English fashionista Bartley / THU 12-16-10 / Gov. Faubus in Arkansas history / Movie quote 1932 / 1924 Isham Jones/Gus Kahn song / Sweet wine Hungary

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Constructor: Charles Deber

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: NOT TO BE (38A: Ill-fated ... or a hint for answering the six starred clues) — familiar phrases containing "TO BE" have the "TO BE" removed, leaving ... "TO BE"-less (and thus nonsensical) theme answers

Word of the Day: ORVAL Faubus (5A: Gov. Faubus in Arkansas history) —

Orval Eugene Faubus (January 7, 1910 – December 14, 1994) was the 36th Governor of Arkansas, serving from 1955 to 1967. He is best known for his 1957 stand against the desegregation of Little Rock public schools during the Little Rock Crisis, in which he defied a unanimous decision of the United States Supreme Court by ordering the Arkansas National Guard to stop African American students from attending Little Rock Central High School. Despite his initial staunch segregationist stances, Faubus moderated his positions later on. He even endorsed the African American minister, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, in the 1984 Democratic presidential primaries. (wikipedia)
• • •

[Dear syndicated solvers—It's pledge week here at the Rex Parker site (thru Saturday) —read my pitch for donations in the opening paragraphs of this past Sunday's write-up, here ... and thanks for your faithful readership (and the many kind messages I've received so far)]

Interesting theme, which I picked up pretty easily — somewhere in the middle of the puzzle, between BORN... in 24A and the ... YOU in 50A. Theme density is pretty impressive, though as usual this means non-theme fill has to bend itself into some strange positions at times. ORVAL seemed the strangest to me, but maybe wouldn't have had I been alive during school desegregation in the south. LUELLA looks more like a real name, but only just (29A: English fashionista Bartley). Last time some famous British woman got stuck in the puzzle (GEMMA someone), traffic to my website spiked as desperate Googlers set out for answers. This will likely happen again today. I spent eight years in English graduate school and never once heard someone refer to him- or herself as a BYRONIST (39D: Certain English poetry scholar). An IRONIST, maybe. A CHAUCERIAN (guilty), a SHAKESPEAREAN, a JOYCEAN, even, but not a BYRONIST. Still, I recognize that it's a real word, and it's at least interesting-looking. I feel like I drew on my crosswording superpowers today with TOKAY (35D: Sweet wine of Hungary). Got it off the "T"—utterly impossible (for me) without serious crossword mileage under my belt. Puzzle manages to have really interesting vocabulary and an admirable Scrabbly quality (by which I think I mean "a lot of Ks and an X") despite the theme density, so despite the fact that the resulting theme answers are nonsense, I liked this one.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: *"I don't know yet" (THAT REMAINS SEEN)
  • 3D: *Memorable movie quote of 1932 ("I WANT ALONE")
  • 24A: *1968 #2 hit heard in "Easy Rider" ("BORN WILD")
  • 50A: *1924 Isham Jones/Gus Kahn song ("IT HAD YOU")
  • 30D: *Like someone who's had a narrow escape (LUCKY ALIVE)
  • 58A: *"No WAY!" ("YOU'VE GOT KIDDING")

Gotta get up early for a dentist appointment, so I'll cut to the chase, i.e. the Bullets.

  • 1A: "Caro nome," for one (ARIA) — never heard of it, and yet it was a gimme. Four letters, Italian title ...
  • 33A: Air or ami preceder (BEL) — I don't see "bel ami" in dictionaries on-line. It is a Maupassant title, but "ami" isn't capitalized here. I don't know the phrase as one that has entered the English language.
  • 56A: Diamond on a record player (NEIL) — "record player," nice. Retro.

  • 6D: Head of the Egyptian god Amun (RAM) — did not know. Wanted ASP or OWL.
  • 5D: Length in years of a lenient sentence, maybe (ONE TO TWO) — this feels forced, but I don't know ... maybe it's a common sentence for ... something. I'm seeing that it's a not uncommon drug offense sentence. Hmm. OK.
  • 54D: Follower of juillet (AOÛT) — wanted JUIN, but that's the wrong direction.
See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Anonymous 12:06 AM  

I hate to crow (actually in this blog I never get a chance to and my wife calls me obnoxious for this) but…

On Monday I posted on this blog the following comment with respect to TEAR:

“I think if theme answers had been constructed so TEAR was missing, then ‘shedding a tear’ would have been more interesting and relative as a theme clue. For example, PLANET EARTH would be PLANETH (because the TEAR was ‘shed’). But that would have made the puzzle more difficult, probably more like a Thursday puzzle in degree of difficulty.

Acme replied:

“Shedding the TEAR literally by leaving it out is an excellent idea for a puzzle, but you cannot have an entry like PLANETH as that's not a word. SO it wouldn't be more like a Thursday, it would be more like a no day.”

I replied:

“Thx for the compliment but I recall seeing puzzles with letters omitted and the answers made no sense without them or unless they were added.”

So, today, Thursday, we have a puzzle that omits “to be” and the answers make no sense without those words. It’s as though I am prescient or Will Shortz was reading Rex’s blog that day.

I don’t have a day job (or a life), so maybe I’ll take up constructing puzzles. And, Acme, anytime you want to collaborate on “shedding a tear” for a Thursday puzzle, I am sure we can construct answers without words like PLANETH.:)

Needless to say, I LOVED this puzzle!

Now, I vant to be alone, Darleeng....

