Alphonse's comics partner / WED 12-14-11 / No Such Thing blues rocker / Ring foe of Manolete / Metrosexual's tote

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Constructor: Tim Croce

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Add a Q — familiar phrases have Q added, creating wacky phrases, which are clued "?"-style

 Word of the Day: QUM (47D: Holy city of Iran) —
Qom (Persian: قم [ɢom], also known as Q'um or Ghom) is a city in Iran. It lies 156 kilometres (97 mi) by road southwest of Tehran and is the capital of Qom Province. At the 2006 census, its population was 957,496, in 241,827 families. It is situated on the banks of the Qom River. // Qom is considered holy by Shi`a Islam, as it is the site of the shrine of Fatema Mæ'sume, sister of Imam `Ali ibn Musa Rida (Persian Imam Reza, 789–816 AD). The city is the largest center for Shi'a scholarship in the world, and is a significant destination of pilgrimage. (wikipedia)
• • •
This actually played Easy-Medium for me, but I had some freakishly good guesses—got MANBAG (1A: Metrosexual's tote) instantly, got JOHN MAYER (35D: "No Such Thing" blues rocker) off the JO- despite not associating him with blues or rocking, etc. I was done with this before I understood the theme. I knew there were Qs in there, I just didn't know what they were doing. Turns out, nothing. Take them out, and you get ordinary phrases. Alright. Wish the theme answers had been funnier ... or just funny at all. TRADITIONAL IRAQ? If you are going to play on words, the "play" should be amusing or entertaining, not just defensible. UNEVEN BARQ'S is OK, and COUNTY FAQIR is interesting, though the much much much more common spelling of FAKIR is ... thusly ("Q" spelling has occurred exactly one time in the NYT, clued as a "Var."). QATARI COMPUTERS was just MEH for me. Enjoyed a couple of the longer Downs, but a lot of the fill felt rough. Lots of crossword accommodation—jury-rigged stuff like PANDG (39A: Consumer products giant, briefly) and LONGU (27D: "Rude" sound) and TSTOPS (?) (69A: Movie camera settings). Obscurish crosses like AMARNA (14A: Cuneiform discovery site) / GASTON (6D: Alphonse's comics partner) (two words I know *only* from crosswords). I will say that the grid is interesting—not dull, and not filled with complete junk. And it was easy for me, so I should be more delighted, perhaps. But it turns out that just shoving Qs into things doesn't excite me as much as you might expect.

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Mesopotamia? (TRADITIONAL IRAQ)
  • 28A: Inconsistent brand of root beer? (UNEVEN BARQ'S)
  • 45A: Local ascetic? (COUNTY FAQIR)
  • 53A: Some Mideast laptops? (QATARI COMPUTERS)
I'm deeply ambivalent about the one non-theme Q. PHYSIQUE is better fill than PHYSICAL under almost any circumstances, but I think I'd have gone with the latter solely for the sake of Q consistency (or Qsistency, as I'm now calling it). There shouldn't be any stray Qs in a Q-themed puzzle like this. Elegance compromised.

  • 44A: ___ Quested, woman in Forster's "A Passage to India" (ADELA) — Love the Q-iness of Quested in this Qlue.
  • 5D: Barbuda's island partner (ANTIGUA) — Currently trying to memorize all world capitals (inspired by my gorgeous new Oxford Atlas of the World). The capital of ANTIGUA and Barbuda is ... St. John's? ... yes, I'm right! (I'm only part way through the Cs, so the solidity of my knowledge at this point is super-dicey)
  • 13D: Hoopster with six rap albums, for short (SHAQ) — Holy what the!? SIX!? How can that be right???? 

  • 55D: Ring foe of Manolete (TORO) — I'm guessing this Man guy is a famous toreador ... yes.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Jo 12:03 AM  

I liked seeing MEH in there, but was bizarrely bothered by the phrase TRADITIONALIRAQ. I've never talked about "traditional rock" music. "Classic rock," yes. But traditional?

smoss11 12:07 AM  

Manolete was the greatest bull fighter that ever lived. I believe he was the only matador to be awarded the entire bull. He died in the ring as all great bullfighters should. He was played by Adrian Brody (4 Down) in the 2007 film about his life.

foodie 12:14 AM  

None of these Q containing theme words are really English. Three of them are Arabic, IRAQ, FAQIR and QATARI. And then there is also QUM... same origin. I don't know how this happened, that Arabic renders that particular guttural K sound as a Q without a U.

I wound up liking the downs better, mostly because the U-less Q was respected. Too bad that there was PHYSIQUE in the puzzle, ruined that uniq(u)e feature.

I struggled with the NW corner, mostly because MANBAG is not a word I think of, and BRODY was unknown. Some of the rest was easy. But based on QDI, I'm guessing it will skew Medium-Challenging.

In general, I agree that the puzzle as a whole was better than the theme itself. Idea is cute, but neither the original phrases nor the resulting phrases are chuqle-inducing.

Kristin 12:21 AM  

Had BRODY misspelled as BRODI.

MANBAG is weird. I must not be New York enough to get the metrosexual thing although I know in general what it is. Thought 1D was PORT for some reason..PANBAG? Aw well.

Tobias Duncan 12:23 AM  

Challenging for me.Bunch of tough crosses for a Wednesday.I am with foodie, I think this will be rated med challenging by the end of the day.

pk 12:24 AM  

Loved Meh crossing Mojo. Actually that whole little segment there was my fave. Only had "traditional" without the Iraq bit. I think I object to that clueing. Maybe, "Iraq, formerly?" Or "parts of Iraq, formerly" I don't know. It's not quite right.

