Actress Berger / SUN 6-12-11 / Superman II villainess / Old Church of England foe / Seaport on Adriatic / Diamond substitute / Line of cliffs

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Constructor: C.W. Stewart

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Pullet" — theme answers (signaled by starred clues) are things that can be pulled. A pullet is a young chicken.

Word of the Day: SENTA Berger (103D: Actress Berger) —

Senta Berger (born May 13, 1941) is an Austrian film, stage and television actress, producer and author. // Regarded by critics as one of the greatest actresses of the post-war period, and frequently named as one of the leading German-speaking actresses in polls, Berger has received many award nominations for her acting in theatre, film and television; her awards include three Bambi Awards, two Romys, an Adolf Grimme Award, both a Deutscher and a Bayerischer Fernsehpreis, and a Goldene Kamera. // Berger married director and producer Michael Verhoeven in 1966. They are the parents of actors Simon and Luca Verhoeven. (wikipedia)

• • •

The title just doesn't work. I get that it's a pun (sounds like "pull it"), but the puzzle has nothing to do with chickens and there's no real play on words when you just have one word that has zero to do with the puzzle. Then there's the fact that "things that can be pulled" just doesn't make for a very satisfying theme. Clues are just ... literal. They're things. Nothing to discover. No aha moments. Just ... "Hmm. OK." Then there's ONE'S LEG, which is fine in theme context but Horrible as an answer to its clue, 51D: *Something to stand on. ONE LEG is the answer to the clue. ONE'S LEG is an absurdity. What else are you going to stand on? And which leg? Just makes no sense. (I also had a major issue with 66D: Ain't fixed? (IS NOT) as well—[Ain't fixed] is AREN'T. What's "wrong" with "ain't" is not the apostrophe. Parallel construction matters). I WANNA is too long for a partial (20D: Start of a childish plaint). The less said about HER'N, the better (8D: Not his'n). SENTA? Not on my radar. RELIC of the past??? What kind of redundancy is that? Ugh, I see that it has a lot of users, so it's valid, but I really hate it. ESNE!? I thought we'd buried you forever (76D: Feudal serf). GUN TRIGGER???? "Pull the gun trigger!" he said, redundantly. "Or else we'll just be a relic of the past!" I liked ALL-NIGHTER and LITURGY (89D: Service arrangement) and SHORTIE (13D: Shrimp) and not much else. No, wait—Ironically (or fittingly), I liked SOURPUSS (104A: Killjoy).

Middle of the puzzle was by far the hardest. IS NOT was part of the problem, as was NAIR v. NEET (67D: Classic brand of hair remover). Could not remember LINTEL (52D: Piece over a door or window) to save my life. Adriatic seaport also a mystery for a while (56A: Seaport of the Adriatic=>RIMINI). ONE'S LEG ... you know how I feel about that. Bah. Rest of the puzzle was pretty easy.

Theme answers:
  • 23A: Boardwalk offering (SALT WATER TAFFY) — my favorite of the theme answers by far
  • 38A: *Diamond substitute (RELIEF PITCHER) — I usually think of the RELIEF PITCHER as the guy who comes in for the guy who's been pulled, but you can certainly pull a RELIEF PITCHER, so it works.
  • 64A: *Handy things for toys? (PUPPET STRINGS)
  • 93A: *Staple of "Candid Camera" (PRACTICAL JOKE)
  • 114A: *Radio Flyer, e.g. (LITTLE RED WAGON)
  • 3D: *Certain study session (ALL-NIGHTER)
  • 51D: *Something to stand on (ONE'S LEG)
  • 75D: *It may be found near a barrel (GUN TRIGGER)

  • 87A: "Up in the Air" actress Kendrick (ANNA) — actress #2 that I don't know today.
  • 123A: "Superman II" villainess (URSA) — I've been bitten by this one before.
  • 9D: Ad-packed Sunday newspaper section (TRAVEL) — now the puzzle is trying to get you to read other parts of the paper. Interesting.
  • 14D: Old Church of England foe (PAPIST) — Weird. I never knew anyone to call himself a PAPIST. I've only ever seen the word in anti-Catholic rhetoric. Rare to see someone self-identify as a PAPIST. Webster's 3rd Int'l says "usu. used disparagingly." Clue should've marked the word's prejudicial nature.
  • 16D: Chinese dynasty of 1,200 years ago (TANG) — pfft. I dunno. Wait for crosses. (and come on: TANG is an orange drink, or [Zestiness] ... it is also a fish ... as well as uncluable slang; well, uncluable in the NYT, that is)

  • 68D: Line of cliffs (SCARP) — I went with ARETE. They're both produced by erosion. Sadly, that didn't make my answer right.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


D_Blackwell 12:25 AM  

***66D: Ain't fixed? (IS NOT) as well—[Ain't fixed] is AREN'T. What's "wrong" with "ain't" is not the apostrophe.***

That AIN'T (is not) right. You AIN'T (are not) right. AIN'T swings both ways Rexy.

He AIN'T (is not) heavy. He's my brother.