Obnoxious John

PS. Nate, I miss you.

mmorgan 12:18 AM  

For me, there was much to love here, between some great clues and great answers... ETOILES, NEIL, NOEL, TOKAY (BTW, my hero NOEL Coward wrote a song called "TOKAY" and also one called "A Room with A VIEW"), NETTLE, AOUT (I know...), OTIS, SHAGGY, and more. And except for some delay in the East, it all fell pretty quickly. (Much faster than yesterday, actually.) Didn't know LUELLA or SOLUTE or TRUES as a verb, but there they were, all done, no HTG.

Briefly see-sawed between BON and BEL for 33A.

But this one was just all fun and enjoyment and happy smirks for me. I first thought "TO BE" would be a rebus, but it worked out fine.

I love when others now say "HTG" -- that's mine! Yay!

Actually,@Anon/John 12:06 AM, most of the answers DO make sense w/o "2B," no?

I'm still amazed at what happened here with WIE yesterday (which I barely noticed, as I got it from crosses). Is there a "WIE" in here today? And is "WIE" a new meme for this blog?

Can't wait to read Andrea's comments tomorrow!

Anonymous 12:23 AM  

mmorgan - I did not read Rex's comment before posting but he said "nonsensical" which is like makes no sense. In all modesty I think I am due some credit, though I would prefer winning the lottery...


retired_chemist 12:34 AM  

Orville Redenbacher <=> ORVAL Faubus? Well, it makes as little sense as the theme answers. Did not like their nonsensicality.

Agree with easy-medium. The easy 3 letter answers were the key for me. Started the theme with THAT REMAINS TO BE, thinking (un)SEEN would be the theme. Didn't work elsewhere, and thankfully I didn't try to force it as I often do. BIG time sink when I do.

Not thrilled with ETOILES (21A) - no obvious hint that a French word is called for. OK, ballet is a French word too, but still.....

Didn't like ALKY either - anyone EVER use that word?

Did like RUNE (63A) - was looking for a real live character and couldn't think of any in 4 letters. Smiled when I got it from the crosses.

All in all, I enjoyed the solve, but this is not one of my favorites.

Rube 12:39 AM  

Wow, it looks like Anonymous @12:06 has set the tone for discussion of this puzzle. I will say that without the "to be"(s) what remains are still words, just nonsense expressions.

My only comment is that we need some authority to nail down the spelling of REATA/RiATA. Back and forth... back and forth!

I remember some college Freshmen classmates in 1961 who were from Little Rock. I was such an innocent that I didn't even think to ask them about their experiences during the forced (de)segregation episode at Central High. Of course, they were from a local prep school and did not have first hand knowledge, but still... Nevertheless, ORVAL was a gimme for us oldies.

Like @R_C, did not like the clue for ETOILES. French should have been inferred.

Got the theme early on such that it helped solve several other theme answers, making this an easy solve.

Will have to research RUNE as a Beowulf character. Don't remember this. (Or am I thinking of Gilgamesh?) Will probably be my XW WOTD.

Had the same "seesaw" as @mmorgan with Bon/BEL.

Very fine puzzle. Love it when theme answers cross each other. Shows real creativity.

Clark 12:51 AM  

I was trying to make this work as a rebus with T2B, N2B, D2B, Y2B, but I couldn't make the crosses work. I finally figured out what NOT TO BE had to mean here. Ah, the dangers of starting out on a Thursday saying, "I bet it's going to be a rebus today; I hope it's going to be a rebus today!"

captcha: dimism. Need I say more?

davko 1:04 AM  

I'm amazed the constructor -- to his credit -- was able to resist the temptation of the obvious Shakespearean allusion. Once I caught on to the theme, I was holding my breath for a clue like "Famous Dane's quandary" (Answer: OR NOT).

foodie 1:10 AM  

Cool puzzle! Hangs together well, with the central NOT TO BE as the cherry on top.

To my mind, some of the theme answers were less nonsensical than others. Most of the phrases were in proper English, in that they could occur in the context of another sentence.. e.g. She was BORN WILD and remained that way all her life. Or, the movie scene was so scary, IT HAD YOU by the throat. But, YOU'VE GOT KIDDING is truly nonsensical. So, I wish the degree of sense or nonsense were consistent.

I have a niece born on Xmas day. But naming her NOEL(le)? That was NOT TO BE. .. Fitting Christmas and a birthday party in one day is a bit of a challenge but hey, we're good. We manage to stuff ourselves all day long and still do right by that birthday cake.

I have a great, easy, cheaty, recipe for a LENTIL soup. Actually, I have two of them. As ChefBea says, Yum!

chefwen 1:57 AM  

@Rube - You have been commenting rather early, are you on island for Christmas, if so, ALOHA.

Loved the puzzle, only area that I struggled with was putting, rather confidently, BART at 55D, was pretty sure it isn't referred to as THE bart, but what do I know about rapid transit in the San Francisco area. Should have called my brother in law or @Andrea. Caught on rather quickly with 17A with only a few downs in place, it was a big help in the other theme answers.

Nice satisfying Thursday.

jae 2:49 AM  

Easy-medium for me too once I caught the trick which took a few minutes. I knew Faubus was ORVAL but thought the spelling was like Redenbacher (see Rex's pic above), which had me thinking rebus. SW was the toughest for me. I figured out AOUT was a month but the lack of capitalization in the clue threw me off. Do the French not capitalize their months??

@chefwen - BART was my first thought also but I'd already filled in 58a.

And, I also liked this one!

andrea ivegotkidding michaels 2:55 AM  

@Obnoxious John
I stand by my original statement...(whatever it was!)you can see the problem. YOUVEGOTKIDDING. QED.
(Regardless, the point was, actual nonsensical phrases barely squeak by, but PLANTH would never fly.)

Do not want to stir an outcry, but I've never heard MUNI with "the"!
"How did you get here?" "I took MUNI". "I hate MUNI", etc.
So rather than you call me, I wish "they" had...but somehow I sense we will get a refudiation as to why it's THE MUNI despite those of us who live here, actually use it and talk about it on a daily basis.
At least it's not Yiddish!

