I thought the 44D:FLASK clue was for college students sneaking booze into (American) football games, which is said to be a long tradition as well.

[captcha = ptionspm = getting rid of more 51D:PH[LEG]M than a mere PTUI can accomplish]

Doug 11:47 AM  

Would have finished, but just became more PO'd as I moved south. All the obscure proper nouns really got to me, particularly the SW.

Liked the NE as I am (was) a huge Queen fan, so know the song well from their first and second albums. Great music!

David L 12:01 PM  

A big non-Sunday struggle, although I finished eventually after a variety of semi-educated guessing. Lots of obscure stuff, as others have said -- I had a vague memory of this Watts person as ROLANDA, not ROLONDA, which made PROFORMA very hard to see for a long time.

And since this puzzle has made me a bit peevish, let me add that I don't think Nelson's column qualifies as a WARMEMORIAL, since it's a monument to the man himself rather than to any particular military engagement. Washington DC has statues of generals on horses scattered throughout -- I wouldn't call any of them war memorials, although we have quite a number of those as well.

PuzzleGirl 12:02 PM  

I'm generally a fan of Paula's puzzles and, like Rex, thought the theme was great and welcomed the idea of struggling on a Sunday. But wow. Did not like. Tedious x infinity. The French, the jet boat, the French, the Beckett, the French … this puzzle's Arty Factor(tm) was in the red zone. I'm gonna go watch SpongeBob just to even things out.

Mel Ott 12:18 PM  

Liked this puzzle a lot. Then again I enjoy rebuses.

Loved the clue for the tired old crosswordy river AARE. Reichenbach Falls was the scene of Sherlock Holmes's death at the hands of Prof. Moriarty. At least until he was miraculously resurrected a few years later by Conan Doyle.

Isn't the "eat a peach" reference from T.S. Eliot? @Noam: the French play on words is revealing.

ArtLvr 12:27 PM  
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SethG 12:30 PM  

CERE was a gimme. I learned it from a Dan Brown book. I'm not proud of that.

Paul Erdős rules. Vive la France, and Go Steelers!

ArtLvr 12:32 PM  

p.s. re G D SEARLE -- Best-known for developing NutraSweet and the first oral contrcaeptive pill. Founded in 1888, the company went through a series of mergers from 1985, being acquired by Monsanto, which became Pharmacia in 2000. That company was taken over by Pfizer in 2003, and then the Searle name was retired.

Donald Rumsfeld was its last independent CEO and got two industry awards for beefing up profits by cutting the workforce by 60%, then initiating the Monsanto buy-out. (Mattresses weren't in it, just retiring wealthy and moving into government!)


CoffeeLvr 1:04 PM  

Hardest Sunday E V E R. A big fat DNF even with over 20 Googles. Knew it was a rebus, but got off on the wrong foot with B(EAR)MARKET. Found an ARM, just thought it was going to be assorted body parts. All the while asking where is something that costs me!

Agree with everything Rex said.

To those who complain that strings of letters in one square are not "true" rebuses, one question. Did you draw in little pictures of arms and legs?

Sitting here searching for something positive to say, um... well ... it's like ... I did learn a lot.

V. 1:17 PM  

I gave up after Mallarme totally mixed me up -- why wasn't it a rebus as well?

Vega 1:26 PM  

Big fat ditto.

Ex-tennis-jock partner agreed with Rex re: clue for LET, and offered "cry after interrupted service" as an alternative.

Anonymous 1:40 PM  


Jet City Gambler 2:15 PM  

The PASS LINE bet (and COME LINE, which is really the same thing) is really the only bet you should ever make in craps. You're betting that the shooter will hit his or her number again before rolling a seven. After the shooter rolls a number, you can place a second bet behind the line called an odds bet (at most casinos up to double your initial bet, but sometimes more).

If the shooter hits his or her number, you get true odds on your odds bet, but only 1-1 on the initial PASS LINE bet. That's the casino's edge. A minimum PASS LINE bet coupled with a maximum odds bet gives the lowest house edge of any casino game.

If you bet any of that stuff in the middle of the board you're an idiot.