Them Grammar Nazis AIN'T (are not) noted for tolerance or keeping within 100 years of current usage.

This was a decent themeless Sunday. It had some nice, bright entries, as with SALT WATER TAFFY. Of course, GUN TRIGGER is ten squares of dead weight.

Did anybody here crash on the CRAMP / CRIMP choice? I'll bet quite a few do.

The SENTA / URSA cross is pretty horrible.

HER'N (which could have been clued to HERN) is one of the worst entries of all time, right down there with Meaningless Roman Numeral (only acceptable because they are used a lot).

A world record (in my world) Sunday time, by a lot.

davko 12:41 AM  

Trying to decipher this puzzle's theme was harder than solving it. I too was confused by the title, vainly searching with each starred clue for something related to chickens or hens. If this was just about the homophonic quality of "pullet" and "pull it" -- then, so what? There are certainly catchier ways of tipping off the pulled objects and items. Even a title like "Yanks" would have been better.

The prevalence of such shopworn, cobwebby fill as ETAPE (2D), OGEE (17D), and ESNE (76D) reminded me of a Newsday puzzle from the 70's or 80's. To be fair, some sweet answers like RIMINI (56A), LINTEL (52D), and MARES NEST (119) kept things afloat, but otherwise, no fantastic voyage for this solver.

GLR 12:45 AM  

@D_Blackwell - You're right that "ain't" could be either "isn't" or "aren't," but I think Rex's point was that the correct answer should still be a contraction - "isn't" rather than "is not."

And I, for one, guessed wrong on the "crimp" vs. "cramp" choice. Didn't know RIMINI.

MARE'S NEST was a new one for me.

D_Blackwell 1:04 AM  

GLR - That would make more sense as a complaint:)) Still not inclined to agree, though, thinking that a stern grammarian would be likely to correct it out of the contraction as well. IS NOT seems fine with the clue. But it don't make no nevermind.

lit.doc 2:31 AM  

@GLR, agree entirely that "ain't" unambiguously signals a contraction, and "isn't" ain't long enough. Rex he be right.

And me too for finishing with the CRAMP error.

In the midst of retiring/escaping from the quickly deteriorating Texas public education clusterf*#! Also in the midst of selling the house and prep'ing to move back to Colorado to be with the grand and not-so-grand nieces and nephews. Looking forward to getting back into the daily conversation.

Dante Alighieri 2:53 AM  

And then I turned to them: "Thy dreadful fate,
Francesca [da RIMINI], makes me weep, it so inspires
Pity," said I, "and grief compassionate.

Tell me—in what time of sighing-sweet desires,
How, and by what, did love his power disclose
And grant you knowledge of your hidden fires?"

Then she to me: "The bitterest of woes
Is to remember in our wretchedness
Old happy times; and this thy Doctor [Virgil] knows;

Yet, if so dear desire thy heart possess
To know that root of love which wrought our fall,
I’ll be as those who weep and who confess.

One day we read for pastime how in thrall
Lord Lancelot lay to love, who loved the Queen;
We were alone—we thought no harm at all.

As we read on, our eyes met now and then,
And to our cheeks the changing color started,
But just one moment overcame us—when

We read of the smile, desired of lips long-thwarted,
Such smile, by such a lover kissed away,
He that may never more from me be parted

Trembling all over, kissed my mouth. I say
That book was Galleot, Galleot the complying
Ribald who wrote; we read no more that day."

While the one spirit thus spoke, the other’s crying
Wailed on me with a sound so lamentable,
I swooned for pity like as I were dying.

And, as a dead man falling, down I fell.

[Trans. Dorothy L. Sayers]

I skip M-W 2:54 AM  

Isn't ain't originally a contraction of am not? Had to go through vowels for nanu/ursa, as Inever encoutnered either. With @Rex on rest.

captcha = dalismsh short for Dali's Moustache? More interesting than puzzle

chefwen 2:54 AM  

@lit.doc - I am happy that you will be joining us on a more regular basis, I miss your comments when you are absent.

One of our renters asked me how the puzzle was today and I replied with an expression I have never used, MEH!
I did it, I finished it but there was little enjoyment in the solve. I agree with everything our leader had to say. It was O.K. but not SPOT ON.

Liked the shout out to Rex family with SHARPS @68A and to me at 13D for SHORTIE. I had to warn my tall dinner guests not to hurt their backs when they bent over to hug me goodbye. The shortest one was 6ft 8in.

jae 2:59 AM  

I'm with lit.doc, "Rex he be right" on the contraction. And me too on what seems to be the beginning of a bandwagon for the CRAMP error (which, BTW, blew an error free week for me). I really hate blowing it on an other wise easy ho-hum puzzle.

And what Dante just posted about RIMINI rings zero bells.

And, are RELIEFPITCHERS pulled? Is not (note the lack of a contraction) the starting pitcher pulled?

NAIR before NEET.


Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres 3:03 AM  

Gianciotto Discovers Paolo and Francesca [da RIMINI]

jae 3:04 AM  

For the record, I posted my "meh" before seeing chefwen's post. Nice to know we are on the same wavelength.