Deb 12:27 AM  

@Jo - The common phrase in that theme answer is "traditional IRA," not "traditional rock.". I have no idea what makes an IRA "traditional," but the phrase is familiar to me.

It took me awhile to see the theme. At first I thought it was simply Q words without U. Of course having "physique" and "Qum" in the puzzle would have detracted from the elegance of that theme as well. I resisted that spelling of "Qum" mightily, btw. Just as I resist stopping at Kum & Go pit stops on road trips.

GILL I. 12:35 AM  

I'm in the @Rex camp on this. I started out liking the first answer: MANBAG and then kept smiling at MOJO and GASTON. TRADITIONAL IRAQ was an oh, ok, I bet there are lots of Q's....Yup.
I'm sure this must have been a bear to construct and over-all it's a fairly good Wed. puzzle, it's just that it left me wanting a better pay-off. Sheesh, I sound like such a POOR loser.
Two things that bothered a bit though. RIOJA (34A - Red wine of Spain)-RIOJA is a region in northern Spain that produces some excellent wines; red is only one of them. White and Roses come from Rioja as well. Perhaps the clue should have read "Region of Spain that produces some red wines or whatever...
BRONC (25D) always rubs me the wrong way. I think the word was made up to make Scrabble players happy. What happened to the damn O at the end?
Anyway, I'll stop complaining and be grateful we have some really great constructors like Tim Croce.

MikeM 12:37 AM  

TRADITIONAL IRA as opposed to a Roth IRA

pk 12:38 AM  

The Princess has obviously had too many glasses of wine, as the previous comment made no sense. But neither did the clue for "traditional Iraq" - I think you know what I meant.

retired_chemist 12:55 AM  

Finished with two errors. Never heard of either Adrien BRODY or AMARNA. Put IGOR in @ 23A so 4D was B_ODI. Guessed a few letters to try to get Mr Happy Pencil but, with the I, no luck. Google shows both IGOR and YGOR. Would never have looked for the latter. Oh well....

Thanks, Mr. Croce.

Eejit 12:56 AM  

Was an ok puzzle, found it fairly easy except that I was spelling YGOR with an I and it cost me a few minutes. I'm not a fast solver so no biggie really. I thought the clue for BRONC should have probably had "for short" or something in it. At least the answer wasn't BRONQ. What's AEF stand for?

FearlessK 1:03 AM  

Well, I'm new to all this, and I'm not hearing a lot of love for this puzzle, but HEY, I liked it! Not just all the themed Q answers, but all the bonus Qs as well, and in a nice beefy grid. And I'm with @pk on the MEH/MOJO cross: loved it! (meh may be the best expression to come down the pike since d'oh!)

chefwen 1:21 AM  

No love for this one. Got it, did it, but it didn't blow my skirt up.
@Gil I.P. said it all for me.

C,mon Thursday, don't let me down.

Evan 1:22 AM  

For a Wednesday, this puzzle beat me down pretty good. For some reason, I saw an extra C in 53-Across. Me: "What the hell are ATARIC COMPUTERS?" I figured it was supposed to be a play on ATOMIC COMPUTERS, but a) that would have made the 15-letter answer QATOMIC OMPUTERS; b) I'd never seen the word "Qatomic" before; and c) while the concept atomic computers might be a hot, cutting-edge area of research for physicists, it's nothing I've ever heard of. The inability to see that there was only one C in the answer slowed me up for much longer than I would have expected.

@ foodie:

I imagine that the three Arabic words (along with BARQS) were chosen because it's probably very, very difficult to find any English word or set of words with a Q that create new words when the Q is removed. That's because Q words are almost always followed by a U and then another vowel. Examples: (Q)UEEN, (Q)UIET, OPA(Q)UE, BURLES(Q)UE, S(Q)UID, S(Q)UARE, etc. Take away the U-followed-by-another-vowel rule, and you're left with few choices.

Clark 1:34 AM  

IGOR and ANELA looked ok to me. PHYSIQUE is a cool word. I never really noticed the Q before. It was a much more interesting Q than the ones in the somewhat unzingy theme answers.

Rube 2:12 AM  

Finished this a while ago, then watched a Netflick, now have to remember what I was thinking about... Had very few writeovers tonight: TAR/wAx, (liked my answer better as this is the tail end of canning season) and TSTOPS/fSTOPS. Will have to look up what a TSTOP is although I think we had this in the not too distant past.

Last letter was the, successfully guessed) R in the AMARNA & BRODI crossing. Wait, a DNF!!! Since when was YGOR spelled with a Y!!! I object violently. Tim Croce you have done a disservice to horror filmdom.

(Otherwise, a most enjoyable puzzle.)

Qandrea Qarla Miqaels 2:42 AM  

Loved it! QQQQQute!
Wanted to spell everything then with a Q :
antiqua, bronq, Qstops...
Q is so wild and fun and interesting and it's amazing he came up with anything at all!

@Qil I.P.
And what's wrong with making up words to make Sqrabble players happy?!

go, Tim Croquet!

Adrien Coup Manbags 2:49 AM  

Thank you for that cross-reference note about Adrien Brody playing Manolete!!!! I've never heard of that film, notthat i could ever watch anything even remotely related to bullfighting...
But I'm crazy about Adrien Brody (hysterical 5 min cameo in Woody Allen's latest "'Midnight in Paris" as Dali!

and i also wanted to say i thought MANBAG's were called Murses

jae 2:59 AM  

I'm with foodie's Q and D med.- challenging rating. There are enough tough crosses to cause some pauses. I liked this one just because " add a Q to make whacky phrases" seems like a good "I dare you" for an NYT puzzle.

I believe BRODY won an Oscar for The Pianist.