I skip M-W 3:56 AM  

Fastest Thurs. time for me ever. But why clue Orval as "Governor Faubus IN ARKANSAS HISTORY"? Has there ever been another Gov. Faubus?

@Andrea, I'm pretty sure Herb Caen used to refer to SF transit as "the Muni."

The clue for "bel" seemed forced, as did "reata" spelling.

@Rex, I've certainly seen "alky "in 30's or 40's novels, and" trues," besides being common in x-wds is also in some use.

@retired_chemist the characters Beowulf was originally written in are "runes", or were you kidding?

male chicken 4:01 AM  

We have great big tokay geckos in Cambodia. Massive brightly coloured things, with a bark like a baritone cuckoo clock and a heap of legends attached (the number of calls it makes can predict things about your marriage and your death) ...

Sundance 5:37 AM  

Not too difficult a Thurs when I can do it! Cheers!

Ruth 7:18 AM  

There's "The Muni Opera" in St. Louis which definitely takes a "The" in common parlance. Obscure? Not in St. Louis!

Anonymous 7:31 AM  

@Davko... Yeah, I wanted some mention of him.
Maybe a clue such as "Small village"

pauer 7:56 AM  

Obnoxious people make me nauseous.

Sam. 8:02 AM  

Orval. Great word. Also a wonderful Trappist beer from Belgium.

another obnoxious person 8:09 AM  

@pauer, sorry to be obnoxious, but I think you mean obnoxious people make you nauseated.

joho 8:10 AM  

I got the theme almost immediately at IWANTALONE and flew from there. This was so much fun! I had no problem with the nonsensical answers because I read them with "TO BE" inserted which made them whole and totally understandable ... and, did I mention fun!

Thank you Charles Deber and today I have to say, Will, for thinking outside the box and allowing such a creative puzzle to see the light of day.

The Bard 8:23 AM  

Hamlet > Act III, scene I

HAMLET: To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.--Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember'd.

Rex Parker 8:56 AM  

I'm getting a bunch of mail this morning telling me that that is NOT, in fact, a picture of ORVAL Faubus.




ArtLvr 9:06 AM  

Funny start today: Orville didn't fit, so I went to do the Downs. I WANT ALONE had to have a rebus at the T (TOBE), except that idea wasn't right either! Fortunately, everything fell lickety-split afterward. Congrats to constructor Charles Deber for his cleverness...

Also congrats to John Lampkin on his NYT debut yesterday, as I just read the rest of the Rexite commentary on that puzzle this morning. I wish I could save it all -- what a classic, in a nutshell. Pangram-lovers vs scorners vs could-care-lessers. I'm with Andrea and Ulrich and others who admire them. Not to start the whole thing over again, but I find it hilarious that Rex is pleased with scrabbly letters in general, but deems inclusion of one each less worthy whether conscious or NOT. ( I believe in happy accidents.) And thanks to retired_chemist for the poetic Grook by Piet Hein on unconscious decisions in flipping a coin!

Anyway, today Beethoven's birthday is TO BE celebrated!


mmorowitz 9:14 AM  

Easy-Medium but very enjoyable puzzle.

FYI, "Caro Nome" is from Verdi's "Rigoletto" and is a beautiful ARIA and a great way to start the day:

Ulrich 9:15 AM  

@Clark: I, too, started by trying to fit a rebus in, it being Thursday and all...I feel WS really pulled my leg with his product placement.

Rex Parker 9:17 AM  


You completely miss the point. Constructors trying for a pangram make needless, horrible sacrifices most of the time simply to satisfy some inexplicable ego craving. It's not the fact of every letter being in the grid that's the problem–it's what many constructors will do to get there.

If you actually read Liz on this, you'd understand. Perhaps.


David L 9:26 AM  

By odd coincidence, the question of MUNI vs the MUNI came up on (the) Language Log today:


quilter1 9:31 AM  

My last letter was the U in LUELLA/SOLUTE and was a total guess. Liked the theme which I picked up at LUCKY ALIVE. Also had bon before BEL.

RUNE refers to the letters (characters) in which Beowulf was written, I believe.

Very enjoyable solve.

Look Up Guy 9:33 AM  

@r_c and @Rube

étoile: (English)
Etymology - French

1.The leading ballet dancer (male or female) in a company

@chefwen, acme, et al
Welcome to San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni) --- you'll see they don't use "the".

OldCarFudd 9:33 AM  

Easy, clever, smooth, lotsa fun.

efrex 9:34 AM  

Wanted to love this. Really did. Theme was nice, I finally remembered REATA, cute clues for RUNE and KNEE, but too many annoying 3-letter spoor words for my taste (I'm convinced that there have been more KIAs in puzzles than have ever been sold). I'm admittedly somewhat bitter because I had HAPPYALIVE instead of LUCKYALIVE, and that threw off the entire eastean part of the grid for me.

Thursdays are always a crapshoot. This one didn't come up snake-eyes for me, but it certainly wasn't all sevens.

retired_chemist 9:48 AM  

@ Look up Guy

étoile: (English)

Nope. English doesn't have accents. Except in foreign words, that is. Which was my point....

johnpag 9:49 AM  

I saw Ninotchka the other night. Garbo's quote is "WE want to be alone.", not "I want to be alone".

Matthew G. 10:22 AM  

I loved this puzzle. Full stop. A tight theme that required word manipulation but didn't rely on puns, theme answers crossing each other, good theme density, and a "reveal" answer that is integral to the theme and at the center of the grid? And almost no bad fill to boot? Yes, I'll take that combination pretty much any day. Great work, Charles! This was one of my favorite mid-to-late week puzzles in recent months, and it was really satisfying to solve even though it was on the easy side for a Thursday.

