Squawk Box airer / FRI 2-4-11 / Poem referencing darker brother / Puncher's nickname / Name in old German duchies / Relative of Manx

Friday, February 4, 2011

Constructor: Ashton Anderson

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: BRONZE STAR (12D: Award won by Henry Fonda) —

The Bronze Star Medal (or BSM) is a United States Armed Forces individual military decoration that may be awarded for bravery, acts of merit, or meritorious service. When awarded for bravery, it is the fourth-highest combat award of the U.S. Armed Forces and the ninth highest military award (including both combat and non-combat awards) in the order of precedence of U.S. military decorations. Officers from the other federal uniformed services are also eligible to receive the award if they are militarized or detailed to serve with a service branch of the armed forces. (wikipedia)
• • •

Easy and clean—a very nice Friday. Seems like Fridays in recent weeks have felt much harder and somewhat more tortured, fill-wise. The fill on this one is so clean that there wasn't even a particularly strange word or name to single out for Word of the Day. Doesn't mean it was boring (though this one lacked a wicked punch / killer answer). Phrases were mostly lively, and solidly in-the-language. The weirdest thing about this grid is its structure—specifically, those super-narrow passages connecting top and bottom halves. I did the top part in ... well, it couldn't have been more than 2 or 3 minutes. But getting into the bottom (...) was tougher. The "E" at the end of NUDE was no help (37D: As one entered the world — do Not like the clue; your baby is not "NUDE"; it's naked), and though I dropped MEDE (22D: Member of an extensive empire of the seventh century B.C.) down pretty easily, the "EDE" gave me absolutely no purchase, so essentially this puzzle was two puzzles. I like greater connectivity in my grids, but that's about all that bugged me about this puzzle. Took me a while to get a toehold down south, but once I did, I was off and running again. Bottom took me twice as long as the top, but I still had a very good time.

Got the ball rolling with AHEM / MRES, the latter of which turned out to be wrong (it's MESS) (19A: Sustenance for a fatigued person?), but I corrected it pretty quickly. Went through the top like wildfire. Wasn't sure about the FRENZY part of MEDIA FRENZY (and don't quite get what's funny / cute about the "rubbing elbows" part of that clue) (22A: Event at which reporters rub elbows?), so briefly thought the NE might be tough to get into, but the top Across (CNBC) was a gimme, and that gave me CHILE (10D: Its flag is red, white and blue), and that was all I needed to tear through the rest of the top half. In the south, I had to wander lonely as a cloud for a while, testing and yanking answers—some right (INTER, RUIN), some wrong (WEE instead of SMA, 42A: Like a Scottish young 'un). Finally hit 60A: Volunteer's place: Abbr., which I figured *had* to be TENN. It was. It gave me TENON, which confirmed INTER and RUIN, and I caught fire again. Last letter in the grid was the "S" in AEGIS, which means I started in the far NW and ended in the far SE—a true corner-to-corner solve, which almost never happens.

  • 16A: Ring even after exchanging rings (HORA) — brain really wanted this to be boxing-related, but that "exchanging rings" had something undeniably weddingy about it. So "ring," four letters, wedding — HORA.
  • 20A: Name in old German duchies (SAXE) — crossword muscle. Got it off the "S." SAXE is one of those only-seen-it-in-crosswords names.
  • 32A: Puncher's nickname (TEX) — one of the hardest clues for me to get today. My cowpoke lingo is kind of anemic.
  • 30A: Like "10," but not "9" (RATED R) — knew right away this was movie-related, but had no idea how. What was "9" rated? PG-13? Yes, but it turns out I was thinking of "Nine" (a 2009 film version of the Broadway musical), not "9" (a 2009 computer-animated fantasy film most people never saw).

  • 38A: "Fusses" is a form of it (ÊTRE) — aargh, what is that? The subjunctive? Passé simple?! Oh, man, it's second-person (informal) imperfect subjunctive. Clearly my French is très rusty.
  • 51A: Sister co. of Applebee's (IHOP) — No, really? That makes me not want to eat there. Oh, who am I kidding; I want to eat there (IHOP, not Applebee's, for god's sake; I'm not an animal).
  • 2D: Paneling material (PINE) — Had PANE, briefly. Which is stupid, when you think about it.
  • 52D: Watergate-era White House chief of staff (HAIG) — he enters my consciousness only with the Reagan assassination attempt, when he claimed to be "in charge." I think he had a tattoo of the Princeton tiger on his ass. Why would I know that? Oh, whoops. I'm confusing him with another member of Reagan's cabinet: Secretary of State George Schulz.
  • 53D: Westin relative (OMNI) — I'm guessing this is hotel-related. Thankfully, I never saw the clue.
  • 58A: Poem referencing "the darker brother" ("I, TOO") — Here you go:
I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"

They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed--

I, too, am America.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


r.alphbunker 12:14 AM  

Just the facts, maam:

Gimmes - entered with no letters given by crosses
Unbeatable mark: APLUS
Harvester maker: DEERE
Encrypt?: INTER
Volunteer's place: Abbr.: TENN
Cold response?: BRR
Watergate-era White House chief of staff: HAIG
Grant grp.: NEA

Wrong initial complete entries
Still no more: AroaR -> ASTIR
It may change your perspective: biaS -> LENS
Mountain West team: UTah -> UTES
Ship out: HITTHEdeck -> HITTHEROAD
Chance to meet: RaNINTO -> RUNINTO

Invisible - all letters were supplied from crosses
Ne plus ultra: ACME
Parisian possessive: SES
"Fusses" is a form of it: ETRE
Sister co. of Applebee's: IHOP
Poem referencing "the darker brother": ITOO
Knot, say: UNIT

51 of the 72 answers were of mixed lineage. In these cases, crosses existed first and gave me enough of a pattern to recognize the answer.

