Uganda's second P.M. / THU 9-13-12 / 109 acres for Vatican City / Trypanosomiasis transmitter / Battleship co-star 2012 / Deep Impact menace / Visual olio

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Constructor: Matt Ginsberg

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: Punny riddle — Question appears entirely in Across answers; Answer appears entirely in the Downs


Word of the Day: RIAA (24A: Fighter of pirates, in brief) —
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is a trade organization that represents the recording industry distributors in the United States. Its members consist of record labels and distributors, which the RIAA say "create, manufacture and/or distribute approximately 85% of all legally sold recorded music in the United States." RIAA has its headquarters in Washington, D.C. (wikipedia)
• • •

Howdy folks, I'm Rex's cousin Tex Parker. Actually, I'm not quite sure how we're related—I'd ask Rex, but he's far too busy knitting to blog tonight, so I'm definitely not going to interrupt him with genealogical questions. Besides, I have more important things to do myself—I'm gonna go grab a beer and then I'll be back to take a stab at today's crossword.

As a rule, I'm not a fan of quote/quip puzzles. There are exceptions, but they're usually due to other awesomeness outweighing the quote/quip badness.

As a rule, I'm not a fan of cross-reference-heavy puzzles. There are exceptions, but they're usually due to other awesomeness outweighing the cross-reference badness. (Or perhaps something particularly clever—but that's damn rare.)

But a quote/quip puzzle with lots of cross-referencing, whose theme is an old joke that neither I nor Leo McGarry (see below) found funny the first time (but isn't bad enough to give Plan 9-like entertainment), that also has its theme entries asymmetrically strewn around the grid ... that's a perfect storm of "no thank you" for me.

There are many clues and entries I really like in this puzzle—more on that later—but I am not a fan of the theme (in part the specific quote, but especially the way it's presented).

Quote/quip puzzles usually require a significant portion of the theme squares to be discovered via crossing entries before the quote actually goes from hindering to helping the solver. The quotes/quips are usually stale/unfunny. If a constructor simply must construct a quote/quip puzzle, I hope that (s)he would make it have few theme squares and make the rest of the puzzle excellent—essentially a themeless puzzle that just happens to have a few cross-referenced entries (that happen to form a quote/quip). An excellent example is a recent Onion A.V. Club puzzle (6/27/12), featuring a 24-square quote (and 11 more theme squares for the speaker's name) that just happens to be in a (70-word) puzzle with lots of fun and/or new entries. But, most of time, I'd rather just not see a quote/quip puzzle.

Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4, and Q5 initially look to me like they could refer to five different questions. Once I noticed that the down entries include exactly four similarly clued entries (A1, A2, A3, and A4), it seemed unlikely that there were five questions and four answers ... but, honestly, I just more or less ignored these nine entries and focused on the other entries for most of my solving.


I think that the first time I heard this was in a first-season episode of The West Wing (originally aired May 10, 2000):

(Presumably a shorter version ("Why are French omelettes small?") was opted for because "You know why they only eat one egg for breakfast in France?" would mean finding where to place an additional 21 theme squares.)

I wonder if the constructor tried for a (at-least-in-my-opinion) more elegant construction using five symmetrically placed entries (instead of five strewn-around-the-grid across entries & four strewn-across-the-grid down entries):


I have several theme ideas that just aren't quite there—maybe I'm one theme entry short or maybe the common thread between the theme entries doesn't feel tight enough or any other number of small problems. But I will admit defeat rather than create a puzzle that suffers from badness (well, at least in my opinion).

Other bad things:
  • 41A: Currency exchange premium (AGIO): well, there's some Maleskan crosswordese that I never need to see again.
  • 55A/55D: that "O" square seems a bit too hard, even for Thursday; you need to know at least one of that oeuf is French for "egg" or that there was a Ugandan PM named OBOTE (55A: Uganda's second P.M.)—if you know neither and, say, had a cursory knowledge of some French, you might even put an N in the square. But maybe that's just me.
Earlier I promised some good, and—even though I've been complaining for a while—there is a good amount of good in this puzzle:
  • 14A: 109 acres, for Vatican Ciy (AREA): an otherwise-kind-of-mundane entry gets a cute little trivia clue
  • 18A: Musical interlude (REST): cute misdirection
  • 24A: Fighter of pirates, in brief (RIAA): using "pirates" in a way that isn't the first way I generally think
  • 28A: Get back on the horse (REMOUNT): RE- entries are often weak, but, like 14A, a nice clue can go a long way
  • 30A: Only Semitic language that's an official language of the European Union (MALTESE): an uncommon entry that could've been fine with a nice Maltese Falcon clue, but instead we get a trivia clue that may read to a lot of people (as it did to me) as essentially [European non-Romance language]
  • 48A: Reliable profit center (CASHCOW): that's a fun entry, period
  • 1D: Good thing to hit (PAYDIRT): another fun entry
  • 27D: Is in low power mode (SLEEPS): a modern take on an old word
  • 43D: Beat, journalistically (SCOOPED): more cute misdirection—at least I would think that "beat" interpreted as "area covered by a journalist" would be the primary definition implied here
If the nine theme entries had been reclued independent of each other, this could have been a decent (if not quite fun) themeless in my opinion. (Admittedly, the clues would need to be a little harder to make this at least a Friday, but that's essentially always possible.)
    Signed, Tex Parker, Kin of Crossworld


    syndy 12:17 AM  

    Howdy Tex! I agree completely except..maybe you were a little generous? AREA REST RIAA are on the "good" list? I'll spot you a CASHCOW,PAYDIRT maybe SPASMS( 0nly because that se corner gave me one)Ego was eclipsed by "Sun" for too long.I had inadvertantly picked up OEUF of the thematics to OOZE in OEUF but I wasn't happy about it.