Sparky 2:24 PM  

Had been messing with this since yesterday and, finally, just gave up with holes in the middle East and SW corner. Agree re CALENDAR MONTHS plus I don't think Blah, blah, blah says IDLE GOSSIP. Lots of talk but not gossip. I saw Krapp's Last Tape on a double bill with Zoo Story in the late 50s or early 60s. Put in MONOlogue first. Can't spell AIOLI so miss in that spot too. I think I'll have a cookie, maybe one in a blue wrapper. Bye.

chefbea 2:46 PM  

Too tough!!!DNF

foodie 2:53 PM  

Everything and the kitchen sink...

Anonymous 3:00 PM  

FYI--a "let" call in tennis means that the serve has struck the net and continued across the net. Only after the ball lands is it determined whether it is a "do-over' or a fault. If it lands in the service box, it's do-over; if not it's a fault. The clue seems fine to me.

John Hoffman 3:03 PM  

This one was impossibly hard for me. I got little done in hours. Had to quit!

Rex Parker 3:12 PM  

I know exactly what a "let" is. Your explanation makes the clue worse. By your logic, "Let" is really a cry after a service that might be poor or might not depending on where the ball lands. . . bec. there is no doubt that where that ball lands is the diff. betw. "poor" and Not Poor. There is no downside to a "let" service. There is to a "fault." So "fault" is worse than "let," and the only result worthy of being called "poor." Clue continues to suck, worse than ever.

joho 3:34 PM  

I always love a rebus and most always a Paula Gamache puzzle ... today included. The major reason is because I was engaged from beginning to end, no small feat (feet!) on a Sunday.

I agree with comments regarding the SW corner, though. But knowing how terribly hard it had to have been to fit another ARM into that corner, I will let it pass.

Thank you, Paula!

jae 3:36 PM  

Clever theme, major slog. Toughest Sun. in a looong time. Only way I got anywhere in SW was the gimmie OLAN (which took me a while to recall) and knowing SENNA was a plant. Not fun!

Shamik 3:36 PM  


Mallarme...NOT a rebus?


Anna 4:32 PM  

I always handed my (now 20 year old) son a bar of Fels-Naptha so that he could get his sports uniforms clean. At least his clothes looked good on the field. . .

yuck 4:59 PM  

Fels-Naptha was the brand preferred by my Grandma to "... wash out your mouth with soap" after a nasty word was uttered in her presence.

It left a taste in one's mouth similar to this puzzle's.

I like Grandma and Paula G. though, so will forgive and try to forget.

Stephen 5:10 PM  

I had BRO in for 44A, and tried forever to work BOOT(LEG) into 44D. FLASK was too boring.

Where does "unloose" come from? Some dictionary of dreadful words that have never been permitted to be? And if it ever was a candidate word, why would it mean "relax"?

Mr. Helpful 5:48 PM  

The anonymous tennis expert is actually wrong anyway. The rules of tennis say "The service is a let if [t]he ball served touches the net, strap or band, and is otherwise good". The rule goes on from there, but says nothing that changes that first statement.

If the ball strikes the net and lands out, the serve is not a let.

More Yuck 5:48 PM  

Definitions of unloose on the Web:

•free: grant freedom to; free from confinement
•loosen the ties of; "unloose your sneakers"

•To release from a constraint; to set free or liberate; To unfasten, untie; To disengage

There's probably a case to bemade for relax somewhere in there.


Merriam-Webster 5:58 PM  

And, @More Yuck, you might want to add that "UNLOOSE" can be traced back to the 14th Century!

CoffeeLvr 6:06 PM  

Apropos of little: family slang for kick back, unwind, and relax, preferably with a beverage of choice is "unlax."

ps to earlier post - hardest Sunday since I started doing them about two years ago

PuzzleNut 6:10 PM  

This is the first day I remember in my short history with this site that Rex has not completed a puzzle. I was beginning to wonder if it ever happened.
Also, it is the very first time I found a puzzle pretty easy and then come to find that Rex rated it Difficult.
For some reason, I was just clicking with this puzzle. Started in the NW (unusual) and got the rebus right away. Just worked down without any gaps until I came to the SW. Was afraid that it would spoil my day, but once I got the FOR in PRO???MA, I had it licked. I had BRANDi for a moment, but she didn't seem to be a somebody. Finally realized it was BRANDO.
My ignorance of literature actually helped today as I don't know MALLARME and had to get it all through crosses. Didn't even see the ARM in there until I came here.
@Bob K - Glad to see we are back in sync.