This puzzle was the first that I solved using a program that I wrote. The program saves all my interactions with it and analyzes them later. For instance, I used arrow keys and mouse clicks 1,306 times to select squares, and typed 235 letters. There is a total of 196 letters in the puzzle so that means that 235-196 = 39 of the characters I entered were wrong. Some of those were caused by fat fingering. A large number of arrow key movements would seem to indicate moving around trying to find a clue I could do something with.

Inspired by @sanfranman59, I would like to devise a way of measuring my performance on a puzzle without considering how long it took me (I am not a speed solver).

Let me call my measure the Brain Effort Quantification or BEQ. I could then create a scatter plot with the time on the X axis and the BEQ on the Y axis.

If anybody has any suggestions on what to use to compute the BEQ please share them.

jae 12:24 AM  

Easy-medium for me also with SE being the toughest quadrant. I too had WEE at first and had a bunch of rerights which indicates how iffy I was (e.g. DEERE, HAIG, NUDE) in some areas. Had the same very fast NW experience as Rex. Solid puzzle and easier than yesterday's by a lot.

SethG 12:27 AM  

My crosswordese meter is twitchy--I started with OMOO for a while, which made me erase INTER and RUIN to go with JUST IN TIME. Fixed that relatively quickly, but COMET made it really tricky to get into the SE 'til I finally came up with TIRESOME. The bottom half took me 5 times as long as the top half.

I understand no part of the ETRE clue/answer, and no part of your paragraph about it.

Orange 12:32 AM  

Ralph, the BEQ is defined as the Brendan Emmett Quigley. You may need a different term!

Is a paneling a baby pane?

escalante blogger 1:36 AM  

What a style. I can't answer such puzzle. :-)

ttv 1:49 AM  

Try to analyze such problem or puzzle.

syndy 2:11 AM  

had Comedy for RATED R,And PLUTO for CERES (really liked that answer)also SPITZ for 1 across.hardest for me was the sw,I had WEE and couldn't see INTER for the longest even though I knew it had to do with burial.I put in and took out ESTREET several times . Nudnik was a total poser,my yiddish isn;t up to par.Did not know that fusses was french!so 3/4 easy 1/4 medium hard

I skip M-W 2:21 AM  

I took embarrassingly long on this.but same order as Rex. first half fairly easy once got "nude", though I agree that's not how you come into the world (covered with goo actually). Saxe as in Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and numerous other Saxe- something German mini-states up to late 19th c. Haig was first answer down below.why isn't Ceres simply an asteroid? google says it's a mini-planet, but it's still an asteroid I think,made me think there was some NASA object orbiting the asteroid belt. form the H in Haig, got IHOP eventually. Was delighted by "fusses" as part of the Fr. verb etre (to be) picturesque was good too.

acme ceres maneater 2:26 AM  

6A ACME! Thanks Ashton!

(And yet I had Apex, as I thought a "Nice thing to do peacefully" would be proteST. Ah, would that that were true...)

I feel a pangram coming on...

(nope, no JKW, tho I tried juSTintime for LASTMINUTE.)

Made every mistake in the book, from wee to omOO; Veni for INRE; SMAll-something for SMATTERING.

Sadly gooverseas/HITTHEROAD have the same amount of letters. (I think mine is closer to "Ship out")

Nice puzzle, and yes, half the time as Wed or Thurs.

Will look forward to the discussion of NUDE vs naked as related to babies!

you crack me up like ne plus ultra.

ArtLvr 4:27 AM  

@ r.alphbunker, you more than cracked me up with your mouse-clicks and arrows program! Good luck with it, though...

Today's puzzle should have something to please everyone (except for lacking ACME's pangram)! At the end I found the trio FLAME-RATEDR-ESTREET trickiest, and I had MEDE but fiddled with Maya and MIng before returning to my first choice. I also wanted Chemistry to be a more literal Atom action, but sometimes I'm too literal-minded. I still don't get the meaning of E STREET?

SQUATS was a favorite, and near the NUDE infant conjured up an image of a chilbirth posture often found in other cultures.

Yes, mostly it was much easier than expected, and very smooth overall. Congrats to Arthur Anderson!


acme 4:58 AM  

that's ASHTON (didn't think there was another besides Kutcher) not Arthur!

BOSS = Bruce Springsteen = E STREET band.

imsdave 6:14 AM  

I did not know CNBC and guessed that it would be ESPN. Slowed down the NE considerably. Other than that, a pretty smooth ride.

Did anyone else ignore the quotes and try BINARY for RATEDR?