@Rube -- Since there was a deranged blacksmith named YGOR in Son of Frankenstein.

imsdave 4:58 AM  

I just hate finishing with an error on a Wednesday. I never checked the cross on QOM.

With tournament season coming up, I should be more circumspect. CT and nearby blogmates, the Westport Library event is 2/4 - it is typically oversubscribed, so I would suggest getting your reservation in now! It's a great time, and you'll have the opportunity to meet Mac, Ulrich, myself, and a host of wonderful folks (Hi Pete and Jan, if you're lurking).

Z 6:38 AM  

My body builder was proud of his Pectoral and my POOR student got the mercy "E" so he could Pass and graduate, otherwise pretty straightforward. Oh, iGOR, too.

I do like all the Q's. I pretty much agree with everything @RP said, but still like the puzzle more than he.

Off to do some staff development - will have to include a small rant about the unfairness of allowing mercy "E's" to happen.

dk 7:08 AM  

Well merc for MART did me no favors.

My Acme moment: 35D has a reputation. I was asked to shoot a session with him and a view other "gun slingers" in Dallas (2004) by one of Eric's people. He was a pleasant enough fellow. The only dish was: at one time some girl left him because he loved his guitar more than her... but I imagine that could have been said of everyone in room. Please note I first wanted fStop for 69A as you may imagine.

I got the little stunt for this puzzle and a had a little smile... although it could have been gas. I thought 27D was going to be lougii as in hock a lougi (sp?) but mercifully I was wrong.

MANBAG brought back one of the few Sienfeld episodes I have seen with the manssiere. And the rest was fine Wednesday fill.

** (2 Qs) I just do not like the little tricks.


Back to working on my blog on field research in psychology. Trying to work in Alfred E. Neuman"s "What Me Worry." I'll let you know how it goes.

d(what hump)k

Golfballman 7:40 AM  

@eijit, AEF stands for American Expeditionary Forces. GBM

jberg 7:53 AM  

@Jo, if your avatar is really you then you are far too young to have ever thought about IRAs, so I'm not surprised you looked for another interpretation of TRADITIONAL IRAQ. (That's bad investment advice, though; you should start your IRA when you're 5, at the latest.)

I got the theme late, with COUNTY FAQIR - after FAkIR was ruled out by QoM (which in turn was ruled out, after long delay, by UNOS).

I finished with an error, though - Either BRODY or iGOR had to a variant spelling, and I went with the wrong one. Does YGOR actually spell his name in the movie? Some sort of running joke? Never saw it, but I guess he must, or we wouldn't know what the spelling is.

I'm getting too attuned to crosswords. I so much expected 'erne' for "Fish-eating raptor" (63A) that I had a hard time seeing the much more obvious OSPREY.

Is there such a thing as a malapop once removed? I put in EIE (the start of 36D) a couple of days ago, incorrectly, as a stray poetic syllable.

@Rex, it's a generation thing - Alphonse and Gaston were a thing of the past in my childhood. No one had ever seen or heard them, but everyone had heard of them, and knew that they had some comedy routine where they couldn't get through a door because they each kept saying "After you," "No, after you, Gaston." I still say the latter on occasion.

jberg 7:54 AM  

Oh yeah -- AEF = American Expeditionary Force, the US contingent in France in World War I.

evil doug 8:04 AM  

There's only one manbag, and it's not the purse thingie. Those 'metrosexual' (which translates to "Only in New York because everyone else is too sensible to be so ridiculous") totes are to men as pantsuits are to women. Q.E.D.


exaudio 8:17 AM  

@jberg, like you, I know nothing about Alphonse and Gaston except to invoke it when two polite people have trouble deciding who goes through a door first.

:( DNF due to BRODY/YGOR crossing, otherwise I liked it a lot.

joho 8:48 AM  

Most puzzles lack even one Q or one J so I was delighted with all the QQQQQQQQ and two JJ.

MANBAG started me off smiling.

All the theme answers, while not off the wall whacky, made total sense and that's not an easy task using all those Q's. COUNTYFAQIR was my favorite phrase. QUELL my favorite word.

Thank you, Tim Croce! I tip my toque to you.

David 9:01 AM  

I always thought there was a guy named Alphonse GASTON, but no matter, it was enough to confidently give me the answer. Thank goodness I know Adrian BRODY and his work, and recall his smoochdown of Halle Berry when he won his Best Actor Oscar, otherwise that would've been an error for me too.

For whatever reason I like UNEVENBARQS the best of the theme answers. And like at least one other blogger today, I also thought it was just unusual Q answers, rather than a Q added to a regular phrase, until I got COUNTYFAQIR - then I saw it, albeit near the end. Finished with a better-than-average Wednesday time, but as I look at the completed grid it looks a bit like a non-rebus Thursday.

Quailman 9:04 AM  

I'm probably just blanqing, but what the hell is STPAT (52D)?

OISK 9:16 AM  

Alphonse and Gaston is familiar to me from baseball announcers = when a pop fly drops in because both fielders say "You take it,"

Had trouble only the the NE corner, until I remembered that Cornell was Ezra.  Razr? Otra? Shaq? Didn't know he did "rap" but the "Q" made it obvious.

15 minutes for me, which is longer than average for a Wednesday. (never heard of John Mayer either)

John V 9:18 AM  

Medium, except E which was challenging for me, not knowing ADELA Quested. Noted two Qs int he clues, Quaddafi, Quested. Theme OK for me, save UNEVENBARQS, which felt uneven.

Best part: revealer QTIP, which is at a tip of the grid and the tip of the the final theme answer. That's pretty cool! Nice touch, Tim!

NE, QUM were easiest. Go figure.

@Quailman, STPAT is Saint Patrick abbreviated.