Anonymous 3:26 AM  

Re the much-debated "ain't", I think the clue is all right as it is. In some contexts "IS NOT" is an appropriate correction for "aint": that's enough for me. I don't agree that "ain't" "unambiguously signals a contraction": that sort of thing is true only when there is no reason to contract the clue except to signal the contraction. In this case, of course, the contraction is part of the word.

Had the CRAMP/CRIMP mistake too; I did the puzzle online, so I saw that I had gotten something wrong and was able to fix it, but I wasted a lot of time second-guessing the SENTA/URSA cross before finding the real mistake.

Anonymous 3:29 AM  

@jae: you can pull a RELIEF PITCHER and replace him with another relief pitcher. That's enough to make relief pitchers something that can be pulled, although I do concede that it's a bit weak, since the "relief" part adds absolutely nothing.

lit.doc 3:31 AM  

Well thanks a lot Dante! As both a classical music buff and a lit geek, I now feel boneheaded instead of just mildly annoyed about RIMINI. Geez. Shoulda made the connection.

@chefwen, thanks! Been a crazy, stressful time. If the current deal closes successfully, I'll leave Tejas 19 years to the day after my arrival here.

lit.doc 3:35 AM  

@anon 3:26, isn't the contraction also part of the words "aren't" and "isn't"?

Anonymous 3:48 AM  

@lit.doc: I guess I didn't express myself too well there. Point taken.

What I meant was that the contraction was an essential part of the word here--meaning that you can't expand it ("'Is not' corrected") and have the clue make any sense. It's only when there is no other reason to use a contraction in the clue that it signals a corresponding contraction in the answer, imo.

--Mr. 3:26

r.alphbunker 4:28 AM  

CRaMP. Crap!

miriam b 7:04 AM  

HERN elicited a memory - a RELIC of the past. We used to frequent a German restaurant which served authentic cuisine. The décor was rather rustic. The doors of the restrooms (and does one actually rest there?) were labeled His'n amd Her'n. One evening the clientele included a number of German tourists whose English was apparently shaky. We noticed one guest regarding the doors in perplexity. He wondered, probably, why "Herren" was abbreviated so oddly, and why the word was accompanied by a folksy drawing of a girl. Finally, by process of elimination (pun intended)he cose the other door.

Captca: arphe = affected dog's bark

miriam b 7:07 AM  

CHOSE the other door

The Bard 7:50 AM  

The Taming of the Shrew – Act 2, Scene 1

Now, by the world, it is a lusty wench;
I love her ten times more than e'er I did:
O, how I long to have some chat with her!

chefbea 7:54 AM  

This has to be my fastest Sunday puzzle ever. Just breezed right through it.

Got the theme right away but as Rex said..I was still looking for chickens.

@chefwen Didn't realize the shout out to me as well. Are all Chef's short???

joho 8:25 AM  

Puzzle title is an epic fail. No wonder I never got the theme. Thank you @Rex for your write up. But, let's face it, there is just no way a small chicken relates to anything being pulled except possibly his feathers.

Sunday, of all days of the week, cries out for a fun, aha inducing theme to keep the bigger puzzle interesting. So I have to say this one left me feeling flat.

GRANDPASTHUMB would've been funny. Ok, maybe not. But at least might bring a smile (or a grimace!).

@miriam b ... loved your story about HER'N and Herren. This is a perfect example of how cutesy could have turned ugly!

Still, in the end, I have to commend C.W. Stewart for thinking up a theme and creating a Sunday puzzle. I just wish it could have had a more fitting title and more fun anwers.

Anonymous 9:02 AM  

Puzzle really crimped my style...

Vega 9:20 AM  

Yes, I was disappointed after I finished. I too waited far too long for a reveal beyond "things that can be pulled" that never came.

Also on the CRaMP/CRIMP bandwagon. But would CRaMP be ruled out by the clue for 38D, "Less cramped"?

"Goody goody gumdrops"? Seriously?

mitchs 9:25 AM  

What Rex said. Just for emphasis though: HERN? GUNTRIGGER?

Joe 9:28 AM  

Hate. Felt like I woke up in 1953, Thor movie and Anna Kendrick notwithstanding. Candid Camera?? MARE'S NEST?? Can RARA AVIS and OGEE please go find whatever old-fill home ESNE checks into? They can take a Radio Flyer, some Redd Foxx 8-Tracks, ETAPE and TOPING with them. And a Solitaire puzzle with PEGs that my Grandpa gave me. Cranky pants!!

ArtO 9:31 AM  

I join the ranks of those who do not think of a relief pitcher being "pulled." As Rex says, they can be, but 99% of the time, the expression is applied to the starting pitcher.

Lois 9:58 AM  

The his'n and her'n story is a nice defense of the use of her'n in the puzzle, which I hadn't liked much either. But I enjoyed the puzzle. Never mind that there were no chickens in the puzzle. If the title had been Yanks, as someone here suggested, there probably would be no Yankees in the puzzle either.

jackj 10:00 AM  

Seems like Ms. Stewart and Will knew that the fill was less than gripping and went the extra mile to perk things up with clever cluing.

