Homer Simpson's favorite meat item / MON 12-19-11 / Amazing magician / Tree-lined way in France

Monday, December 19, 2011

Constructor: Richard Chisholm

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "We" — first words of theme answers are all homophones

Word of the Day: RANDI (48A: "Amazing" magician) —
James Randi (born Randall James Hamilton Zwinge; August 7, 1928) is a Canadian-American stage magician and scientific skeptic best known as a challenger of paranormal claims and pseudoscience. Randi is the founder of the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF). Randi began his career as a magician named The Amazing Randi, but after retiring at age 60, he began investigating paranormal, occult, and supernatural claims, which he collectively calls "woo-woo." (wikipedia)
• • •
[FOR MY READERS IN SYNDICATION: It's pledge week here at the Rex Parker site (thru Sat.) —read my pitch for donations in the opening paragraphs of Sunday's write-up, here ... and thanks for your faithful readership (and the many kind messages I've received so far)]

• • •
Seen it.

Once, from the back end, here.

And again, earlier (before WII was invented), in the New York Sun (June '06)—theme answers WEE WILLIE WINKIE, OUI MONSIEUR, and WE SHALL OVERCOME. This is the kind of stuff you're supposed to check before embarking on a puzzle.

Blew through this like it wasn't there until the very very end when I lost precious seconds in the southwest. Took me a couple beats to get the front end of -CONSOLE (GAME wouldn't fit, then the theme dawned on me). Then I ran into the WIT / WAG issue (54D: Joker). Correctly went with WAG, but then erased it when I saw [Pond swimmers] would then start with "G." Must be WIT / TOADS, I reasoned. So, yeah, I hate the idea of GEESE as "swimmers" (though, of course, they are). I also hate the definition on CONDONE (40D: Overlook, as something that's illegal), a word that strongly implies approval or endorsement, not mere overlooking. I see that "overlook" is listed as a synonym in places, but I still think it sucks as a definition. Anyway, just that little hiccup there kept me from getting under 3 minutes.

I like "GIVE IT A TRY" (3D: Encouragement after "Go on") and PORK CHOP (39A: Homer Simpson's favorite meat item). You can have the rest of the puzzle back.

Theme answers:
  • 18A: Young girls in Glasgow (WEE LASSIES)
  • 26A: First words of the Constitution ("WE THE PEOPLE...")
  • 43A: Polite assent in Paris (OUI, MONSIEUR)
  • 54A: Piece of Nintendo game equipment (WII CONSOLE)

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 12:15 AM  

A "back end" version was done three years ago and another somewhat similar one was done in another publication over five years ago? Who cares? Seriously! Who cares?

foodie 12:23 AM  

I agree-- easy, even for a Monday, and not very evocative. But at least, it did feel like a Monday, not a Tuesday with afterthoughts.

Rex, I had the same reaction about CONDONE.

CoffeeLvr 12:30 AM  

After I finished the puzzle, I looked for the theme. After mentally repeating "WEE, WE, OUI, WII" all I could think of was the little piggy squealing all the way home.

Evan 12:49 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Evan 12:52 AM  

@ Anonymous:

Rex is probably picking a nit, but I think his complaint is really just a way of saying that he feels that the theme idea is a little stale. Since he has a very good memory for these things, he listed a couple of puzzles where remembered seeing the same thing in the fairly recent past. It's possible that the play on "WE" words has been done more often than just those two other puzzles. I didn't think this one was too bad -- GIVEITATRY is a nice phrase for the grid -- nor was it that great. Whatever, it's a Monday puzzle, and I don't expect priceless works of art on Mondays.

That said, I disagree with Rex when he says, "This is the kind of stuff you're supposed to check before embarking on a puzzle." I suppose, but I would argue that if he felt it was a stale theme, he should have directed that complaint to Will Shortz, not the constructor: "This is the kind of stuff you're supposed to check before publishing a puzzle."

p.s. Deleted this post once and re-posted it almost immediately to clean up some awful grammatical errors on my part.