Ulrich 6:23 PM  

Has anybody complained about BBLS yet? Well, perhaps one shouldn't beat up on someone who's already down. My biggest beef are the bad clues already mentioned (Tara, War memorials--I won't even mention "let" b/c everything that has to be redone is "poor", in a way) and the non-rebus Mallarmé. These missteps are grating in an ambitious puzzle like this one, and if it is this difficult (my personal Waterloo was the tattle-tale-gray NE), some lubrication via flawless clues seems in order.

I'm fascinated by the Erdös story, though...and I do NOT like oaky Chardonnay.

Ruthiebook 6:46 PM  

It gave me such a headache. I should have been out enjoying the Colorado sunshine instead.

Michael Leddy 7:44 PM  

I fell asleep doing this puzzle, not in bed but sitting in front of the computer. That was my response to (what I consider to be) this puzzle's awfulness. I can't remember ever having to Google so many items on a Sunday.

fergus 9:36 PM  

Though I did neither today's nor yesterday's puzzle (so can't read Rex's or other comments ... )

I simply wanted to thank anyone who participated in the Bay Area tournament yesterday for helping to cement this artform into the broader culture.

Glitch 9:36 PM  


What was wrong with BBLS?

Standard abbreviation for Barrels, as for Cude oil AFAIK.

Am I missing something?


L'absurde 9:41 PM  

How could one not know about George Manville FENN? His Wiki page consists of five, count them five, complete sentences.

mac 10:07 PM  

I love Paula Gamache's puzzles, but this was the toughest Sunday puzzle I've ever done. After all that French I'm fatigue (just found out in France that a salade fatigue is just well-tossed!).

Had to laugh about the "aso" answer because of the discussion I read about......

foodie 10:14 PM  

This puzzle made me realize that there is a good reason that rebus puzzles appear on Thursdays, not on Fridays or Saturdays. Discovering the existence of a rebus entails some frustration, if only to start thinking in a non standard way. Moreover, the uncertainty of where and how often the rebus will appear adds a certain level of tension. But if the clues are relatively straightforward and the rest of the fill is smooth, then the level of challenge feels right to most capable solvers. But combining these features with obscure, misleading or inconsistent clues, arcane knowledge, and intersecting proper nouns (Friday-Saturday style) seems like it pushes the limits of most people and takes the joy out of the process.

Ulrich 11:15 PM  

@Glitch: What's wrong is that I didn't google before I commented. But I call for leniency b/c it was not the point I tried to make anyway

Anonymous 11:28 PM  

UNLASH and UNLOOSE together?

I was all correct except I that I had SEDGES for SENNAS -- and the three wrong letters were all names.

Scrambled Eggs for Brains 12:25 AM  

What Rex said. I usually like Ms. Gamache's puzzles, too, but this???

@Lonely in Manhattan...did have one little snuggle with Husband about whether Boater (which I had thrown down in ink) might be bowler, but that was about it for puzz discussion around here.

Falconer 1:09 AM  

Paula, sorry, I normally love your puzzles, and rebuses, but this one was a drag. Too much obscure trivia.

Two things I did like though: 1) Never heard of the word "oscine," and that is a cool one. Relating to songbirds. I'm sure I can work that in somewhere in a sentence. 2) There is a hidden connection between the Pass Line answer and the Mallarme answer.

Stephane Mallarme's last poem was called "Un coup de des jamais n'abolira le hasard," which loosely translated means, "A roll of the dice will never abolish chance."

Mallarme loved to explore how the arrangement of words on a page influenced their meaning -- basically a study of the relationship of content and form. This is much of what we love about crosswords, so Mallarme can be considered one of the poet-saints of Crossworld. I'm quite sure he would have loved rebuses, since they challenge the usual spacing of letters in a word.

Man Ray, the American visual artist, made his final film in 1929 based on this Mallarme poem. Its title was ''Les Mystères du Château de Dé,'' or ''The Mystery of the Chateau of Dice.'' It's often shown in film schools and is quite mesmerizing:

Finally I leave you with my favorite Mallarme quote, apropos to x-world of course: ''The poetic act consists of suddenly seeing that an idea splits into a number of equal motifs and of grouping them such that they rhyme.''

demit 1:19 AM  

Can anyone tell me why Butch is a relative of Rover? Who are they?