"1987 disaster movie?" for ISHTAR was the best example and SPOTON, HADAGO, HASTE, ANGLE, (and many more), all demonstrate the success of their

Not the best of Sunday puzzles, but certainly a winner for Caroline Stewart who gives us her first Times Sunday.

JenCT 10:13 AM  

My avatar is my pullet Peeps; was also looking for chicken-themed answers.

Actually got CRIMP; go figure.

SPOTON and HADAGO took me forever!

Only mistake was the MARESNEST/LEMS cross - no idea on either.

ISHTAR was my favorite clue/answer combo.

syndy 10:15 AM  

I dunno I kinda thought the whole was better than the parts -I like an easy brezzy sundays sometimes>The theme -pulled things worked fine for me,and (AS A PAPIST)I enjoyed that mini theme-edict;tenets;liturgy=now the SHARPS thing threw me -not used to seeing sharps in a row like that so I called it TRACKS!Had RIMINI before CRIMP

quilter1 10:19 AM  

Disappointed that there were no chicken jokes. Since I started from the bottom, when I began filling in LITTLE RED I had hope for a chicken joke, but no. Otherwise OK puzzle. I have no opinion about ain't or pitchers.

Thanks for the poetic and artistic illustrations.

DBGeezer 10:23 AM  

When Venice did not work as an Adriatic port, and Ravenna was too long, RIMINI is the next port heading south.

Gilbert and Sullivan also referred to RIMINI in Patience.


When I go out of door,
Of damozels a score
(All sighing and burning,
And clinging and yearning)
Will follow me as before.
I shall, with cultured taste,
Distinguish gems from paste,
And "High diddle diddle"
Will rank as an idyll,
If I pronounce it chaste!


A most intense young man,
A soulful-eyed young man,
An ultra-poetical, super-aesthetical,
Out-of-the-way young man!


Conceive me, if you can,
An ev'ryday young man:
A commonplace type,
With a stick and a pipe,
And a half-bred black-and-tan;
Who thinks suburban "hops"
More fun than "Monday Pops,"-
Who's fond of his dinner,
And doesn't get thinner
On bottled beer and chops.


A commonplace young man,
A matter-of-fact young man-
A steady and stolidy, jolly Bank-holiday,
Every-day young man!


A Japanese young man-
A blue-and-white young man-
Francesca di Rimini, miminy, piminy,
Je-ne-sais-quoi young man!


A Chancery lane young man-
A Somerset House young man,-
A very delectable, highly respectable
Three-penny-bus young man!


A pallid and thin young man-
A haggard and lank young man,
A greenery-yallery, Grosvenor Gallery,
Foot-in-the-grave young man!


A Sewell and Cross young man,
A Howell & James young man,
A pushing young particle - "What's the next
Waterloo House young man!


Conceive me, if you can,
A crotchety, cracked young man,
An ultra-poetical, super-aesthetical,
Out-of-the way young man!
Conceive me, if you can,
A crotchety, cracked young man,
An ultra-poetical, super-aesthetical,
Out-of-the way young man!

capcha: juspult. Too bad this didn't get into today's puzzle, I JUSPULT a ligament when I fell down.

Sam Jaffe 10:26 AM  

The Mare's Nest
Rudyard Kipling

Jane Austen Beecher Stowe de Rouse
Was good beyond all earthly need;
But, on the other hand, her spouse
Was very, very bad indeed.

He smoked cigars, called churches slow,
And raced--but this she did not know.

For Belial Machiavelli kept
The little fact a secret, and,
Though o'er his minor sins she wept,
Jane Austen did not understand
That Lilly--thirteen-two and bay
Absorbed one-half her husband's pay.

She was so good, she made him worse;
(Some women are like this, I think;)
He taught her parrot how to curse,
Her Assam monkey how to drink.

He vexed her righteous soul until
She went up, and he went down hill.

Then came the crisis, strange to say,
Which turned a good wife to a better.

A telegraphic peon, one day,
Brought her--now, had it been a letter
For Belial Machiavelli, I
Know Jane would just have let it lie.

But 'twas a telegram instead,
Marked "urgent," and her duty plain
To open it. Jane Austen read:
"Your Lilly's got a cough again.
Can't understand why she is kept
At your expense." Jane Austen wept.

It was a misdirected wire.
Her husband was at Shaitanpore.
She spread her anger, hot as fire,
Through six thin foreign sheets or more.

Sent off that letter, wrote another
To her solicitor--and mother.

Then Belial Machiavelli saw
Her error and, I trust, his own,
Wired to the minion of the Law,
And traveled wifeward--not alone.

For Lilly--thirteen-two and bay--
Came in a horse-box all the way.

There was a scene--a weep or two--
With many kisses. Austen Jane
Rode Lilly all the season through,
And never opened wires again.

She races now with Belial. This
Is very sad, but so it is.

retired_chemist 10:50 AM  

Little joy in the theme here. Medium-easy.