All in all, a really nice puzzle. Thanks Mr. Anderson.

Greene 7:00 AM  

Puzzles like this are why I look forward to Fridays all week long (well, one reason anyway). It's themeless with lots of open space and longish answers (love those double stacks of 10 in each corner); features challenging and clever cluing, while remaining very doable; and the finished grid just shines with clean, smooth answers. In short, 22 minutes of solving bliss. I wish every puzzle day could be Friday.

I really like how Rex is able to cleary articulate structural aspects of the puzzle which I only vaguely sense. His comment about today's puzzle being two separate puzzles with minimal linkage was spot on. Didn't really notice until he pointed this out. Certainly added to the difficulty.

I also thought that the clue containing "9" referred to the recent film musical "Nine." Thanks for the film clip to "9" Rex. Absolutely never heard of it. "Nine," on the other hand, proudly continues the longstanding Hollywood tradition of taking first-rate Broadway musicals and mangling them into unrecognizable and repugnant pulps. I adored "Nine" on Broadway (both times), but I sat through the movie version thinking "Dear God, no wonder so many people hate musicals."

Glimmerglass 8:10 AM  

I pretty much agree with Greene. I found the whole upper half quite easy (stumbled a bit before seeing MESS). The lower half didn't yield itself to me as easily. I knew I TOO, but the triple tens could have been several answers. Didn't see DOMAIN NAME for a while, but that gave me IN RE, which gave me IHOP (didn't know it was the same company) and OMNI 9I don't stay in hotels much). On balance, a medium Friday. I like Friday puzzles.

mmorgan 8:17 AM  

Above the diagonal: Whoa -- this is way too easy for a Friday...

Below the diagonal: Whoa -- WTF????

Smitty 8:23 AM  

I found this Easy - DNF. (top half/bottom half)

Too few "forsure" answers and too many "could be anything" clues in the bottom half for me. (KNOT/UNIT, STRAY/CUR, etc.)

Had ROTC for volunteers place. Can anyone tell me why it's TENN?

joho 8:29 AM  

This was a delight after being beaten up the last two days. There's so much to like in this puzzle, much more than a SMATTERING of fresh answers. Love PICTURESQUE and NONONSENSE.

My only write overs were aoL before DSL and ComEt before CERES.

Very nice to start and end the week with ACME in the grid.

@Rex, thanks for "I, Too."

Ashton Anderson, thank you for a great Friday, not a MANEATER, it made me feel like a kid in a CANDYSTORE.

ArtLvr 8:32 AM  

@ ACME, many thanks for explaining Boss plus E STREET... Also thanks for correcting my mistake on the first name of our constructor. Arthur was on my mind as my co-inlaw, i.e. the father of my son-in-law, who was recently rescued from a near-fatal diabetic coma. He's doing fine now in his new much apprecated assisted-living home, thank goodness!

@ Smitty, Tennessee is the Volunteer State.


captcha: "conicato", a sport of the Roma tomato distinguished by its pointy head!

imsdave 8:47 AM  

@Smitty - The University of Tennessee athletic teams are the Volunteers. Their women's basketball team (The Lady Vol's) used to play UConn on a regular basis, until Pat Summit realized it was hurting her career statistics and she cancelled the series.

OldCarFudd 9:08 AM  

I could have written Rex's comments today, if I wrote as well as Rex. We were on the same frequency. Agree the top half was much easier than the bottom. Loved it!

jackj 9:25 AM  

This puzzle was an anomalous creature in that the fill was brilliant, Manny Nosowsky elegant, even, but was cheated by rather ordinary, simplistic cluing.

It would have been a classic Friday if the clues had demanded a more challenging solve.

More, more Mr. Anderson; your obvious skill has us craving more!

Unknown 9:30 AM  

Got about 80% of the puzzle, including MEDES, SMA, TENN, PICTURESQUE, MEDIAFRENZY, CNBC. Then I was like the driver of one of those cars left on Chicago's Lake Shore Drive during this week's blizzard. I was the driver, and this puzzle was the car - abandoned! So close, yet so far!

Ladies and Gentlemen, please know that Ron Insana is on CNBC.

Howard B 9:33 AM  

@r.alph: I think it's very tricky to compute such a metric. It's a very interesting approach you have there, though, and I like the concept of assessing one's improvement over time without the factor of speed.
The trick here is to try to separate your errors due to incorrect answering as opposed to typing errors; the rub here is that this distinction is in your head; keystrokes cannot as easily differentiate this. Very interesting.
Maybe a separate algorithm of calculating error rate without "one-key-off" errors, to hide the 'fatfinger' mistakes so common to us who are typing-challenged (speaking from experience). Or somehow just calculating words wrong as opposed to letters. Don't know, just brainstorming.

By the way, thanks for "I Too". A great poem.

Anonymous 9:33 AM  

I still don't get "fusses" being a form of ÊTRE. You're saying fusses is the [incomprehensible grammer shit here] form of ÊTRE? Seriously? Why clue that way? If you've got an easy Friday, have an easy Friday, don't trick it up with crap like this. Doing so takes something good and by trying to achieve an arbitrary goal, turns it into something way less good.