Having decided the cluing was horrible—a lot of these coy clues should've had question marks, in my book—I had 'bitch', as in mother of (the dog) Rover, even tho I didn't like it. That screwed me up for the longest time.

Even googling Butch+Rover didn't enlighten. I see that "Butch was recently elected by Land Rover Dealerships to be on the Business Operations Council" in Harrisburg PA, and that's nice, but I doubt it would elevate Butch to being a crossword answer.


Anonymous 3:04 PM  


Matthew G. 3:23 PM  

DNF, but feel as though I'm in good company this week. Loved the theme, hated parts of the implementation. The SW corner was preposterous, because of an overabundance of proper names and (especially) because CALENDAR MONTHS is redundant, and too much so to be a legitimate answer, in my opinion. If that had to be the answer, the clue should have found some way to indicate that month-long periods not coextensive with calendar months were excluded -- that's the only way I can think of to make it a non-redundant expression. The CALENDAR MONTHS siutation was exacerbated because, long before I realized that rotationally there had to be a rebus in that particular answer, I had filled in SPRING MONTHS -- an answer that would actually have made sense.

My wife helped me get the Fels-Naptha clue. I had never heard of this soap until I married her, but thereafter I learned from my mother-in-law of its remarkable stain-squelching prowess. Not only does it still exist, pretreating stains with Fels-Naptha is now SOP in our household.

I had never encountered the word EGEST before, but I'm going to make a point of working it into conversation at some highly appropriate time. Perhaps Thanksgiving dinner.

Matthew G. 3:23 PM  

DNF, but feel as though I'm in good company this week. Loved the theme, hated parts of the implementation. The SW corner was preposterous, because of an overabundance of proper names and (especially) because CALENDAR MONTHS is redundant, and too much so to be a legitimate answer, in my opinion. If that had to be the answer, the clue should have found some way to indicate that month-long periods not coextensive with calendar months were excluded -- that's the only way I can think of to make it a non-redundant expression. The CALENDAR MONTHS siutation was exacerbated because, long before I realized that rotationally there had to be a rebus in that particular answer, I had filled in SPRING MONTHS -- an answer that would actually have made sense.

My wife helped me get the Fels-Naptha clue. I had never heard of this soap until I married her, but thereafter I learned from my mother-in-law of its remarkable stain-squelching prowess. Not only does it still exist, pretreating stains with Fels-Naptha is now SOP in our household.

I had never encountered the word EGEST before, but I'm going to make a point of working it into conversation at some highly appropriate time. Perhaps Thanksgiving dinner.

Anonymous 6:01 PM  

WADR to Rex whle there are 5 arms in the East and 5 legs in the West, there is a leg after each arm reading from left to right (hence, an arm and a leg), but Rex is probably correct in his interp because I suspect his day job is Will Short....

deerfencer 1:40 AM  

A rare stinker from Ms. Gamache, whose puzzles I usually adore. WAY too obscure and perversely difficult IMO--methinks she composed this in a foul mood.

Very surprised Shortz took this one as is--this is simply NOT Sunday fare IMO. My wife and I teamed up as usual but completed less than half of it with several errors--and I can do most Thursday puzzles, and occasionally
a Friday and (rarely) a Saturday.

After seeing the answers here I could only shake my head and wonder why this was ever published. Big thumbs down.

Anonymous 2:11 PM  

I had fewer complaints with this puzzle than most, but what's with "works in the music business": opera?
I don't mind being misled toward a plural, but I still don't get it.

Bob Kerfuffle 2:36 PM  

@Anonymous 2:11 PM - I'm not completely sure I understand your objection, i.e., how you feel you were misled, but I must ask, are you aware that "opera" is the plural of "opus" ("work" in Latin and in music.)?

Unknown 12:02 PM  

Never heard of Rolondo, Fenn or Erdos, ( Nobodies to me) Rolondo was only thing that fit, but guessed at Erwin, Fenn never showed up couldn't dredge Olan out of what I like to refer to as my mind. Then, overlooking the fact that I didn't have enough M's for April, May, and June to be some kind of ca__n wARM months (yeah, I had warmonths & that would be March),the SE corner was really ugly looking. Took a wild stab at "Somebody", the title of BrandI's biography must be "Somebody Else." C'mon if you had Brand_ and knew it was somebody's name, what would you say? DOH!! ( who the heck is Brandi?)