Francesca da Ramini is presumably a patron(ess) of noodlemakers. Francesca da Rimini, however, as the daughter of Guido da Polenta, prefers a different carbohydrate.

AIN'T => IS NOT ain't a problem for me. My mother was a Fibber McGee and Molly fan,and was always saying "'T ain't funny, McGee." She also sometimes said, "You cain't say ain't 'cuz ain't ain't right." Lest you misunderstand, she was trying to be funny....

Enjoyed the clue for 53D - my one good chuckle. 44A - almost funny. Agree that RELIEF PITCHERs aren't always pulled, but if they are they are replaced by another RELIEF PITCHER.

fuzzle 10:58 AM  

The only way the title worked for me was in reminding me of a fill-in-the-blank answer to a quiz question once submitted by a student: Michael Shaara won the "pullet surprise" for the Killer Angels.

Pete 11:00 AM  

@Rex - The salient question is then, when bitten by Ursa, were you among the 25% of males who had 'some response', the 25% who had a 'definite response', or the 50% who had no response?

CoffeeLvr 11:29 AM  

I was completely unsure of the SE, so unsure that I laid the completed paper grid aside for the morning. But I could see no better choice than MARE'S NEST, so it stayed. As @DBlackwell put it: "The SENTA/URSA cross is pretty horrible." Total Natick for me, yet I guessed correctly.

I solve the Sunday puzzle on paper, and glanced through the *'d clues first. Immediately entered LITTLE RED WAGON, looked at the puzzle title, and thought of "little red" hen, from some childhood story. (I see JenCT has illustrated my thought with her avatar.) Hmm, a puzzle about chickens, how can she sustain that??? I was wrong. Saw the real theme fairly quickly when I started the puzzle in the NW and filled in SALT WATER TAFFY.

Also, while "hand" in the clue is good for the PUPPET part of the central theme answer, STRINGS are for marionettes. Although in casual use, I suppose the term puppet subsumes marionette. [I would search, and confirm that, but my Google keeps locking up. Need to reboot.] Still, confusing to me. Of course, I had the STRINGS part first.

Never even thought of CRaMP, but did think about bIMINI, until my uncertain geography moved an ocean out of Europe.

I agree with others, just okay for a Sunday, and I like Sunday puzzles.

Mel Ott 11:34 AM  

While the theme lacks pizzaz I kind of enjoyed the puzzle. I especially liked the shadings of meaning for the word "Pull": to wit RELIEF PITCHER; PRACTICAL JOKE; ALL NIGHTER. Note that the suggested title "Yanks" would only work for the first of these.

Those who have spent a summer on Fire Island know the importance of a LITTLE RED WAGON to haul one's stuff around.

@Rex: I have a friend who will jokingly refer to himself as a Papist when he is in the company of a bunch of Episcopalians.

David 11:58 AM  

really easy puzzle, twenty minutes or so, but I join the others who fell victim to CRIMP/CRAMP (looking back now at 38D's clue (less cramped), should've known better). The M in MARESNEST was my final letter.

A few cute theme answers, but I do not like RELIEFPITCHER at all, even though it is technically correct, as a couple of others have noted. Almost ruined my conception of the theme, as I was thinking a relief pitcher is somebody pulled for, not pulled. I liked SALTWATERTAFFY, PRACTICALJOKE and ALLNIGHTER, others were blah, and GUNTRIGGER was just awful.

Doris 12:02 PM  

Rimini, the hometown of the great Federico Fellini, was immortalized in his film Amarcord. Francesca da Rimini is a tone poem by Tchaikovsky and an opera (1914) by Riccardo Zandonai. There are probably other Francesca operas, but I'm too lazy to look them up. None in the current standard repertoire. Mille grazie, Dante Alighieri!

Matthew G. 12:07 PM  

DNF because of the southeast corner. I have never, ever, never heard the expression MARE'S NEST in my life, and I had _A_ESNES_ and just stared. I didn't know LEMS, TORERO, or SENTA, so I was completely Naticked down there. Figured I was looking for somethingNESS, and left and returned to that area a dozen times. I finally gave up and used the Reveal button for the first time in ages, because I was getting nowhere. Glad I did -- I could have spent all day with that and never found MARES NEST (or believed that it was a thing if I did). I knew we were going for a bullfighter at 97D, but I always thought the word was "toreador." Couldn't see the R crossing MARE'S NEST and wanted a D there badly. Even after Revealing MARE'S NEST, nothing dinged. Just one of those things, I guess -- an expression I've managed to go my life without hearing. My wife has never heard it either.

So, that sucked. Didn't care much for the rest of the puzzle either. Eh.

Anonymous 12:19 PM  

@Matthew - When you were just starting to do these puzzles and this blog I advised you to stop before you were addicted and so today is what you get for not following my advise. Trust me, this puzzle does not suck nearly as much as some will in the future. In fact, despite the Rex negative review this puizzle really doesn't suck at all. Sort of refreshing to have a Sunday theme without all the bells and whistles. In a way this whole puzzle is a MARE'S NEST.

