Swiss who pioneered in graph theory / WED 3-2-11 / Only patron on "Cheers" to appear in all 275 episodes / Bxe5 or 0-0-0 in chess

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Constructor: David Poole

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: Movie "taglines" — plays on words make for alleged movie taglines ... [honestly, I don't get it]

Word of the Day: AARON Rodgers (21A: Super Bowl XLV M.V.P. Rodgers) —

Aaron Charles Rodgers (born December 2, 1983) is an American football quarterback for the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League (NFL). Rodgers was selected in the first round (24th overall) of the 2005 NFL Draft by the Packers. Rodgers played college football while attending the University of California, Berkeley, where he set several California Golden Bears records, including lowest interception rate at 1.43%. // Professionally, Rodgers is the NFL's all-time career leader in passer rating during both the regular season (98.4), and in the post-season (112.6) – among passers with at least 1,500 and 150 pass attempts respectively. He also owns the league's lowest career pass interception percentage for quarterbacks during the regular season (1.99%) (wikipedia)
• • •

I'm waiting on an email from a friend, hoping she'll be able to explain this theme to me. So ... theme answers are alleged movie taglines, which are actually puns made out of ... let's see, a movie title, a Shakespeare play, an actual tagline, and a play/movie title. How is this coherent? On an individual basis, any one of the theme answers might be deemed cute (ICY DEAD PEOPLE is particularly nice), but I'm just missing how this one holds together conceptually. Also, the non-theme fill is dry as a bone. Monday-easy, with just about zero answers of interest. Just didn't work for me, Dawg (sorry, just finished watching "American Idol," the first night of which was pretty damn terrible—with a couple of notable exceptions).

Theme answers:
  • 17A: "Taxi Driver" tagline? (A FARE TO REMEMBER)
  • 25A: "Back to the Future" tagline? (A COMEDY OF ERAS) [wince]
  • 42A: "Titanic" tagline? (ICY DEAD PEOPLE) — morbid, but great
  • 56A: "Return of the Jedi" tagline? (LUKE BACK IN ANGER)

I learned a couple of interesting bits of trivia today: that NORM was in every episode of "Cheers" (1A: Only patron on "Cheers" to appear in all 275 episodes) and that the HUMMER was discontinued (10D: G.M. brand discontinued in 2010). Beyond that, honestly, I don't have anything to say. Oh, I didn't see the clue til just now, but I'd never heard of the Aramco oil company (in clue for SAUDI). Maybe I'll remember that. Probably not. Oh, last thing: the clue on EULER is the most incoherent-sounding clue I've ever seen. [Swiss who pioneered in graph theory]??? First of all, though correct, "Swiss" for a Swiss person always sounds horribly wrong to me. Second, can you pioneer "in" something? Or is it "in graph" theory? I tripped on EULER once years ago, and I've had him in my back pocket ever since. Today was no different—brain saw "Swiss" and "[something math]" and I had the "EU-" so ... bam.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


foodie 12:41 AM  

Rex, I'm with you... The theme for me was like a bunch of examples of punning, with no coherence beyond that. I kept shaking my head, as I find puns to be a mysterious, may be ephemeral aspect of American humor.

ARAMCO stands for ARab-AMerican CO, I think...I believe it dates back to a collaboration between Standard Oil and the Saudis, and may well be the richest company in the world.

It took me a bit of time to get going in the North (too many sports answers)-- guessed at NORM, and the tapenade clue gave me a foothold.

CALVE for "have a cow" was unexpected in its literal nature.

Still in the end, surprisingly, I did not mind it. I think it may be the ICY DEAD PEOPLE that saved the day. How often do you see that in a puzzle?

Sad Guy 12:43 AM  

I recall seeing awhile ago a collection of these made up movie tag lines. [I can't figure out how to make the previous sentence read well]. They weren't particularly funny en-masse, not particlularly funny here.

Hated Aramco cluing SAUDI. See, there used to be the an Aramco, the Arab-American Oil company, a partnership between the Saudis and various American oil interests. That's Aramco, which was not Saudi. It was bought out by the Saudis some 30 years or so ago, and is now Saudi-Aramco. That's the name of the company, the Saudi isn't a modifier.

The Hummer was discontinued the week after I got married. Coincidence? I think not.

Clark 12:57 AM  

ARAMCO used to be the "Arabian American Oil Company." I had a friend in high school whose dad had worked there. EULER went in with no crosses.

I liked the theme. Especially ICY DEAD PEOPLE. That one made laugh out loud, worrying as I did so that I shouldn't find it funny -- what with the new civility and all. I get the complaint that the four do not make an elegant quartet. It just didn't bother me much.

Evan 1:05 AM  

While I too was a big fan of ICY DEAD PEOPLE as its own entry, I had a feeling that Rex would have a problem with the lack of consistency between the theme answers because that was my first observation when the puzzle was done. I would have preferred that each of the made up movie taglines be puns of separate movie titles, but only two of them fit that description, and one of them isn't accurate. A FARE TO REMEMBER doesn't work at all for me because the movie that the pun is based on is "An Affair to Remember," not "Affair to Remember." That beginning article should have been there.

Also, wasn't the Shakespeare play titled "The Comedy of Errors," and not "A Comedy of Errors"? The latter is a common-enough phrase to work for most puzzles (as well as the pun in this one), but it hardly matters, again because of the inconsistency between the theme entries.

Steve J 1:06 AM  

Considering my normal loathing of puns, I liked this better than I would expect. But Rex is right that there's nothing holding these puns together, other than connections to movies. If Mr Poole had kept everything movie titles, then this would have been something. Well, it's still something, but something that's coming over a bit flat.

Found this extremely easy for a Wednesday. Hell, I had more trouble with Monday's puzzle than I did this one. Finished this one quicker, to boot.