@Imsdave, thanks for the Westport notice. I'm in Norwalk, so may see you there.

Kevin 9:22 AM  

The extra q in physique isn't out of place, it's part of the theme. QED is the theme; they are phrases that have been q-ed

M07S 9:25 AM  

@Quailman...ST PAT St. Patrick. The wall-eyed Marty Feldman played Ygor (pronounced Eye-gor) in Son of Frankenstein. I think he even pointed to his eye when he first said it. I saw that movie with my hugely pregnant wife and she laughed so long and hard the usher came down and threatened to throw the people out that were seated in front of us, never dreaming my wife could be the culprit.

evil doug 9:29 AM  

Kramer: Jerry, you forgot your purse.

Jerry: Oh, thanks.

Kramer: Hey, Silvio, look at Jerry here, prancing around in his coat with his purse. Yup, he's a dandy. He's a real fancy boy.

(A pickpocket runs by, taking Jerry's carryall, while everyone yells in surprise)

Jerry: Hey! Officer! Someone took my European carryall!

Cop: Your what?

Jerry:, leather...thing with a strap.

Cop: You mean a purse?

Jerry: Yes, a purse. I carry a purse!


"Lots of crossword accommodation—jury-rigged stuff like PANDG (39A: Consumer products giant, briefly)..."

Here in Cincinnati---HQ city---to say "Procter and Gamble" is to identify oneself as a newly arrived transplant. It's only and always "P and G."


chefbea 9:30 AM  

Had trouble with the NE. DNF. Came here. Had wax for 46D and that fouled up 2 themes answers.

Went to the Westport library event when I lived in Ct. Much fun!!! Great people. Wish they had one down here.

David 9:36 AM  

I lived 2 minutes from the Westport Library, right on the Norwalk border, for about 11 years until moving to PA 2 1/2 years ago. Too bad I wasn't as heavy into xwords then as I am now, would have loved to attended some events there....

Anonymous 9:36 AM  

I nearly lost my senses when UNEVENBARQS hobbled into view. I know that Barq's is a root beer brand, but what could make it uneven? Brewing bad batches?

M07S 9:39 AM  

I was wrong about Feldman pointing to his eye when he said his name was Ygor but here's a clip if you care to see the scene.

blagmen: Blagojevich's money collectors?

joho 9:49 AM  

@John V & @Kevin ... I love your observations about QTIP and QED. The theme thickens!

xyz 9:54 AM  

MEH, indeed

MANBAG was one of the "good" fill today. Lots of slop, didn't hold my interest.

CAPTCHA: TUNAT might have been TUNOUT for this one

Lindsay 10:04 AM  

iGOR. Yes. Also a glitch at 48D where my cruisers went ashORe. Otherwise, I'm very tired and headed back to bed I hope.

Tita 10:12 AM  

@John V and @Kevin...
Thanks for pointing out the "revealers" - Q-Tip and Q'ed.

Turned the puzzle from just OK to fun!
Very cool, Mr. Croce.

mac 10:16 AM  

Oddly enough, the word "manbag" came up at dinner last night. Many years ago my husband got one (sorry, my fault), and the first time he used it, on a trip to Spain, he left it in a London taxi. He got it back from the Metropolitan Police, at a 30 pound fee. He never used it again.

Crunchy Wednesday, but in the end a medium for me. I don't like the t-stops, SLRs, qeds and in res very much, but otherwise fine. John Mayer is a local boy.

There is a little party going on in the West with Bel Paese, Rioja and oeno.

Had my most fun aha moment with 24A sac!

Talking about local, I'm throwing a little party after the Westport tournament, please join us, John V and any other Rexite participating.
Just let me know.

Tita 10:16 AM - you beat me to the punch nearly word-for-word...

Hey - anyone else think there were lots of very recently-used words? Notably, VANYA, REPOTS, STPAT?

John V 10:23 AM  

@mac: Party sound like fun. Thanks!
My email address is on my profile. Do you have a link to the tournament site?

quilter1 10:30 AM  

I liked it. Got the theme at BARQS and sailed from there.

Favorite quote from Young Frankenstein is when Wilder says to Feldman "Damn your eyes," and Feldman replies, "Too late."

For the concert lunch today I made a chocolate cake and a cinnamon chocolate chip cake.

archaeoprof 10:48 AM  

Medium-challenging for me. LOL when I got the theme at COUNTYFAQIR.

Error at 47D: confidently wrote QoM and never checked the cross.

The AMARNA cuneiform tablets are very important in ancient near eastern history.

@Evil: I have a sister who recently retired from her position as VP/R&D@P&G.

ThanQ, Tim Croce!

Mike Rees 10:49 AM  

I hated it. Theme was much too obscure and the answer for "Traditional Era" should never have made it past the editor. All the other clues have the Q added in, this one has a spelling change too. Familiar phrases? I thinq not.

To Each His Own ... 10:49 AM  

I actually thought sneaking an extra Q in the grid was a positive thing to do. I originally thought it was meant to throw you off the scent of the puzzle theme, something I appreciate puzzle constructors doing. I even like it more now that I realize that, as pointed out in previous comments, it actually inserts a Q-tip in the grid revealing that today's theme is Q-ed phrases. Very, very clever if that was the intention.

If Tim Croce reads this blog, maybe he could verify if that was his intention.

Anonymous 10:55 AM  

@Mike Rees

You're misunderstanding how the theme works. The answer went from TRADITIONAL IRA TO TRADITIONAL IRAQ. There's no era.