In my mind, it's a strength of the puzzle that the theme answers are "nonsensical," and I'm not sure I quite understand the argument that it's a weakness. Part of making a puzzle is coming up with something that doesn't make sense until it does. Like a few others, I was thinking rebus on this one at first, and then realized what was actually going on. Nice a-ha moment. And I think the resulting theme answers are actually fun to say aloud (Imagine an AOL voice saying "You've got kidding!" to Tom Hanks...).

Very little to criticize here. Never heard of Ms. LUELLA (and neither, it turns out, has our English friend Crossword Man at the "Englishman Solves" blog), but the constructor remembered the Natick rule and this fashionista was easily revealed from the crosses.

Don't really understand "Aligns" --> TRUES (is "TRUES" somehow a verb, or is "Aligns" somehow a noun? I don't get it...) and feel I must be missing something obvious there, or a usage of one of those words that I haven't seen before.

Have definitely heard the word ALKY used on occasion to refer to a boozer, so that's legit, although I myself had WINO in that spot and let it go reluctantly when the crosses weren't working.

Count me among those who took a while to decide between BEL and BON.

Actually loved ETOILES as an answer. That's my kind of crossword clue. I had _no_ idea that ballet stars are sometimes referred to as ETOILES, and yet it was an answer that could be deduced ("Hey, maybe they just use the French word for stars!"). Love it.

Four ETOILES for today's puzzle.

Van55 10:30 AM  

Enjoyed this one very much.

Had BON before BEL and BART before MUNI and AVE before TIA. Otherwise it was a smooth solve once I sussed out the theme at 17A.

I don't remember seeing Mr. Deber's by-line before. Is this a Deber debut?

The Kinks 10:30 AM  

Don't step on Greta Garbo as you walk down the boulevard
She looks so weak and fragile, that's why she tried to be so hard
But they turned her into a princess
And they sat her on a throne
But she turned her back on stardom,
Because she wanted to be alone.

"Celluloid Heroes," 1972.

Masked and Anonymous 10:33 AM  

Great ThursPuz. But...

WAST? Really?!? I thought I'd seen it all, vis-a-vis 4-letter words...

Oh, I get it. You have to kinda trace an S-curve with it...

Jon88 10:33 AM  

@johnpag: The clip is online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tojjWQvlPN8 -- no doubt, it's "I want to be alone" the first time.

Feel free to [Mumble, mumble] about this. (Seriously? That's a clue for GRR? How?)

pauer 10:36 AM  

Hmm ... Looks like I'm not alone:


Live and unlearn!

Guy who's never completed a Blindauer puzzle 10:45 AM  

@pauer - After what you've done to me with some of your puzzles, I didn't have a problem with your describing yourself as nauseous.

Two Ponies 10:45 AM  

This one really tickled me.
I, too, was expecting a rebus and this was just as fun.
@ Rex, I cracked up to see the popcorn guy because that was my first thought when 5A was filled.
Only nettle was reata (as @ Rube noted) but I don't feel like quibbling.
Good satisfying solve.
I love grits.

7thecow 10:58 AM  

Loved the puzzle. First entry was ORVAL, but looking at the clue and the fact that Orville didn't fit, thought there was some other sneaky answer (fifth, nasty, etc.). The crosses confirmed it. First tried EBON @10A but couldn't see any B name at Christmas-came back to it later. Had YEAST, followed with AVA (alternate Italian?) but again crosses ruled it out. Most of the rest of the puzzle flowed pretty easily.

SethG 11:03 AM  

Rex, that is NOT, in fact, a picture of LUELLA Bartley.

ONE OR TWO is also [Length in years of a particularly harsh sentence, maybe]. It kinda depends on the crime, doesn't it?

mr. obvious 11:07 AM  

Anytime you see a clue along the lines of "cowboy rope", be prepared for REATA, riata, lariat or lasso. It ain't gonna change; it's a fact exploited by constructors routinely.

Just as a "dictator" might be czar, csar or tsar.

A guy really enjoy skiing and mountain biking, and also has one of those personalities where he's always joking with people. He has a bad accident that leaves him paralyzed. Despondent, he asks a friend, "I can't ski or bike anymore. I don't know how to go on. What do I have left?" "You've got kidding."

Random House 11:14 AM  

—nauseously, adv. —nauseousness, n.
/naw"sheuhs, -zee euhs/, adj.
1. affected with nausea; nauseated: to feel nauseous.
2. causing nausea; sickening; nauseating.
3. disgusting; loathsome: a nauseous display of greed.
[1595-1605; < L nauseosus. See NAUSEA, -OUS]
Syn. 3. revolting, nasty, repellent, abhorrent, detestable, despicable, offensive.
Ant. 3. delightful.
Usage. The two literal senses of NAUSEOUS, "causing nausea" (a nauseous smell) and "affected with nausea" (to feel nauseous), appear in English at almost the same time in the early 17th century, and both senses are in standard use at the present time. NAUSEOUS is more common than NAUSEATED in the sense "affected with nausea," despite recent objections by those who imagine the sense to be new. In the sense "causing nausea," either literally or figuratively, NAUSEATING has become more common than NAUSEOUS: a nauseating smell.

quilter1 11:18 AM  

I found via ear worm that I know all the words to It Had To Be You. And I didn't listen to Billie. I do, I do have a life! Really. Yeah.

archaeoprof 11:21 AM  

I was looking for a rebus too.

NESTLED is appropriate for the holiday season!

And now back to grading exams...