EULER/IVOR crossing is pushing into dirty-pool territory for a Wednesday. Thankfully, I remember enough crosswordese to recognize IVOR. Otherwise, for someone less experienced, there's no way to solve that cross without guessing, as neither person is exactly huge in the popular consciousness.

chefwen 1:28 AM  

I mentioned to my house guest that we refer these types of puzzles as "groaners", he sorta of agreed but he's a Suduko kind of a guy, so what the hell does he know?

My biggest groan was ICY DEAD PEOPLE.

We are in the middle of a good week.

Anonymous 1:53 AM  

I LITERALLY blacked out from the sudden mental vacuum caused by today's pitiful poor puns. Though the episode spared me immediate physical trauma and agony from the crushing dead weight of this theme and grid, when I came around it was manifest that a possibly permanent disappointment has been inflicted. I have prescribed myself a course of BEQ, Matt Gaffney, and Fireball to reduce the damage as much as possible, as I fear the long term consequences resulting from exposure to this grotesquerie.

Greg C 2:01 AM  

Was I the only one who'd never heard of "LEES" for "Dregs?"
The intersection of LEES with the Wednesday-tough answer "HALE" for "Sound" was the only hard aspect of this puzzle -- otherwise it was very Tuesday.

Octavian 3:43 AM  

I loved this one. The puns were actually pretty amusing and I thought the rest of the puzzle was clued pretty well.

I mean, the AURA clue, the SCAM clue, the COMMA clue were all clever, a bit different and pitch-perfect Wednesday to me.

ICYDEADPEOPLE has to be the answer of the year. That is so awesome I can't believe it made it through the editors desk.

Idol was mostly dull because there are no absolute train wrecks. However I thought the last guy, Casey Abrams, was electrifying. I literally thought he was going to self-combust. He totally owned "I put a spell on you," with more of a John Fogerty edge to it than Screamin Jay. Dude knows how to entertain. The rest were pretty karaoke, as Simon used to say.

Idol is a lot like crossword construction. You have to take risks or you are just like everyone else. The kids need to remember, ''fortuna audax iuvat.'' Fortune favors the bold. You can't advance on idol just doing a bedroom mirror version of a song.

And circling back around, that's why I loved this puzzle. It wasn't perfect. But the dude took risks!

Crosswords aren't just for English teachers who want everything lined up perfectly in rows. It's cool to see some variation in the theme clues. It keeps you off-balance, you have to think a little. LUKEBACKINANGER is fantastic. What's not to like? It plays with the language.

This puzzle could not have been created by a computer, and Casey's rendition of "Spell" could not have been done by a robot. They are both great examples of human risk-taking, ingenuity, humor and passion. Bravo to both.

sificligh 4:00 AM  

Hey, interesting interview of you in the Times today! Congrats.

Greene 4:26 AM  

ICY DEAD PEOPLE? Man, that's cold.

PastelLady 5:46 AM  

@Greg c
You need to spend more time drinking wine; if you make your own, you want to 'get it off the lees' and bottle it in a timely way.

For years I was on the mailing list for a fascinating periodical published by SAUDI ARAMCO OIL, filled with articles of historic, artistic, and cultural interest. No idea why I was getting it, no idea why it stopped, but I'm probably a suspect on some list somewhere.

shredder 6:29 AM  

Who stole my tagline?

Glimmerglass 7:14 AM  


Howard B 8:31 AM  

The theme consistency here is only that they are wordplays on movie descriptions. It's a much looser theme than usual, but I can guess that the puns were deemed worthy of the looser theme. Felt more like an independently published puzzle than the standard Times fare, and I kind of liked the freedom here (and the rough puns). Agree on some of the fill being less fun, but there's more enjoyment and surprises to be found here than in many puzzles.
So I admire the attempt by the theme to just go right for the punchlines.

Note: Last letter to fill in was the Z in ZOLA. I almost left it blank. Really.

retired_chemist 8:36 AM  

Liked it. Unusual for Wed. to be faster than Monday, but there it is. I am more of a pun person than some of us, so I liked the theme, flaws mentioned above and by Rex notwithstanding.

CLE (24A) was (the I think equally correct) UVA for a while. Hidden sports theme with CLE, UMASS, AFL, and RAMS, the last two clued in a nonsports way, obviously as a sop to non-sports fans (just kidding). Might could even count BASS and AXEL....

Last square was the C in SCAM - had had SPAM.

Thanks, Mr. Poole.

mmorgan 8:43 AM  

I thought the theme answers were lots of fun. Maybe more than they should have been, since a bunch of little goofs messed me up, so when I finally did get them, they were a treat.

Had SEA for MER at 4D, SpAM at 51D, RApS at 47A, and (for some reason) ALIas at 25D.

Lucky guess on the L in the HALE/LEES cross.

I don't disagree with the complaints, but I got a kick out of this.

joho 8:45 AM  

And a pangram to boot!

I did this late last night and upon writing in ICYDEADPEOPLE I wrote Yikes! in the margin. All I could see was dead Jack disappearing into the icy water with all sort of frozen people bobbing in the sea ... NOT a good visual to insure sweet dreams!

I liked the clue for COMMA.

jesser 8:56 AM  

LOL (in a sympathetic way) @ Sad Guy.

I can only echo what's already been said about the puzzle. I feel UNFED, mostly.

I'm finally back after an extended stay in Las Vegas. The Stratosphere is a great hotel, and the Restaurant at the Top of The World is worth every penny for a fine-dining experience. Highly recommended.

Alpine Joy 9:05 AM  

Goodness, all this grumpiness over puns and taglines.

I liked it, esp. 42a, and 56a is also very good. I don't know that much about coherence, but then I've never had much coherence anyway!

[A way to remember how to pronounce the Switzer's name]:

As a former math teacher from Maryland, I always wanted to be the coach of a junior high math team in Houston, Tex.