Two Ponies 11:00 AM  

I do admire the pain that constructing this must have caused.
The payoff was just lukewarm.
It seemed heavy with things I only know from puzzling like obis, Vanya, and Adela, for ex.
I had no idea which vowel went into
Q_m. I'm surprised that it is the only Q in the grid with its partner U. Our friend Masked and Anonymous is going to be upset.

syndy 11:04 AM  

Today's puzzle is brought to you by the letter "Q".I thought some of the fill brought to us by the letter "Q" was fairly sQuirrelly.SYNS? RAZR?LONGU? but parts were Quite distinQuished MOJO! PHYSIQUE! my final answer is UNEVEN captha STSAF he doesn't get a parade

Matthew G. 11:20 AM  

I'm mostly with the crowd today. I really liked QATARI COMPUTERS (and would probably have understood the theme much sooner if it had been the first theme entry), but otherwise the theme was MEH. I didn't really understand TRADITIONAL IRAQ at the time I completed it, but when I finished the puzzle and tried to grok the theme, I vaguely recalled having heard the term TRADITIONAL IRA in some financial-planning spiel somewhere along the way.

It looks like YGOR is indeed the correct spelling in the very limited context of the 1939 Bela Lugosi movie "Son of Frankenstein." Who knew? Thank goodness I knew Adrien BRODY to a certainty.

{Metrosexual's tote} was a gimme for anyone who's lived in New York in the last 15 years. I was never a metrosexual, but I used to have a MANBAG till I graduated to a briefcase.

Bob Kerfuffle 11:25 AM  

I loved this puzzle.

"Add a letter" may often evoke a "MEH," but "Add a 'Q'" calls for Qudos (can I play on "kudos" and still be understood?).

Didn't hurt that it was an easy solve with a lot of interesting fill, IMHO.

Jim 11:31 AM  

Let's start w AEF. I see people are correct in their assessment of it being the AMERICAN Expeditionary Forces in WWI. However, in the past, when discussing the derivation of ETO, I was told AEF referred exclusively to WWI. I acquiesced, but I thought I knew it as ALLIED Expeditionary Forces.

I was right. There was an Allied Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in the ETO in WWII. I imagine, looking back, that particular clue probably took pains to make sure the clue correctly pointed to ETO, though it's nice to know I didn't make up the existence of AEF in WWII.

Next, and again we've been over this before, but when the puzzler and editor do not make specific reference to a reveal in the clue, it is NOT a reveal. Solvers can project onto the clue what they want, but that's all they're doing. PHYSIQUE adds exactly what Rex said it did--an extra Q that somewhat diminished the theme. As other smart-alecks have said here...QED.

That middle-west square, however, was brutal. Woe unto the uninitiated--with BRONC, LONGU, NIGH, BEL, RIOJA, etc. And I only knew OENO from consistent solving. Tuff! And FAQIR!? This just goes un-commented upon here? Wow. A lot more erudition in this audience than I ever knew.

Mel Ott 11:31 AM  

C'mon IGOR. If you're gonna change your name you gotta do better than YGOR.

Mike Rees 11:32 AM  

@ Anonymous

My apologies. We don't have IRA's in Canada so it was a term I had never heard.

jae 11:38 AM  

Some folks seem to be confusing the movie "Son of Frankenstein" with "Young Frankenstein." Son of ... featured Béla Lugosi as Ygor and was released in 1939. Young Frankenstein was a classic spoof which came much later.

Two Ponies 11:57 AM  

Oops, I forgot about the U in physique. But while we are on the topic of Qs, I wonder what the Q in Q-tip stands for. Anyone know?

Wikipedia (Who Else?) 12:10 PM  

@Two Ponies - The cotton swab was invented in the 1920s by Leo Gerstenzang[1] after he attached wads of cotton to toothpicks.[2] His product, which he named "Baby Gays", went on to become the most widely sold brand name, "Q-tips", with the Q standing for "quality". The term "Q-tips" is often used as a genericized trademark for cotton swabs in the USA. Although doctors have said for years that usage of the cotton swab for ear cleaning is not safe, that use remains the most common.[3] [4]

Lewis 12:57 PM  

Figuring out the theme definitely helped my solve. Learned EZRA Cornell, ARNO and AMARNA. RIOJA popped in from somewhere in the recesses of my brain.

The puzzle felt average to me. There was cleverness involved in making the theme answers, but the puzzle on the whole didn't pop to me. Not that I didn't enjoy solving it!

CoffeeLvr 1:31 PM  

I was happy with this puzzle, satisfied enough, but not ecstatic.

My son showed me an olive drab corduroy bag with a strap and a button closure, and said "Look what I found at the thrift store for my net book and a few things." I said "Oh, a murse!" He grumbled, "No! Well, maybe a MAN BAG."

The O is dropped in the common phrase BRONC busting.

Lois 1:39 PM  

I agree with Kevin that QED is a wonderful revealer. He might be right in his interpretation of it that the phrases have been q-ed. I took it as q was to be demonstrated. Jim thinks that the revealer should have been indicated as such if it was indeed the revealer, and that that is the normal practice. I would have preferred for it to be pointed out, but I thought some advanced solvers have complained about having the revealer identified as such. I would have preferred for QED to be in the middle instead of the irrelevant P and G, but I thought it was a lovable and fun puzzle.

Bird 2:00 PM  

Challenging for me - DNF. Never heard of AMARNA, GASTON, VANYA or FAQ(K)IR so that left me with 2 blanks - the A's in both crosses.

Had IGOR for YGOR - though IMDB confirms the YGOR spelling. "Damn your eyes!"

Agree with Rex about the extra Q - it takes away from the theme. Maybe the extra Q could have been used as a reveler such as ANDQ, but then how do you clue it. Nevermind - I just read Kevin's post.