    PK 12:19 AM  

    Howdy, Tex Parker - great write-up. Liked the puzzle more than you did, maybe b/c I never heard the quip/quote before. Although as a general rule, I detest quip/quote puzzles.

    Tobias Duncan 12:23 AM  

    Can anyone tell me why the SAHIB clue has a question mark?

    Evan 12:28 AM  

    100% agreed, "Tex." There's no rhyme or reason to the theme at all. WHY are the theme entries split up non-symmetrically? WHY is one of the theme answers an ugly partial (IS AN)? WHY are the theme clues listed simply as Q# and A# when those have naught to do with FRENCH OMELETTES, eggs, puns, or....just WHY???

    I wouldn't have a problem with any one of those individual quirks if they served some purpose to the theme -- every traditional rule for a crossword grid can be bent and even broken. Maybe if there were a common association between eggs and non-symmetry, or maybe the position of the theme answers formed the shape of an egg, or something like that -- that would be something. But the quirks of this puzzle are just....just there, and I don't really understand what they're doing there.

    I actually had a false a-ha moment when I saw that Q1 was WHY and A1 was BECAUSE, so I thought the rest of the Q's would be WHO, WHAT, WHERE, and WHEN, and the A's would match them accordingly. That would have made the theme clues slightly less confusing because they would literally have been questions and answers, although that wouldn't have changed the bizarre non-symmetrical element to the puzzle. What does one call a "false a-ha" moment? An "uh-oh" moment? An "ugh" moment?

    Pete 12:29 AM  

    Howdy Tex Pardner - You definitely were a little too generous. Take everthing you said, and add that it results in a French Pun. Not just any old pun, but a French Pun.

    REMOUNT also wasn't good. The definition used is a roll your own, but worse, there are such things as REMOUNTs in the equitation world. They're replacement horses, or horses re-trained for other uses.

    I just read some very early Hammett this evening, and I learned two things:

    L1: It takes every one a long time to become a good writer, and
    L2: He filched the scenario under which Lew Archer died in The Maltese Falcon from his own earlier work.

    I believe Peter Lorre's fondling of his own 'cane' was at the director's, or Lorre's, own initiative.

    I just learned something else -- Labeling bits of Learning as L1, L2 is almost as stupid as breaking up one question into Q1, Q2, ... Q5.

    jae 12:33 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    jae 12:35 AM  

    Well done Tex and I think you captured the essence of this one.  It was medium for me mostly because it took me a while to catch the theme.  Most of the grid was easy and not particularly zippy...PAYDIRT, ARETHA, and CASHCOW were pretty much it.  Putting together the Qs and As was a bit of a slog and not really worth the payoff for me.  What French I know I learned from crosswords, Julia Childs, my multilingual bride, and a couple of weeks in France a long time ago.  In should have known OEUF from Childs but I must have missed those episodes (does a cooking show have episodes?).  So, the payoff cross OBOTE/OEUF was kinda of a WTF.  The way I got it was off the ISAN from 54d which meant I needed a vowel.  O seemed to be the most appropriate.

    Not feeling the love for this one.  Meh!

    Anonymous 12:35 AM  

    Shouldn't it have been
    ONEEGG ISUN OEUF? You know, to be correct? To sound closer to enough?

    j 12:45 AM  

    The WHY/BECAUSE Q1/A1 screwed me up. I assumed there would be 5 questions and answers. "How is ONEEGG an answer to ARE?" "Where is A5?"

    I filled it in with one error (not part of a theme), and I still had no idea what the theme was.

    Oscar 1:33 AM  

    Blecch. This left Mssrs. Ginsberg and Shortz with ouef all over their faces.

    dk 1:47 AM  

    Here in France the question is: What did the ouef say to the huit? Nice ceinture!

    Spent yesterday in St. Tropez. Kinda like South Coast Plaza (reference to high end mall in SoCal) with big boats. Great park with maurading pigeons.

    random fun fact: Outstanding box wine.

    This puzzle was a bit of a SPASM but Matt is one of NYTs CASHCOWS and sometimes cows poop.

    €€ (2 euros) REMOUNT si vous plez.


    I bought a beret. Dork with a capital d.... That is I

    Anoa Bob 2:03 AM  

    Hand up for liking PAY DIRT and CASH COW. Been to KYOTO, so that was nice.

    ARMOIRE and MONTAGE give the puzzle a FRENCH feel. (I was going to say "a soupcon of FRENCH", but I don't know how to put that little squiggly thing under the "c".)

    To further the FRENCH feel, one could link the clues for EROS, AROUSES, LEER AT, REMOUNT, and SPASMS.