Tobias Duncan 12:59 AM  

This little backwater of the internet we occupy is full of nerds.I think we have at least one of each species here, a sort of UN of nerddom .I am always looking for little clues from each of you to help with nerd identification.
Anyone wondering what sort of nerd your sports hating friend Tobias is should take note of the following.
When I was kid my favorite guest on the Johnny Carson show was James RANDI.He was the first skeptic I every heard about.I actually get weepy sometimes when I hear him speak. He is everything that is right with this planet.

chefwen 1:06 AM  

I thought it was kinda cute and I had the same thoughts as @CoffeeLvr with the little piggy crying all the way home.

Enjoyed the mini shout out to me as the WEE LASSIE who grew up just outside of Glasgow.

No write overs and I can hear Homer in the background saying PORK CHOPS!

syndy 2:02 AM  

seeed like an awful lot of abbrev's and partials for such a weak effort.AN IN AS TO OR SEA FAA INTL LES TISNT UMPS STP not maximal

Adieu Condone Monsieurs 2:05 AM  

I remember the back end one and thought it was fabulous that there was now WII and WIE, two very new contemporary WEs to add to the mix.

Wanted the piggy thing too.
ALLTHEWAYHOME is 13. Just sayin'.

One had to know a merdeload (pardon my French) of French to solve this:
Oohlala! (Insert @Sethg scream ici)

Anonymous 2:30 AM  

Okay Monday. Like the rhyme goes, the little pig cried "Wee Wee Wee, all the way home.:

Anonymous 2:30 AM  


FYI: "AS TO" is not a partial.

Rex Parker 6:52 AM  


I strongly disagree. Yes, Will should know that this theme is played out, but every constructor I know Checks The Databases when setting out to make a themed puzzle. Not 100% effective (your theme answers might be Completely different from existing puzzles with same general theme), but definitely a required step in the digital age.


jberg 7:34 AM  

First theme answer I got was WE THE PEOPLE, but I'd already seen 18A out of the corner of my eye, so there was the theme - knowing it did help with getting the other two; I doubt if I'd have thought of WII CONSOLE very quickly otherwise.

@Tobias, I hope you'll post your table of nerd classifications some day! I think I qualify in several categories.

I wanted A NIp for 38A, "Have ____ with." Having A NIN isn't nearly as much fun.

SethG 7:50 AM  

A proper implementation of This Little Piggy requires a 5th WEE, one for each toe.

Gorski did a Thursday version in June '05.

jackj 8:13 AM  



mac 8:20 AM  

Easy Monday, and after noticing the theme after wee and we immediately thought WII would show up.

Went the wit way as well, confirmed by teal.

@Adieu C.M.: plus allee! That's a lot of French.

joho 8:33 AM  

ADIEU crossing OUIMONSIEUR is kinda cute.

The AVID RAJA decided to GIVEITATRY and USE an orange ADE to wash down his RAGU on noodles instead of his normal choice of APOP or sampling of ALES.

I, too, heard the piggy crying Wheeeee! all the way home. There's a commercial with a piggy-boy holding a pinwheel out the window of a car but I can't remember what it's for.

The best thing about the puzzle is it made me think of Bob Dylan's "Thunder on the Mountain" with "I got the PORKCHOPs she got the pie, She ain't no angel and neither am I." Great song.

dk 8:38 AM  

@tobias, It seems we have a task to complete over cocktails: nerd classification. And, we are just the dorks to "git er done." Just sayin.

I thought it was Presidents day.

I agree with our dear leader that some background research is called for if you submit a puzzle to NYT. I mean I copy other people's research and make up data all the time but I expect more from a NYT puzzle.

Sigh, but this one had me at PORKCHOP.

I started chortling after 54A recalling the You tube video of the young Japanese girls using WIIs to emulate males. Apparently the game was to fill a bowl with some yellowish fluid -- supposedly it is a skill to clear the rim. Like us guys can't do that... if we wanted to.

** (2 chops) Off to NM tomorrow hope to make it to Tucumcari for a night at the Blue Swallow on Rte. 66

Geico 8:43 AM  

@joho wrote:

"... There's a commercial with a piggy-boy holding a pinwheel out the window of a car but I can't remember what it's for."