John V 2:05 PM  

CT folks: I just registered for the Westport Tourament, Feb 2. I look forward to meeting Rex-ites from, "The Land of Steady Habits", which I believe is a drug reference.

Library of Congress 2:13 PM  

Please meet Alphonse and Gaston.

mac 2:47 PM  

@John V: Feb. 4, day before the Superbowl.

Captcha: torta. Now we're talking.

John V 2:58 PM  

@mac. Got it. Typo.

capcha outing; and this on MANBAG day.

Lois 3:44 PM  

Now I realize that the indication that QED is the revealer is that physique and QED were the only non-theme cross with q (I think).

Thank you, Bird. Probably Procter and Gamble got in the puzzle because of doodling with ps and qs. I couldn't figure out why P and G was central before. I guess that's a small flaw (maybe).

antigua county meh-chaels 4:22 PM  

I like the little party you spotted in that corner!
And i highly recommend EvERYONE who can come totheFeb 4th tourney who can take @Mac up on her invite!
I have never met a more gracious host nor seen a more beautiful home!!
Were it not for snow and 2500 miles i would be there for sure!

I'm not convinced QED wasn't a reveal, intended by the constructor, considering the placement.
It may indeed have been that Will decided it didn't need the extra pointer and to let folks have their own AHA moment.

By removing it being explicitly a reveal, the unfortunate consequence is that people that feel it's inelegant or spoils theirexperience :(
That is wildlyunfortunate, because I'll bet it was totally meant as a reveal as this seems like a very deeplythought out puzzle...
The fact that ELMO was an extra dollop in yestday's for example was terrific, even tho it wasnt a horizontal theme answer or matched the way the others were set up.
So, at worst, is extra Q in PHYSIQUE was a dollop, but I suspect it was simply a crossing of the very intentional QED at the bottom.

Hope Tim or Will will ring in on that...

@two ponies
i learned recently that QTIP is now an acronym (maybe from AA) for Quit Taking It Personally which has become my new mantra and worth it's weight in therapeutic gold (esp on days when my puzzles are critiqued!)

Stop dropping my name when you are going to drop your own names! ;)
Liked your little JOHNMAYER anecdote, tho even more so that Tim Croce got his entire name into the grid...
I don't understand this thing tho about not liking little tricks!!!???!! What the heck are you doing NY Times puzzles for then???!

sanfranman59 4:26 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

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

Wed 12:11, 11:48, 1.03, 62%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Wed 6:36, 5:51, 1.13, 85%, Challenging

KRMunson 4:39 PM  

It was worth doing this puzzle just to watch the Gaston video from Beauty and the Beast. One of my favorite clips in all of Disneydom. Thank you for including the link, Rex! You made my day...

Tita 5:00 PM  

@Jim...I like my revealers acme says - getting the aha moment for myself is part of the fun. When there is an explicit revealer clue, I try to not read it, as I would rather ferret it out myself.

I second acme's request that editor or constructor chime in on that question...

----Re: the Westport Library there a category for solving while sipping a cafe au lait and eating a blueberry muffin? If it's only speed solving, I fear I would not sftand a chance among this erudite and alacritous crowd!

treedweller 5:27 PM  

I hereby officially put UNOS with SBARROS as restaurants that apparently exist somewhere but have no business in my puzzles. I decided to go with QiM/iNOS, thinking I would be ranting about how that's not a legitimate shortening of Domino's.

Also, I made the iGOR mistake, thinking I read "Young" instead of "Son of" (apparently not the only one), and I was quite ready to rant about that, too.

So, thanks, UNOS, for giving me an outlet for all my misplaced ranting energy. I still don't know where you are and probably won't ever eat your food, but you served me well today.

Alex Webster 5:37 PM  

What's with "rude" sound being a LONGU? My dictionary gives the pronunciation of "rude" with the two dots over the u. An umlaut, I think. Rhymes with flu or do. In fact, my dictionary (vintage 1956) doesn't even seem to recognize the existence of a long u.

mac 6:02 PM  

There is no need to feel threatened at all by the Westport tournament. Of course there are speed solvers, but at least half of the people don't take it that seriously. There are diplomas for perfect solves, no matter how long it took you. If you haven't done a tournament before, this is the perfect venue to get a taste. By the way, last year's champ may come to the party!

Jim 6:33 PM  


Had to do some research to find it, but, the last time this issue came up (a non-reveal reveal) was almost 15 months ago (which tells you something about how widespread a 'practice' this is) on Sep 28, 2010

This was the infamous NOPAR fiasco. Rex didn't mention it, then specifically discounted it in his comments.

Again, why would anyone think a practice, last encountered 15 months ago and then discounted, is commonplace enough to assert it without any evidence other than coincidence?

Again, QED.

Anonymous 6:53 PM  

Maybe Rex will explain but I doubt it, knowing how he thinks about Anons, but why does Rex use QOM as the word of the day when the puzzle uses QUM? Maybe QOM is the more common spelling but it's still not the way the puzzle spells it. My suspicion is a slavish adherence to Wiki, but that would be unfair to charge. More likely is that Rex likes to be Rex....

evil doug 6:57 PM  

"----Re: the Westport Library there a category for solving while sipping a cafe au lait and eating a blueberry muffin? If it's only speed solving, I fear I would not sftand a chance among this erudite and alacritous crowd!"

Tita---While I have no idea what "alacritous" means, here's what I propose: Go. Meet some, I'm sure, very nice people before the clock is hacked. Share some wine. Have a few laughs. Then, when they put their game-faces on for the competition, you go to Starbucks, get your coffee and muffin, and have a relaxing time with your puzzle while they stoically insist they're not trying to kick each other's ass---"it's just for fun!!!" Once you choose to compete, you're forever on the dark side....