Matthew G. 12:32 PM  

I guess I should learn to follow up on anonymous tips.

foodie 12:41 PM  

Back from hiking in the Grand Tetons with the family, down to my 11 mo old grandson who seemed to be taking it all in. Beautiful part of the world!

I agree that the title is misleading. But I didn't mind the puzzle at all.

May be it's because I learned English as an adult, I had to take in the unexpected uses of verbs like pull. Why do you pull a PRACTICAL JOKE, or an ALL NIGHTER, or a fast one? You could be pushing them, for all I knew...

I loved SOURPUSS, STODGY, SHORTIE, LITURGY... there was something I liked in every corner.

mac 12:57 PM  

I don't want to be a SOURPUSS, my favorite word in the whole puzzle, but to me the clues made this puzzle boring. Only very few sparkly, fun ones, most of them literal and straight out of the dictionary. The title also doesn't work for me. There must be a skeleton crew at the NYT puzzle dept.....

Anonymous 1:01 PM  

@Matthew -- I write you this only because the captcha is "roped" and I didn't want to waste it. I learned a long time ago while working at the race track that anonymous tips are not always bad and not always good. You're just going to have to discern which to follow and which you shouldn't. But, believe me, my advice is always good. I know because when I don't follow it I suffer.

Rube 1:32 PM  

I agree that the theme is weak, but the puzle isn't all that bad. Sure GUNTRIGGER and HERN eave a lot to be desired, but LITURGY, (on a Sunday), the clue for ISHTAR, SALTWATERTAFFY, and LITTLEREDWAGON make me smile.

FWIW, we had RIMINI in a Wednesday puzzle last May25th, along with all the comments mentioned by @Doris. I first saw MARESNEST here over a year ago. Never heard of it then, but recognized it with only a few crosses... the clue was the same according to XWordInfo.

Like @JenCt, found the NE difficult with only OGEE in place. Eventually worked it out when guessed ODIN and SYRINGES popped in.

Have heard of SENTA although put SENnA in at first. The pop name I've never heard of is RUTGER Hauer. Apparently he's a Dutch actor, to which I add a whole bunch of ????????????s.

Some programmers associate ### with "Hashes". Don't ask.

Rube 1:44 PM  

Forgot to mention that ESNE was a medieval bishop of Heresford. Try that next time, Will. That should quiet Rex. Also just noted that ESNE is also clued as a Crossword worker, or Slave to crosswords. Obviously high crosswordese.

Anonymous 2:26 PM  

A bit more for your edification, Matthew. Read between the lines of my comments to discern my true opinion of the puzzle. I'm the hand that writes and quickly moves away.

R. McGeddon 2:33 PM  

I agree with I-Skip-M-W that ain't is a contraction of am not. So saying "I'm right, ain't I?" should be more correct than saying "I'm right, aren't I?" But here's a case of usage winning out over grammar.

The OED gives ain't as a variant of hain't, a contraction of have not. Expressions like "I ain't got nothin to do" support this.

PuzzleNut 2:36 PM  

Knew RIMINI, so avoided the CRIMP/CRaMP problem. Unfortunately, I had the TiNG dynasty and never checked the cross to spot the obvious error. Kept reading Rex's TANG rant and thought it was a joke, until I rechecked the puzzle.
My AHA moment was when I plunked down PulliTSTRINGS for the central answer and thought I finally got the theme. After fixing that to PUPPET, I had no idea of the theme until reading Rex.

Jey City Gambler 3:10 PM  

I wouldn't call Rutger Hauer a pop culture reference, he's been a reliable B-movie actor for more than 30 years, usually in sword-n-sorcery epics and sci-fi schlockfests.

He was excellent in the original version of "The Hitcher," but probably his best-known role is Roy Batty, the lead replicant in Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner " from 1982.

Batty: I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time... like tears in rain... Time to die.

quilter1 3:32 PM  

The bread is rising and the chicken stock is simmering, smelling divine so I get to check the comments.

I don't know how I knew MARESNEST, probably from old fiction. I remember RUTGER Hauer as @Jey City above, a handsome guy. Didn't he also sometimes play Nazi officers.

@Foodie: nine days and I get to see my newest granddaughter in person. Isn't this the greatest job ever?

GLR 3:33 PM  


I agree that "ain't" can be used as a contraction of "am not" (as well as "is not" and "are not"). For example, "I ain't gonna do it."

I'm no grammarian, but in the example you cite, "I'm right, ain't I?" it seems to me that the correct form would be "I'm right, am I not?" No?

quilter1 3:46 PM  

I meant, as @Jey City does above.

Yet Another Anonymous 4:14 PM  

@Rube - From atop my high horse, I would point out for the benefit of any newbies following this thread that in defining ESNE as a Crossword worker, or Slave to crosswords, we are engaging in wordplay; that is, only in a Crossword is one likely to encounter ESNE, the worker; or, ESNE is a Slave recognized by those doing crosswords; the word does not refer to one who actually works on crosswords, nor to one addicted to crosswords.

