Aesir ruler / WED 12-15-10 / Beethoven dedicatee / Start of incantation / Fifth-century canonized pope / Pesky arachnid

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Constructor: John Lampkin

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: CH- to J- — phrases that start with "CH-" become phrases that start with "J-," with all the attendant wackiness that you'd expect from such a move...

Word of the Day: Nevil SHUTE (16A: "On the Beach" author) —

Nevil Shute Norway (17 January 1899 – 12 January 1960) was a popular British novelist and a successful aeronautical engineer. He used Nevil Shute as his pen name, and his full name in his engineering career, in order to protect his engineering career from any potential negative publicity in connection with his novels. [...] On the Beach (1957), Shute's best-known novel, is set in Melbourne, whose population is awaiting death from the effects of an atomic war. It was serialized in more than 40 newspapers, and adapted into a 1959 film starring Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner. In 2007, Gideon Haigh wrote an article in The Monthly arguing that On the Beach is Australia's most important novel: "Most novels of apocalypse posit at least a group of survivors and the semblance of hope. On The Beach allows nothing of the kind." (wikipedia)
• • •

Theme is cute, though the chosen answers are kind of arbitrary and make for some forced phrases, esp. JEST PROTECTOR. Open the theme up to names and you could have JESTER ARTHUR or JERRY PIE or JILL OUT, etc. Or go the other way and have CHIVE TALKIN' or CHIVE TURKEY. Anyway, I don't have anything further to say about the theme. But the rest of the grid ... that's a problem. Well, no; I've seen much, much worse grids than this. It's entirely adequate. But I want to use this puzzle as an example of why no one should ever make a pangram puzzle ever again ("pangram" = using every letter of the alphabet). First, it's been done. A million times. It's no great accomplishment, so why go out of your way (as this puzzle certainly does) to get every letter in there? Makes No Sense. I love a Scrabbly grid, with unusual letters and strange-looking words, but I do not care if every letter of the alphabet is in there, and neither should you. In a grid like this, with lots and lots and lots of short (3-5-letter) fill, the stress should be on making the fill as a. clean and b. interesting as possible. Some of it fits. KANJI, great (and two high-value letters to boot) (1D: Japanese writing system). I love "Q," but do I love "QUE?" Not really? Same with "X" and "XENO."

But these are very minor points. The Major point for me, today, is WIE. Now, Michelle WIE is a famous golfer, and maybe if she'd been the clue, I wouldn't have blinked. But she wasn't. Some German phrase was (29A: "___ geht's?" (German "How are you?")). To be clear, I could look the other way on WIE (Ger.) if there was no way around it, or if it were propping up something really lovely. But ... the "W" exists only (only!) so that the pangram can exist. It is a joyless, pointless "W." Give me a "D." Give me a "P." Hell, give me a "V." "W" is a worse choice than all of those, and it's obvious that the decision was made for pangram (i.e. non-puzzle-enjoyment-related) reasons. I object. Please, constructors, unless you can tie the pangram to your theme somehow, or do something new and interesting with it, spare me. Just make the grid clean and (ideally) snappy. It's all that's important. [For more on why pangrams are, generally, a bad idea, please read this lovely piece by crossword constructing legend Liz Gorski]

Also, if you are changing CH- to J-, then really, shouldn't it be JUMP JANGE? And JATTER? Etc. Consistency = elegance.

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Athlete who has pigged out on snacks at a bar? (JOCK FULL O' NUTS) — best theme answer, by far
  • 31A: Chief [Jeef?] heckler? (JEER LEADER)
  • 41A: Skydiver's amended plans? (JUMP CHANGE)
  • 53A: Insulation from jokes? (JEST PROTECTOR)
A copier malfunction is a JAM. I get that JAM-UP is (probably) a thing (31D: Copier malfunction), but I can't imagine anyone saying this. "What's the problem with the copier?" "It's a JAM." That is what person 2 would say.

  • 5A: Bend one's elbow, e.g. (FLEX) — thought for sure this would be something sot-related.
  • 14A: Start of an incantation (ABRA) — one of my least favorite non-words. Likely completely unnecessary. The "J" is the only thing making things weird up there, and there are options for the cross: BENJI, BANJO, etc.
  • 18A: Aesir ruler (ODIN) — xwords taught we the word "Aesir." I then promptly built an entire puzzle around it. I then (almost just as promptly) saw that puzzle idea get published by someone else. Aargh.
  • 23A: Interstate-championing prez (IKE) — a very weirdly-phrased clue ... which I like for some reason.
  • 58A: Astronomy's ___ cloud (OORT) — yet another bit of knowledge I acquired from xwords. Weird to have two of the very, very few "OO-"-starting words in this one grid (see OOZE, 65A: Primordial stuff). OOPS, OOLONG, OOH ...
  • 5D: Walk with jerky motions (FLOUNCE) — clue sounds much more ... pathological than I imagine FLOUNCE to be.
  • 36D: Bernie Madoff's hedge fund, e.g. (SCAM) — this is like the 5th reference to Madoff I've seen in the past 48 hours, after (mercifully) not hearing (much) about him for the better part of two years. Weird.
  • 42D: Say "Hey, batter batter batter" and such (CHATTER) — I'd have left the "Say" out of this clue. the comment itself is (noun) CHATTER.
  • 22D: Brand once advertised with the jingle "We wear short shorts ..." (NAIR) — Hmm. I remember "Who wears short shorts? We wear short shorts. If you dare wear short shorts, NAIR for short shorts," or something grammatically improbable like that. Am I remembering correctly? Come on youtube, work your magic... (here's an abbreviated version, minus the initial question)

and a little something extra...

  • 32D: Beethoven dedicatee (ELISE) — ELISE and EROICA are the main Beethoven answers you need to know for crosswords.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Unknown 12:21 AM  

I enjoyed this one and finished relatively quickly, considering I was watching Stephen Sondheim on the Colbert Report at the same time. Couldn't resist being the first post. Happy Wednesday to all!

Rube 12:25 AM  

Love the answer JOCKFULLONUTS although thought the coffee was pretty bad. Are they still around? Don't deserve to be.

Agree with our feerless leader re JAMUP. Period.

Thought everyone of the theme answers was excellent.

Enjoyed the puzzle, pangram or not. KITH was a refreshing word. Hadn't really thought about it before. AMATOL and PROLE had to be dredged out of dim recesses of the memory. Used to use dynamite for seismic surveys and read 1984 a Loooong time ago.

On the Beach is one of my all time favorite movies. Think I'll Netflix it again.

Got to get back to a California tax issue. CA is digging deep to try to raise funds... very deep. It looks like it is going to cost my NON California LLC.