The concept of taking a pleasant, relaxed mano-a-mano battle against a crossword and twisting it into a meaningless 'beat-the-clock-and-your-friends-while-you're-at-it' spectacle is kind of sad.

...even if you get a suitable for framing---omigod!---"diploma for a perfect solve!" Just like our kids---everybody gets a trophy! There are no losers! Yaaaaay!


r.alphbunker 7:43 PM  

Too bad there is not some way of measuring solving performance that doesn't involve time. Can you imagine judging figuring skating or gymnastics based on how fast the performers finish?

Tita 7:45 PM  

Evil -
"The concept of taking a pleasant, relaxed mano-a-mano battle against a crossword and twisting it into a meaningless 'beat-the-clock-and-your-friends-while-you're-at-it' spectacle is kind of sad."

Precisely how my fabulous cook husband feels about Iron Chef, Battle of the Skillets, yada yada... Why take something as wonderful as cooking and turn it into a competition.

Having said that, it sounds like the tourney is part social event, so nothing wrong with that.

mac - awesome of you to do this!

a·lacri·tous (-ts) adj. Speed, quickness, celerity, most notably among certain crossword puzzle solvers. (But I know you knew that...) ;)

Tita 8:04 PM  

@r.alph...sure wish I knew someone who already had devised a way of capturing performance behavior... ;)

I must say that your analogy has sparked an interesting vision...
Will crossword competitors be wearing sequined leotards?

(Welcome back to Rexville...)

Anonymous 8:50 PM  

Evil Doug -- You are giving cynics a bad name....

Stan 9:15 PM  

I liked this one -- the Q-added phrases were plenty wacky for me. Found some of the fill almost Saturdayish, but since I got all from crosses, no complaints.

Felt that I was more familiar with JOHN MAYER (and the accuracy of his clue) than anyone on this blog, but then dk puts me to shame with his remarkable inside dope. Andrea, I think he meant by "my Acme moment" that he was following your rule that name-dropping is inappropriate *unless* the name is in today's content.

And veering off topic, Hubert Sumlim: RIP. Of the blues greats, from whom John Mayer and Eric Clapton got everything they know, only Buddy Guy and B.B. King are left.

sanfranman59 11:44 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 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 6:59, 6:51, 1.02, 63%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 7:58, 8:52, 0.90, 20%, Easy
Wed 12:16, 11:48, 1.04, 63%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:49, 3:40, 1.04, 71%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 4:35, 4:34, 0.96, 44%, Medium
Wed 6:29, 5:51, 1.11, 80%, Challenging

Joe 2:27 PM  

This was the worst puzzle in weeks.
From the theme to the fill.

Edac2day 10:24 AM  

Atari hasn't made a computer in decades, and the never made a laptop (laptops didn't even exist then!).

Z 11:45 PM  

As I was watching the Red Wings blow out the LA Kings tonight (Saturday) two Kings let the puck lie there for a Red Wing to come in and take, leading to one of the Wing's 8 goals. Noted color man and retired hockey player Mickey Redmond said this kind of miscommunication used to be called a "Gaston and Alphonse." This is the second time in my life I can remember hearing/seeing this phrase, the first time being in this puzzle.

Sage of La Mesa 10:28 AM  

Evil D said it all, in my opinion. Hey folks, it's just a PUZZLE. It's supposed to be fun - not competitive. T Croce did one hell of a good job. And yes, I had one mistake: Wrote Qom intead of.. Never heard of Unos and still don't know who they are. Anyone?? Oh, Mr. Croce, you are a sly dog.

Mary in Bend, OR 3:55 PM  

Posting from syndication land (it's Jan 18 here) to say I thought this puzzle was fun, with a capital Q! Also, today Wikipedia and Google are staging a protest against some law and I actually solved this entire puzzle without looking up anything! That's a big accomplishment for me.

Mary in Bend, OR 3:58 PM  

PS: Sage of La Mesa - Unos refers to Numero Uno Pizza in Los Angeles. I don't know if they're in other areas, but they certainly live up to their name--Number One!

Troy Manbag 5:07 PM  

Ugh! Victory of style over substance. The theme answers were clever, Croce at his most creative, but the remainder of the puzzle consisting of the super-obscure AMARNA, LATH, BEL, RIOJA, UNOS!!, TSTOPS, LONGU, RAZR and OTRA made this MEH at best. Looking ahead to Thursday & hoping for better...

dinge which says it all.

Dirigonzo 6:07 PM  

@Sage - to those of us outside of LA, UNOS is short for Uno Chicago Grill which is indeeed a chain of franchise restaurants, at least on the east coast, though they are not technically "pizzarias".

I loved the puzzle, maybe because I actually figured out the theme for once and it helped with the solve (never would have gotten
COUNTYFAQIR without it). Only complaint is one that somebody already pointed out: "rude" does not have a LONGU sound; "cute" does. Tough for a Wednesday, but got it done.

Thank you Tim Croce (but really, was "QED" a reveal or wasn't it? - doesn't matter, either way it's still a great puzzle in my amateur opinion.)