Anonymous 11:25 AM  

Several writeovers, some already mentioned.

ebon > INKY
Bon > BEL
ave > TIA
bart > MUNI

It has been a long time since i visited San Francisco, but IIRC, the Bay Area Rapid Transit, is known as 'The BART', so cluing MUNI this way was really hard to overcome. Is (the) MUNI the trolly's nickname?

Nice puzzle, overall, and finished despite above troubles.

@captcha - drower
last alternate for the eight-man boat race.


Sparky 11:31 AM  

Yes, bon for BEL, bart for MUNI. Also hast for WAST and Roberts for PAMELAS. Figured TO BE but couldn't figure how to winkle it into the spaces. No ah hah moment, just wrote it in the margin and soldiered on. Got it with 36A. Liked OTIS clue. Louella Parsons doesn't fit. Oh yeah, ogre for RUNE. Liked that too. Finished most but SW corner had some empty spaces. Have a good day.

Matthew G. 11:35 AM  


The MUNI is the City of San Francisco transportation system. Emphasis on "City," as in MUNIcipal.

BART is the area-wide system.

They are separate organizations.


The people I know who lived in San Francisco say "the MUNI." But all of them were transplants. I've never known a native San Franciscan well -- I'll take your word for it that the true locals say simply "MUNI."

Look Up Guy 11:36 AM  

Departing from my usual "just offer, don't explain 'em" policy:

@r_c wrote:
Nope. English doesn't have accents. Except in foreign words, that is. Which was my point....

Words imported from other languages:
Non-English words enter the English language by a process of "naturalization", ... During this process there is a tendency for accents and other diacritics that were present in the donor language to be dropped (for example à propos, which lost both the accent and space to become apropos). In many cases, imported words can be found in print in both their accented and unaccented versions. Since modern dictionaries are mostly descriptive and no longer prescribe outdated forms, they increasingly list unaccented forms, though in some cases the only correct English spelling (as given by the OED and other dictionaries) requires the diacritic (e.g., soupçon, façade).

Which was my point ;)

Anonymous 11:36 AM  

@Acme @ 2:55 a.m., frankly, I am disappointed, but not surprised, in your response. You still place too much emphasis on PLANETH in my original posting on Monday. That was only an example. Just as SHEDDING A TEAR meant leaving out the 4 letters TEAR in a phrase that must include them to make sense, NOT TO BE means leaving out the 4 letters TO BE in a phrase that must include them to make sense. PLANETH was perhaps a poor choice for an example, but it is absurd enough I thought it would illustrate the concept. But enough of belaboring this. If you don’t like the idea, fine. Today’s puzzle is exactly what I had in mind. I liked the idea as an improvement on Monday’s puzzle and I like this puzzle for implementing it. The fact I expressed the concept earlier this week as a Thursday and the concept appears today as a Thursday is eerie IMOO.

@Rex, that picture is not Orval Faubus,
the late governor of Arkansas who tried to stop the integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, in defiance of Brown v. Bd of Edcuation. It is actually a pic of Orville Redenbacher, the popcorn man, and I had assumed you knew that when you posted it and posted it as a joke, presumably because of your disdain for the Arkansas governor.

@Rube, thanks for getting it.

@Pauer, Are you at the right blog? Try Pepto Bismol...(I still remember the time when I was a tot and as my mother started to put the spoonful of Pepto Bismol in my mouth I threw up in my bed).

I WANT TO BE ALONE – Regardless of the movie line, Garbo said for real and from the age of 36 until she died almost 50 years later lived as a recluse in an apartment in NYC. On the other hand, Elin Nordegren already has a boyfriend. Those beautiful Swedes – go figure!?

PS. For anyone who is still trying to make sense of the theme answers without TO BE, I am reminded of the sign at the entrance of Stew Leonard’s in Norwalk, CT:

Rule 1. The customer is always right.
Rule 2. If the customer is ever wrong, re-read rule #1.

PPS. Nate would have loved today, but maybe he had the right idea after all....

OJ (tao)

Captcha is hydra?

Adam Winer 11:47 AM  

Governor Faubus is familiar to jazz lovers from the castigation he received in Charles Mingus's "Fables of Faubus". Sadly, his first name doesn't appear in the lyrics.

I'm not a native San Franciscan, but I've lived in SF for five or six years and have never heard it called "The Mnui". (Or "The BART", for that matter.) Prepending "The" to everything is more of a Southern Californian thing (e.g., "The 101").

Matthew G. 12:00 PM  

Third and last post for me...

I think it's always a contentious issue whether and when to put the definite article before an organization name. It's a (kind of irritating) Southern California thing to put "the" before _route numbers_, but that's not really relevant here.

Working as a lawyer, I've noticed a lot of disagreement over when to put "the" in front of organization names. As a New Yorker, I would say "the MTA" and "the TLC," and they look weird to me without the article. So if I moved to San Francisco, I'd probably say "the Muni" when I was first there until I noticed that local usage was different. And yet somehow, I don't know how, I do know that BART is simply BART with no article.

In my current life as a lawyer and my past life as a copy editor, I've seen people fight over when to use the article in cases like this. I consider it one of those grey areas with no firm right answer in most cases.

Anonymous 12:07 PM  

it had easy puzzle 'cause i did it!

Anonymous 12:10 PM  

Muni refers to itself (and says it's known universally) as Muni. San Francisco Chronicle calls them Muni.

Squeek 12:19 PM  

Such a fun puzzle and all you can nitpick about is a stupid three letter article? Did this make you miss the answer? Geez Louise.
Some of us (me) don't really care.
I also don't miss grumpy long-winded old men who pout and run away hoping we will plead with them to come back. Bah. I say "Don't let the door...."
I'm also 100% sure Rex knows which Orval/Orville picture he posted.
Back to the fun, please.

william e emba 12:23 PM  

English words are certainly allowed to have accent marks. It normally only happens when the etymology brings the accent along with it, and there's a good reason to keep it. But not always.