The name of the team? Of course, The Houston Eulers....

Thanks, Rex!

Anonymous 9:06 AM  

Loved the puns. Tripped on SPAM/SCAM.

OldCarFudd 9:08 AM  

I'm with Octavian.

Tobias Duncan 9:12 AM  

As I progressed through this puzzle I became angrier and angrier with all the cackadoodie sports clues.I ended up with NCAN/NFL.I knew NCAA sort of but had never heard ofthe AFL.
I cant tell you how much rage I felt only to have it all disappear with ICYDEADPEOPLE. That pun was so dark, funny and waaaaaay out character that it more than paid for the crappy puzzle.

retired_chemist 9:23 AM  

Tobias Duncan - While NCAA is sports, the AFL merger referred to is not. it refers to the AFL-CIO merger. The AFL-NFL merger was agreed to in 1966 and completed in 1970 (Wikipedia).

That ease the anger a bit?

Anonymous 9:24 AM  

The 1955 AFL merger in question is the AFL-CIO labor union merger. The AFL-NFL football merger took place in 1970.

Bob Kerfuffle 9:46 AM  

@sificligh, 4:00 AM - (Or anyone else who knows the answer) - What interview in the Times? Could you please post a link?

From someone not in the know!

Matthew G. 9:47 AM  

To each one's own. I thought this was an outstanding puzzle. ICY DEAD PEOPLE may get my vote as the theme answer of the year so far. It's certainly up there.

As for the theme in general, what's not to get? I don't understand what Rex purports not to understand. They are all imagined taglines for films, each of which sounds like another well known phrase, and they're funny. How is that insufficient to be a coherent theme? A FARE TO REMEMBER was only so-so, but the other three were great. I mean, "Back to the Future" _was_ A COMEDY OF ERAS. And LUKE BACK IN ANGER fits the tone of that character's role in "Return of the Jedi." We're still a little over a year away from the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, but I think we've passed "it's too soon" territory for ICY DEAD PEOPLE (ICY DEAD PEOPLE!).

It seems a bit unfair that people are talking about "groaner" puns. They show up all the time in puzzles, and for my money these were better than most, not worse.

About my only criticism of this one is that it was a little too simple for a Wednesday. Only barely more challenging that Tuesday's, and signficantly less so than the non-Monday Monday.

Big thumbs up. Truly puzzled by the excoriation this is getting from others.

JaxInL.A. 9:49 AM  

I have no idea why I could pull Zola out of my brain, but for those who might want to know what that clue was about...

The Dreyfus affair was a political scandal that divided France in the 1890s and the early 1900s. The French military convicted a young Jewish officer, Captain Alfred Dreyfus, of treason in 1894 and sentenced him to life imprisonment. In 1896, evidence came to light identifying another French Army officer as the real culprit, but high-ranking military officials suppressed this new evidence and not only unanimously acquitted the new guy, but fabricated evidence to re-confirm Dreyfus's conviction.

Popular writer Émile Zola got word of the military court's dirty deeds and wrote a famous and vehement public open letter in a Paris newspaper in 1898. Intense political and judicial scandal ensued and divided French society. Eventually, Dreyfus was exonerated and reinstated as a major in the French Army in 1906. He later served during the whole of World War I, ending his service with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.

efrex 10:00 AM  

Straightforward solve in two sittings. LUKE BACK IN ANGER is my vote for entry of the year over ICY DEAD PEOPLE (as someone else noted: that's cold, dude). The other two are serviceable, if not great.

I'm not feeling the anger over the fill. Thought the cluing for OBI, JIVE, CALVE, UMPED, and COMMA was creative enough to make the rest interesting, and if i don't care for MTGE, CLE, or UGLI, it didn't make me groan. Good puns go a long way with me, what can I say?

nanpilla 10:08 AM  

Came here to find out what tied the theme answers together..evidently not much. But ICY DEAD PEOPLE more than made up for that!

Will have to check back to see what Sanfranman has to post about the times today - seemed awfully easy.

jackj 10:21 AM  

Call me a traditionalist but I like AFARETOREMEMBER over ICYDEADPEOPLE (close call, though).

There is a web site called "The Four Word Film Review" which has a listing of their top 100 4-word film reviews, including all those used in this puzzle.

The reviews are clever, clever, clever, (3 word review,) and worth a look-see.

Lindsay 10:22 AM  

All you Rexonians are having an influence on me, and today I decided to solve for time, which I have never before done. Not actually time the solve, mind you, but complete the puzzle as a mono-task, instead of while checking email, reading the paper, playing with the dog &c.

So words were falling into place but not making much sense, which I attributed to being in Speeding Along Mode rather than Aesthetic Experience Mode.

Reassured to come here and see that maybe the theme doesn't make much sense. Speaking of which, I googled "I see dead people" and it's from a movie called "The Sixth Sense." I throw that in as a service to others as ill-informed about movies as I am. Totally bizzare to find a phrase about corpses in the middle of the grid and NO idea whence it sprung. Never heard of the Affair to Remember either.

Not complaints exactly, just strange. Very strange. Don't believe there's a lot of speed-solving in my future.

william e emba 10:30 AM  

Émile ZOLA's letter was published on the front page of a newspaper. The paper's headline was simply the first word of Zola's letter in giant type: J'accuse!. In fact, the fame of the letter is such that the initial word has entered the English language.

I honestly cannot understand the grumpiness directed at the theme, by Rex and others. Four puns provided a succinct summary of four movies the way a tagline is supposed to. Laugh, groan, snort, whatever. This search for a deeper rule as to what kind of puns they're supposed to be or could have been? Huh??? Time for a Shatneresque comment here.

quilter1 10:32 AM  

I liked it. As ICYDEADPEOPLE emerged I thought: no way!
Then I thought: folks are going to think this is in bad taste.
Then I thought: boy that's funny!