    Octavian 2:10 AM  

    I liked this. Had never heard the joke, not sure why, but hadn't. Enjoyed figuring out what the Qs and As were all about and when it turned out to be a long riddle question and answer, I smiled and that is about all I need to be happy with a crossword. Because I use the xword as a way to get my nighttime creative work started, and if it is amusing and a little challenging it works for me.

    So I will say, "bravo" to Mr. Ginsburg and thank you.

    Or as Mr Burns would say to Homer, "Eggscellent!"

    Eejit 2:31 AM  

    I had no idea what the theme was until I read it here. Still managed to finish somehow. Kinda funny though, never heard it before.

    jae 2:44 AM  

    @Evan -- Me too for the same " false a-ha moment."

    Mike 3:11 AM  

    A third who felt smug after WHY and BECAUSE.

    Really struggled in Florida, although I got BOCA fairly quickly. OBETE and SAHIB just about did me in.

    Aretha CeCe Montages 3:25 AM  

    Tried nEUF before OEUF as je ne connais pas OBOTE.
    Is there a French joke about nine eggs?
    After this, I feel a LOT less guilty about ALUI et QUAI!

    Acme 3:31 AM  

    Bleedovers: ADLIBs...and almost zAP

    Milford 6:54 AM  

    Another hand up for thinking I had the theme at WHY/BECAUSE. And also for putting nEUF/nBOTO in that knotty SE corner.

    I'm thinking this is a puzzle that suffered from being played on a computer, because there was no way to see/circle/list out all the Qs and As. Never got the theme during (or after) the solve.

    All the themeless fill I actually really liked. Funny to see olio in a clue. Loved learning that Maltese derives from a Semitic base.

    @Anoa Bob - if you comment on a touch screen device, try holding down on a letter on the keyboard and see if it offers you more options for that letter. You might get your ç that way.

    Ω 7:18 AM  

    Why? Because sometimes cow poop. That pretty much sums it up. And also to relieve ACME's guilt over ALUI and QUAI (I liked QUAI, ALUI not so much).

    Hand up for the false aha. I also had cOllAGE before MONTAGE and tried nBOTE (probably said with that weird to my ears clicking sound for nB). I had a really hard time with that S in ISAN. I didn't get how A, AA, and AAA are MINORS (a baseball clue just for @Tobias) and I don't like that IS AN is two words when every other theme answer is one word. I ran the alphabet a couple times before giving up and putting in the S.

    I expect to see quote/quip puzzles in the Boston Globe puzzle in the FREEP on Sunday. Or maybe in the airline magazine crossword. But not in the NYT. Quip puzzles just seem like cheap beer to me, okay in a pinch but you won't find any in my fridge.

    option key c gives me ç on my mac.


    Dr. Fill 7:55 AM  

    I thought it was amazing.

    Glimmerglass 7:59 AM  

    Thanks, Z. I finished the puzzle correctly, but didn't get the logic of MINORS until your comment above. Somehow a French/English pun seems a bit arcane for Thursday, but I guess most NYT puzzlers can handle it. Never heard it before (and never want to hear it again).

    wordie 8:31 AM  

    I think 37A is clued with a question mark because the sahib is British, not Indian, just in India.

    joho 8:32 AM  

    The assymetry of the theme answers made me feel all out of whack. Mentally unsettling.

    I did groan when I got the "joke," though. Is that a good thing?

    @Acme, I had OUZO and DEN as bleedovers, too.

    How is a "Kind of stroke?" EGO?

    I didn't like RIAA or OBOTE and KYOTO being clued as _________ Protocol (1997 agreement).

    PAP, ZAP and PAP are kind of fun.

    joho 8:35 AM  

    Oh, I get it, you stroke somebody's EGO, right? But I'd never call that an EGO stroke. Or, 'Hey, that was a stroke of EGO!" I may have a stroke trying to make sense of it!

    Sue McC 8:49 AM  

    @Evan - same here re: your last paragraph.
    @Oscar - funny!

    Thought the puzzle was pretty lame for a Thursday.

    Loren Muse Smith 8:54 AM  

    Look – let me just say, honestly, I get just as sick of myself in the Pollyanna roll here as you all surely are. BUT, I don’t like quote puzzles, either, and I felt sheepishly, pleasantly, “had” at the way this one snuck up on me; like so many others, I thought that it was going to be WHY? BECAUSE, “How? thus, Who? you . . ..” So by the time I saw the quote, I appreciated that I had been tricked. If it had been clued as “Quip, part 1,” I would have considered not even solving it. This one made me feel like I was in the presence of an Amway salesman who signed me up before I even realized it was Amway.

    So, yes, I liked this one – the non-symmetry didn’t bother me as it’s Thursday, and I felt supremely smug that I had no trouble – difficulty level for me about an easy Tuesday. That’s part of the reason I saw the theme late – I solved this one lightning fast. My only hiccough was thinking that “corp” stood for corporal and not corporation. Until I figured that out, the CECE/CEO/AGIO cross was a head-scratcher.

    I also briefly thought that McCartney’s first wife was “Kodak,” so I moaned that today’s would be his latest wife’s name. And I thought briefly that the A, AA, AAA clue was part of the theme.

    What’s the difference between a MONTAGE and a collage?