Noël and Zoë, for example, use the accent to indicate the name has two syllables. In the case of Zoë, the original is a Greek word that in Greek was obviously two syllables, but which fact gets lost in the Zoe transliteration.

Accents distinguish between résumé (for job hunters) and resume (for restarters). I always use the former in my cover letters!

An accent is also the easiest way to indicate the soft-c pronunciation of façade. The common "fuh-Kayd" mispronunciation drives me nuts.

Meanwhile, dictionaries disagree about whether étoile is English yet. The OED, for example, lists etoile as an English word (and not as a foreign word used by English speakers) without the accent, but only in reference to star-shaped objects.

Regarding Juillet vs juillet in the clue: the French normally do not capitalize the names of their months unless there is an overriding reason to capitalize them. The standard example concerns Bastille Day: La fête nationale française (le « 14 Juillet » ou « 14-Juillet ») est la fête nationale de la France, qui a lieu chaque 14 juillet depuis 1880. (This is the first sentence in the French Wikipedia article.)

The first two usages are capitalized because the date has been promoted to Official Holiday Status, while the last usage is not capitalized because it refers to a more-or-less random historical date (in this case, the first observation as an official legal holiday).

Doug 12:31 PM  

I really liked this puzzle because it was really challenging for me -- had to leave it and go back three or four times to finish. I had BART for MUNI which really slowed me down in the SW. And the last theme answer for me was a trip up as I started with GREAT to be alive and then HAPPY to be alive before I finally realized that it was LUCKY.

Anonymous 12:38 PM  

English words don’t have accents. Sounds like a cliché.

The is a definite article. Muni is a bond.

Anonymous 12:46 PM  

Rube, I think the character in Beowulf refers to the runic alphabet.

TimJim 12:53 PM  

Loved the boxed EARS. Got it, despite wanting BART. And, @Ruth, BTW, the Municipal Opera in St. Louis is known as "The Muny" - not Muni. (Go figure)

If the truth be told 12:58 PM  

@Obnoxious John

1) There is a vast diference between a collection of letters that don't make sense and a collection of words that don't make a phrase.

2) Your wife seems to be a very intelligent woman.


Jennifer 1:02 PM  

I've lived in San Francisco for almost 20 years, and I've never heard MUNI called "the MUNI." It's always just MUNI (although sometimes there is an expletive before it : ).

Bill Clinton 1:10 PM  

Discuss "the" all you want
but when you need to know
the definition of "is"
I'm your man.

Shay 1:11 PM  

The theme of this crossword should be "Pittsburghese." I lived in Pittsburgh for many years, and it was always a pet peeve of mine that most Pittsburghers do not use the verb "to be."

Noam D. Elkies 1:30 PM  

Fun Thursday, indeed on the easy side, with a somewhat unusual grid shape (center left and right).

35D:TOKAY I knew, but wasn't sure of the spelling: the final letter can be Y, I (probably), or even J (the Hungarian way; the name originally rhymes with "eye", not "way"). Today, Tokay. Okay.

Knew to wait for Downs to decide between "wert" and 34A:WAST (not to be confused with the WASTed 43A:ALKY). Not so lucky with 59D:TIA (of course it's Ave, right? 62D:GRRong). Nearby 60D:KTS, and the theme, reminded me of Matt Gaffney's Onion puzzle yesterday.


Clark 1:34 PM  

@Matthew G. -- ‘true’ is indeed a verb.

True -- transitive verb: to make level, square, balanced, or concentric: bring or restore to a desired mechanical accuracy or form .
First Known Use of TRUE, 1841.
-- Merriam-Webster

I must admit that I have never heard it used without the ‘up’. You align something or you true it up.

johnpag 1:35 PM  

@Joh88 Thanks for the correction. In Ninotchka, she does say "WE want to be alone." I guess she was feeling more sociable in that one. It's also the movie they touted as "Garbo laughs".

PlantieBea 1:38 PM  

Liked this much, even with the nonsensical answers. The only sticking points were at 1D where I placed MMT initially for measurement and 39D with initial BYRONITE. All fixed without much ado. Liked the earthy sounding GRITS and YEAST together in the bottom.

Kate 1:38 PM  

Agggggh! I am a 40+ years San Franciscan who rides public transportation everyday, and let me tell you, we call it "Muni." Anyone who tries to stick "the" in front of it immediately outs himself as either a visitor or a very new newcomer. It is NOT "The Muni"! This annoyed me so much I could not enjoy the rest of the puzzle, I'm afraid.

Anonymous 1:52 PM  

@ acme and @If The Truth Be Told – I am over the limit but last more time (Rex) might help clarify my ungangly thought process. On Monday I was not literally suggesting changing PLANET EARTH TO PLANETH. To shed a tear I was suggesting a change in the answer and presumably it would have been a phrase with the word TEAR that would be omitted. A better example of what I had in mind might have been “CROCODILES” and the clue might have been “A hypocritical show of sorrow.” I only used PLANETH as an example on the spur of the moment. On Monday I did not think the use of shed a tear as a theme clue was helpful or clever to point out TEAR in each theme answer and it would have been more interesting and literal if TEAR was omitted from the answer. Today’s puzzle is a great example of what I had in mind. Sorry if I was too cryptic and not clearer.


Van55 2:10 PM  

@Kate -- that seems just a bit small minded of you.

I really think we need to step back and let the constructors have just a bit of "poetic" license from time to time. No puzzle entry should spoil your day. If any of them could spoil my day today, it would be ORVAL Faubus rather than MUNI clued with the defininte article.