We are going on a little trip to celebrate our 44th wedding anniversary. First the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in St. Louis then going to Chattanooga to spend a night on the Delta Queen riverboat. See y'all again next week.

Someone should use Chattanooga in a puzzle.

Two Ponies 10:39 AM  

Icy cold people? Really?
I usually like dark humor but this did strike me as funny.

archaeoprof 10:39 AM  

I'll laugh all day about ICYDEADPEOPLE.

Nice cluing for 35A and 50D, too.

There is a real tv-radio station in Cincinnati with call letters WKRC.

deerfencer 10:43 AM  

I'm with Matthew G. in loving and admiring this one. Good fun with some clever cluing (see UMPED and COMMA). Thanks David Poole!

Shock of the day: Rex watches American Idol!? That's almost as astonishing as learning that Rufus Wainwright just had a baby with/by Leonard Cohen's daughter, or that Ryan Adams is apparently happily married to Mandy Moore (both true facts BTW).

Ruth 10:57 AM  

I liked it. It made me laugh.

mac 10:57 AM  

It was easy and a little incoherent, but I found a lot to like in this puzzle, especially the last two theme answers. Couldn't believe when 42A came around! Harsh but funny. Some nice clues, such as for comma, calve, umped and aura.

Needed some crosses for Hummer, with GM I think of General Mills, food products.

Anonymous 11:02 AM  

Icy dead people was clever - but it was also in rather poor taste. Yes, it was almost a century ago, but it was still a horrible catastrophe ...

Moonchild 11:03 AM  

I thought the puns were lame and the fill was just that, a place for the theme answers to sit.
Floating bodies in a dark ocean passes the breakfast test? Ewww.
@ jesser, I was just asking about you yesterday and here you are! I was afraid you were stuck in Vegas needing bail money :)

chefbea 11:06 AM  

Had to goggle a few things and DNF. Had spam instead og scam and had no idea what 56 A was.

Look Up Guy 11:30 AM  


Happy 44th!

And ...

Monday, June 16, 1997 17A
Tuesday, August 09, 1994 43A

SethG 11:32 AM  

The La Mon restaurant bombing? BURN AFTER EATING. Riot headline after the bus boycotts? MONTGOMERY BURNS. Movie about insurance fraud? FLAME AND FORTUNE. Arson at a nursery? IGNITE CRAWLERS. Yeah, I guess that last one was a 14, but surely there's an Achille Lauro pun...

Whatever, ICY DEAD PEOPLE is still funny.

mac 11:42 AM  

Where's ArtLvr? It's Dr. Zeuss's birthday.

retired_chemist 11:52 AM  

Thanks, JackJ, for the Four Word Film Review reference, Well worth looking at. Hilarious!

mmespeer 11:54 AM  

I got stuck on the IVOR/EULER crossing. Knew that EUCLID couldn't/wouldn't work. Here's where to find the Rex interview:

Noam D. Elkies 11:54 AM  

@Greene (4:26AM): (-: ! "cold" indeed. I couldn't believe that one made it through either.

How often do we see a Q in the bottom right corner? Makes it a pangram too, FWIW.

1A:NORM - I guess that's a neat trivium if you care about Cheers. I'd prefer to clue it as a 3D:REAL word; there's certainly a wide enough range of ways to do it.

This clue for 21A:AARON is a WOTD? I say XLV MVP = WGASA. Inother words, "scroo" that (that's the captcha I had to enter). Moses' brother is responsible for way more than some pigskin passes.


Badir 11:56 AM  

I was also thinking that the theme was pretty loose. ICY DEAD PEOPLE rocks, though! I agree that the Euler clue was weirdly stated; I might have said, "Swiss graph theory pioneer". As a mathematician, of course, I thought it was a gimme.

Even though I felt like I stalled in places, I still had my fourth fastest Wednesday ever.

captcha: andsti (which, of course, Firefox tells me is misspelled, as it does with "Firefox") ck it where the sun don't shine!

Emile Zola 12:00 PM  


Masked and Anonymous II 12:15 PM  

Loved the clue for CIVIC. Loved the lucky-7 U's. Loved that the puz capped its pangram on the final grid letter. And how could the Shortzmeister ever pass on a theme with ICYDEADPEOPLE in it. Way too cool for school.

Spouse unit thought ICY-yadayada and HUMMER didn't quite pass the breakfast test, tho. So, I can see why the returns are gonna be mixed for this puppy. Suppose HIGHSEADEADPEOPLE wouldnta been much better.

Fearlessly predicted that 44 wouldn't warm too much to this puz, because of all the off-theme fill bein' 6-letters or less. Gotta throw a meaty 7-letter+ bone to the T-Rex, to keep him snarlingly happy. 44's tagline?: A Comedy of Arrows (another ode to the fwfr's top 100).

Rex Parker 12:20 PM  

JackJ's comment (with attendant revelation that all theme answers were essentially LIFTED from a website) makes me Hate this puzzle, not just dislike it.


Tobias Duncan 12:39 PM  

@ william e emba and retired_chemist.
Thanks for keeping me straight! I have never heard AFL without CIO so my ear would have never would have picked it up.
As for my valence electrons statement yesterday, my only excuse is that I took chemistry in New Mexico...

Joel 1:28 PM  

I completely disagree with you today, Rex. Yes, the puns weren't very tight, but they were all amusing and fun to put together. I also thought the cluing was more playful than usual. I'd rather have a fun, if flawed, puzzle than a boring add a letter theme. I give this a huge thumbs up

Orange 1:40 PM  

I greatly enjoyed the puzzle last night but the unattributed source material issue has changed my feelings toward the puzzle. It's one thing to repeat a theme without knowing it's been done before (this is fairly common). It's another to knowingly "borrow" material.