D_Blackwell 12:52 AM  

A tough Wednesday that I felt very fortunate to finally wrestle down. I had five trouble spots and had to work out a lot of stuff that I knew was right, but mostly didn't actually know. CAPO and PROLE. The PUCE / LORCA cross. The SHUTE / YEA cross. The LAVE / FLOUNCE / XENO cross, and the N and I of the NOIR / KANJI / TRICE cross going down last.

Loved "Brand for woofers, but not tweeters?" I had the trick instantly, but it was still great.

There are a lot of cool words that you don't see everyday in this one: LAVE, PUCE, TRICE, FLOUNCE - and a nice pangram too. I'm fine with the W. (I wonder if it can be moved to 45A.)

MIA HAM was cute. The second M could have been a half-dozen other letters.

ELISE has only been clued to the Lotus one time.

Not impressed with JAM UP. OORT sucks for me; probably cool for star tripping geekies.

I would like to have seen GLAM / SHAME at 48A / 39D

Though not to my taste, the theme is good for what it is.

chefwen 1:01 AM  

Many moons ago my husband and I did a lot of hiking in Switzerland and when encountering people on the trails they would always say WIE geht's (W pronounced like a V) had no idea what they were saying, we were young and rather green, but we always repeated it back to them. I figured out the V versus W thing when we were at an October Fest and I had to use the W.C. after consuming numerous beers, nobody could understand what I was asking for when I said W.C., finally I said toilette, AHH, you mean vay cee. Lesson learned, never to be forgotten.

Loved this puzzle, had a little difficulty in the northwest but it came together. Last fill was OORT when I changed PaPa to POPS.

Got the theme with JEER LEADER but the fave was, as others have stated, JOCK FULL O' NUTS.

Thank you Mr. Lampkin.

Anonymous 2:18 AM  

Does anyone actually believe Rex when he tells us 1) what we should think ("I do not care ... and neither should you") or 2) what he somehow knows the constructor thinks ("the W exists only ... so that the pangram can exist")?

No? Nobody? Neither do I.

"It joyless, pointless." And yet, I enjoyed it.

retired_chemist 3:00 AM  

I liked this one. Seemed like it had more than its share of short foreign words: WIE, QUE, ORA, KANJI, could have had DUM (if clued as ___ spiro, spero), all nicely clued. That is to my taste, and I do not share Rex's problem with WIE.

JOCK FULL OF NUT made the downs in the NE opaque for a short while. Caught it quickly however. I wonder if the constructor dredged up JOCK FULL O' NUTS from his inner eighth grader and wrote a puzzle around that.

61A was PLUM - wrong, fixed by LORCA 2 59D. The SW had options - STEER for 56A, ETHOS for 63A - but again these were easily fixed from the crosses. Needed all the crosses for OORT (58A).

59A clue was nice. I like IKE (23A) also, obvious enough to this geezer that the debate was only whether it was IKE or DDE. Clue and the linked phrase take me back to my youth. I was 12 when Ike was first elected.

Thanks, Mr. Lampkin and (if appropriate) your inner eighth grader.

r.alphbunker 4:16 AM  

I don't know if RP knew from some other source that the W was there to complete the pangram. If not, then I think it was an interesting bit of crossword exegesis that he did.

I agree that fill quality should not be sacrificed in order to achieve a pangram. Otherwise I am neutral on the subject and never think to verify whether a puzzle is a pangram.

I have always liked the term "chump change" so I am willing to overlook the minor inconsistency of leaving in the second CH.

Andreax Qarla Mjkaelz 5:29 AM  

Any puzzle that starts with KITH/KANJI had me smiling to the end.

Have to agree with the JUMP JANGE comment, esp crossing with CHATTER.
Inconsistency that could have been avoided....

Super hard to have all those Js!

Just had a similar Sunday-sized theme with Tony O rejected mere hours before doing this one!
Many discussions over whether you could change one of the letters to J (or in this case two) and not the other. So very sensitive to this.

I too had lots of problems if 54D The Old Man was the POPe, PaPa, or POPS.
Have never seen OORT and it sort of scares me. Looks like a typo.

Malapopped AGAIN! Put TREED at 9A.

As for Rex's pangram rant, I, of course, respectfully wildly disagree.
(Cue NAIR music) "Who likes Pangrams? I like pangrams..."

Rex Parker 7:46 AM  

Would love to hear from a constructor who sincerely believes that "W" is the Best Choice for that square, or who believes that the "W" choice was driven by anything but the desire to complete the pangram.

No one but no one puts that "W" in that grid unless he/she is looking to complete the pangram. It's fine for you to like the puzzle, and for Andrea to like pangrams, but even Andrea knows that that "W" is a "W" Because Of The Pangram (and not just 'cause the constructor thought "W" was the best choice).

3 ways to know "W" exists only to complete a pangram.

1. It's a pangram (obvious)
2. There is no other "W" (and nowhere to insert a "W" easily)
3. Other letters are better there (this one is admittedly a matter of taste, but ... "W" is not a more interesting letter than either "P" or "V," AND it sends you into foreign name/word territory, so it's hard to see someone preferring it on its own merits).

And Andrea herself would Never have chosen the "W" in that situation. Look at her grids. Her choices are impeccable.

And I still don't get why you (yes, you) should care about pangrams. Liking Scrabbly puzzles, great. Liking pangrams? Why?

On why you shouldn't care: Here's Liz Gorski on pangrams—a must-read. (Just 'cause I didn't like her last puzzle doesn't mean I don't know that she's forgotten more about xwords than I'll ever know).


efrex 8:00 AM  

Finished this one super-fast, and was surprised to see it rated a "medium." A bit surprised to see the somewhat racy clue for ONES in there.

Nitpicks: WIE didn't have me WEEPING, but JAMUP nearly made me a JEERLEADER. Almost had a Natick at OORT/LORCA, but somehow dug that one out of the recesses of my mind. Otherwise a fresh, fun, solve, and the puns were as enjoyable as puns can be (which for me is quite a bit).

My biggest quibble: since when is an iBook an "old Apple laptop?" Mr. Lampkin must be a young 'un - to this 35-year-old fogey, "old Apple laptop" means the Mac Portable (aka the "luggable"). Dang-nab kids today with no sense of technological history...

The Bard 8:04 AM  

The Tempest > Act I, scene II

ARIEL'S song.

Come unto these yellow sands,
And then take hands:
Courtsied when you have and kiss'd
The wild waves whist,
Foot it featly here and there;
And, sweet sprites, the burthen bear.
Hark, hark!

[Burthen [dispersedly, within] Bow-wow]

The watch-dogs bark!