    @Anoa Bob – a cup of unforgettable shiso tea I had in Kyoto almost upstaged Ryooan-ji and the Sanjuusangen-doo.

    (Q1 – sometimes I post and then see a typo. I can never, ever delete my post. When I click on the garbage can, a box appears with my name and post, and at the top it says something like “Delete this post,” but when I click on it, nothing happens. Anyone?)

    Utterly predictably, I had fun with this one. Yeah, yeah, I know.

    jackj 9:00 AM  

    Successful completion of this one depended on one answer, the “Currency exchange premium” and until AGIO was remembered and entered, the _EUF of 55 down was making no sense and the missing first letter in _BOTE’s name was unknown. But AGIO begat EGG and EGG begat OEUF and OEUF begat OBOTE and the puzzle was then complete and the joke got the groan and mini-chuckle it deserved, even as it laid an EGG.

    There weren’t many stumbles along the way with the exception of COMET, MALTESE and IONE and there were a host of clever phrases such as YESBUT, SWEETON and CASHCOW but, while fun, the puzzle lacked the pressure we expect from a top-of-the-line Thursday puzzle. (Not even the awkward Q and A cluing slowed things down).

    Thanks, Matt; glad to see you’re still playing kissy-face with the giraffe!

    Cathyat40 9:04 AM  

    Hand up for nEUF

    Z 9:07 AM  

    @lms- was your Amway salesman selling cheap beer?

    And wouldn't it be boring of we all reacted the same way. Vive le difference!


    Bob Snead 9:10 AM  

    I had fun with this puzzle and liked the quip, but solving electronically probably helped me to not notice or care about the asymmetrical theme answers.

    Of course, the vast majority of casual solvers wouldn't care about asymmetry or other elitist issues one might have with this puzzle, but unfortunately those are the solvers likely to be naticked at OBOTE/OEUF.

    Nakitab 9:17 AM  

    I really liked this puzzle and, strangely enough, found it easier than yesterday's.

    Lindsay 9:18 AM  

    Oh, I found this one sort of charming in an idiosyncratic way. I always highlight the theme before entering any letters, so I could see immediately the grid lacked a little avoirdupois. No highlighter in the SE corner, just three letters in the NW. Jaunty.

    And I hadn't heard the pun before.

    John V 9:18 AM  

    I do not like made-up quote puzzles. Got this one okay. Good of this kind, but not my cuppa.

    jberg 9:28 AM

    Easy-to-please 9:32 AM  

    I thought the top half of the puzzle was quite easy. I finished it without considering the theme. This let me finish the answer before the question, and because I never had heard the pun before, I just couldn't come up with the word for Q5 (small) without help from the down answers which got me annoyed at myself.

    But as far as the puzzle goes, I like non-symmetrical theme locations. I though the fill was compelling enough. I guess bad puns do have a place in life, wince as you may. And I have certainly seen many, many puzzles with much worse themes. So I actually think this puzzle was not horrible, not bad, but not great. I not surprised at how many of you were unhappy with the theme, but I am surprised at the extent of your dislike.

    chefbea 9:37 AM  

    Had a tough time and had to come here to finish. Never hear the quote before...but laughed when I got it.

    quilter1 10:04 AM  

    Finished without seeing the quip/theme. Just "puzzled" me.

    Carola 10:05 AM  

    Q6: Was it cute?
    A5: YES, BUT too much TOIL before hitting PAYDIRT. My fault, though, for being very slow on the proper names in the SW. Went wrong with "wIdths" for MINORS, which didn't help. Also had "collAGE" before MONTAGE in the SE, but I did get DEN today.

    Amused by the "YON REST AREA" cluster (it's where I want to stop but my husband never does, as you only stop for gas) and OOZE + OUZO. Liked MALTESE and CASH COW. Had heard of OBOTE but not AGIO or RIAA. Amidst all the Frenchness, a nice across-the-border salute to the FRAU.

    @Tex and @Evan - really appreciate your comments on the puzzle.

    ksquare 10:15 AM  

    @Anoa Bob. As I learned in French class in the first half of the 20th century, that "squiggly" thing is called a cedilla. The joke was 'How is a cedilla like an oyster? They're both found at the bottom of the C/sea`!

    Azbert 10:24 AM  

    Amazing. Tex is just as snarky as Rex. I say buzz off. This one was fun.

    Two Ponies 10:42 AM  

    I was slightly amused by the pun but having that crucial O of oeuf crossing an Ugandan P.M. verges on cruelty. If your French is weak that could have been your Waterloo.

    jae 10:44 AM  

    @loren -- When the "delete comment" window comes up there should be a box in the lower left corner that gives you a "delete/cancel" choice to click on. Occasionally, I get a delete window than cuts the bottom third off so the "delete/cancel" box does not show up. If this is happening to you all the time you might try changing the zoom level or deleting on another device e.g. laptop, iPad,.. Good luck!

    Sandy K 10:50 AM  

    I'm almost afraid to say that I kinda liked this puzzle. WHY?

    A1 I liked figuring out what Q1, Q2, etc were about, esp. when I hit PAYDIRT.

    A2 Never heard the pun before, so it wasn't PAP to me.

    A3 Did not go into SPASMS BECAUSE theme answers were not LINED up.