Anonymous 6:24 PM  

Spacecraft here. If I had not seen Tim Croce's name on this one, I'd have told the constructor not to "Q"uit his day job. This thing was chock- (or choq?) full of total obscurities alongside a litany of xword no-nos. I actually finished with two mistakes. Q_M crossing _NOS was a complete natick for me, and I guessed wrong with O. A pizzeria chain--CHAIN, really?--called UNOS? Nev-vah heard of it. And QOM/QUM? What non-Irani would ever know? MEH. Then we get to BRODi/iGOR. Since I didn't know the actor, I just assumed the I. My bad. But EIEIO, LONGU and especially PANDG? That, Timmy me boy, that's YOUR bad.
Gotta allow me to vent a little here. Why in the world would you represent both Proctor and Gamble with their initials--and then WRITE OUT the word "and" instead of using an ampersand? I'll tell you why, and ONLY why: so you can fit the letters PANDG into a crossword grid! If I can borrow Coach Ditka for a moment:


Actually, I almost DNF. The first entry I made was REAGAN. Then "At a cruise stop, say" was OBVIOUSLY ashORe! How is it that no one else even mentioned this? Tell me you don't automatically think of "ashore" given that clue. That little mistake cost me half a day, and I came within an inch of heaving it into the trash. What in tarnation is QATARICOMHUTERS?? Oh, I know: it's that other "chain" of eateries, with the chicks with the orange T-shirts out to here; not a great idea for the demographics.
I'm only lucky I was able to get the other obscurities via crosses: AMARNA??--an appliance company for non-New-Yorkers? (they had to drop the R for NY)? RIOJA?--(the German tourist finally agrees to go to Brazil)? There ARNO more lines for me to go further. TSTOPS.

Anonymous 6:38 PM  

I thought this one was tough for a Wednesday. Did OK for the most part, but that NW corner kicked me right in the manbag.

Of the theme answers, I had the toughest time coming up with County FaQir, partly because I could see the digression of the Q's and I wanted the Q in that one to fall in the first word. As in FAQIR HAIRED or FAQIR MINDED.

Eating a blueberry muffin is cheating.

Anonymous 6:47 PM  

UNOS (wiki page cached for the benefit of syndication solvers)

Pippin 6:56 PM  

A frozen syndy solver from the Great White North - it is MINUS 40 this morning with the wind chill - MINUS 32 without. I think this may account for my brain freeze - took too long to get BRONC (I live in the city of the Calgary Stampede, for goodness sake and should have known that). Also - took Spanish in HS and University and LOVE wine but all I could come up with was "vino rojo" which I could not squeeze into the space for RIOJA.

I must admit I like the puzzle more now, after reading the comments - always a joy BTW. And I agree with EVIL DOUG, whose comments I look forward to every day! It's only a PUZZLE folks and meant to be ENJOYED not CONQUERED. I do mine with a latte at breakfast each morning.

Captcha - parlyse, which is what this cold is doing to me.....

Hand up for BRODI and IGOR for a while. Did not know AMARANA

Red Valerian 4:38 PM  

A day late and from syndi-land.

@Pippin--the Calgary cold even made it into the Vancouver paper, as we Lotuslanders suffer with cold-for-us. (Meaning, less than -5, -10 with the wind chill.) Winter storm warning up for tonight, then a Pineapple Express is to arrive tomorrow afternoon to wash everything away, but not before an interlude of freezing rain.

There's so much salt on the side roads and sidewalks, that i dug out the dog's "muttluks." (If you've never heard of those, I'm sure you can guess correctly.) She HATES them. Putting them on is hilarious, since she doesn't want to put a booted paw on the ground (she can almost balance on one leg!). Then actually walking her (once she realizes she has no choice) is even funnier. She keeps her legs splayed out, placing each paw deliberately, in a sort of awkward prance. And, of course, she doesn't want to do what we're on a walk to have her do!

Oh, the puzzle. Right. I really liked it, though I DNF. Had QiM and iNOS, not knowing Iranian geography (tsk, tsk), and thinking that maybe "Inos" was short for Domino's. Hey, could be!

Made then BRODi iGOR mistake, too. sigh.

Had never heard of a TRADITIONAL IRA, but it had to be right from crosses. (I thought maybe it was faction in Ireland...)

C.S.A. means a lot of things up here (Canadian Standards Association, Canadian Space Agency), but AMER was easy to guess (since I, too, didn't know AMARNA).

I'm on the enjoy side of the enjoy/conquer issue. In fact, I often read clues I don't need to read just to see what they are.

DJ Stone 11:44 PM  

Late the day after, so this will probably unread, but had to do this for two reasons.

1. Qtips. I use one on my ears (good thing they have a swab on each end) after every shower (couple times a week), and have always been baffled that people consider that practice dangerous. Now that a previous commenter noted that the original version was a fluff of cotton attached to the business end of a TOOTHPICK, I get the perception. Glad they came up with Q-tip v. 2.0.

2. Canadians. Quit sharing your weather woes with the rest of us. If you can't stand the cold, get out of the Yukon.

Red Valerian 4:45 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Red Valerian 4:53 PM  

Oops, broken link.

@DJ Stone

For your edification:
Map of Canada

And so nice of you to ask:
Current Canadian Weather

Prune 3:20 PM  

Only my lexicographic work ethic kept me from rage-quitting this puzzle in the top third. Of the 6 down words in the NW, only one is a common English word: five proper nouns, one of them abbreviated. The three across words are non-functional regional slang ("man bag" for people who can't bring themselves to say "purse"??), foreign proper noun, common word, clunky theme answer. Yes, of the 13 across answers in the north, only 3 are common English.

This construction attitude continued throughout the puzzle, although we did get minor relief from the incidence of such. Still, I had to hand this to my wife to finish: she's the family pattern-matcher.

I still had one letter wrong: the Y in Ygor/Brody.

The traditional standard for puzzle quality is "was it fun to solve?" By that standard, this offering was as low as anything in 2011. It wasn't fun; it was more like a "pepper" drill in sports, where the coach fires arcane shots at you as fast as she can, and you have to dive, dig, jump, etc. until you drop from exhaustion. It's not fun: it's only purpose is to give you practice in silly combinations, in case they come up in a real match.

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