Anne 9:41 AM  

I was sure Rex would say easy so I was glad to see easy/medium. I've been doing these puzzles every day (or at least trying) for a little over two years now and today I finished in good time (for me) and without googling or any mistakes. It's a good way to start the day. And I loved the poem, thanks, Rex.

Look Up Guy 10:06 AM  

Definitions of nude on the Web:

•without clothing (especially in the phrase `in the nude'); "they swam in the nude"
•bare: completely unclothed; wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

Note: I had a longer post, but it appears it contained a combination of words that caused the Blogger morality filter to spring into action.

[Continuing a tradition of FWIW search results, without further interpretation]

Cathyat40 10:14 AM  

@Rex: definitions from thefreedictionary.com =
rub elbows/shoulders
To mix or socialize closely

as opposed to:

Media circus describes a news event where the media coverage is perceived to be out of proportion to the event being covered, such as the number of reporters at the scene, the amount of news media published or broadcast, and the level of media hype. The term is meant to critique the media by comparing it to a circus and, as such, is an idiom and not an objective observation. Media hype, orgy, and feeding frenzy are similar terms used in reference to a critique of news and entertainment media.

My understanding is that "rub elbows" means "mingle at a social gathering"; while "media frenzy" is pejorative for, well, what can be seen on television news programs every day.

I'm with you - this puzzle was easy until hitting the SW - where I had to be bailed out by my clever boyfriend.

JaxInL.A. 10:15 AM  

Any puzzle that gives reason to post a Langston Hughes poem is a very good one, in my opinion. When i lived in Washington, D.C. in the 90's, I listened to a lot of great blues shows on WPFW, including one hosted by Nap Turner. Nap would read Langston Hughes' Jesse B. Semple stories in the best, most engaging and authentic way I could ever imagine.   Semple was a Hughes character who combined a down home, clear-eyed view of the world with a blunt comedic style of speaking.  Nap recorded some of these, with great blues accompaniment.  I can't recommend them highly enough.

I really liked this puzzle.  At first I thought that I would not get an anchor, but then one word led to another, and another... E voila!  I agree that the south was almost a different puzzle than the north. I liked them both.  So many great answers, and wonderful fill.

Anyone else slap in ICONOCLAST for FREESPIRIT? That went nicely with COMEDY for the diff between 9 & 10.  Urgh. 

Does everyone know that the HORA is a traditional Jewish circle dance, often done at weddings?  Now will someone please walk me through ÊTRE for Fusses and UNIT for Knot?

r.alphbunker 10:16 AM  

The eponym was a deliberate choice to honor the contribution that BEQ has made to crossword puzzles. Sort of like naming a unit of resistance an ohm. Of course if BEQ has copyrighted it, something else will have to be used. :-)

@Howard B
Thanks for the feedback. Right now the program produces a complete summary of what I typed, e.g.,
Affectionate utterance
A lower case letter means that the letter was supplied by a crossing word. A low tech solution to getting rid of typing errors would be to just remove them from the full report and then resubmit the editted report for analysis. Another possibility would be to have an "OOPS" button that could be tapped when the error occurred so the program would ignore it but I may not want to worry about that when I am in the middle of solving the puzzle.

Lindsay 10:24 AM  

@r.alph --- wouldn't it be easier to solve in pen and simply count your writeovers? For example, I solved tday in purple, wrote over in navy blue, and can easily calculate that I corrected seven errors.

EsT >>> EDT
setUP >>> FIXUP
ComEt >>> CERES

No programming required!


I found the puzzle somewhat difficult, although I must have been operating in a very low gear as I started out by highlighting all the answers corresponding to "?" clues THEN realized the puzzle was themeless. How to mess up a grid before entering a single letter. Stupid stupid stupid.

Don't recall "fusses" despite 5 years of French, but was surprised that the answer to 7D Nice thing to do peacefully (which I read as Thing to do peacefully in Nice) turned out to be English.

foodie 10:31 AM  

I'm with the gang that felt this to be two puzzles, a breeze on top and a toughie on the bottom.

I stared at the FUSSES/ Etre combo for a good while before I burst out laughing- Really? Really? I thought. How many people who are not native speakers or have not been beaten over the head for 12 years by French nuns (like yours truly) are going to know this one? And the fact that the clue reads like the English "to fuss" is ultra misleading...

If you care at all, here's my stab at explaining it: French has all these verb forms that are modified as a function of the sentence structure. For example, if a sentence starts with "If", then the verb form changes- English equivalent: "If I were" as opposed to "if I was". The subjunctive form is used to indicate a sense of uncertainty or probability- For example: "it is possible that he will come", as opposed to "I am sure that he will come". In English, you use the same verb form. Not so in French. You use the subjunctive form.

Layer on top of that the tense- present, past and future, and for the past whether the action is completed or not (perfect and imperfect). Keep track of pronouns...And there you have it, a whole slew of declinations.

For most verbs the root remains the same and the endings change. But the verb to be "etre" is a mess, and as Rex said, FUSSES (which sounds nothing like the English verb) is a very weird one.

That's why I found learning English grammar infinitely easy. English spelling-- that's another matter!

If you've gone to sleep reading this, time to wake up!