[Burthen Bow-wow]

Hark, hark! I hear
The strain of strutting chanticleer
Cry, Cock-a-diddle-dow.

ArtLvr 8:05 AM  

Just right for a Wednesday, I thought! Beside the WIE, fine by me, there were several wee spots where one might go astray, like tesssera or little Tiles for the Mosaic artist -- aha, GROUT. And I smiled at the OOZE and OORT, having just seen a rerun of Nova's beautifully artistic program on fractal math. Do look it up, no JEST!

Also ELISE, as I listen to Vivaldi's flute concerto called the "Goldfish", reminds me to recommend Mark Feldman's special crossword if you enjoy classical music. It was in the Chronicle of December 10...


joho 8:29 AM  

I really liked this puzzle. The theme answers tickled me. I also enjoyed the activity in the answers: TREE, JAMUP, JILT, FELT, SCAM, BURSTOPEN, OOZE. (@Andrea Qarla ... I too, malapopped at 9A with treed!)

Thank you, @Rex, for Liz Gorski's take on pangrams. Very interesting. However I loved seeing WIE geht's in the puzzle as it is a term I used often in my highschool German class and beyond.

And thank you, John Lampkin, for a fun Wednesday solve!

mmorgan 8:39 AM  

(@Rube: I agree, but one might say "The copier is jammed up," no?)

I liked all the theme answers (nowithstanding @Rex's valid point about consistency). First one was JEST PROTECTOR. Didn't notice the pangram. But without the W there we wouldn't be able to WEEP.

I didn't understand TREE for 28D (Back into a corner) -- had trouble seeing it as a verb (still do).

I got held up at a few spots (NE and NW) for a while, till they BURST OPEN -- it seemed to take a bit longer for a Wednesday -- but I enjoyed it, even though I stupidly ended up with PaPa for 54D (POPS).

Sondheim was on Colbert?? Gotta find it!!

If this were Sunday, would the title be "The Jisch"?

Insp. Cramer 8:43 AM  

@ Rex:
Yeah, I sure wish Madoff's son hadn't killed himself with his two year old in the next room, so you wouldn't have had to hear the name...

Anonymous 8:51 AM  

I can't believe Jock Full O'Nuts made it past the editor/test readers. Were they never 13, or did they forget? Those who are male, did they skip gym class, never go into a gym locker room? Ever?

David L 8:52 AM  

An easy Weds for me.

I have no profound observations about pangrams except to say that I never notice such things until Rex or someone else points them out. On the other hand, I am all in favor of WIE -- it seems less obscure to me than many of the scraps of Spanish, Chinese, Latin etc etc that solvers are presumed to know. Then again, I speak a bit of German but the only Spanish I know is what I've learned from xwords.

Orange 8:54 AM  

I'm not sure that Rex would've noticed the sole W in the grid if WIE had been clued as Michelle, but a highly unusual German clue for WIE stands out for the many who didn't study German.

Imagine the expanded cluing options for DEEP/DIE or PEEP/PIE. Wouldn't those be more fun than WEEP/WIE?

I used to eagerly run through the alphabet while perusing a completed grid, hoping to find a pangram to admire. That was then. These days, I am firmly in the Gorski/Rex camp of not caring about pangrams wrought for the sake of a pangram.

Just sayin' 9:06 AM  

20A has been covered, 24A would be an insult, especially clued with "often", and no problem with WIE, however for QUE, I needed crosses.


chefbea 9:29 AM  

Tough Wed puzzle for me. Learned a lot tho

Getting ready to leave the cold south for the cold north

Matthew G. 9:32 AM  

I fully agree with Rex (and Liz Gorski's column) that deliberate pangrams are pointless and that nothing is added to the quality of a puzzle when it becomes pangrammatic. Full stop.

Even so, there was plenty I liked in this particular puzzle, which I found a pretty satisfying solve. In particular, the NW corner, other than ABRA, was pretty cool all around.

I agree with Rex that WIE is probably only in the grid for pangrammatic purposes, but once it was there, I don't object to how it was clued. I'm tired of always seeing it clued with Michelle, and "WIE geht's?" is one of the most common expressions in conversational German. We're constantly getting French, Spanish, Latin and Italian, so a brief dalliance outside the Romance languages was welcome.

Completely agree with Rex about JAM-UP. Have never heard anyone say that about a printer. Ever.

I did finish with one stupid error. Had never heard of the novelist SHUTE, and brainlessly thought the "Boston Legal fig." was AsT (for "associate") rather than ATT (for "attorney). D'oh.

quilter1 9:33 AM  

I thought this was cute and enjoyed the solve. I don't notice pangrams especially. I thought KITH, BURST OPEN, and TRICE were fresh. Not sure about YEA meaning truly, I'll have to look it up. My first thought was verily, as the phrase is usually yea, verily, and my impression is that the yea = yes and verily = truly. I liked all the theme answers, even the double entendre.

Family Member of an Insignifcant One 9:35 AM  

@Insp. Cramer - Every day, on average, 91 people commit suicide in the US. That's 91 personal, private, family tragedies per day. That one of these gets sensationalized solely because of a family notoriety, blasted endlessly on the national airways, with no discussion of the endemic problem, is in fact annoying.

quilter1 9:37 AM  

OK, looked it up, and yea can mean yes and also truly. Explains why modern translations say "truly, truly" for yea, verily. I love words.

stsheral: canonized valley girl

Norm 9:45 AM  

Thought WIE GEHTS was totally legit -- pangram or not. It's a common German phrase, and the sort of thing you should know doing crosswords. There are similar French and Spanish phrases all the time, and I don't recall Rex griping about those. Very nice puzzle.

Van55 10:00 AM  

I, too, had no issue with WIE as in "WIE gehts?" I am guessing (but only guessing) that "wie gehts" is familiar to more solvers than Michelle Wie, so objecting to the former while not blinking at the latter seems wrong o me.

I never noticed that the puzzle is a pangram until I logged in here. I absolutely agree with Rex and Ms. Gorsky on the subject.

I never heard of KANJI so that corner was the last to fall for me. OORT was also not familiar.

I rather liked the puzzle overall, though.

Candy 10:18 AM  

But if I'm the constructor and I get all the way to that square, see that I have the choice of a P, V or W, notice that I lack only one letter to complete the alphabet, I'm probably going for the run. I mean, PIE/VIE is not so superior to WIE that it should outweigh completing the pangram. There'd be something weirdly precious and prim, maybe even masochistic, about deliberately avoiding the pangram for a moderately "better" choice of word. But I'm a gal who likes rhymes in poetry and melody in music, so maybe there is a deeper level of crossword appreciation I'm missing too.