CFXK 1:48 PM  

The whole puzzle was made worth it by "Icy Dead People." -- though I lost two minutes due to spontaneous and uncontrollable laughter.
Still can't get the image out of my head.
Sorry Leo.

Howard B 1:53 PM  

Agree - did not know there was borrowed material 'inspiring' this puzzle. I did like the theme answers, but I would have to rethink the source now.

PuzzleNut 1:54 PM  

Count me in the "liked it" camp. Not great, but I guess I'm more tolerant of puns than some others.
Write overs at sAnE/HALE and YeiLD/YIELD. Fell into the SPAM/SCAM in the past, so now I check the crosses first.
@sfingi (sp?) - Yes, I do the LAT (it appears in our Houston Chronicle), but that is even less challenging. This past Sunday was an exception, IMO.
Recently discovered the BEQ site (thanks to Rex's link) and have fallen in love with his puzzles, the rap and other musical groups notwithstanding. Always topical and usually a little naughty. When he rates one Hard, I know I'm in for a treat.

Anonymous 1:56 PM  

@Orange, Rex, etc.: Just curious. What would be the right way for the constructor to approach the issue of "borrowing" this subject material, which did make a clever, enjoyable puzzle? Or should this simply not be done?

- Jim

chefbea 2:02 PM  

What's the movie where the young boy says "I see dead people" ? Saw the movie many times and can't remember the title!!!

chefbea 2:03 PM  

Just remembered...The Sixth Sense"

Jack Sparrow 2:08 PM  

@Masked and Anonymous II said...


... Suppose HIGHSEADEADPEOPLE wouldnta been much better.


From that very same website:

Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl (2003)

High-sea dead people.


Jason, of the Argonauts 2:25 PM  

I can truthfully say that, working with the teeth of a dragon, "I seeded people." Of course, you have to stress the "ded" of "seeded" to get your desired pun.

Cadmus 2:36 PM  

@Jason, I still want my damn dragon's teeth back.

lit.doc 2:37 PM  

@Rex, finally caught up with the interview. Congrat's on the much-deserved attention. Especially interesting were your comments about teaching in prison. Major props.

Masked and Anonymous I 2:45 PM  

@Jack Sparrow: Har. Yep. See. Told yah. HIGHSEADEADPEOPLE **wouldnta** been any better.
How 'bout ISEIZEDEADPEOPLE... Frankenstein (1931)? Didn't pirate that one from the web site, but it's probably there somewhere!

D_Blackwell 2:49 PM  

Although I hated this crossword, it would in no way be an issue for me if a resource was used to help select entries. It seems a ridiculous plaint.

Also, none of the first three theme entries are 'original', i.e., I have seen or heard them before (though not The Four Word Film Review).

I am not clear that it has been established how the entries were sourced.

I'll grant that I think ICY DEAD PEOPLE is funny - but these cutesy pun puzzles are most often disappointments.

sanfranman59 3:32 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

All solvers (median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Wed 9:38, 11:44, 0.82, 13%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Wed 5:02, 5:47, 0.87, 20%, Easy

Boston Dan 4:23 PM  

I thought "Luke back in anger" was very clever!

jackj 4:26 PM  

When I solved this puzzle last night, I thought it was brilliant.

When I learned of and checked out the 4 word film review site it was a bit of a surprise but didn't change my view of the puzzle.

When Rex posted his revised view of the puzzle at 12:20 P.M. it made me think beyond my opinion as a puzzle solver.

It seems clear that, unless the crossword constructor can show some meaningful affiliation with the 4 film review site, then he and the NY Times have breached the 4 film review copyright by not giving them credit or proper recompense.

Plagiarism is a nasty word but it has reared its head in this case.

Rex Parker 4:53 PM  

I don't have any interest in making "plagiarism" accusations. Seems very premature. But I do think it's worth discussing what obligations a constructor has to be original. I was talking w/ another constructor today who saw the whole thing in shades of gray, i.e. don't constructors all borrow / steal consciously and unconsciously all the time? Well, sure. Hell, I've come up w/ a play on words only to find I didn't come up with it at all. Someone got to it before me. I've got several puzzles coming out in the future, at least one of which involves wordplay that someone before me might have thought of before me. It happens. I just don't believe that's what happened here. Seems statistically improbable.

For some reason, today's puzzle crosses a line with me ... and yet I'm having trouble articulating *exactly* why. I just know that I would never "harvest" answers. I esp. would not "harvest" them and then comment publicly on my puzzle while *failing to acknowledge* that I had "harvested" them (this happened elsewhere). Is such "harvesting" morally wrong? Legally wrong? I really couldn't say. I'm just saying it *feels* wrong to me, and I'm trying to understand exactly why. I know that not everyone (incl. constructors) shares my feelings.

I am more than willing to be convinced to see things a different way.


Anonymous 5:04 PM  

I disagree with Rex harsh comments on this puzzle. I actually thought that the theme was quite amusing. All the theme answers gave me a smile except that ICY DEAD PEOPLE was a bit cruel.
I don't see why Rex is complaining about EULER and SAUDI. For me these were gimme. Every day of the week there are many more obscure words popping out from pop culture, Greek mythology, Shakespeare's plays, anatomy or geography that are known to only people knowledgeable in the field in the respective field.

Not much crosswordese this time. The only thing that I agree with Rex is that this was an easier than usual Wednesday. Solved it in just under 20 minutes (fast time for me).

Matthew G. 5:20 PM  

Is there any way to discern whether the taglines from today's puzzle were submitted to Four Word Film Reviews today, or at some earlier date? It looks, from a casual glance, like a site that people can add to very quickly, possibly even immediately, so perhaps a crossword fan added them this morning after solving. Or perhaps they were indeed borrowed. I reserve all judgment unless and until we know more.

retired_chemist 5:37 PM  

@ Rex - I understand your point of view on the theme. And Orange's, which is basically the same.