David L 10:34 AM  

Easy-medium, huh? First DNF for me in some time. Couldn't get anywhere in the SW. Had CONNECTION for ATTRACTION, WEE for SMA, and even with TENN, RUIN, INTER, MEDE I just couldn't see my way out of it (I figured the Boss was Bruce, but even that didn't help). FUSSES was utterly mysterious, don't know ITOO, and didn't recognize 10 and 9 as movie titles.

Everything else was pretty straightforward, though. Nice puzzle, but too much that was out of my zone.

jesser 10:48 AM  

Pipes froze at home Wednesday, so was not in Puzzle World for a while. Thankfully, no damage, and the water is flowing again. NM had the lowest temps in the nation Wednesday night (Moriarty = -36!). Whole sectors of the state have no natural gas and the electric grid is so compromised that in both Las Cruces and El Paso, all government buildings, school districts, universities and malls were ordered closed Feb. 2-4. I've been working alternately from home and from the Emergency Operations Center. Wild week! Supposed to gradually head back toward normal beginning today. Yay!

Loved the puzzle. Major crush on Ashton Kutcher, so the constructor's name gave me warm fuzzies from the get-go. The solve was smooth and hassle-free over steak and eggs at Old Town Restaurant, which is where I'll take any of you for breakfast if you ever pass through town and look me up. Their menudo is To Die For, but only available on Sat-Sun.

Will now stop rambling. Happy weekend, all!

Englik (What I speak when my lips are frozen at -7) -- jesser

Shamik 11:01 AM  

Easy-medium? "Bulls**t," I yelled. This caused the husband to tell me to "just stop" a la the old Bob Newhart sketch.

Definitely in the challenging time level for a Friday, but delightfully so. But the NW lulls one into thinking it's going to be like a Wednesday. Even got so far as to get above the diagonal and then an almost dead stop.

TENN, TENON, and CUR with a beauteous NICKOFTIME. Nick gave way when ITOO fell. Alas, all those lovely letters. But an immediate partial PICTURE----. And then a dead stop until AEGIS and NEA. And then another dead stop. Throw in the erroneous COMET.

Great puzzle. Great CHALLENGING puzzle. Good job!

retired_chemist 11:06 AM  

Medium. Liked it.

Nothing stale here. Some devilish stuff (ETRE clued by Fusses; E STREET; RATED R as clued) and some oportunities for misdirection (UTAH => UTES; GALAXY => PULSAR; A LITTLE BIT => SMATTERING). All good fun.

Two clues I didn't like. (1) Ship out means take a ship. And unless your ship has wheels it isn't going to HIT THE ROAD. I had HIT THE SEAS first. (2) Lenses don't change perspective, which deals with the representation of objects and the spatial relations between them. Oh well, enough crosses and they couldn't be anything but what the constructor wanted.

Nice one, Mr. Anderson. Thanks.

Beadola 11:07 AM  

Just right for a Friday IMO.

@JaxinL.A. I too had iconoclast for free spirit.

@Foodie. I did not fall asleep at your explanation of "fusses". thx.
I just had my first taste of dalmatia fig/orange spread-yum thx again. (see 1/24 blog)

Two Ponies 11:13 AM  

It seems we were all led down the same path. I made all the same mistakes and the E in aegis was my last entry. I did try reel for stun but squats fixed that.
Very satisfying solve because I refused to give up.
Loved some of the clever clues esp. the ones for mess, Pulsar, and E Street.
Mini romantic theme with hora, endearment, best man, and flame.
Glad we had Mede the other day. I managed to keep that in the memory bank.
@ jesser, I hear ya. It's cold in Vegas too but all I have to do is remember that at least I'm not shoveling.

quilter1 11:16 AM  

I enjoyed this themeless puzzle and got into trouble at the PICTURESQUE/SQUATS crossing. I stared and stared and it just wouldn't come, so DNF.
@Artlvr: having worked in maternity for 25 years I know that giving birth in a squatting or kneeling position is becoming popular. It takes advantage of gravity and usually shortens labor making it easier to push. Before doctors captured labor and birth as a medical condition women everywhere for all time gave birth sitting, squatting, kneeling assisted by their female relatives and friends. Makes much more sense than lying on one's back strapped legs akimbo into metal stirrups.
Apologies to others if this is TMI. I am a tad passionate on the subject.

Anon 9:33 11:21 AM  

@Foodie - Thanks for your explaination. I now call total foul on ETRE, as clued.

treedweller 11:31 AM  

Weird--I stumbled through the top half awhile, cranked out the bottom like it was Tuesday, then clawed my way back up to finish at ERSE/SAXE. Ended up taking just over 15 minutes, which is miraculous for me on a Friday. I'm not sure why I had such a different experience from everyone else--I attribute it to a bad guess (psst for AHEM) at the top and a SMATTERING of lucky guesses right away at the bottom.

ITOO was baffled by the fusses/ETRE connection. Spanish class taught me more about subjunctive tense and other fine points of grammar than English ever did, but I never studied irregular French verbs.

A NONONSENSE puzzle that made me feel smart on Fri for a change, but not exactly a CANDYSTORE of delights.