PuzzleNut 2:18 PM  

Fun puzzle, pretty easy for a Thursday, but enough substance to keep me happy.
Waited on the theme answers as it appeared something fishy was up. I think LUCKYALIVE finally convinced me of the theme (confirmed later by NOTTOBE).
Only write-over was hAST. Honestly, I never have seen the word WAST before, but I'm not complaining.

Anonymous 2:20 PM  

@ OJ, We get it! Write the puzzle of your dreams and then we'll have something real to dissect.

Anonymous 2:27 PM  

How is this a theme? The theme clues clue the original phrases, not their wacky "TO BE"-less versions. Imagine if someone did the same thing with another standard cruciverbalist move, the letter switch. Say they pick "RISE" as the theme explainer ("'R' is 'E'"), then think of a bunch of phrases where they switch the Rs to Es. Usually the resulting phrases have to actually mean something, and the theme clues clue the NEW phrases not the OLD ones. How is this not the easiest theme ever if you don't have to worry about what the resulting theme answers are?!

Anne 2:46 PM  

I've been hanging around here for about two years now and it just gets funnier. A writer would have trouble making making this stuff up. And speaking of writing, someone who is creative and witty could create a really good book featuring a blog master and his minions (Rex and us). Maybe it's been done and I don't know it.

Since you asked 2:48 PM  

@Anon 2:27pm

You started with, "How is this a theme?"

In the middle described "... another standard cruciverbalist move ..."

And ended with, "How is this not the easiest theme ever ...?"

Nice going.

"The" P>G>

Anonymous 3:05 PM  

Van, do you really think it's a bit small minded to let a single bad entry ruin your ability to enjoy a puzzle?

How far we've come!

Arthur 3:22 PM  

@P>G> Everyone, and I mean everyone, read Anon 2:27pm's initial statement as "How is this a [valid/reasonable/publishable] theme?", and got the point. The point was thoughtful and well argued, and while I disagree with it, it was a valid conversation piece.
Not cool dude.

jyp0625 3:23 PM  

Wow. I loved this puzzle. Me who normally struggles on Thursday puzzles, got it all of it right.

Doc John 3:52 PM  

I wonder if any parent has ever given consideration to giving their child an unusually spelled name (like ORVAL) in the hopes that if they're ever famous, they'll end up in a crossword.

Van55 4:09 PM  

@ Anonymous --

"Van, do you really think it's a bit small minded to let a single bad entry ruin your ability to enjoy a puzzle?

"How far we've come!"

Well, except for random Roman numerals, random geographical directions, the lazy SSTS, SSNS, etc.

Touche to you!!!!

Anonymous 4:18 PM  

@Doc John - Do really you think that someone who named their child ORVAL could read or write, much less spend their free time doing crosswords, and plan for their child's future fame?

sanfranman59 4:35 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)

Thu 15:06, 18:57, 0.80, 19%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Thu 7:28, 9:09, 0.82, 25%, Easy-Medium

fwiw, this San Francisco transplant has definitely heard people use "the MUNI" in conversation and perhaps even in print. I think I occasionally use it myself. A quick review of a Google search for "the MUNI" on the SF Chronicle's web site returns lots of context-appropriate hits, including several Herb Caen articles.

Two Ponies 4:41 PM  

What's with all of the sniping today?
We had a fun puzzle with a new twist on the rebus we all thought was due. I guess that wasn't enough.

Elvis Aron Presley 4:42 PM  

Are you sayin' my Mama cain't spell?

Sfingi 4:59 PM  

I knew there was something odd when BORN 2b WILD had to be the answer. Then I WANT 2b ALONE. So the theme was cute.

Nevertheless, HTG 5x for Ishan Jones, Jerry Bruckheimer (did he make every show I ever hated?), LUELLA Bartley (cute dresses for young girls, indeed), TOKAY, which I forgot, and French months.

Reewrite: Bon before BEL.

AOUT is a really ugly word.

Who's better looking, BYRON or Burns? a constant question for English scholars - at least the feminine branch.

@Rex - I hope they're all kidding. But they both could compete for ugly.

dk 5:10 PM  

do bee or don't bee that is the question. At least it always was for Miss Kay on Romper Room.

Just finished Mary Ann in Autumn, no mention of MUNI the or otherwise.

My Acme moment: Once had an Irish with Herb C at the Buena Vista. I had done a photo/doc on street people and was staying at the Red Door in the Haight whilst I peddled my work to the ARTY types who hung out with my employer. He saw the portfolio and asked what I was doing, was amazed a New York boy knew who he was and would go to the library to read his work. He asked if he could paraphrase some of my vignettes if he ever worked street people into his column-- I fainted.

Everyone writes so much now, It leaves nothing to add.

Got the theme with BORNWILD and the rest was easy peasy.

*** (3 Stars)


Elaine Benes 5:21 PM  

dk, are you J. Peterman?

Don Byas 5:27 PM  

"Fables of FAUBUS" was recorded by Charles Mingus in 1959 on "Mingus Ah Um". The lyrics were not included on the original recording due to Columbia Records' discomfort with the lyrics.

One of "Everyone" 5:46 PM  


I got his point too.

There is nothing in my comment that indicated his opinion wasn't valid or shouldn't have been posted.

But I do find your "Everyone, and I mean everyone, ... got the point" statement hard to believe, given the range of today's comments ;)


P>G> (3/3)

You can call me Ray 6:05 PM  

So "Nice going" wasn't an attempt to call out the previous commenter, and when someone calls you out on that you can't take it?

I agree with Arthur, not cool.