That is, ESNE ain't likely to show up anywhere else!

Lewis 4:52 PM  

A fair number of negatives about this puzzle, but I'm not listening. Today is the first Sunday puzzle I ever solved completely without Googling or checking anything else. A milestone for me, and I'm happy as a pullet!

R. McGeddon 5:43 PM  

@GLR, "am I not" is of course correct. The question is, if there were a contraction for "am not" analogous to "isn't" and "aren't", "ain't" could work. You'd have to be more of a phonetician than a grammarian to figure it out. "Amn't" isn't easy to say, so it's conceivable that a contraction like that became "a'n't" and then "ain't". My guess is that at some time "ain't" was correct but then became incorrect.

"He don't" is also correct if "don't" is a contraction of "doesn't" (i.e., "do'n't") and pronounced "dunt". Some Dickens characters say "he don't", and I suspect they're using it that way.

Rube 6:08 PM  

@YAAnom, thx for clarifying my comment. I should also note that these clues had a "?" at the end, making for a secondary meaning.

Z 6:32 PM  

Hand up for CRaMP. Most of the puzzle was easy except for a little challenge in the NW and SE. Pulled SYRINGES out and the corner finally fell. As others have already mentioned, Maresnest/Senta/Torero is a Natick for me. I really wanted TOREdO but knew it wasn't right.

foodie 6:39 PM  

@quilter, Enjoy! I figure there are a few compensations for getting older. Having grandchildren is one of the very best if you get that chance. The other is being selective about those whose opinions really matter to you.

And we can always hope for wisdom to peak before senility hits :)

Sparky 7:09 PM  

Thanks @Rube for pointing out the May 25 RIMINI. It was a gimme today as I even chimed in then re Rodin's The Kiss. Had WANtA not WANNA, NANo not NANU so little glitches. Liked the clue for ISHTAR which I didn't think was that bad. Aside from being confused by PULLET and looking for chickens felt like a regular Sunday. Here's to a good week.

The Old Man 7:42 PM  

There are no contractions in "correct" English. It was the best clue in the puzzle. Can't believe this quick stroll in the park rated a medium.

Anonymous 8:31 PM  

I've been to Rimini so no problem there. But among the possible meanings of "crimp" "I've never heard it to include " hinder". I also hated the easy but meaningless "gun trigger" and the redundant "relic of the past" and much of the unimaginative fill. Altogether an easy but boring effort.

jberg 9:00 PM  

I can see Rex's point, but wasn't it the same with the Cagey puzzle last Sunday? Misdirection, but not really a double meaning. That said, I got SALT WATER TAFFY quickly, which made the theme obvious and helped me get the other theme answers - the only time in memory I have solved a puzzle by actually looking for the theme answers; that made it easy.

Aside from the awkward PITCHERS and STRINGS, discussed enough already, the usage I remember for LITTLE RED WAGON involved revenge -- "I'll fix his little red wagon!" not pulling. Of course, you can pull it, but then the "little" loses its point.

@lit.doc, no need to feel boneheaded - there is nothing in Dante to indicate that old Francesca came from an Adriatic seaport.

MARE'S NEST seemed obvious to me, but perhaps it's gone out of the language.

PAPIST is somewhat pejorative all right, but I thought the cluing as a foe of the CofE suggested that - i.e., it's what Church of England loyalists called Catholics in the 17th century.

I have no idea what ISHTAR was, and why it's a witty clue requiring a question mark.

syndy 9:06 PM  

Rutger hauer also starred in LADYHAWK with Matthew Broderick and Michelle PFIEFFER,but that was 1985 so in another century.

joho 9:13 PM  

@Lewis ... congratulations!

thursdaysd 9:18 PM  

Finally got around to the crossword after dinner - pretty smooth except DNF the NW - no idea about LEI and ETAPE. When I saw PULLET I didn't think chickens, I thought phrases missing an "ET" or a "T". Took quite a while to sort that out.

Enjoyed the NE, and had no trouble with MARESNEST - although hoax isn't quite the meaning I know - more that you're looking for something in the wrong place. Several clues I liked - including the hotly disputed IS NOT, also RAYS and INLAWS. PAPISTS figured largely in English history - it was the Papist Guy Fawkes who tried to blow up the houses of Parliament and is burned in effigy every Nov. 5th.

David Duke 10:29 PM  

We still call Roman Catholics PAPISTS in my group. Just one of the ways we're crazy.

Lewis 11:21 PM  

@joho -- thanks! Still feeling good all over...

mac 11:27 PM  

@David Duke: I bet there are a lot of catholics who don't consider themselves papists.