Mel Ott 11:37 AM  

@Jax: A knot is a UNIT of velocity = one nautical mile per hour.

@Rex: Re SAXE: If my memory of European history does not fail me, the name of the current royal house of England was SAXE-Coburg until the onset of WWI. Too German! So they changed the name to the nice English-sounding Windsor.

Nancy in PA 11:38 AM  

Would have been nice to have acknowledged Langston Hughes in the write-up...I guessed it was his but had to read comments to confirm.

Loved the puzzle. Such a relief after struggling and giving up yesterday.

V. 11:52 AM  

"I, Too" by Langston Hughes. He deserves to be named.

Smitty 11:56 AM  

Thanks @ArtLvr and @imsdave - that's a new one on me.

And thanks @foodie for the FUSSES/ETRE link - I did not even know I did not even know that.

Anonymous 12:00 PM  

r.alphbunker and foodie -- you two should get together. Between the BEQ and the ETRE you could teach the course I'm thinking of creating called Never Underestimate Demonstrations Nor Internal Knowledge....

Dan 12:09 PM  

Even Native speakers of French have trouble with the imperfect subjunctive. Nicolas Sarkozy used it (correctly) in a speech last year and it turned into a MEDIA FRENZY.

Anonymous 12:21 PM  

This is a beautiful puzzle with two distinct parts. I finished the top part fairly quickly (20 minutes or so). The bottom part was a lot more difficult but equally well constructed. I simply could not get a toe-hold to allow me to progress. Got ATTRACTION and SMATTERING but clung to SIGN IN NAME or MAIDEN NAME in 56A. So even with a few more words could not get any traction.
The interesting thing is that Google did absolutely nothing to help me progress. Looking at the completed puzzle I have to take my hat to the constructor. All the words were "gettable" so I have no complaints on this puzzle.
Incidently my daughter also tried to solve the puzzle independently and had exactly the same experience. She solved the top but is stuck in the bottom part. She will try to complete the puzzle on her own later.
Can anyone explain why is MESS sustenance for a fatigued person and why is ETRE a form of "fusses"? The rest I have no problem with.

Anonymous 12:26 PM  

was the south of this puzzle intentionally steamy to help warm up those puzzlers in the frozen northeast and midwest?

Was the PICTURESQUE NUDE a FLAME or just a FREESPIRIT? I TOO felt the ATTRACTION, it was borderline RATED R.

r.alphbunker 12:29 PM  

@Anonymous 12:00PM
Perhaps your post is a joke but to suggest that @foodie is a NUDNIK (a boring person) is dead wrong. Her posts are always kind and enlightening. I imagine that she is an excellent conversationalist. And I am grateful to her for recommending "On Intelligence" to me.

Regarding my silly program, sometimes initial silliness leads to interesting things. A silly program I wrote in the 90s to learn Devanagari (the script used for Sanskrit) lead eventually to a 2 year NEH grant.

For now, I am going to add two buttons to my crossword program, a "good" button and a "bad" button. I will click the "good" button whenever something in the puzzle makes me feel good and the "bad" button for the opposite emotion. My conjecture is that the "good" button will be clicked when an otherwise unknown answer suddenly emerges from a few crosses. This might be predicted by the book "On Intelligence". And the "bad" button probably won't be clicked much at all. The summary produced by the program will show which answers elicited good and bad clicks.

Anonymous 12:30 PM  

Thanks V for the poem attribution!

syndy 12:43 PM  

@mel Ott actually I think it was SAxe-Coburg-Gotha not only german but a little gothic although Phillip has a family name too (neither Battenberg nor Mountbatten)but a serious mouth filler .Its the Danish family name and its much worse.

Anonymous 12:45 PM  

Best Friday of the year.

william e emba 12:49 PM  

The fatigued person is a soldier: he's wearing army fatigues and eating in the MESS hall.

Like most here, I breezed through the top, and slowed down considerably on the bottom. My only gimmes there were IHOP/OMNI and CERES. I guessed Cat instead of CUR for the stray, and Post instead of PEGS for the game equipment. I'm still kicking myself for not remembering HAIG, even with the H in place. That would probably have really helped blow open the south.

On the A-PLUS side, I recognized that "fusses" must be a non-English request for an infinitive, knew that Latin had fu-something for esse (to be), so I guessed this was French and went for ETRE.

And while I thought of "wee" for a moment, I remembered that late in the week, it's never "wee", and put in SMA.

On the other hand, I knew the encrypt joke must refer to burial, but I could not remember the INTER word until I had some crosses. And while I knew it was Langston Hughes and could remember knowing the poem once upon a time, absolutely nothing came to mind until I had --OO.

I actually saw "9" when it came out. Nothing earthshaking, just a fascinating visual experience. But yes, if you blinked you missed it. I did briefly think of "binary", but I had the D in place, and the numbers were in quotes.

mmespeer 1:06 PM  

Along time lurker here and an enjoyer of this site, a retired French teacher, I can't help but comment on the "fusses" issue. This is a very uncommon form of the very common but very irregular verb "etre"=to be. I have NEVER used it, or heard it used in any conversation in French. It is for VERY formal speeches or found in literary works. Years ago I was a grad student in France. I had a professor who enjoyed giving dictations which included some of these tricky forms. I was chastised (good naturedly, I think) for omitting or maybe for using the
accent circonflexe which determined the (spelling)difference between two past tenses. I'm afraid I don't remember the exact detail or tense/mood...but it was the verb "etre". A difficult clue!!!!

