Heavenly gatekeeper in Portugal / MON 3-7-11 / 1982 question from Clash / Old advertising question from Clairol / Soliloquy question from Hamlet

Monday, March 7, 2011

Constructor: Mike Torch

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: Paper or plastic? — Theme answers are famous "___ OR ___" questions

Word of the Day: Oksana BAIUL (59A: Oskana ___, 1994 gold-medal skater) —

Oksana Serhiyivna Baiul (Ukrainian: Оксана Сергіївна Баюл) (born November 16, 1977) is a Ukrainian professional figure skater. She is the 1994 Olympic Champion in Ladies' Singles and 1993 World Champion. (wikipedia)
• • •

How weird—this should've been a superfast solve for me. I mean, I knew two of the theme answers cold, no crosses needed ("TO BE OR NOT TO BE," "SHOULD I STAY / OR SHOULD I GO"). But somehow I ended up fumbling stupidly around the grid, tripping over the keyboard, and particularly botching SAO PEDRO (went for PAULO based on the city and the fact that St. Paul is also biblical). Also thought "DOES SHE OR DOESN'T SHE?" was "IS SHE OR ISN'T SHE?," which, of course, didn't fit, but that didn't stop me from trying to make it. Also, this one had a lot of multi-word answers that just didn't come to me straight off: SOISEE, OWINGTO, FREEOF, OPTFOR. So, it was all pretty easy, but my grid navigation was clumsy, bordering on inept. Ended up with a typical Tuesday time. Still, I think this one was probably on the Easy side of a normal Monday, if only just. Clever idea. Solid Monday puzzle.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: With 61-Across, 1982 question from the Clash ("SHOULD I STAY / OR SHOULD I GO?")
  • 23A: With 54-Across, old advertising question from Clairol ("DOES SHE OR / DOESN'T SHE?")
  • 37A: Soliloquy question from Hamlet ("TO BE OR NOT TO BE")
  • 12D: With 46-Down, question from a 2000s game show ("DEAL OR NO DEAL?")

(32A: Turkish money)—I didn't realize the plural had an "S." Is that different from the plural of the (former) Italian currency of the same name? Seems that in both the Italian and Turkish versions, an -S plural is acceptable as well as an -E. OK.

That's all. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. The Youngstown Crossword Puzzle Tournament to benefit the Poland Public Library of Youngstown, OH will take place at the library this Saturday, Mar. 12, 2011, from 10:00am - 1:00pm. Fresh puzzles for the tournament provided by Will Shortz ahead of their NYT publication schedule. Get more info here.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Ross 12:13 AM  

Great Elvis find! Jim Keltner, James Burton... What a band! The puzzle was OK too.

retired_chemist 12:13 AM  

Good one. Easy, but I made several mistakes that took time to fix. Worst was flying through 35A and putting down the Latin VENI. OK, I look at the keyboard when I type, so I don't necessarily notice when an obvious problem (like trying to use a 4 letter answer in a 5 letter space) arises. But it took like 90 seconds to find it. Meanwhile I found I had misspelled BAIUL. It all got fixed but the puzzle should have been a faster solve.

Thought 17A-61A was from Prufrock. Nope. Only Clash AFAIK.

Thanks, Mr. Torch.

foodie 12:13 AM  

Puzzle reminded of Jon Stewart's: "Indecision 2008". I brought me a smile, along with one of my fastest Monday times.

With DEAL OR NO DEAL in the vertical, I kept expecting another vertical set, may be PAPER OR PLASTIC, a la Rex. The theme density was excellent, but it would have been even more awesome. I recognize-- easier said than done!

Thank you Michael Torch!

Matthew G. 12:19 AM  

Perhaps Rex is right that he was clumsy, but I found this Medium-Challenging for a Monday, so I'm thinking it's genuinely a slightly harder puzzle than it looks like on the surface. SAO PEDRO and BAIUL are both pretty big slowdowns for a Monday, and OWING TO was a little tricky to see. On the whole, there were enough things that gave me pause that I couldn't just type nonstop as I would expect to be able to do on an Easy Monday. So it wasnt an Easy Monday.