Not the sign of a good commercial.

Tita 8:46 AM  

5D - a reminder of how far behind I am with the task of WRAPping...

No love for 9A and 7D? Four Pres's with a common attribute - maybe Mr. Chisolm used up all his research time on that...

We always love the ALLEEs - a stunning example of long-term thinking, and as much a hallmark of French countryside as stone walls are for New England.
Moreso, really, as stone walls were mostly a necessary evil, while allees were a pre-planned adornment...

John V 9:14 AM  

A nice Monday. "Merdeload", loved it ACME!

So, stale theme? Hand up for, "Who cares?" A typical Monday solver -- of which we Rexites are not -- does not care. I'm supposing Will asks if a Monday solver have fun with this theme? Oui! His audience is the solver. I imagine Will knows how to search the databases and knew this was not a theme debut.

I wonder how much longer we can have clues that refer to stenos. I had one -- in the late 70s. Steno may need to go down Essene lane.

Good Monday job, Richard Chisholm!

quilter1 9:17 AM  

Easy, maybe done before, but OK Monday. I liked the WEE LASSIES, having 2 on my nice list.

@dk: Tucumcari is frequently our first stop for the night when going to CA. We've only ever seen the depressed main drag and usually have dinner at the Lizard place, a bar and grill not far from the high school stadium. And now I hear you say there is an alternative? More, please.

The candied pineapple came out great. Cookies today.

Anonymous 9:30 AM  

This theme was also done in a CrosSynergy puzzle in February 2011. However, doing it in the NYT twice, less than two years apart, does seem a tad neglectful.

Here's the URL for the CrosSynergy version:


Careful reader 9:45 AM  

@quilter1 - We were informed about the excellence of the candied pineapple yesterday. Just sayin'

Really? 9:48 AM  

A theme that appeared almost 2 years ago in the NYT, and apparently only once in the 5 year history of this blog, is stale and played out?

And complaining that it also appeared in another publication too is akin to complaining that one has seen the same critique in another blog.

After all, in this electronic age, an author could use Google to prevent the latter.


PS: How about all those movie re-makes? Once in awhile the re-make is actually better.

retired_chemist 9:53 AM  

Easy enough, but I wasn't with it last night when I solved. Hit a deer (yearling doe) on the way home from Kerrville (TX) last night. She escaped (I bet with substantial injuries though :-(), but our Escape didn't. Took a LONG time to get the car roadworthy, file a police report, and file an insurance claim. Home late and frazzled.

Not sure where I picked up the theme. Not from WEE LASSIES. which I got via crosses then forgot about. Anyway by time time I got to the SW theme answer I had _IIC_N__LE from the crosses and knew it was WII-something. Console made sense but you couldn't prove it by me, Never saw one.

Nothing special here, either outstanding or egregious. But a decent Monday. Thanks, Mr. Chisholm.

Anoa Bob 10:04 AM  

Today we get two themes, the "we" one and French 101, with ETES, ADIEU, OUI MONSIEUR (nice double up there), AIME, and ALLEE.

I BARS (32A) makes another appearance, clued here as "Letter shaped construction pieces". It or the singular I BAR have appeared in the NYT 67 times according to xwordinfo.com, attesting to the fortuitous combination/sequence of letters.

I think the clue should be more along the line of "Letter shaped crossword puzzle construction pieces", because that's the only place one finds them. In the other construction world, a letter shaped construction piece would be an I BEAM. Construction bars are round or square shaped, the most common being rebar, short for the reinforcement bar used when pouring concrete.

Another clue for I BARS might be "Watering hole for egotists?".

hazel 10:12 AM  

Lot of crankiness this a.m! I just didn't like this one that much. (1) sadly, no piggies were evoked in my solve (2) i hopped onto the theme with the first answer (and without even really thinking - which is almost always a disappointment), (3) Simpson's clues make me think "brown-noser" (I can't help it!!), and (4) there was otherwise no chortling anywhere. @dk - i'm so glad you're back to chortling!!

Puzzle value - $120. ($20 off for each demerit) - today's economy is just brutal!