OldCarFudd 10:23 AM  

I enjoyed this one. It's one of the few times I had a lot of trouble until I understood one theme answer, which let me figure out the other theme answers.

Re the Madoff suicide: My first reaction to the news was to wonder whether, at long last, SOMETHING might have penetrated the father's evil brain to make him realize the magnitude of what he had done. What kind of swine drives his own son to hang himself?

Re Nevil Shute: He's my favorite author. He always hated the movie "On The Beach", because it totally warped his story. "A Town Like Alice", printed in the US as "The Legacy", got me interested enough in Australia that, at 23, I went there. Married a woman from Alice Springs. The marriage didn't last, but the kids are great and so are a lot of the memories. His two last books are among his best: "Trustee from the Toolroom", and "The Rainbow and the Rose".

Anonymous 10:31 AM  

@Rex, quite a write-up today, interesting and provocative. A little amused how you defended the extra ONs in the Tree Lighting Ceremony (which I agreed with) and are sensitive to no J for CHANGE (which for this puzzle seems unnecessary since all the switches from CH to J occur with the first letter of the first word).

I am reminded of a little saying in my profession (which is full of obsessive nitpicking – Nate, where are you?) borrowed from the Emerson quote: A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of a little mind. I like to bastardize it by saying simply: consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. Not that I am suggesting there are any small minds around here, only that since I am not the puzzle purist and enjoy the cleverness as a solver, perfect construction consistency is not a high priority on my list of puzzle enjoyment.

This theme seems so Sunday-ish, how about a little contest today? Yesterday there was much talk about the lack of titles for M-Sat. So I suggest a contest for giving this puzzle a title. First prize could be a free one year subscription to this blog. (I know, it’s already free to everyone but Rex and voluntary contributors).

So, here is my entry: chucks a position....


Ulrich 10:38 AM  

Someone telling me what to think--and in a matter of taste to boot!--brings out my innate rebelliousness and makes me real ornery. So, congratulations, Rex! You turned me from someone who didn't care about pangrams one way or other into one who adores them (Hi, Andrea!).

Now, let me talk about the WIE (what @Candy said):

If I'm in a restaurant and can't decide if I should order the pan-seared scallops or grilled shrimp, I may count the buttons of my shirt--scallops/shrimp/scallops... etc until I land on the last button. Now, that does not make the fact that my shirt has an odd no. of buttons the ONLY reason I chose shrimp (or whatever). A much more important reason is that I don't like them less than scallops--I just need a little nudge in one direction or the other.

Same with WIE. If you consider WEEP/WIE no worse a choice than PEEP/PIE etc (which is entirely a matter of taste), you may need an additional nudge to make your final decision, and if that decision is in favor of a pangram--fine! It doesn't mean the pangram was the ONLY reason...not in my book

Rex Parker 10:44 AM  


Interesting response. First, the "hobgoblin" quote is well known everywhere (to the point of being cliche) and doesn't just belong to your profession. In this case, I would argue that the continuing pursuit of the pangram for its own sake, the idea that it is an achievement that one should strive for, is the "foolish consistency."

A pangram tells me that you, as a constructor, are concerned about the wrong things.

Full disclosure—I wrote one once. It's somewhere there in the sidebar among the free puzzles I've given away. I forget which one.

@Ulrich, ha ha. Really? You're pro-WIE (as clued)!? Shocking :)

Way-too-many and Out!


retired_chemist 10:45 AM  

@ Rex, Candy - don't forget H and D when looking for W replacements (*EEP/*IE). I still like the W and the clue, and I take no delight in pangrams.

Masked and Anonymous 10:48 AM  

Lot to like about this puz. Really fun solve for me. Seven U's. Plus, of course, lots of J's, which are kinda like slouching U's. ThJmbs Jp. [See? Kinda works.]

Never noticed the pangram. No engine light throbbed when I zipped thru "Wie gehts", either. No biggie. But hey, different strokes for different folks. [U's, G's, scrabblinesses, freshness factors, panagrams, proper names, acme's, French, RRN's, backwards clues, -- the list goes way on...] They oughta sell tickets.

Kvnhltnkv 10:52 AM  


A chock full o' nuts recently opened on 23rd street in manhattan. The first one in many years.

Two Ponies 10:52 AM  

I got the theme entries easily enough but some of the fill had me scratching my head.
I misspelled amYtol which made the math answer crossing an unknown author hard to parse.
I will try to remember some of the unusual words like prole and oort.
If the clue is correct then I don't actually know what flounce means.
Puce is a very ugly word.
All of those J's are cool but I don't give a rat's ass about a pangram one way or the other.
If all it takes is a W, well, go ahead and knock yourself out.

Sparky 10:55 AM  

Found it enjoyable. Liked KITH, dredged SHUTE out of memory. Don't notice, don't care about pangrams. WIE geht's fine, better than yet another sports person I don't know. @Van 55, David L--right. What a nice site is Crossword City. I'll have to visit again. At Chefbea-I'm getting ready to fly south. Wave to you from the plane. Have a nice Wednesday; over the hump, ba dump dump.

Mel Ott 10:56 AM  

Agree that JOCK FULL O NUTS is my favorite by far. Definitely evokes memories of (bad) juvenile locker room humor.

OORT? Wtf is OORT? He couldn't decide between OTT and ORR, so we got OORT?

Anonymous 11:01 AM  

Loved the Gorski column because I am a Lincoln fan and the Gettysburg Address was often cited in my school days as the perfect speech. Sorry that Nate bailed because he would have loved all this talk about pangrams and Wie. PUCE is not only an ugly word, it’s how I feel when reading all this stuff. Why can’t we all just get along and enjoy the puzzle for what it is instead of what it’s not?


Arthur 11:19 AM  

@Chohn - Who's not getting along? Various people are stating their likes/dislikes, and their reasons for feeling so.
A big part of what gets done here is that Rex, and the commenters, say that they think the puzzle would be better if the constructor chose one option instead of the other. That's the essence of critical analysis, looking not only at what's good, but what's objectively bad, and what could have been made better.
If one looks at the history of WIE in the puzzles, it was clued as it is today, up to the time that Michelle Wie came upon the scene, and for the past 11 years, until today, that's the only way it's been clued. Perhaps this is indicitive that Will thought WIE gehts was kind of out there, perhaps not.

dk 11:41 AM  

In the field of analysis a raging controversy is CHOCKFULLONUTS or CHOCKFULLANUTS. That issue so sidetracked me I missed the whole pangram thing.

err, what is a pangram? Does it tell you where to put the chicken in the pan? I have a cast iron fry pan with 3 separate slots, if ones cookery is gramless and this is an issue.