LIRAS has come up several times lately in puzzles, and everytime I think that the S looks weird. Glad it's not just me.

chefwen 12:25 AM  

DOES SHE OR DOESN'T SHE, only her hairdresser knows.

Super easy Monday, flew right through it. Only write over was SAO PEDRO over SAn PEDRO. Looking for something with a little more bite tomorrow.

capcha - pooke - what I used to call my favorite stuffed animal.

Rube 12:27 AM  

Usually I print out the puzzle and solve on paper, but my desktop was acting up so I had to solve using Across lite on the netbook. I really flailed away and I take it that 13+ minutes is not a good time.

There did seem to be an inordinate number of partials, as Rex pointed out. Spent time in Brazil so the Portugese didn't bother me.

Did learn today that RIFFLES has 2 Fs. Did not know the figure skater, and won't know her tomorrow.

A pleasant Monday puzzle.

DJG 12:45 AM  

I agree with Matthew G. (and Rex) about the difficultly. It took me longer to solve this one than the average Monday puzzle. Part of this was due to having to reference other parts of the puzzle for some of the theme answers.

Nice puzzle overall.

Noam D. Elkies 1:13 AM  

…and in Arabic-speaking countries that use a lira (Lebanon, Syria, and colloquially Jordan according to WIkipedia), the plural is LIRAT, while the plural of the Israeli lira (1948-1980) was LIROT. One-hundredth of either a lira or a shekel is an AGORA, plural AGOROT; neither has appeared in the NYTimes within xwordinfo's memory (despite 60 Greek clues for AGORA), but "100 agorot" was used two of six times to clue SHEKEL.


lit.doc 1:31 AM  

By the clock, Tuesday for me too. Surprising so, as the theme was so obvious and, once ID'd, immediately filled so many squares.

Hand up for St. Paul and "how the eff does that skater spell her name?" as time killers.

Yes, really solid Monday puzzle.

easylob 2:29 AM  

This is my fastest time for a puzzle, ever. I am sure I will never do one faster in this lifetime. Not a speed solver by any means (I feel I've done well if I'm under 10 times Orange's time), so when the happy pencil showed up at 7:18 it seemed miraculous. Knew all four theme entries with 0 - 2 crosses and all the downs fell into place, almost with no hesitation. A unique experience for me. As I grow older and my mental abilities fade, I've had to abandon the Friday and Saturday puzzles, then the Sundays and some Thursdays (like last week's). It was a real shot in the arm to fly through this one, even if it is just a Monday!

CaseAce 6:52 AM  

chefwen, I know this is PRIVATE info. but even more intimately knowledgeable..."only her gynecologist knows."
I do hereby De-Clairol, your honor!

Greene 7:00 AM  

I thought this was just right for a Monday. Cute theme and mostly smooth fill. Entering TAE bo into the grid yet again puts me in mind of last week's discussion about the tired cluing for ADELE. At least there is a British pop star with that name so constructors have a more modern choice. I wish we could just retire TAEBO entirely. It just reeks of the 1990s, and not in a good way. I'm guessing with that handy combination of vowels though that Billy's version of kickboxing is here to stay.

I was surprised that Rex didn't shower more love on Disco Stu today. Definitely one of my favorite Simpson characters, even if he is something of a creeper.

Finally, put me in the camp of those who can't spell Oksana BAIUL even though I remember her win at the 1994 Winter Olympics quite well since she skated against and bested Nancy "Why, why, why?" Kerrigan in one of those "let's blame the East German judge" split decisions. That was the year that women's figure skating really got famous because it played out like a game of Clue: Tonya Harding (well really Jeff Gillooly) did it with a lead pipe (well really a sledgehammer) in the library (well really the Cobo Arena in Detroit). But you get the idea. This incident too positively reeks of the 1990s, and not in a good way.

The Bard 7:14 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.

Mick Jones 8:12 AM  

darling, you gotta let me know
should I stay or should I go?
If you say that you are mine
I'll be there till the end of time
So you gotta let me know
Should I stay or should I go?

I'll always tease,tease,tease
you're happy when I'm on my knees
one day is fine and the next is black
so if you want me off your back
well, come on and let me know
should I stay or should I go?