    A4 Liked ALLOT of the fill, eg. MONTAGE, ARMOIRE, LIEGES...

    Was not SWEETON RIAA. YES BUT that was just a MINOR (g)OEUF.

    Carola 11:26 AM  

    @Sandy K - LOL for your Q and A!

    Anoa Bob 11:30 AM  

    I have a circa 1930's coal-burning, steam-powered desktop behemoth PC. But with some encouragement from fellow commenters, I think I figured out the cedilla squiggly thingy.

    This is a test: Is it just me or does this puzzle have a soupçon de français?

    Who said old dogs can't learn new tricks?

    retired_chemist 12:02 PM  

    I liked it, but then I like most any puzzle. This one had some cool vocab, plus the MALTESE trivium and only a little crosswordese IMO (AGIO, e.g.), and some unusual cluing IONE is not Actress Skye; MALTESE is not a toy dog). The pun is fine. Not spectacular, but fine. Not a fan of cross-referential cluing but this had a reason, so I say no prob.

    Thanks, Mg., Ginsberg.

    Sandy K 12:09 PM  


    Thanks...Likewise, I 'feel your pain' with the non-stopping hubby at "YON REST AREA" ; )

    lawprof 12:23 PM  

    Puns are the lowest form of humor because...because.... Well, because someone once said so, and now it's gospel. But the more I think about it, the more I come to believe that they (puns) are really pretty sophisticated...and the good ones can be really funny. Today's puzzle theme might have been an oldie, but I hadn't ever heard it and I found it hilarious.

    Mel Ott 12:51 PM  

    To me, ARETHA'S role was more than a cameo. I thought her performance of R-E-S-P-E-C-T was a highlight of the movie. Maybe the best part.

    Ulrich 12:53 PM  

    @lms: "...I was in the presence of an Amway salesman who signed me up before I even realized it was Amway." And that spoke FOR the puzzle, for you!!! I wish I had your sunny disposition...

    Joliet Jake 1:45 PM  

    Aretha sang "Think" in the movie, the scene in the diner where the Blues Brothers come to get Matt "Guitar" Murphy to re-join the band.

    Matt Ginsberg 1:51 PM  

    I'm glad to see the comments becoming a bit more positive as they progress! And for those who didn't enjoy the puzzle, I apologize. One bit of trivia that I expect even Tex will enjoy: I watch old episodes of The West Wing every morning while working out (an activity that I thoroughly despise but the TV shows make it palatable. Moonlighting is next.) The episode Tex identifies is exactly the origin of this puzzle.

    Unknown 2:00 PM  

    I had a lot of fun with this one. Normally all the skipping around to figure out the Q's and A's would be a problem, but there was enough easy fill to get me through. I also had never heard the joke and got a bit of a chuckle out of it. OBOTE had to be all on crosses - never even heard of him. RIAA, too.

    Enjoyable Thursday!

    WA 2:14 PM  

    I did the puzzle while waiting for wife to have a colonoscopy, so it was medium for me and challenging for her.

    I have never heard of the RIAA, I thought it was a lasso that lost it's "t."

    As far as the A1 and Q1, it was a bit of a tease. I thought I was playing Battleship for a moment or there were was a steak sauce.

    quilter1 2:50 PM  

    @ Sandy K and Carola: trust me, time will take care of the never-wants-to-stop-at-rest-areas guys. Mine is a convert post-60th birthday.

    Sandy K 3:01 PM  


    At the risk of being punny-
    I CAN'T WAIT!! ;)

    John V 3:07 PM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Sparky 3:17 PM  

    Hand up for collage. DNF; never got the SMALL but did have a the rest of the joke. I don't think I heard it before. HS French classes long ago. Lots of little voids in puzzle so threw in the towel at 2:22 PM.

    Tired because had a great day yesterday visiting Tita's lovely place with MAC and JenCT. Spouses Phil and Paul there, too, so we didn't talk puzzles all day. Wonderful food and an emerging Moarch butterfly, what more could I ask for?

    Carola 3:36 PM  

    @quilter 1 and Sandy K - Ah, I see relief on the horizon!

    Loren Muse Smith 3:50 PM  

    @Z – Cheap beer, expensive beer, I’ve never had a bad beer.

    @jae – Thanks! It was all the zoom thing.

    @Matt – Appreciate you stopping by! Thank you.

    @Sandy K – Yes – figuring out the Q1, A1, etc. was fun.

    @Anoa Bob – çongratulations!

    @Carola – great call on the REST AREA. Quilter 1 and Sandy K, my husband and I have WARS over when to stop, too. Remember the commercial, “Drink 7 Up – the green bottle with the big red 7 and UP after!”

    @retired_chemist – “I liked it, but then I like most any puzzle.” Let’s be soul mates.

    @Lindsay - avoirdupois - cool, cool word.

    @Ulrich – I miss you here! Where have you gone?

    A few years ago we had a dinner party, and after we sat down, my husband smiled sheepishly and said, “Now it’s time to tell you all the REAL reason we’ve invited you tonight.” Pause, pause, pause. . .”Have you ever heard of Amway?”

    mac 3:54 PM  

    This was one of the puzzles that makes me feel panicky after the first 5 minutes, then it clicked.