As a solver and non-constructor, I thought the theme was enjoyable. Lots of laughs. The originality of the answers is not a particular concern to me.

OTOH, if there turns out to be a copyright issue, whether or not acted upon, that is a strong negative to any academic, including me. I am wondering if your (our) negative reaction has to do with y(our) academic background. Pride in originality of the construction seems big with you and Orange. And that is fine.

It is a balance. My bottom line: it's a crossword puzzle, after all, and not a scholarly publication. There is a difference to me. Absent a legal problem I am good with this one.

Were there a legal issue, I would think it could be fixed by a reference in the Thursday paper to the source. Clearly the fun could be spoiled if the reference were given in the puzzle.

Your mileage may (and does) vary.

Anonymous 5:37 PM  

They've all been on the site since 2003. The site's been around for years, and these were all among the 100 all-time highest rated of the 328,764 reviews posted there.

Sfingi 5:49 PM  

HTG for OJO and IVOR, wondering why a Latin guy would have a Welsh first name. Turns out he's really David Ivor Davies.
Guessed a lot, especially around the 6 sports clues, then looked at the results and wondered if it was right.

Speaking of @Anon153's sudden mental vacuum, I was so confused that I looked at SLOB and asked, "Why would anyone write on their sleeve, if they had a napkin."
Couldn't get "a Toyota" our of my head for CIVIC for quite a while - and I don't mean Rex's half second.

Don't get AURA, but then I probably don't understand the French.

Never heard of Tapenade. Didn't know EULER was Swiss, esp. since Konigsberg is/was in Prussia.

UKES, JIVE and CALVES were clever fill.

Suspected a pangram.

@Greg C - Ol' people words.

@Puzzlenut - I meant for just that day. I'm the opposite of that fellow who doesn't do M-T-W. I won't buy the NY Times, now, until Monday week. But if Mr. no M-T-W misses all these great and strange comments, more's the pity.
@JackJ - thanx for your scholarship!

@Octavian - death also favors the bold, according to Missy Risk Averse Sfingi. Maybe it's a guy thing.

@JaxinLA - Love Zola.

@Rex - Thanx for saying harvest, not glean. My peeve this week is against "tare-ism" as opposed to terrorism. That's 4 syllables. Do the producers tell them they must say it that way?

CharlieK 6:00 PM  

So much indignance here! There's no copyright problem. The "original" material is the construction of the puzzle itself, not the borrowing of a few puns from a website. How many of those puns were borrowed from other websites? Lighten up.

Gil.I.Pollas 6:01 PM  

Had the same reaction as @joho with Jack bobbing in the sea. Then my mind wandered to that cute little boy seeing dead things and then Demi Moore's ex not figuring out he was dead.
Don't like puns.

Glitch 6:24 PM  

So what if the "answers" came from somewhere else?

If they were all actual film titles whould there be any hint of scandal or concerns of copyright or trademarks?

I'll wager almost all "seed" ideas came to the constructor from outside rather than from a purely original thought.

Take a look at the databases for the cluing of some of the common fills (e.g. OREO) --- how many unique clues do you find? All those clues are presumably copyrighted by the NYT by being published there. And what if the same clue is used in the LAT?

The constructor gets credit for taking words and phrases we either know or can "get from the crosses", arrranging them in a grid, and cluing them.

The freshness determines the quality --- even occasionally garnering kudos for cluing OREO in a new way.

Top constructors are top because of consistant freshness and originality, not everyone can meet their standards. Not everyone can be above average.

Otherwise, what @r_c wrote.


JD NJ 6:24 PM  

In defense of Mr. Poole, how does anyone here know how he came up with the puns? To accuse someone of "lifting" the idea from a website is preposterous. So much finger-pointing, and so few facts.

kidrock 6:34 PM  

Those who can't construct---accuse

kjmaggie 7:00 PM  

Loved it. Always game for a good pun.

Anonymous 7:01 PM  

There's an argument as to whether or not it's OK to use the puns from the website. I get that. But to suggest that Mr. Poole came up with these puns independently is statistically improbable to say the least. Has the constructor posted his comments anywhere?

SenJoeMcCarthy 7:27 PM  

Who needs to hear from the constructor? We've already decided he lifted from the website. The facts rest securely on reckless, unsubstantiated accusations...

Rex Parker 7:34 PM  

@Glitch makes an interesting point about the elusiveness of true originality, though I think there is massive difference between cluing (every constructor knows what it's like to have to clue ERA, SST, ESTA, etc. yet again) and coming up w/ seed answers for your theme. The latter is the most important stage in constructing a themed puzzle. Not that clues shouldn't be original, but (esp. true for early-week puzzles) originality in cluing tends to make the puzzle harder. If you are straightforward, you are bound to hit on clues that have been used before. Impossible not to.

Also, taking the answers (*if* you just find them sitting like fish in a barrel...) and arranging them in a grid ... it's really not that hard, esp. w/ modern constructing software. And this was a highly unambitious grid (nothing memorable or original outside the theme). It's the conceptualizing and the brainstorming of (ideally, original) theme answers, getting good answers of matching lengths to work out ... that is the truly difficult part.

I think I am unduly bothered, in a way that perhaps only a mediocre-constructor-aspiring-to-be-a-good-constructor could be bothered. I wouldn't sit back and let people praise my cleverness *if* I had simply lifted the answers from a list on the internet. And that last point is irrelevant bec. I wouldn't have lifted them in the first place.

Maybe that makes me a sucker. And maybe, just maybe, no one *lifted* anything at all and this is all just one wacky, enormous coincidence.