Mel Ott 1:08 PM  

@syndy: I believe you are right. The Gotha part slipped from my poor old memory.

Two Ponies 1:32 PM  

Wow, if @mmespeer has never heard or used "fusses" then I feel very happy for the crosses. Imagine if the clue and answer had been reversed!
Welcome, by the way.

Anonymous 1:45 PM  

@r.alphbunker - Of course it was a joke....

John V 2:03 PM  

Tale of two puzzles, yep. Top medium, bottom for me challenging. Last to fall 31D Direct-->Refer. Nice to correctly complete this Friday, even if it took a bit of time.

Anonymous 2:06 PM  

Naked baby, nude baby . . . what the hell's the difference? Neither one has clothes on.

Kenneth Clark 2:32 PM  

The English language, with its elaborate generosity, distinguishes between the naked and the nude. To be naked is to be deprived of our clothes, and the word implies some of the embarrassment most of us feel in that condition. The word "nude," on the other hand, carries, in educated usage, no uncomfortable overtone. The vague image it projects into the mind is not of a huddled and defenseless body, but of a balanced, prosperous, and confident body: the body re-formed. In fact, the word was forced into our vocabulary by critics of the early eighteenth century to persuade the artless islanders [of the UK] that, in countries where painting and sculpture were practiced and valued as they should be, the naked human body was the central subject of art.

William Wordsworth 2:44 PM  

I settled this in 1807:

"Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home".......

But I do not give a rat's a** if you say nude.

Clark 3:06 PM  


(1) If your dad was a navy guy you would have definitely heard ‘Let’s ship out’ to mean Let’s HIT THE ROAD more times than you could count.

(2) If perspective means “the appearance to the eye of objects in respect to their relative distance and positions” (Merriam-Webster), then lenses may indeed change your perspective. Think zooming from short to long.

(3) Picture of Roxie in the snow.

In the SW I had nothing but WEE, PICTURESQUE and INTER for the longest time. After deleting WEE I still couldn't get anything. I was about to quit, and then, FLAME came to me and everything just fell into place. I definitely got ETRE from the crosses. I figure if you dig deep enough into the conjugation of ETRE you can find anything. It's like a Mandelbrot Set, or, like looking for a random series of numbers in the expansion of PI.

retired_chemist 3:16 PM  

@ Clark - nope, no Navy family, but I take your point. And lenses change the apparent distance of objects but not the relative distance and positions of two objects. We can agree to disagree on that one.

Pete 3:30 PM  

@retired_chemist - You're technically right about lenses, but look at the differences between this view and this view. The two lenses, along with some moving around of course, gives a different perspective.

Photos by Ken Rockwell @ www.kenrockwell.com - Not a plug, just attribution.

sanfranman59 3:31 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)

Fri 25:23, 26:16, 0.97, 44%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Fri 13:39, 12:54, 1.06, 64%, Medium-Challenging

TimJim 3:37 PM  

@William Wordsworth: I'm still laughing .....

Moonchild 4:03 PM  

Great puzzle(s) today.
14A gave me a not-so-bad earworm of "Hit the Road Jack."
Naked sounds unintentional and slightly naughty whereas
nude sounds elegant.

Clark 4:07 PM  

@retired_chemist --

Think of the difference between viewing a chess game from board level, ten feet away vs. 2 inches away. The apparent relative position of the pieces changes. The further away you are (the longer the lens) the more the columns will approach appearing to be columns, ie, parallel. From up close the columns won't look like columns, rather you will see diagonally across the columns left and right.

chefbea 4:40 PM  

pretty easy for a friday but DNF as I am too busy getting stuff ready for our super bowl party. Made the stadium cake today. Chili tomorrow. All the last minute stuff Sunday. Probably won't do tomorrow's puzzle

retired_chemist 4:49 PM  

@ Pete - it is the "some moving around, of course," not the lens, that alters the perspective.

@ Clark - yes, changing the position of the viewer does alter the perspective. Your example doesn't use a lens, which was the point of the dialogue. If you use a zoom lens, stay in one place, and tighten the focus everything will appear closer, but the relative positions of the objects will not change.

Go get your digital camera and try it.

Anonymous 5:35 PM  

Chemist, you seem to be talking exclusively about linear perpective. What about rectilinear? What if you use a fisheye lens?

Perspective is the spatial interrelationship between objects in the picture, but it's also the representation of those objects on a surface. Changing lenses won't change where the objects are in relation to each other but _will_ change how that relationship is represented in the image.

Unknown 6:29 PM  

Really liked the obliqueness of the clues, except perhaps the "Fusses" variant of ETRE. At least the inclusion of "form" tipped off that it was probably a foreign verb, and a common one, at that.

@ retired_chemist: You beat me to the lens analysis, about which you are entirely and incontrovertibly correct. And I too thought HIT THE ROAD could have been better clued, though this was passable. Thanks for explicating both.