    Thank goodness I know oeuf, otherwise I would have "neuf" as well; Nbote sounds Ugandan eneuf.

    If you put the 109 acre clue to an Italian, they wouldn't have a clue; they work with ares and hectares. I'm going to figure out how to calculate it right after this.

    @dk: very funny today. France agrees with you, of course!

    acme 4:18 PM  

    Careful there, or you'll inspire another pun/quote puzzle!

    @two ponies
    Absolutely! It was for many folks the Waterloo at the BAC Fill...and we had a discussion if nb was as African as starting a last name with mb.

    sanfranman59 4:53 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)

    Thu 17:35, 18:49, 0.93, 43%, Medium

    Top 100 solvers

    Thu 9:43, 9:21, 1.04, 64%, Medium-Challenging

    Anonymous 5:08 PM  

    Puns are the HIGHEST form of humor.

    I'm disappointed at a lot of the early grousing. Since I'm still a novice, I'll just say I found the puzzle's structure and cluing to be fine. Also, I'd never heard this particular pun, so I thought it was quite funny (although I agree with @Anonymous 12:35 a.m. that the pun would have been even funnier with "un oeuf.")

    Thanks Matt Ginsberg. Very enjoyable.


    Anonymous 6:47 PM  

    Unless I am missing something, the 8 Down (Corp.'s 8-Down = CEO)/33 Down (See 33-Down: Abbr. = DIR) cluing is very confusing. They only way it really makes sense to clue a corporation's director as the CEO is if you are using the generic sense of a CEO "running" or "directing" a corporation. But the term director has a very specific meaning when it comes to the management of a corporation: a board of directors is elected by shareholders and appoints the officers, including the CEO, to run the corporation. A CEO is often a director, but not always.

    As it stands, the cluing is confusing. I'm sure the cross-reference could have been done another way to fix the confusion.

    treedweller 6:49 PM  

    I acknowledge the issues mentioned before me, particularly the multiple, difficult-to-check cross referencing.But I still liked it. I like puns, though. I also like Matt's puzzles-within-puzzles so I enjoyed figuring out the whole Q1 . . . A4 thing.

    There are various ways to add diacritical marks to e-text, but key combos are too much memorization, considering I rarely use them, and sometimes even the extended keyboard doesn't have what I want (or I don't know exactly how to adorn the word correctly). Whenever I need one, I just google the word, find a link that uses the diacritical, then cut-and-paste.

    Lewis 6:57 PM  

    Thanks for stopping in, Matt, and I solved your puzzle without Googling, enjoyed the joke (which I've never heard) and found pop in the fill. Your puzzle has made me happy as a clam!

    Newbie 7:11 PM  

    I loved it. Didn't know the quote. But as I'm not a puzzler who whips through the puzzle and times myself, I appreciated having to "work through" this puzzle. Nicely done, Mr. Ginsberg.

    Stevlb1 7:12 PM  

    I found this one less challenging, than the previous three "Thursdays".

    Tita 7:38 PM  

    I liked this for the same reason as retired_chemist.

    @Matt G...somehow, knowing the inspiration for a puzzle always makes me appreciate it more...
    I also wondered while solving, how Dr Fill would guess is Easy-peasy.

    I need to fill you all in on a fabulous lunch yesterday chez moi with Sparky, mac, JenCT & spouse, and another botanical involved almost no discussion of xwords, but lots of conversation, and a stunning metamorphosis of a Monarch crystals into a butterfly who bid us adieu and fluttered off to Mexico before our very wide eyes....
    Thanks Jen!
    Will post pics to my blog tonight...

    JFC 7:46 PM  

    Loren - I never think of you as the Pollyanna (that's reserved for Acme) but merely as a Southern Belle with an erotic sense of humor....


    Tita 7:52 PM  

    @treedweller...your workaround is one i use too...
    Though the key combinations sorta make sense, and are therefore easy for me to remember...
    But, not all apps use them...Word, Skype, Outlook, many others do...blogger does not...

    You just type the diacritical first, then the letter...
    Ctrl-´ then e, gives you é
    Ctrl-´ then a, gives you á
    Ctrl-, then c, gives you ç

    The ~ is above
    Ctrl-shift-1 then n, gives you ñ
    Ctrl-shift-^ then o, gives you ô
    Ctrl-shift-: then u, gives you ü

    (Of course, a long tap on a tablet or smartphone gives you the accented letters too.

    JenCT 8:19 PM  

    @Tita: I think you meant chrysalis, not crystals - using autocorrect? :-)

    New avatar is monarch #208 of this summer, drying off in @Tita's perfect French cloche.

    Liked the writeup more than the puzzle (sorry, Matt).

    Why do I always type in ORZO when I mean OUZO?

    Ω 8:40 PM  

    @lms - Since there is good, even great, beer, their must be bad beer. Although even a bad beer can bring a certain amount of enjoyment, much like a pun based, quip themed xword puzzle.

    @Matt - An apology? I was critical, but you have nothing to apologize for. I heard an interesting interview with Chris Martin from Coldplay (A band that is the subject of much mockery in my house). Basically - "lots of people love our music so we stopped worrying about the people who hate our music." He is right, of course. Nevertheless, we will continue to mock his music in this house.