Dirigonzo 2:30 PM  

I watched the Stars Wars movies over and over with my sons,so I can't believe that with LE A in place I couldn't see LEIA - we even named one of our cats that, for Pete's sake! And AIOLI, once the "I" was in there, was certainly familiar enough to be gettable. Apparently I forgot to run the alphabet at that cross. As for the rest of the puzzle, well SEdgeS where SENNAS should have been destroyed all hope in that corner, and LEIkA/kERE seemed OK so I left that error in my completed grid. Here's a nit no one else seems to have picked: the clue for BUBBLEGUM was "Blow it". With the clue as written I wanted the answer to be a verb (and with the U from KUNTA in place I was sure it would be (something)Up). It seems to me that in order to suggest a noun as a solution the clue needs a subject to go with its verb and object. So, "You blow it" suggests BUBBLEGUM, but just "Blow it" suggests - well, something else. Too picayune? Sorry, I'll move on. The rest of my solving experience was what everybody else said, except that I kind of liked it. Maybe it's my inner-Masochist but I enjoy a little suffering along with my "Aha!" moments.

Anonymous 5:13 PM  

I thought this was a great puzzle, though the title made me think that "arm" and "leg" should be missing from the puzzle entirely. As in costing you an arm and a leg.

Matthew Corless 7:31 PM  


Love your commentary. As a first time poster must tell you how much I love reading your postings every Sunday. I do the NYT Crossword in syndicate a week behind so I always have to be careful to not read ahead. You're insights, thoughts and rantings give me amusement every week.

I almost always have the same opinions as you but a couple of points about this puzzle.

1. Hooch Holder at a ball game - FLASK.
Hooch is hard liquor... not beer. If you want bourbon, vodka, Southern Comfort at a football game (especially an SEC college football game), you're going to have to sneak it in in a flask in your jacket or your undershorts. This one made too much sense to me.

2. Esos/Esas - ESAS.
I took Spanish in HS/College and despite that all us puzzlers need to know not to use A or O in the square until we have a verified cross for the non-specific masc/fem spanish pronouns.

3. Bet in Craps - PASS LINE.
I get that this is tough if you haven't played Craps. But once I got -LINE at the end of the answer I knew it was PASSLINE. This is one of the safest bets in Craps when there is a new shooter. Basically if the shooter rolls anything but 2,3 (highly unlikely with 2 dice), 7 (often happens), or 12 (highly unlikely), you win! I always make this bet and got this one.

Cry after Bad Service - LET.
Double, Fault... good point, but what's the only other three letter word for a bad service? Bad = Not Good = Didn't Count. This didn't bother me.

That being said, this Xword still kicked my ass. I did 70-75% on my own at best. Way too many proper names crossing each other, way too many vague clues. I think Shortz let us down on this one... we should CERE him.

-JoJo Sparky

dana 8:50 AM  

I agree with you that this puzzle was excruciating, especially sw corner, which I had to google too many answers. I get puzzles a week later and usually am done in a few hours, doing a little each day, because I like the fun to last all week. The Fels Naptha reference was particularly strange because a woman in my workplace mentioned the product after I dripped my lunch on my blouse. She brought in a bar of the stuff the next day because I must have looked at her like she was from another planet. Anyway, she swears by it for stain removal. I am no youngster, but I never heard of it before. Maybe they should change their slogan to "OLDER THAN DIRT" ! As a first time poster, just a note to say I really enjoy your blog!

Rex Parker 9:41 AM  


Thanks. Always happy to see new first-time posters.

Best wishes,

Michael in New Mexico 2:52 PM  

Thank you for putting this page up! You saved me a lot of time and frustration: after seeing the "trick" to this puzzle, I've decided I don't have the spare time to work through it--but I'm the sort whose mind will continue to grind away at a problem, bugging me to no end until I get resolution. So you saved me a lot of needless grief. Oh, and your comments were interesting too--maybe more interesting than the puzzle.

I am really impressed you figured out the Fels-naptha thing without the best clue, which is this:

At least this (if you have not already seen it) confirms your speculation about the meaning of "gray."

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