I snorted and clacked my cloven hooves as I filled in JESTPROTECTOR. I also like the wild west mini-theme with BRONC and SPIT.

And the shout out to me with STAR -- priceless.

*** (3 Stars) cleared the Wednesday bar for me

Anonymous 11:43 AM  

The Oort Cloud is a well-known part of our solar system, orbiting beyond the Kuiper Belt. Every now and then a science oriented clue pops up to balance all the obscure references to foreign authors and phrases.

Anonymous 11:51 AM  


Jumping Jehoshaphat!

My second posting was not in response to your reply to me, but this is. I don't know what clichés are used in other professions but mine is especially nitpicky and the bastadization (removing the word foolish) is what is usually said (which might or might not remove it from cliché status). Besides, I’m fond of clichés because my mother always used them in rearing me, such as: sticks and stones might break your bones but names will never hurt you. That was before PC came into vogue.

You make an interesting point about a pangram being an example of foolish consistency but I am like another commenter in that I would never have noticed and only knew because you said so. I understand why someone focused on the architecture would notice, but for the amateur like me it's no big deal and whether it's Wie or Pie or Die is unimportant to me in enjoying this puzzle. Once I've figured out the theme in a theme puzzle the other words take on less significance to me, unless, for instance, there is some unusual word or one I've never heard of or some add-on to the theme. And three-letter words are forgettable IMO. The term "fill" is a good descriptive term for words like WIE. I agree that the desire to do a pangram is silly but if the last piece of a puzzle completes a pangram, so what if the constructor takes some pleasure in that, as long as the puzzle stands on its own merits otherwise? I don’t construct so I have no clue how a constructor sets about to do a pangram. I assume it must be in their thought process at some point, but I don’t know when or why and don’t really care. I only care if the final product works for what I am interested in and this one had a cute theme and was fine for a Wednesday.

I appreciated your original commentary and you taking time to reply to my reaction.

PS. I love it when you get on your high horse (one of my father’s favorite clichés)….:)

Chohn (tao)

JaxInL.A. 11:53 AM  

After a crazy eight days with no time to read here, I really missed hearing (and thereby sharing) other people's solving experiences.  It also gave me a renewed appreciation of Rex's dedication in doing this every single day for over four years. 

I did the musical "Cabaret" when I was 19, and it opens with the Emcee character shouting "Wie Gehts!". I liked this clue much better than the golfer, who I never remember.  On the other hand, "Critic's unit" for STAR was unnecessarily obscure.

I had trouble in the SE because I had "pick" for Banjo accessory, which crossed nicely with "Iams" for the woofer but not tweeter clue. Made it hard to let go. That, together with Glass for the mosaic material delayed the final theme clue for quite a while.

Read Ms. Gorski's elegant explication of the relative (de)merits of pangrams, and I feel Rex's passionate dislike.  But I thought this grid was remarkably low on awkward word parts, partial phrases, obscure initials, random Roman numerals and other maladies that plague puzzles. So, yeah, a pangram for pangram's sake is no virtue, but it doesn't seem to apply here.  Just me?

The other thing I really missed was all the things I learn from all of you. Thanks.        

archaeoprof 11:54 AM  

I like a pangram that I don't notice until it's done.

I don't like a pangram that seems to remind me all the way through.

Didn't like this one so much.

Tobias Duncan 11:58 AM  

Andrea is doing the can can and singing about pangrams in a constant loop on my brain's personal youtube channel.The infectious 80s jingle has mutated like a virus and has spread through my conscious thoughts.The catalyst? Andrea's wit + too much coffee.


SethG 12:52 PM  

JAM UP clued as a verb phrase would have made me dislike it less. And, forsooth, methinks "of old", "old-style", "once", or "in the Bible" are also not often found in clues that are likely to delight me, and I prithee, minimize their use.

D_Blackwell 1:23 PM  

I have no problem with WIE, and I think that if a constructor has a reasonable opportunity for a pangram that they should absolutely go for it; allowing that what is 'reasonable' is subjective. (Like eating all your vegetables, constructors' should use all their letters. Waste not, want not.)

I did not know WIE as clued. German is beyond my ken, but if it were Spanish, Italian, or French I probably could have intuited the answer. If anything Latin is okay in the NYT, then a three letter German word should probably get a pass. A choice was made for the hard clue over the well known and perfectly acceptable Michelle WIE. This kvetch really doesn't have anything to do with cramming in a pangram. Better to try and make a case against the V or X. Or the Q. Why, it's as bad as WIE and doesn't need to be there. The offensiveness is easily removed.

I'm not buying Gorski's Lincoln argument. It doesn't seem relevant to the point.

IF ODIC is accepted as an entry that is on a par with ODIN (I'm not loving either.), THEN move the W to 5A FLEW. Then go with LAVA, ODIC, and WINO.

Move the X to 45A LAX. Then go with STENT and STAX.

I think a nice W construction can be had in the south. A little doodling gives me the surprisingly unusual POWS with WANE, GROAT, and LORNA. I know that that will set the sky to falling for some. But I would argue that SOU (50 appearances) is minimally more deserving of a free pass than GROAT (1 appearance, 1994). Three-letter words get all the breaks; they make their own laws.

mmorgan 1:49 PM  

@Anon 10:30: I did offer a title! --
"The Jisch" (building on last Sunday ;-).

Chip Hilton 1:53 PM  

Interestingly, WIE was my first fill of the day. Danke, Frau Bischoff (h.s. German teacher who dispaired over my uselessness). I agree with those who feel it's a legit puzzle word, along with other foreign language entries.

syndy 1:57 PM  

To pangram or not to pangram?that is the question. Ifelt that this was the best puzzle Ive done in ages-so if Mr Lampkin felt like awarding himself a pangram I'm certainly not going to begrudge him.How could you not love this one! Its colorful(even if puce is a little drab)Topaz! Aqua!Its playful Rex it even has Noir how can you be the jeerleader?

Evgeny 2:03 PM  

I was gonna say i prefer WIE as clued, because it's a foreign word, and i love those. But then i saw that i don't even need this: WIE clued via Michelle Wie is a proper noun! C'mon, no one can tell me, a proper noun is better than a foreign word. Besides, Michelle Wie would have been way too easy for a Wednesday, imo.

Absolutely agree with @Ulrich's about the pangram being just a nudge in the direction of the W rather than an end in itself (the shirt buttons are a great idea! will use this from now on). Also, i don't see how W is a better or worse letter than V, P or D.