    ñ, ç é ü, á, ¡, ¿

    Option key and .... Macs have been doing this with very easy keystrokes as long as I've owned one. It is one of the reasons, way back in the early 90's, that I wondered why anyone willing bought a Windows machine. Bill Gates, now he should apologize.


    Tita 10:12 PM  

    @Jen...Damn auto-correct!

    sanfranman59 10:24 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 5:39, 6:48, 0.83, 1%, Easy (2nd lowest median solve time of 166 Mondays)
    Tue 8:29, 8:57, 0.95, 41%, Medium
    Wed 11:58, 11:48, 1.01, 59%, Medium
    Thu 17:34, 18:49, 0.93, 43%, Medium

    Top 100 solvers

    Mon 3:23, 3:41, 0.92, 16%, Easy
    Tue 4:49, 4:39, 1.04, 64%, Medium-Challenging
    Wed 6:32, 5:56, 1.10, 79%, Medium-Challenging
    Thu 9:37, 9:21, 1.03, 63%, Medium-Challenging

    Numbers Guy 11:25 PM  

    @Anon 647:
    i havent posted since Z made me change my mind about the parallel clue, and am only doing so this late because no one will read it.

    i held my nose from the esters as i wrote in CEO, but now that i have assimilated i know it must be right because the NYT is being sure that every page of its paper, including C6, serves to accurately educate the american public about the purpose of business and how it works.

    ie, all people involved in business are so desequilibre that you cannot really believe the titles they give themselves. there are no facts when it comes to business, like the "fact" that the the CEO is not always a Director, or that a non-board employee titled director is just a midlevel person between VP and MD. or that commerce is necessary to support everyones standard of living.

    Numbers Guy 11:38 PM  

    now that im done being a hardworking oft-misunderstood ceo, i want to say that i didnt think the puzzle was so nonavoirdupois. the themse was far from symmetrical but the center of gravity was near the middle and the standard deviation seemed about normal. it was more kurtotic than one would expect, but weve seen theme answers in 4A before.

    OISK 11:49 PM  

    Member of the singing Winans family? Carrie Underwood and Taylor Hicks (who the heck is that?) are idols? Neeson was the costar in Battleship? Throw that much obscure (to me) pop culture in the puzzle and I stop enjoying it. The "un oeuf is un oeuf" joke, (as I knew it, it was "Why does a Frenchman eat just one egg in the morning) was too tired to be funny (to me) So this was not my kind of Thursday puzzle. (although I did finish it correctly)
    @ Z - because of its superior symbol set, and easier, multi-key macros, Word Perfect was better for word processing in my field (chemistry) than was Word, and WP is still not available on a MAC. I have both, and do all my word processing on the PC, and everything else on the MAC.

    Evan 1:42 AM  

    @Matt Ginsberg:

    Not sure if you're still reading this post by now, but I agree with @Z. I may have been critical of your puzzle but there's no need to apologize. I was just offering my honest feedback, which I think is the most respectful thing I can give to any constructor.

    To me, every puzzle in a prestigious publication like the NYT is like a small work of art in which I can play an art critic of sorts. Even if your puzzle did not resonate with me, I still think it deserves the respect of an honest reply. It's not personal, so it's nothing you should apologize for.

    Jayhale 12:44 AM  

    Sorry to be late, but this puzzle was more fun than any in recent memory.

    Ron 6:45 PM  

    I don't usually attempt Thursday puzzles (too hard!), but I managed to complete all but the SW and SE corners, but I did get all of the theme answers. I don't get Tex's grousing; I enjoyed the puzzled and, having taken French in Jr High, High School, and college, I enjoyed the theme answer. I did not care for AGIO or OBOTE

    Spacecraft 12:06 PM  

    I agree with "Tex;" this one was medium-challenging. Nothing came easily, except a curious epiphany at CASHCOW off just the first C. If Friday's and Saturday's are progressively tougher than this, I fear a DNF or two, BECAUSE I felt as if I just barely made it through this Thursday.

    WARS as a verb is rather unusual, but not unheard-of. And I forgot that "beat" can also be past-tense (SCOOP...what? UP? No, silly, just -ED!) It's these little part-of-speech and tense misdirectors that throw me sometimes.

    I'm with the camp that thinks the reward is more in the successful completion of the grid than anything within. For today, that is.

    Anonymous 2:58 PM  

    From Syndication Land

    I loved this puzzle! I love quips and quotes and puns! More like this...please!

    NM Robin 3:24 PM  

    I liked the puzzle even though I did not understand the pun. French is not the second language in the Southwest. We learn Spanish. I did not know how to pronounce OEUF until someone explained it. This is why I like this blog.
    I found the puzzle easy-medium because I finished it. This is the first time I have ever completed a Thursday puzzle by myself.

    Anonymous 4:05 PM  

    Liked it, liked it very much. Easy/Medium in my book. Over the past few months I've noticed the Puzzlemaster's comments seem to set the mood for some of the rest. Also seems to me Tex/Rex is one in the same. Ya think? Thanks, Mr. Ginsberg for a nice pleasant workout. Some people just don't "get it."
    Ron Diego 10/18/12 1:05 PDT

    Solving in Seattle 4:14 PM  

    GROAN! Ok, this punny puzzle was kinda tough. It took almost to the end to figure out what was going on. At first, when I got 4A as the Q1 I thought that we were going to have who, what, when, where, how... But no. Google and I had to battle through the crosses to solve, but eventually got through it.