Raising the question of where the theme answers came from (and it's a highly reasonable question, given initial evidence) does not a reckless accusation make.


fergus 8:30 PM  

Discussion was already interesting enough before the legitimacy of borrowing or harvesting arose. I was sticking with the enjoyment of clever phrasing when that 4-word site came into play. If Mr. Poole actually straight-out took those titles from the site, I think it's incumbent upon him to make an attribution, at least in some hinting crosswordy way.

deerfencer 8:30 PM  

Put me in the camp of those who think the construction itself is the thing, not the clues or answers in and of themselves but the stitching of it all together into a new and enjoyable solve.

I'm reminded of my gut response to the accusations of plagiarism a few years ago that Bob Dylan had lifted a few lines from some older obscure (Japanese?) Romantic poem and put them in a (great contemporary) song.

So what? He gave those lines new life and fresh meaning, which is not any different IMO than any decent jazz riff.

Creative synthesis is all.

Anonymous 8:34 PM  

I see the constructor has denied any knowledge of FWFR on Orange and WordPlay.

It was a weird coincidence, but I accept his word. The NYT pay scale is too low to tempt anyone to cheat!

christina 8:38 PM  

Quite disappointed and surprised to see Rex's comment on Wordplay. He didn't need to post the website and accuse David Poole of lifting the idea from that compilation. Very sad.

Ulrich 8:47 PM  

Too late to be read by many, but I can't resist pointing out to those who do not know this that the (very popular) German secretary of defense resigned a few days ago b/c it turned out that in his PhD dissertation(in law), he had plagiarized freely. Not that that had anything to do with his performance as secretary, but it was considered beyond the moral pale for a high-ranking official.

W.r.t. the current issue: I think I understand Rex (always iffy for me:-). If the puns all came from a single source, that fact deserves some mention in my book, too--it's a bit like having a co-constructor who contributed all the theme answers. Now, the co-constructor can be asked if she wants to be mentioned, and in what way, but a website cannot, and common courtesy or honesty suggests, to me, that in this case, one should play it safe; i.e. give credit where it may be due.

If, one the other hand, the constructor collected the material, squirrel-like, from various sources, that collecting activity is an "original" contribution in its own right and not in need of laborious attributions (which may be hard to make anyway--an xword puzzle is not a PhD dissertation for that matter).

Clark 8:57 PM  

On a lighter note -- a banknote to be precise. This is why EULER came to mind so easily for me I think.

SharonAK 9:33 PM  

I may be posting too late in day for anyone to see this, but
As a syndication solver I tried today to see the blog for Wednesday, Jan 26. Eventually it came up, but in a chain of Rexp's posts without the comments from the rest of you.
Does anyone know why that happens, or , more important, how I can get to them? It has happened a number o times before, but is not the norm.
If you have a solution for me, please e-mail to

SethG 9:42 PM  

That website lists over 300,000 reviews of almost 40,000 movies, dating to 1999. Over 600 of those reviews are for Titanic, over 200 for Taxi Driver and Jedi, and almost 200 for Back To The Future. There is clearly a large universe of possibilities.

Each of the four theme entries is the highest rated review for its film*, and each appears on the list of the all-time top 100 ranked reviews. Given these facts, it seemed unlikely that this was a complete coincidence and perfectly reasonable to question it.

David Poole reports that two of the theme answers appeared on an email list his friend sent him, that he came up with the other two himself (with Will's help), and that he'd never heard of the website. I have no reason not to take him at his word.

*Note that LUKE BACK IN ANGER actually is listed with Empire Strikes Back, but they're all the same, right?

Barryg 9:55 PM  

After reading the snowballing, baseless accusations against David Poole today, it's---Guilty until proven innocent. McCarthyism indeed.

lit.doc 10:15 PM  

@Ulrich and @SharonAK, not to worry. There's gotta be a bunch of puzzle geeks and Rex fans like me who continue to follow the discussion 'til the next day's post. Even if we don't post all that often these days.

Ulrich 10:18 PM  

@SethG: It seems, then, the second scenario I describe may hold, and that settles the issue for me.

@Barryg: I have seen no snowballing baseless accusations today--there were two contrasting views almost from the start and they fought over this during the day--that's what blogs are there for. Besides, I think comparing today's "battle" to McCarthyism seriously trivializes that sorry episode--nobody's livelihood was destroyed even by the most vociferous detractors of today's puzzle.

ANON B 10:29 PM  

To REX and Jack J

I went to the FOUR LETTER...
website. I went through several pages of 100 movies each. The only one I saw in common with today's
puzzle was Titanic and the review
was not"I see dead people". I don't
remember what it was. The only thing that I can see is that today's puzzle were all puns on 4 letter reviews. The ones I read
in the website did not appear to
be puns although I was just skimming.

Sfingi 10:34 PM  

@SharonAK - which method did you use to look at the old post? There's "Older Posts," on the very end of the site, and "Blog Archive" along the right-most column. Either way, I found them listed immediately after the day requested, but no longer on a separate little screen that could be added to.

In other news, Gadhafi's son is accused of plagiarism in his doctorate at London School of Economics. Academic plagiarism is, of course, serious.

william e emba 10:36 PM  

I have a few comments regarding this talk of copyright violation. I am not a lawyer, but I like to follow these issues.

The amount of quoted text is so small that fair use would probably apply.

Independent invention, as half-claimed by Poole, is not copyright violation. This is in contrast with trademark/patent law, where first invention trumps rediscovery.

I don't see how anyone can claim the unfilled puzzle is a violation of copyright! Now, maybe tomorrow when the answers are published there will be issues, but for now, none. (I speak as a pen-and-paper solver. I have no idea how or when answers are or provided with the online version.)

And while there could be issues regarding the NYT publishing the answer, I don't think there are any with Rex publishing the answer! Rex is simply revealing what the NYT clues meant to him, an act of independent creation.