Ulrich 2:32 PM  

@Evgeny: Pretty soon, the two of us will be known here as a MAS (mutual admiration society) :)

BTW German "wie geht's" (short for "wie geht es"--how goes it) means the same and is used in the same way as Italian "come va" or French "comment ça va".

Anonymous 2:33 PM  

In the bubble of the crossword blogs, there are a few people who care about pangrams, probably the same ones who care about black-square records. *yawn* (And I'm not counting the ones who "like" pangrams just to tweak Rex.) The other 99% of the solving world could care less. WIE = much worse than DIE, PIE, VIE. Mr. Shortz should have changed it.

retired_chemist 2:44 PM  

And if you are wearing a T-shirt and can't count buttons, there is always the coin flip.

Someone said, more or less, "The point of a coin flip is not to let the coin choose for you but to realize, as the coin is falling, which way you WANT it to land."

I am thinking this was one of Piet Hein's Grooks but I am not sure.

retired_chemist 2:48 PM  

Yes it was.. The proper quote:

A psychological tip

Whenever you're called on to make up your mind
and you're hampered by not having any,
the best way to solve the dilemma, you'll find
is simply by spinning a penny.

No - not so that chance shall decide the affair
while you're passively standing there moping;
but the moment the penny is up in the air
you suddenly know what you're hoping.

Clark 2:55 PM  

Wie geht's, wie steht's? I love it when Obi and Roxie are gleefully chasing each other around the apartment. A little playful barking from Roxie, the flying leap off the couch from Obi, the mad, racing, tumbling dash down the hallway by both of them. And so it is today on the blog. How many different ways there are to love crossword puzzles!

Thanks @Ulrich for your musings on cause/reasons -- a far more complicated business than we are wont to think.

archaeoprof 3:02 PM  

BTW, that video of Fuer Elise is very nice. Thanks, Rex!

john farmer 3:15 PM  

I thought the puzzle today was fine. Surprised though it's John L.'s NYT debut, since I've seen his byline quite a bit before.

I do agree with the general gripe about pangrams. They're fine if they work out that way, but not worth sacrificing quality for.

How many of Patrick Berry's 100+ NYT puzzles are pangrams? Zero.

WIE usually gets clued for golfer Michelle, a onetime phenom though hardly the biggest star on the tour. I thought the "WIE geht's" clue was a nice change -- because I hear it a lot (I married into a German-speaking family). That said, I'd have gone with VIE and VEEP.

Doc John 3:28 PM  

Not much to add to what Rex already said except to say that if you see the show, Jersey Boys, you'll find out the origin of the "Short shorts" song. And all that time I thought it was a jingle made just for Nair!

Evgeny 3:57 PM  

@Ulrich: as soon a we become known as a MAS we'll have to drink a' Mas to that :-D Murphy's law being what it is, we'll probably get into an awful disagreement some time soon though... btw have you ever tried the weekly cryptic puzzle from 'die Zeit'? it's available for free online solving without registration; a bit frustrating at first, but lots of fun once one gets the hang of it.

Hermann the German 4:03 PM  

Honor demands that I jump to the defense of WIE geht, not in the pro/anti pangrams argument about which I'm on Rex's side, but in defense of the German Language.

German is woefully underreprestented, compared to French, Spanish, Italian and even Latin, in crosswords. Is it our fault that the median word-length in German is 27 letters, too long for your sissified American 15x15 crosswords? That the average vowel to consonant ratio in a German word is 1/8, making stacking three words on top of one another virtually impossible? So when someone gets a chance to stick one of our nice, short, vowel heavy words in your crossword, can't you just let us have our one, brief, shining moment of glory?


Noam D. Elkies 4:07 PM  

The 29A:WIE and 61A:PUCE haters, and the pangram lovers, could both be satisfied by making 29 one of VIE/VEEP etc. and replacing 61A:PUCE by WANE. (For myself, I'm fine with both WIE and PUCE, and enjoyed the puzzle though I made one silly error.)

Pace Gorski and Rex, the non-pangrammatic Gettysburg Address is not a fair comparison, because words do not play the same structural role in a crossword grid as they do in a speech or essay; letters are much closer. If you want an appropriate comparison, check whether Lincoln used every part of speech or every possible verb tense. (FWIW I find no interjections — and Lincoln could easily have put one or two in.)

Anyway if you want to kvetch about a crossword constructor's constraint that has next to nothing to do with the solver's enjoyment, pangrams are way down the list. The requirement of grid symmetry is far worse. Any number of great themes must have bitten the dust simply because they could not be realized with entries of matching lengths; and while a puzzle would never be rejected because it fails to include all the letters of the alphabet (unless it's actually a pangram theme), it's very rare that an asymmetrical grid appears at the NYTimes or comparable venues.


sanfranman59 4:18 PM  

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)

Wed 12:30, 11:45, 1.06, 71%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Wed 6:00, 5:46, 1.04, 67%, Medium-Challenging

Kendall 4:32 PM  

The only thing that comes to my mind as being uglier that OORT in a puzzle is PFUI. Really, OORT is just bad. I liked FLOUNCE a lot as it isn't a word I often hear or use. PENPAL was kind of fun. I liked TENET and PROLE as well. Those are nice enough for 5 or 6 letter words.

When I saw the clue for 10D I didn't think of the Greek letter THETA I thought of learning geometry in 8th or 9th grade where we used that sideways V thing. (that maybe has a name?)

That's all. Didn't really like this one so I'm holding out for something better tomorrow.


Herrmann the German said,at 4:03,
that the median German word-length
is 28 letters. Does that sound right?
Also, I am not too thrilled with
the 1/8 vowel to consonant ration he claims.

Ulrich 6:48 PM  

@Hermann: Actually, I'm surprised how MUCH German appears in puzzles. It came as a big surprise to me when I started to do the NYT puzzle on a regular basis--I mean, a language in which schlecht (1 vowel, 7 consonants) means "bad" doesn't seem to be that promising (you are right there).

@Evgeny: Thx for the Zeit hint!

@Doubting Tom: I, too, think he made this up (schlecht notwithstanding)

william e emba 7:20 PM  

Although Nevil SHUTE is famous for On The Beach and A Town Like Alice, books I own but have never read, I in fact really know of him from his one-time hard to find Vinland the Good filmscript. Once upon a time, before the Internet made rare book searching easy, I had spent years looking for a copy of that book, and then found one marked at $5 that I got for half of that because it was some special sale day as I found out when the clerk explained why the price total seemed so low.

The other tidbit about Shute that keeps him high in my memory is that his autobiography is entitled Slide Rule! Way cool.

I did not like the "---- cloud" clue, since I am used to seeing Oort Cloud, doubly proper. But apparently the minuscule form of cloud is common enough.