Anonymous 2:59 AM  

I agree that this was one of the weaker Sunday themes in memory. The theme answers were mostly so easy and straightforward...first time I was ever disappointed at my ease in coming up with these. I can't quite agree with the title seems to me that more often than not the title does not have the kind of double meaning people were looking for here. My initial guess when I saw PULLET was that we would be removing the letters IT from some common expectation at all that chickens would also enter the picture. I also fell victim to the CRAMP/CRIMP thing. I've scarcely heard the MARE'S NEST expression before, so I liked that one a lot. I vividly remember Senta Berger from the days of my youth, so no problems in that corner. ISHTAR was a clever one...lots of complaints when it came out that it was one of the great studio disasters of all time.

lodsf 7:49 PM  

(syndic + a day) I’m in the @Lewis camp – thrilled to ‘finish’ a Sunday puzzle (on a late night flight last night with no computer) . Unfortunately ‘finish’ is in quotations marks because I fell victim to the CR[a]MP/ R[a]MINI cross  . Started out looking for chickens but found the ‘pulling’ theme early so ignored the title; I was expecting the complaints about that on this blog, though!

Ironically, one of my favorite clue/answers was 66D Ain’t fixed = IS NOT. Btw, Word’s spell check gives “isn’t” as the first alternate choice to correct “ain’t”.

Also likes MARES NEST – although I knew it as a ‘complex situation’. Post-puzzle Google today reminded me how I ‘knew’ that: Agatha Christie used it; for example, in The Mysterious Affair at Styles. "In my opinion the whole thing is a mare's nest of Bauerstein's! ... Bauerstein's got a bee in his bonnet. Poisons are his hobby, so of course he sees them everywhere."

Dirigonzo 12:12 PM  

Well, call me STODGY but I had fun solving this. I agree with @jackj that there was plenty of clever cluing - I actually chuckled to myself when I realized the May 1 is LEI Day in Hawaii; I was expecting it to be some obscure Hawaiian word so I was pleasantly surprised when the old crossword standby showed up. I thought "Diamond substitute" and "It had a major part in the Bible" were pretty clever, too.

Saw the "things that can be pulled (but not necessarily yanked)" theme early on and groaned at the title pun, but really - why would I let a weak pun spoil the fun?

Learned TOPING here a few days ago (or was it a few weeks ago? - time is so relative in syndicationdom).

Happy Fathers' Day to everyone who is a father and everyone who has one. Mine is gone but I think I'll spend a few minutes today remembering him.

Red Valerian 12:44 PM  

@Dirigonzo--did you notice that Rex wrote back to you last night? (that's 14 May to prime-timers). My jaw literally dropped! I suddenly felt all giddy and star-struck. I suppose I should be a little more tolerant of people who scream and faint at rock concerts. (Rex the Rock Star)

oh, right--the puzzle. I thought it was okay, though I didn't love it. Got it all without googling, though the A in SENSA and URSA was a guess. I liked some of the clues others have mentioned, such as 53D. Thought RELIEF PITCHER did not seem right, for reasons mentioned above. Like @lodsf, I thought a mare's nest was a really complicated problem. I see that, in addition to meaning hoax as per the clue, it can mean a discovery that seems significant, but turns out not to be, or that is somehow misleading. Pullet, anybody?

captcha= xhing... a saying in the Chinese re-make "Wang's World"?

Matt 1:17 PM  

That was easy. First theme answer gave me how the puzzle was going to be so I breezed through it. Didn't worry about no chickens. Ain't gonna let that bother me. I wanna cookie.

Oh, that was also boring. A very "old crosswordese" puzzle.

captcha: liesse... to be a falsehood in ancient Rome.

Dirigonzo 1:31 PM  

@RV - I did notice RP's thanks for my compliment to him and while I was a little less than giddy I was very appreciative that he took the time to acknowledge the comment. That he devotes time to keeping an eye his constituents way out here in Syndicationland, in addition to the time spent on his write-up and tending the prime-time flock, is remarkable. (I do believe I'll up my ante the next time he goes into fund-raising mode.)

I think your relating "MARESNEST" to the puzzle title is right on and raises the pun to a whole new level - Pullet, indeed!

Anonymous 9:38 PM  

CRaMP instead of CRIMP. Guessed right at MARESNEST. Guessed wrong at ErNE--because of terrible penmanship that had me looking for AsU_E instead of ABU_E, which I surely would have seen.

Everything else has already been said, except that I can't even remember the last time I heard the term RELEIF PITCHER. They're all just "relievers" now.

Bitter Scribe 10:21 PM  

My dumbass small town paper published the world "PULLET" in such tiny type that I missed it. I have to solve the puzzle with no clue what the theme was. I didn't learn it until I read this blog, for real.

cody.riggs 11:09 PM  

Uh...Rex...The last thing you should have complained about was "Ain't fixed". There is Nothing wrong with that clue.

The original ("correct") meaning of "ain't", for those who don't know, was "am not" (amn't=ain't). This used to be grammatically correct English. Some habitually misused it where they should have said "isn't", or "aren't", which gave it a 'bad name,' so to speak. Thus, this was a perfectly acceptable clue.

I shouldn't have gone on this long about it, but sheesh, it's the first thing Rex picked on, and he should have left it alone.

Portland, Ore.

Anonymous 4:41 PM  

I don't know that it would have helped much but my local paper captioned this puzzle "Ullet" which of course made little sense. Finished anyway but that offered no support.

rhv 2:50 PM  
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