Anonymous 10:36 PM  


ANON B 10:36 PM  

Addition to my comment at 10:29

I just looked back at the puzzle. Of the four theme answers, only
one was a pun on a review, the others were puns on the titles.
On the web site, as far as I could
tell, all the reviews were just
that, reviews.

Alpine Joy 11:04 PM  

Goodness gracious, sakes alive! I really don't know, but I personally don't think it's a big deal one way or the other.

I can't follow every comment that closely, and I'm not saying that any person is doing this, but I am reminded that we had the "chivying" word a few days ago, and it comes to my mind, reading today's comments.

It's just a crossword, as far as I'm concerned. And many years ago, I made a very homemade crossword for my niece, and the title was "No Cross Words Hear!".

If you want to read up on something that you can really complain about, study about the trials, formal and informal, of Dreyfus, and Zola.

Zola fled France for a time, as I recall, and Dreyfus eventually served as a military officer into the 1920's, I think. The machinations of the conservative (or the entrenched military faction, if you want) versus the progressive voices in France at that time is something to really get up in arms about, whichever side you reside on politically. I'm sure we all want to fight against miscarriages of truth and justice.

I protested the war in Iraq in D.C. in the big march (2005?) with a sign that read, on the front (prepped for the International Press), "An American Says, 'M. le President, J'ACCUSE!'", and on the back, the other great Zola quote, "'La Vérité en Marche, et rien ne l'arretera!'". Those are good words to live by.

Libya is on fire right now, more or less. My attention is turned to ferreting out the truth the best I can discern it. Any puzzle that mentions Zola and Euler in the same day is alright by me.

retired_chemist 11:16 PM  

@ Anon B 10:29 -

I saw all four.

Alpine Joy 11:39 PM  

I meant to say "La Vérité EST en Marche..." but let's not have a 41a, CALVE.

61a named names, and the puzzle may have been a little 53d, but in general, I think it was all in good fun.

Thanks, Rex!

ANON B 10:06 PM  

To ANONYMOUS at 10:36

Thanks. I looked at that link.
I now understand that everything
was lifted.
Sorry I'm late with this apology.

litigator 8:00 PM  

David Poole didn't lift anything. You're just jealous. You were caught in a lie here and on Wordplay.

Anonymous 1:17 PM  

WHATEVER! As a relative newcomer here, I was just delighted to do a Wednesday puzzle without having to Google anything. And ICYDEADPEOPLE made up for everything else.

Anonymous 1:18 PM  

BREAKING NEWS: several words in recent NYT puzzles actually have appeared previously in the OED! Shocking!

tim 1:46 PM  

I just have to say that I find the whole originality/plagiarism argument fairly ridiculous. Knowing some inveterate punsters (and the way they look for puns in **every** thing), I imagine there isn't a pun under the sun that hasn't been uttered or printed *some*where. Suggesting that any of these should be copyrighted just shows how far down the corporate rabbit hole we've all gone.

These puzzles are for **entertainment** and whether the constructor achieved this by borrowing from others seems inconsequential to me. The key is whether the audience enjoyed the result.

Lurking, Just Behind You 2:11 PM  

Good Discussion today (syndication-land).
I for one liked the puzzle, but I do loves me a good pun. There is a competition every year at the O Henry House in Austin called the O Henry Pun Off that is just a HOOT.

As for the puzzle itself, I would be willing to bet that the last 6 weeks has not seen an answer as fabulous as 42a.

@SadGuy....your comment made my coffee come shooting out of my nose (OUCH!) when I was on the bus! TOO funny.

I was sad to see that ACME was not here on this day, as she would have had cute comments and additional praise for the pangram.

Dirigonzo 4:55 PM  

My vote for best pun in the prime-time comments goes to @Alpine Joy for Texas math team = Houston Eulers.

NotalwaysrightBill 5:44 PM  

Syndi-late paper solver.

Do whatever you have to, just make sure that ICYDEADPEOPLE gets aired for public consumption! Thing is precious! Tagline fits half the bloggers here at Rexville who can't get their giggle on for a "cool" pun. Honestly, I have no intuitive feel for such humorlessness. What's their problem: too much IDOL? Do they suddenly see ICYDEADPEOPLE swimming in their bran fiber cereal? Jeez, the guy just made a pun: don't CALVE, man!

And just where, exactly, is a constructor supposed to cite source(s) for a lifted phrase (or four) like this anyway? Especially IF originally contributed to a somewhat obscure website by somebody using a (probably) ephemeral user name (understandable given the (who knew?) numbers of pun-hating groaners and stoners)?

@Sad Guy's 12:43A comment on his personal experience with the discontinuance of HUMMER: priceless!

Also thanks to everybody who enlightened me to the ZOLA/Dreyfuss story. What a lesson for those who would limit a free press.!

Easier than I was bracing for for a Wedpuz. Puns are fun. And so are YODELS! Go ahead and use THAT in a Star Wars film tagline.

Alpine Joy 9:07 PM  

@Dirigonzo, thanks for the Kudos. How nice to be noticed!

As Mrs. Lovett said in Sweeney Todd, "Ideas just pop into my head,...and I keep thinking!".

Joe Gibson 10:35 AM  

I believe your syndicated puzzle is one day behind. For us out here in the hinterlands, it is frustrating to find your puzzle is yesterdays.

AK 8:10 PM  

I very much liked ICYDEADPEOPLE ... and got hung up on SPAM instead of SCAM.

@Octavian You literally thought someone would do something. As opposed to thinking in some other manner?

Anonymous 11:45 PM  

For Rex, it's probably frustrating to have you just come to complain. Especially because if you were to, I dunno, hit the END key on your keyboard, then click [Newer Post], you would get to the next day's puzzle. I understand asking you to both hit a key and click a link is a lot, especially when you already clicked one to get here, but I know you can do it.

Good luck!

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