Fortunately, when you have as brilliant flourish as E STREET BAND for "Boss's address?" (34A) and a BRONZE STAR awarded to Fonda when you're fixated on the Oscar (12D), all is forgiven. I even loved FLAME for "One
in an affair" (24A), because I was really sold on PLANE (namesake of a certain affair, first name Valerie). Nice going, AA.

Clark 7:41 PM  

@retired_chemist --

I was thinking about this kind of effect, but I realize now that you are right that it involves not just the zooming but the moving in or out (along the line of sight) of the camera. I found a short discussion of Telephoto Perspective Compression, which dismisses by view as an optical illusion. It has two photos, one taken with a 35mm lens and one with a zoom, which sure look to me like a change of perspective. But then there is a third photo that is a cropped version of the 35, which pretty convincingly shows that you are right. The best defense of the clue would be the fourth comment at that website. But I'm with you now in thinking that this is a weak clue.

foodie 7:49 PM  

@r.alphbunker, what a nice person you are! You defended me but not yourself! Actually, I took the comment of @Anonymous at 12:00 to be quite funny. You and I, and I daresay many of our friends on this blog are into odd stuff- word definitions, data analysis, etc. It would actually be fun to get together in all kinds of combinations and figure out the weird intersections of arcania.

And I agree that sometimes puttering along and doing something "just because" can lead to interesting results. This is how kids thrive. I hope you have fun with your program!

@mmespeer (is this Madame Speer?), yes, very good point. This form of the verb ETRE is hardly every spoken. I think it would be considered exceedingly pretentious in spoken modern French.

@william e emba, my hat's off to you for actually coming up with ETRE in response to that clue.
All these smart people!

@beadola: So glad you liked that spread. Yum it is!

You guys are helping me gel a plan for when I retire, someday-- enhance the depth of my knowledge of jams, jellies and obscure verb forms :)

MyTwoCents 7:51 PM  

@ davko, Isn't it Plame?

Anonymous 8:13 PM  

Had to comment on the nude/naked issue. Babies come into this world, as babies, and at a later time, someone puts clothes on him or her. To naturists, people only come in two states, baseline (naturally) and clothed (unnaturally). It is a matter of perspective, in essence, no human is nude or naked, only some choose to be clothed.

Anonymous 8:15 PM  

first fri. i have ever completed. woo hoo! i can hardly believe it. thanks, rex.

Anonymous 8:44 PM  

foodie -- I feel better that someone saw the humor. I try but my sense of humor is sometimes a little too dry....

r.alphbunker -- I meant no offense but reading about your screwy program and reading foodie's elaboration of French verbs, tenses, etc. made my mind twist (I pretty much have the same reaction toward computer programming and foreign language). In any event I still like the title of the course.

R. McGeddon 9:30 PM  

Just to chime in on "fusses." It's a practically impossible form because it combines a mode that's never used in conversation with the intimate "thou". One might find it here and there chez Racine or Corneille, but that's about it. An extremely clever clue.

michael 9:32 PM  

Did the top and thought (like many of the rest of you) that this was ridiculously easy for a Friday. Then I came to a grinding halt. Ate dinner, came back to the puzzle and solved the bottom without too much trouble. I've noticed before that going away from a puzzle and taking a fresh look often helps, but this is seldom as striking as it was today.

fusses-etre, one of the most obscure clues ever for me (and apparently not much easier for people who know French).

sanfranman59 10:01 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 5:46, 6:54, 0.84, 1%, Easy
Tue 8:00, 8:57, 0.89, 21%, Easy-Medium
Wed 14:47, 11:46, 1.26, 94%, Challenging
Thu 28:24, 19:06, 1.49, 97%, Challenging
Fri 25:36, 26:16, 0.97, 46%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:07, 3:41, 0.85, 1%, Easy
Tue 4:14, 4:35, 0.92, 28%, Easy-Medium
Wed 7:32, 5:48, 1.30, 95%, Challenging
Thu 14:29, 9:12, 1.58, 97%, Challenging
Fri 12:36, 12:53, 0.98, 51%, Medium

Unknown 10:11 PM  

@ MyTwoCents - Thanks for the correction. PLAME is indeed what I had filled in at first -- just a typo in post.

ShortShrift 12:15 PM  

Comet threw off my downs in the lower midwest, despite getting the STUN, DOMAINNAME (started with screeNNAME though), SMATTERING, LENS and even BESTMAN. No traction at all in the southwest. Enjoyed the puzzle (even what I missed), though!

RK 3:34 PM  

easy-medium? not really unless you're familiar with the pluperfect past conditional tense of the the verb ETRE.NW<NE<SE a snap. SW clues...dead freakin stop.
White-out. Zippo. Defeat...

Dirigonzo 6:46 PM  

What @MMorgan said 5 weeks and several hours ago. I finally finished with no erors (although I didn't understand "fusses"/ETRE until I was educated here), but my ink on paper grid is completely illegible in a couple of spots due to multiple write-overs. I know what the letters are though, and I know they are (finally) right! Like the James Brown song says, "I feel good!"

Anonymous 8:39 AM  

8D Maneater

Should have been clued as 1982 hit song for Hall & Oates.


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