@ret chem - sorry to hear of your accident. We're in deer territory too (4 collisions) and it is so disconcerting - fortunately, for us in each case deer and car were able to leave the scene under our own steam.

JC66 10:14 AM  

@Rex Whether or not this puzzle should be considered stale, It seems to me that your argument is undercut by your admission that you stumbled over WIICONSOLE.

Just sayin'.

xyz 10:26 AM  

Calling it stale? Indeed nerdy. It's a puzzle fer chri$$ake, not a Nobel PEACE Prize; could have dressed that clue up a bit with a scientist e.g. Röntgen and left out a PREZ.

Not just race cars use STP.

IBARS is horrible it's I-BEAM if you've ever worn a hard hat (or not)

ASTO - 10 times in LAT&NYT in a week? - Now THAT's stale ...

Good captcha: Edlenedd like von TRAPP

Edlenedd, Edelnedd
Every morning you greet me
Small and white clean and bright...
Bless my homeland forever.

- oops, wrong paper puzzle error [embarrassed smiley]

Jeffrey 10:45 AM  

I love that you can learn things even in Monday crosswords. Today I learned that Mookie Wilson and Joe Carter won NOBEL prizes.

Masked and Anonymous 10:54 AM  

Rex in Crossword Hell (RICH) dept.
Puz theme is "add a letter to the word WE in the same phrase":
The last one bein' especially inspired, as it both has the WE backwards, and makes pretty much no sense. So, just when Rex thought he had things figured out...

I don't object much to dejavuosity, as long as the theme phrases are fresh. Also nice to have a healthy time interval between revisits, of course. That's why the Shortzmeister is there, referee-in'.

"Bad revisit" example: Using last Thursday's puz as the next Monday's puz, e.g.

JaxInL.A. 10:57 AM  

Bet Rex will like the LAT puzzle better, cleverly featuring a favorite family of his.

I'm an AVID FAN (LETTERS) of Gil Scott Heron. Thanks, Rex.

I rather liked TISN'T. It reminds me of the Monty Python professional argument sketch.

Thanks for the chuckle, Mr. Chisholm.

Tobias Duncan 11:15 AM  

JaxInL.A.10:57 posted Monty Python sketch.
That gets you a special star on my chart...

santafefran 11:52 AM  

I rather liked the image of a PORKCHOP ALLEE; could be a setting for a Monty Python sketch.

@dk--blizzard conditions in NM today so hope it clears up by the time you head this way.

David 12:06 PM  

Blew through this one until the mid-south, where WIICONTROL needed to be written over, and I misread XC as 110 and ended up stumped for a bit. Also didn't help that I wrote in PALIN as PALII.

Otherwise very easy...

@JC66 - nice touch on just sayin'

Two Ponies 12:13 PM  

I liked this one fine.
I always like to improve my French and today had plenty, a bateau-load you might say.
The fill was fine, no random popes and the only Roman numeral was played in reverse, a nice touch.
@ joho, I love that little piggy boy.

Just Maskin' 12:26 PM  

Actually, using a ThursPuz as the following MonPuz might actually be pretty cool. It just says to #31: "OK, let's see you do this sucker in under 3. Piece of cake -- you just seen it, last Thursday!"

@#31: Question on doin' a puz in under 3: if you sneeze, is it acceptable practice to write a letter out in the margin, if there's a booger in yer way, in a grid square? Tough call; wouldn't wanna be the tourney judge.

"Just Sayin'" made #4 on a "Top 5 Over-used Phrases" list, on the "Today" show, this AM. Hoda objected, as she said she uses that one all the time.


r.alphbunker 12:39 PM  

I agree with @John V about the typical Monday solver. I am sure that the "Why did the chicken cross the road" joke was greatly appreciated the first time that we heard it.

Speaking of jokes, how many cruciverbalists does it take to change a lightbulb? A quick search of Google didn't find anything.

Some possibilities:

* Not interested, its been done before

* Two because every light bulb has to be checked.

* I don't know but I'll Google it.

* That depends on whether the light bulb was written in ink or not (thanks Dave)

* Depends on whether there is a word ladder available.