Should I stay or should i go now?
Should I stay or should i go now?
if I go there will be trouble
and if I stay it will be double
so come on and let me know

The indecisions bugging me
(esta un decision me molesta)
if you don't want me ste me free
(Si no quieres librame)
Exactly who I'm supposed to be
(Diga me que tengo ser)
Don't you know which clothes even fits me?
(saves que robas me querida)
Come on and let me know
(Me tienes que decir)
Should I cool it or should I blow?
(Me debo ir o quedarme)

Anonymous 8:18 AM  

An all-around great Monday puzzle by Mr. Torch: interesting theme (all four entries coming from disparate eras and references), strong fill, and all the hard words gettable from crosses. Crosswordese crossing of ETUIS and AGATE is just about my only nit-pick. Partial phrases don't bother me at all, but SAOPEDRO is certainly not a Monday level entry.

I'm hoping against hope that someone besides me sees "SAY IT!" and has his/her first thought be of Rocky Horror (Dr. Frankenfurter: "I see you shiver with anticip...ation")

efrex 8:18 AM  

Anonymous 818 was me... sorry!

JenCT 8:34 AM  

Totally blew through this - but no happy pencil? Ah, wrote in Disco DAN instead of STU. Bah!

Good Monday puzzle.

jesser 8:46 AM  

Only writeover was at 21A, where RIFle had to be corrected to RIFFLE, which I Do Not Like. Maybe it's a word, but it looks like a Muppett name. Didn't hit any of the other bumps that Rex and others encountered, although if the downs hadn't been so easy, there's no way I'd have come up with BAIUL. "I Want a New Drug" by Huey LEWIS and the News is a great song.

Aceig! (what a smoker wants after sex, I s'pose) -- jesser

Tobias Duncan 8:56 AM  

This puzzle felt super easy somehow but I ended up with a crappy time.During the whole solve I kept trying to move too fast and just kept bumbling. Fell for most of the mentioned traps, but fixed them much faster than I normally fix errors.
All my floundering added up to an easy tue time.Very happy to find I was not alone.What an odd puzzle, enjoyed it.

mmorgan 8:57 AM  

Whoops -- I had NeLLA/BAeUL at 59A/55D -- bad guess on that E. (Now I remember NILLA -duh!)

Never heard of Clash or their song but I got it from crosses.

I liked the density of the x/OR/y structure and how it was laid out. Lively Monday but for me it was kinda missing a spark. May have more to do with my own rhythms than the puzzle itself.

chefbea 9:15 AM  

Fun easy Monday..really too easy.

I have lots of sprigs of parsley, also celantro - they survived the winter!!

Bill 9:28 AM  

If "To be or not to be" is a question, then what is "Whether 'tis nobler ... "?

JaxInL.A. 9:43 AM  

I got the theme as soon as I completed the NW corner. Filled in all the theme answers, and flew on through on the constructor's wavelength. I remember Oksana Baiul and my sister had a thing for 'Nilla wafers. Loved seeing OUIJA in the grid.

I really miss @Andrea. Or, if I may presume, @Agate Carla Mused. Or @acme. By any name, a cheery and insightful companion. So sorry that she is sadly away.

OldCarFudd 9:46 AM  

Fun! Remembered Clairol and Hamlet; got the others from crosses. I use the word riffle regularly, so that was a gimme. I was lucky enough to remember the spelling of Baiul.

Anonymous 9:52 AM  

"To do is to be." -- Socrates.

"To be is to do." -- Sartre.

"To be or not to be." -- Shakespeare.

"Do-be-do-be-do." -- Sinatra

sms 10:20 AM  

guns or butter?

now or later?

sink or swim?

love it or leave it?

for here or to go?

by fire or by ice?

Nice puzzle. Happy Monday, folks!

Two Ponies 10:39 AM  

Very nice Monday. I was pleasantly surprised at the "bonus" vertical theme answers as they were unexpected. I had Baiul filled in without reading the clue and wondered what was wrong then saw the clue. Whatever, I'll never remember her.
@ CaseAce, I knew a redhead who was so tired of being asked if the "carpet matched the drapes" that she had a personalized license plate that said Its Red.

balto 10:45 AM  

I loved this one -- never got stuck even a little, no mistakes, but definitely not a NW to SE experience. So, for me, not trivial, but a nice smooth run.