    I agree with those who don't like quotes or long puns in a CW.

    Ginger 4:16 PM  

    I liked this better than Rex's punny cousin Tex did. Lowest or highest, groan inducing puns tickle my punny bone. The joke was new to me, surprised I missed it on the West Wing, (thanks Tex, for the clip) but it gave me both a groan and a chuckle.

    The grid and the cross-references were a tad puzzeling at first. Briefly thought it might be a play on a chess board (Q-1), but it soon came together. @Anon 6:47 - hand up for the loose clueing of DIR and CEO. I don't know how I knew OBOTE, when there's so much I don't know, but he popped right up. A new clue for TSETSE was refreshing.

    @NM Robin - Congrats on your completion. While most on this blog are seasoned pros, I appreciate that they let the rest of us lurk and learn.

    Captcha oldssta = Oldster = me

    rain forest 5:13 PM  

    I don't understand the point of "Tex" going on (and on, and on) about the fact he doesn't like quote/quip puzzles. I really don't care what he likes. I also don't understand the appeal of symmetry in a themed puzzle. I enjoyed the exercise in, first of all, getting a grip on what the theme actually was, and then secondly, following it through, even if I had to cross-reference. OMG, I used "cross-reference" as a verb. Sorry. Otherwise, enough zip and cluing expertise to appeal to me. It was only after I finished that it struck me why A, AA, and AAA were 'minors'. Good one.

    DMGrandma 6:01 PM  

    Got the WHY/BECAUSE, so, like others, tried to relate the various Q's and A's. Thus, with a few middle letters in place, I tried to force "whence" into 19A, but it wouldn't cooperate! Gave up, moved on which required perseverance as I really don't like referential clues, or all those "know the star of..." clues. But I eventually finished it up. Even got the O in OEUF!

    @Bob Kerfuffle. Thanks for answering my SRS question, and I have made a note of the NYT site. Some time back,I wondered how many three letter words ending in"k" existed. You sent me to One Look, where indeed there seemed to be an amazing number. However, when I asked them to refine to English words, the list shrank to about a dozen choices. Then I noticed that list didn't include ELK, so??? Isn't language fun?

    Dirigonzo 6:28 PM  

    I liked it, but I always like Frank Longo's punny Premier puzzles published in my Sunday paper, too so maybe I just like puns. When I figured out that the WHY/BECAUSE combo didn't reveal the theme I started writing the "q"s and "a"s above the grid as I filled them in and before long the pun revealed itself - visual aids always help me figure stuff out. I neeeded all the crosses for Mrs. McCartney and the Ugandan P.M. - and thank you, Miss Baker (my French I teacher in H.S., long, long ago), for teaching me OEUF, without which this would have been a DNF.

    Loved seeing the shout-out to "The Blues Brothers" which is my favorite movie ever - and ARETHA's role was certainly more than a cameo.

    Captcha: Civeque - more French, translation needed.

    Dirigonzo 10:13 PM  

    @Ginger - "lurk and learn" may very well be the catch phrase for syndi-solvers, whose numbers are great but whose comments are few. Thanks for introducing it to the lexicon of the blog.

    @NM (New Mexico, I'm guessing?) Robin - If you hang around here for a while you'll be doing Friday and Saturday puzzles before you know it! Reading Rex's write-up and the oomments can do wonders for your solving skils, and your comments are always a welcome addition.

    Spacecraft 11:29 PM  

    Four fried chickens and a Coke to @Diri for giving "respect" to you-know-who.

    My favorite BB line: "Oh, we have BOTH kinds. We have country AND western!"

    Anonyrat 4:27 AM  

    Would have liked it a lot better if the Q & A was Q: Why does an elephant have four feet? A: Because eight inches wouldn't be enough.
    And what is with the Francophilia afflicting all the NYT constructors?
    I speak three languages. Shouldn't that be un OEUF (har har) to be able to finish a puzzle in the NY (not Paris) Times without having to learn a fourth? Un OEUF with the F'ing French already. (Pun intended.)
    I'd also like to see more puzzles that test your knowledge of useful things, rather than MPTV/theatre trivia. Knowing the name of someone who made a cameo (not the star, not a leading role, but a CAMEO?) in a movie you saw 30 years ago, or knowing some actor in a flop released a couple of months ago? That's not even PAP - more like PAP smear.
    And how is RHO a "secondary character in Aristophanes"? Assuming RHO = r which is the second letter in Aristophanes maybe? But rho is P in Greek, and "secondary" is not the same as "second". Either I'm totally missing something, or the clue is B.S. (and no, adding a ? to the end of a B.S. clue does not automatically make it non-B.S.).

    NM Robin 2:30 PM  

    @Ginger - Thanks

    #Dirigonzo - Yes, it stands for New Mexico. There was another Robin commenting on the blog a few years back and I didn't want to be mixed up with her.

    stairbob 10:10 PM  

    DNF. SAHIB/OBOTE did me in. Blah.

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