Mostly, though, I lost interest in the comments when they started to be about other comments instead of about the puzzle. Which makes this comment uninteresting as well, as well as the future comments of anyone who talks about this one.

mmorgan 7:18 PM  

Sheesh, can you imagine all of these people (us) in the same room?

The mind boggles.

lintend - what you find on your socks in the dryer, or the French version of what you really mean to do.

dk 8:17 PM  

@elaine, nope

Stan 8:37 PM  

Cool theme -- a rubus that is not there. Wonder how often this has been done before. No way to search it, really...

Elaine Benes 9:03 PM  

Are you an art collector who lives on a houseboat and solve crimes?

Anonymous 9:55 PM  

Anon@2:20 p I don't do puzzles. I'm just psychic.

sanfranman59 10:09 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
Thu 15:02, 18:57, 0.79, 19%, Easy

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
Thu 7:08, 9:08, 0.78, 20%, Easy-Medium

mac 10:37 PM  

I loved this puzzle! Got it almost immediately because of "I want to be alone", a sentiment I espouse. Sorry.

There was some odd stuff, though. The knee, yens, one-to-two, bel, KTS (my son's initials!), but everything feel into place easily.

Stop sniping. This was a good puzzle day.

Ben "The Best" Tuthill 3:25 PM  

"Bel ami" is a French title, so it doesn't have to be capitalized. Putting Air first, so it automatically takes the clue capitalization, and ami second, which doesn't have to capitalized, even though its proper. Tricky.

Anonymous 3:43 PM  

I think your Orval Faubus picture might be that of Orville Redenbacher of popcorn frame.

Pardon me if I happen to be umpteenth person to point this out. I have not read through the comments.

Cary in The Boulder 1:43 PM  

Syndic-lated as usual. Feel like I've crossed the Intl. Dateline about 35 times before I get here.

At first I thought maybe the dropped word was BORN and 38A might be NOT BORN or BORN OUT. -OFF, -NOT Not that any of that made real sense.

Had most of the same writeovers as Anon 11:25, along with WILT for WAST. I've seen REATA twice now in my brief puzzling experience, so perhaps the third time will be a charm. But not this time.

Thought KTS as abbr. for knights was really lame. ANS not much better. Disliked MUNI simply because it wasn't BART which I knew for sure. YEAST I associate more with beer- than wine-making, but if you say so. Guess that makes me NAIVE.

Finally got it all sorted except for the extreme western tip of Baja, where I had PYRE and too much of a headache by then to see OTIS.

Captcha: ressesse - what I do when I get tire of being an étoile.

Cary in Boulder 1:51 PM  

Also, as a cyclist I know that TRUE is what you have to do to a wheel that is out of same.

Gil.I.Pollas 2:11 PM  

Anonymous 3:43 GAACK !
@Rex, thanks for posting Neil Diamond and his chair. It's my all time favorite mondegreen.
Yours truly fromn Jan. 20...

NotalwaysrightBill 6:44 PM  

Syndi-late (thanks for the term) paper solver.

Love this place. Mix of world's whiniest weenies but decent language erudition in the collective. MUNI or "THE" MUNI: what's not to get wee-wee'd-up about? Makes me want to say "nucular" over and over.

A BYRONIST is less common than a Romanticist; but, despite today's general dismissal of the Romantics, Byron still has a few fans, as the man ONCE listed in the Guiness Book of Worlds Records as having the largest brain in history SHOULD have. Guiness removed the entry some years back and I wonder why: new evidence? too apocryphal a story? PC pressure?

Regardless, one can't altogether discount Byron's style, even for his time period. Some people bring an entourage with them that's described as a menagerie. But a menagerie as the entourage? Here's Shelley on the Lord visiting him in Venice:

"Lord B's establishment consists of ten horses, eight enormous dogs, three monkeys, five cats, an eagle, a crow and a falcon; and all these, except the horses, walk about the house which every now and then resounds with their unarbitrated quarrels as if they were masters of it. ... later I find that my enumeration of the animals in this Circean palace was defective, I have just met on the grand staircase five peacocks, two guinea hens and an Egyptian crane."

Certainly lends credence to the story that, because Cambridge had a rule against having dogs in the dorm, Byron kept a bear there during his attendance. Also adds a certain dimension to Mary Shelley's writing of FRANKENSTEIN, which she did during Byron's visit, at his off-the-cuff suggestion.

After swimming the Hellespont, Byron concluded that Leander would have needed some rest before making love to Hero. I'll bet that that was the bet, too.

And I'm not yet convinced that the brain story is all that wrong:

"Augusta Ada Byron King, Byron's only legitimate child, gained fame of her own as a mathematician who worked on one of the earliest precursors to the computer."

MY "DO be a do bee and DON'T be a don't bee" Romper Room hostess in Phoenix was Miss Jeanie (actually, four different Miss Jeanie's in succession). Musta been a regional thing.

Marc 4:17 PM  

Okay for Tokay! (As we used to say, back in the day.)

This took me a little while to get started, but after that it went swiftly. The theme was not to difficult to figure out. For someone of my generation, BORNWILD was a gimme, except for the question of whether there was a rebus or just an omission theme. The crosses settled that, and it was a breeze from there.

I'd have appreciated the theme more if the answers had a double meaning, instead of just being nonsensical. (Some of the theme answers could conceivably be used in a sentence ... i.e., "He was born wild," but no one says, "You've got kidding."

lodsf 12:20 PM  

Syndicated (and catching up on the weekend) solver.
I like any Thursday puzzle that I can do! Got this theme early just off the K[nigh]TS jumping over pawns.
In San Francisco, MUNI is sometimes preceded with a “the”, but only if another modifier is added, e.g., “the ******* MUNI was late again”.
But, hey, I’m never one to complain when I know the answer to a clue.

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