In particular -- instead of using the way overused OREO, OLEO etc to get vowel groupings, this constructor used OUIJA and BAIUL - I loved that! Although -- does anyone do TAE Bo anymore?

archaeoprof 11:14 AM  

Fun Monday! 80's subtheme: the Clash and Huey LEWIS.

Speaking of music from the 80's, I enjoyed the 25th anniversary concert of "Les Mis' on PBS last night.

Gil.I.Pollas 11:18 AM  

I love Disco STU.
Can't stand the DEAL OR NO DEAL show. I mean if you had an offer of enough money to buy a house, why, why, why (a la @Greene) would you be that greedy and risk it?
I miss ACM

Stan 11:23 AM  

Fresh theme, well-executed. Thanks, Mike Torch!

Speaking of the Clash, and current events:

Rachid Taha: Rock el Casbah

SethG 11:31 AM  

Nice theme, easy puzzle. I love The Clash. I don't love discussions about pubic hair.

SAY IT is clearly Sam Kinison, from Back To School.

eleanor 11:46 AM  

I liked this puzzle. A table srap is ort? what is that?

Greene 11:51 AM  


I always thought that "Les Miz" was one of those shows with a fairly weak score that succeeded because of a great story and superb physical production. I always said that once people started hearing the score without all the physical trappings they would finally realize just how flimsy the music is.

Last night's broadcast on PBS proved, beyond all measure, that I am 100% completely and totally wrong. And how.

Anonymous 11:56 AM  

Lots of random pairs of words made this one less than fun. More funny in an odd way than fun.

CoffeeLvr 11:57 AM  

I enjoyed this, but found it surprisingly slow. I did this in AcrossLite, as I do when I expect to complete the solve in one sitting (save paper and all that). I now see why some here gripe about references to multiple parts of the grid.

Couldn't remember if Huey was LouIS or LEWIS, guessed right. Knew Oksana B, but had to wait for crosses to reveal the spelling.

Saw an auction of an old OUIJA board on the tube late last night, so remembered the spelling (and our spelling out answers as early teens at slumber parties!).

Saturday, I heard a radio commentator describe The Clash as one of the 3 great bands out of Britain, and rightful heirs to The Who. I am not in the right cohort to agree - did not listen to new popular music from late 70's to early 90's. As I did not know the song (thank you for including it, Rex), I wondered if it might be SHOULD I STop as it appeared from the crosses . . . certainly an even more suggestive idea.

I did think some of the entries were more Tuesday than Monday (Sao Pedro!, the aforementioned skater, and the seance board.

@eleanor, an ORT is a "a morsel left at a meal," or a table scrap. I always think of treating my dog when I see it in a grid. She only gets something off my plate when I am finished eating.

Mel Ott 12:51 PM  

In New Orleans you eat NILLA wafers with your 'Nana Puddin'.

mac 12:56 PM  

Good Monday, and not as straightforward as Monday's usually are. Nice theme and some interesting words. Had my only doubt at Baiul/nilla - don't know the biscuit and thought it might just as easily be nylla.

I like feigns and reborn.

Jimmy Swaggart 1:00 PM  

@Mac - I feigned being reborn. Got me the babes, big time.

Knufflebunny 1:10 PM  

I am a Turkish speaker, though not a Turk. The Turkish plural is -lar, so liralar, but you rarely mark the plural if it's understood from context. In seven years in turkey, I never heard any one use liralar, and it sounds distinctly ill-formed to my ear. Some foreigners might say liras, but that too sounds a little silly.

And if you're wondering, since they reformed the currency a few years ago, a lira is worth 100 kurus (where the s has a tail and is pronounced 'sh').

Anonymous 1:16 PM  

Been gone for a while. Can anyone tell me what's happened to Andrea (acme) ?

Anonymous 1:33 PM  

@Rube - re:RIFFLES. You might be thinking of two different words. You could "rifle" through pages, which I would think of as a hurried, rough search - or "riffle" through pages, which I'd think of as a gentler process, letting the pages flip from under your thumb.