@ULRICH at 6:48

I think you only answered the
vowel to consonant question.
What about the 28-letter median
Ich denke das er weisst nicht
wovon er sprecht(spricht?)

R. McGeddon 7:34 PM  

I got a kick out of WIE GEHT'S for a particular reason. I worked with a guy who acquired a lady friend who happened to be German. He phoned her about 20,000 times a day and would always greet her with "Wie geht's!" and then proceed to yack away in his midwestern twang. This was the only German phrase he knew, and he milked it to the max, holding forth as a sophisticated, international guy.

Hermann the German 7:53 PM  

@Doubting Thomas - Ok, so I made up my stats. I thought I had made them absurd enough not to be believed, but still make a point.


To Hermann the German at7:53

Look at the comments made in this column every day. Do these people
need absurd comments to understand
a valid point? The facts would
allow intelligent people to draw a reasoned conclusion.

retired_chemist 8:53 PM  

@ D. T. -

I thought H. der G.'s comment was quite amusing and well within the usual boundaries of discourse on this blog.

A puzzle with JOCK FULL O' NUTS in it invites whimsy and irony, which is how I took the post.

andrea v-formation michaels 9:10 PM  

@Doubting Thomas
Yes, the more absurd the better, it's called a sense of humor! :)

My football puzzle with Kent last Tuesday was apparently missing only a V, and the first thing I did was run to find the original to see if Will had changed something, or if there never was one to begin with!

I'm not gonna say ;)

jyp0625 9:15 PM  

I found this puzzle difficult for a Wednesday puzzle. I became hopelessly stuck with less than half the squares filled. But then I am just a long time puzzle solver who still finds the Wednesday puzzle sometimes challenging.

Sfingi 9:19 PM  

Took me a while and HTG once - for OORT. I suspect Mr. OORT is a fine Dutch fellow, and his name is a variation on oord or ort, meaning place (n.).

Had several write-overs.
JerK before JOCK (more of my opinion of sports),
multi before ETHNO, Plum before PUCE,zitti before PENNE,
and SHADE before SCENT, which was the answer going across.

Learned KANJI (wanted Pinyin, but didn't fit) and AMATOL.
Couldn't fit "verily" in for YEA.

"WIE gehts?" is very common in German - It's like saying "Que pasa?" To which Grampa's answer was, "Wie ein Ganz, aber nicht so wacklich." Like a goose but not as wobbly. I prefer to see all languages instead of French, with all their unpronounced, unnecessary letters, and their assumption that everyone should know French.

@Rube - ChOCK FULL O NUTS is that heavenly coffee and is very much still around. I grabbed a couple cans with the twin towers for my litho collection before they changed the logo.
PROLE was possibly coined by George Orwell for proletariat in 1984.

I think it's curious that we call certain genre NOIR (black)which the Italians call Giallo, meaning yellow. I believe their reference is to the color of the pulp paperbacks.

The fill was pretty darn good.
I don't picture FLOUNCE as jerky, though.

@DBlackwell - I didn't see that MIA HAM!

Nor did I notice the pangram.

@Emba - never ask when someone sells you a bargain. Instead, run.

I was shocked when I thought the POPe was going to be referred to as the old man.

I would have preferred CAPO clued as ____ di tutti capi, a nice Mafia clue.

Great comments, everyone!

Anonymous 9:21 PM  

Wie Gehts! Last night I compared the puzzle to the Mona Lisa. I thought that was so absurd as to indicate a sense of humor, but Rex took it seriously. So, Herr Hermann should letter count his own German words. In fact, after reading the Gorski column on pangrams I say no comment should be longer than the Gettysburg Address, even if I violate my own rule....

Rube 9:33 PM  

@R_C, @HdG, @DT, I often have trouble determining the intent of some Off-the-Wall rants, Out-of-Left-Field Comments, or just plain inane statements on this blog. Usually I just assume these are in jest. Occassionally though, there are vituperous follow-ups that border on the paranoid. This WIE issue does not fall into the "Deep End" of Off-The-Wall remarks, but it does emphasize that some people, "Just can't take a joke". (Or are they just perpetuating the jest?)

Re OORT cloud: for those who didn't like either the answer or the clue, for many of us science types, NOVA watchers, and Carl Sagan admirers, OORT was a gimme.

acme naming 9:42 PM  

OK, possible title:
Spare change for a J?

(popular sign for panhandlers...or is that pot handlers?)

(or for pan(gram) handlers?)

Drei und owt

william e emba 9:55 PM  

And as for why I was interested in Vinland the Good, it was because of a 1991 Kim Stanley Robinson short story Vinland the Dream. I'd like to say "highly recommended" (because it's by KSR) but to be honest, I don't remember the story whatsoever. I guess I'll dig out my copy.

Anonymous 10:02 PM  

Paranoid? As Herr Kissinger said about Richard Nixon, even someone paranoid has real enemies.

President Merkin Muffley: How is it possible for this thing to be triggered automatically and at the same time impossible to untrigger?
Dr. Strangelove: Mr. President, it is not only possible, it is essential. That is the whole idea of this machine, you know. Deterrence is the art of producing in the mind of the enemy... the FEAR to attack. And so, because of the automated and irrevocable decision-making process which rules out human meddling, the Doomsday machine is terrifying and simple to understand... and completely credible and convincing.

Rube 10:55 PM  

@Sfingi & whoever that was with the unpronounceable name beginning with H, is the Chock Full 'o Nuts at 116th & Broadway still around?

Also, @Sfingi, (to save a post), is that Marilyn Manson guy Goth? And how do you keep up with this sort of thing? I'm totally in the dark!

sanfranman59 11:28 PM  

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 6:04, 6:55, 0.88, 8%, Easy
Tue 8:03, 8:55, 0.90, 24%, Easy-Medium
Wed 12:37, 11:45, 1.07, 75%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:19, 3:41, 0.90, 10%, Easy
Tue 4:00, 4:35, 0.87, 9%, Easy
Wed 5:57, 5:46, 1.03, 64%, Medium-Challenging

Sfingi 12:17 AM  

@Rube - OMG - I don't think so. I lived at W. 116th in 1966-7 and forgot all about it. And the automat and the crazy person on Amsterdam. Thanx for the memories.

Yes, Goth. You keep up with such things because you have a kid running a college radio station - at that college where Rex teaches. I decided of all the stuff I heard, I liked Ska.

Gotta shovel now. Bad day - one car needed a battery and the other wasn't inspected.