Any other suggestions?

r.alphbunker 12:41 PM  

* It depends on whether its a Monday or a Saturday.

Anonymous 1:07 PM  

*only one but the fixture has to be square.

John V 1:13 PM  

Don't need no stinkin' lightbulb, 'cause its already bright enough in here, is what I'm sayin'

Anonymous 1:14 PM  

* one, and an editor

Max 1:29 PM  

Here's my Geico ad.

Bird 1:39 PM  

Easy day today and I don't really care if a theme has been used - as long as there is a reasonable time between uses (but at least a year). Only hiccup was SW and like Rex swimming GEESE threw me off.

I am curious how someone cannot notice the theme when doing the puzzle. Isn't that half the fun? Anyone care to explain.

Lewis 1:43 PM  

Did enjoy the French Quarter of this puzzle. The theme was an afterthought, didn't help my solve, so it doesn't matter to me that it was done before.

If you're going to put me on the nerd list, you can file me under Yoga, and Bob Dylan Songs.


* Only one of course. Cruciverbalists are never without a clue.

* To get to the other side.

archaeoprof 2:11 PM  

Today is the first day of Christmas break. Today I love everything and everyone in the world, including this puzzle, all crossnerds and my ex-wife's mother.

Okay, not my ex-wife's mother...

ksquare 3:35 PM  

I was reading an article about RANDI just before doing the puzzle. AMAZING coincidence? Or a gift from Heaven. You decide!
Anyway, thanks for the gimme.

quilter1 3:47 PM  

I saw Randi a few weeks ago on a Penn and Teller show. Still has every marble he was born with, although he is so shrunken with age, while never a tall man, he came only to Teller's shoulder, and Teller is short.

@CarefulReader: sorry to bore you. I get excited about these things. Lots of good cooks commenting here. Sometimes we exchange recipes.

jodi 4:36 PM  

Hi - It's me chef Bea using my daughter's computer here in Ct. An easy puzzle today. Of course I knew meet me in St. Louie, Louie.

Just played this little piggie went to market with my grand daughter this morning...wee,we.oui all the way home

Anonymous 6:17 PM  

@Bird - Couple theories why solvers don't see the theme: 1)Too busy trying to beat the clock 2) "I don't need no stinkin' theme" 3) Huh? Theme? Didn't notice. Wow, wouldya look at that.

You might think that knowing the theme would cut some time off the solve, but who knows. Seems the nerds don't care or it doesn't help.

Just having some fun on a Monday. Apologies if anyone was offended.

sanfranman59 6:38 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)

Mon 6:35, 6:50, 0.96, 34%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:42, 3:40, 1.01, 57%, Medium

Tita 6:43 PM  


* IV - Esau, Enos, Smee, and Asta

mac 8:48 PM  

@quilter1: dip some of the leftover crystallized pineapple in dark melted chocolate. A dessert in itself.

sanfranman59 12:29 AM  

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 6:35, 6:50, 0.96, 34%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:41, 3:40, 1.01, 55%, Medium

Dirigonzo 3:47 PM  

From the part of Rexville where it's still pledge week, I thought this was a fun Monday romp with some impressive theme answers (although today I was in @anon 6:17PM's category #3).

13d LES could have been clued as a French article just to add to the continental sub-theme that others have pointed out.

Anonymous 6:26 PM  

Spacecraft here. Well, it's a Monday; whaddya want? I guess it could be a bit hardish if vous don't parlez Francais--a mini-theme more interesting than the actual one--but no trouble here.
Stared at the cross-filled ANIN for a while before finally separating it in the middle. Horrid entry. Blech!
This puzzle, however, is a solid thumbs-up for one reason: the clue for ADE is, properly, a suffix! Atta boy, Richard! Call it what it is! Are you paying attention, students? "Summer drink" and the like: no good. It's "suffix for a summer drink."
ADE is not a word. --ADE is a suffix. Got it?

Dirigonzo 7:06 PM  

@Spacecraft - And 48a, which could easily have been the reviled RANDr was instead an actual (if strangely spelled) name, RANDI.

amazing magician 3:51 AM  
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