Clark 1:44 PM  

@mac -- 'nilla wafers : that's short for [va]nilla wafers. I never eat 'em straight, but sometimes I make a tart or pie crust out of 'em.

Anon 1:16. There was a death in acme's family. I imagine that she is away dealing with that and (I hope) that she will reappear here in good time. [I might be wrong, but I believe she has visited us at least once with a double secret alias during her absence.] The candle in the window is for her.

[wv: whershe : that's what I was trying to explain]

Anonymous 2:55 PM  

You can refine the description of this theme further to say that the two answers on both sides of the ___ or ___ formulation are opposites, or at least mutually exclusive. Stay/go, does/doesn't, deal/no deal, be/not be. By contrast, something like "paper or plastic" wouldn't have fit.

Fun puzzle, thought it was super-easy today.

sanfranman59 4:01 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)

Mon 6:46, 6:55, 0.98, 46%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:34, 3:41, 0.97, 38%, Easy-Medium

My solving experience was much the same as that described by Rex in the first sentence of his write-up. I normally solve early week puzzles very methodically beginning in the NW. But with this one, I jumped all over the place and kept fumbling over my keyboard. I ended up posting a decent Monday time (it falls in my Easy-Medium range), but it felt like it should have been much faster.

michael 6:40 PM  

I found this hard for a Monday. A few writeovers and not the usual Monday experience of filling in squares as quickly as possible. Seven minutes. Ugh..

Anonymous 8:18 PM  

I liked it because it felt more like a Tuesday and that's a good thing - a little meat on the bone..

Sfingi 8:44 PM  

So easy I wish I'd timed it.

@Coffee lover - My sister made me throw out a OUIJA board because it was evil. Saw a beat up one for $80.

@Knufflebunny - interesting. Did they originally adopt the Italian? Why?

Swaggart - Sonster says that people who are "born again" often need to grow up again.

@Anon952 - More exactly: Essence precedes Existence (Soc.) Existence precedes Essence (Sartre).

Back when BAIUL won, her name seemed so unusual. Now everyone's named Oksana.

@Chefwen - Does she, or doesn't she? Only her hairdresser knows for sure.

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 6:55, 6:55, 1.00, 53%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:32, 3:41, 0.96, 34%, Easy-Medium

Tita 10:01 PM  

Found this one to be super easy...thanks!!

I was also shocked and amazed to see not one, but TWO references to Portugal in one puzzle...
Being 1st gen Portuguese, and enured to how obscure its existence seems to be to many denizens of the US, was happy to see that.
I suppose it also gave me an edge in solving... ;)

Muito obrigada, Mike torch!

SEO 2:39 PM  

seo uzmanı, seo işinde bir numara, google seo analizi konularında hizmet veren arama motoru optimizasyon şirketi, ifa teknoloji, kurumsal se şirketi

Dirigonzo 4:14 PM  

Solving 5 weeks later I entered DOES SHE OR DOESNT SHE without any crosses and was reminded that when that particular slogan was first used the implied question was meant to seem a little naughty. That was a more innocent time, I guess.

Needed all the crosses for BAIUL, and thought the puzzle had a little more "crunch" than a typical Monday.

Recently heard SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO performed by the Young@Heart Chorus - they brought a dimension to the song that the Clash probably never dreamed of.

NotalwaysrightBill 10:07 PM  

Syndi-late paper solver.

Enjoyed the cute-themed Monpuz. Love a good BASELINE. Thought Kinison's famousest tagline was "Swallow it!"

"To do is to be." -- Socrates.
"To be is to do." -- Sartre [Thought it was Plato].
"To be or not to be." -- Shakespeare.
"Do-be-do-be-do." -- Sinatra
{To doo doo is to BM)--Fleming, a buddy of mine.
Ergo, "Shit happens."--Forest Gump

captcha: "inted":
an allusion made so vaguely that every 'amlet from every 'amlet who ever swallowed his aiches doesn't even know enough to ask whether it really was or wasn't and NOBODY knows fer sure

Gil.I.Pollas 2:13 PM  

Bwaaaaaa. A three - 2 ply kleenex
I almost spit my bloody Mary at the screen.

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