Stan 1:07 AM  

This puzzle really worked for me. Maybe because I find something intrinsically funny about the J for CH exchange. Why? Who knows -- it's a voiced for an unvoiced consonant substitution. But D for T (while just as legitimate) wouldn't have been as comical.

"On the Beach" was the first adult-themed film I was allowed to watch (at about age 12). My parents were worried about my losing sleep over the idea of nuclear apocalypse but it didn't really bother me -- I just thought it was profound. The images of a depopulated San Francisco were especially chilling.

Stephen 9:48 PM  

I learn something from every puzzle. Today my eyes were opened to a old old experience of mine. I was mid-teens, I had a pair of short shorts, I liked wearing them. (I'm a guy, not gay, just guy.) I would get taunted in the schoolground with chants of "We wear short shorts. We wear short shorts!" Didn't ken where that flak came from, but did understand it to be perjorative. Gave in and stopped wearing them to school. Apparently I had not been watching enough TV. Amazing what cultural context does. Also amazing the bite can stay with you as a person for so many decades. Amazing the community keeps this silliness in its craw too.

I'm now doing old guy, not gay, just old guy. Still have a pair of short shorts. Love 'em. Thinking now about trying some NAIR, just to find some closure.

Stephen 10:03 PM  

Actually came here to cringe at the two corner clues.

28D "Back into a corner" is not TREE. Treeing something is to eliminate its escape routes, but without actually capturing it. Cornering an ocelot is a deadly threat; treeing it is essentially a standoff.

9A "Cornered" is not AT BAY. When someone is held at bay, he is held out of the action, not at the center of the action.

Anonymous 10:05 AM  

Surprised that no one mentioned that the 'j' was a sub for 'ch' in 20,31,41,53 across.

Anonymous 11:09 AM  

Uh, well, Rex kinda implied it with his first sentence.

NotalwaysrightBill 12:47 PM  

Syndicated paper solver.

Appreciate that Rex gets on this BRONC most every day and lets 'er buck, with the occasional inevitable spill. Fun little rodeo y'all got here.

At what point does a FLOUNCE quit beguiling? "consistency" JANGE from "elegance" into a hobgoblin? a form like a pangram become pointlessly constraining and a junk magnet? YEA, YEA, YEA, I say that even though one hones his art to where he actually thinks in perfectly rhymed stanzas, like Lord Byron, YEA, that still

"Long ere a third of his [years] passed by,
Worse than adversity the Childe befell:
He felt the fullness of SATIETY;
Then loathed he in his native land to dwell,
Which seemed to him more lone than Eremite's sad cell."

Reckon he needed a mission.

Gotcha (at least me) captcha: "imingi": how did they know that if they cracked my head open . . . . ?

GILL I. 2:59 PM  

Coming to you on Jan. 19th - don't know if anyone will see this but, maybe?
I agree with @Rex when he references a forced letter in order to make a pangram. Having said that, I love pangrams!
@Chohn the Jumping Jehoshaphat - really, you make me laugh. I look forward to the ....

Tim 3:16 PM  

After long consideration of the pangram arguments, I think I fall into the "why not" category. This puzzle doesn't seem (to me) to labor in service of the pangram, though with KITH and OOZE, I can see why it appears Lampkin was thinking this direction. So if W is just the final word to achieve it, then great; the clues seemed perfectly legit and enjoyable to me. I even said to my son, "hey, German clue today." (He being 5 years old was not bovvered.)

That said, why not forget the pangram and go with JEEP/JIE? With China so much in the news today, why aren't we seeing more Chinese language clues (older sister; last ruler of Xia; street for Mao)? Make us Euromutts extend our vocabularies in a new direction!

Cary in Boulder 9:26 PM  

"Who Wears Short Shorts" was originally recorded by the Royal Teens in the late '50s. Check out this amazing video:

The puzzle? I liked it, although I originally inked in JOCKFULOFNUTS which screwed up that region for a long time. Never noticed the pangram. But then again I only noticed the puns and not the J for CH exchange.

Used to hear "wie gehts" all the time from my Yiddish-speaking granny. Of course, I didn't know how it was spelled until much later.

I think "On the Beach" was the first post-apocalyptic novel I ever read. (Or maybe it was "Earth Abides"?) In those days it was certainly easy to believe that hard rain was gonna fall.

lodsf 2:01 AM  

Syndicated solver (late Wednesday 1/19/11).
Liked the smattering of “old time” words: HARK, YEA, and although not clued as such KITH. (I know AMATOL was also clued “old” but just not so enamored of that word, nothing against it.) I learned something – using every cross – about Japanese writing (KANJI). I probably learned more that I wanted to about WIE geht’s but at least my (non-existent) German vocabulary has now increased. Thanks, Rex, for the “Fur Elise” clip – it was great background music while reading about German greetings and the cons & pros of pangrams.

Nullifidian 2:58 AM  

Even later syndicated solver here. :-) It's almost Thursday here (11:49), though of course the local paper isn't delivered until about 5 a.m.

Personally, I don't see what the problem is with WIE geht's, considering all the numerous clues that ask us to know various phrases and words in French. I thought it was a nice nod to those of us who are fluent in German. JEST PROTECTOR seemed a tad forced, but JEER LEADER made me smile. It put me in mind of Statler and Waldorf, which might have been a nice way to clue it.

The one thing that really bothered me was 28-Down's "Back into a corner" used to clue TREE. That sense of treeing comes from hunting, when the dogs chase the prey up the tree. So when was the last time you went outside in some rural area and saw a tree in a corner?

Other than that, I was reasonably satisfied with the puzzle. It didn't have the sense of relying on too much autofill, and some of the theme clues were clever.

Byron in L.A. 3:57 PM  

I am a syndicated solver who doesn't get around to checking this blog on a daily basis, but enjoys it anyway.

Re: Wei geht's

This clue/answer brought to mind my dad's favorite joke (that I can remember) when I was a kid.

My dad was in the Navy in WWII, and I think the joke was set in that timeframe, with food rationing,

A German fellow comes into an American restaurant and says, "Wie geht's." (I never imagined the spelling when my dad told the joke.)

The waiter replies, "Oh, wheat cakes."

"Nein nein nein," says the German.

"Nine!" says the waiter. "You'll be lucky if you get two!"

GILL I. 4:51 PM  

@Byron in LA
I live in Sacramento. Since I'm retired, I read @Rex every day. It is without a doubt my favorite blog. We need more syndicated commentators.
Your joke made me laugh. Wei indeed!

Byron in L.A. 5:33 PM  


I am amazed that anyone would see a blog comment on Saturday regarding the Wednesday puzzle (from six week ago).

By the way, it was my first post ever to this blog, but I just had to share the joke after all the hullabaloo about wei geht's.

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