Self-esteem as French would have it / MON 11-18-13 / Facial socket / Milo of Verdict / Center square of bingo card / Sea body of water south of Italy / Charles Lamb's pen name

Monday, November 18, 2013

Constructor: Edgar Fontaine

Relative difficulty: Challenging (3:26, which is très high for me)

THEME: Add an apostrophe S and turn a celebrity's name into a possessive phrase in which the celebrity's first name is imagined as the last name of some different celebrity or some nonsense like that that could've gone on forever but mercifully didn't

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Part of a bushel belonging to Dick? (GREGORY'S PECK)
  • 34A: Car belonging to Rex? (HARRISON'S FORD)
  • 41A: Lite beer belonging to Bea? (ARTHUR'S MILLER)
  • 55A: Rock belonging to Ariel? (SHARON'S STONE)
Word of the Day: AMOUR-PROPRE (26D: Self-esteem, as the French would have it) —
Amour-propre (French, "self-love") is a concept in the philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau that denotes a self-love that depends upon the opinion of others. Rousseau contrasts it with amour de soi, which also means "self-love", but which does not involve seeing oneself as others see one. According to Rousseau, amour de soi is more primitive and is compatible with wholeness and happiness, while amour-propre arose only with the appearance of society and renders human beings incapable of being happy within society. (wikipedia)
• • •

You can see how bad this is, so I'm not going to waste my breath (much). As a friend of mine just noted, the "false-possessive" is a hackneyed theme. I would add that this particular theme goes beyond merely hackneyed into the realm of the ridiculously simplistic. The theme could theoretically go on forever and (this is important) still Never Be Funny / Clever / Interesting. You're adding "'S" why? To what end? Who knows? The pronunciation change involved in 55A—who *$&%ing cares? Go for it! Clearly all standards of consistency, cleverness, polish, etc. are out the window, so go ahead, trash the place. I realize that I have been disliking a lot of puzzles lately, but please understand that it is not without a Ton of consultation with other people, mostly constructors, all much more discerning than I. I'm not going to come out here and say the puzzle is increasingly terrible—or, at minimum, well below what should be the standards of the NYT—without making sure others are seeing what I'm seeing. And they are. In spades. Oh, and we haven't even gotten to EYEPIT, which … really? And then the inexcusably lazy fill. Your LESSEES, your UTAHANS, your RATA TATA INST OPER etc. On a Monday? With a decidedly non-demanding theme? I'm going to continue assuming that this is just some prolonged bad patch, a funk from which the NYT crossword puzzle will eventually, at least partially, emerge. But right now, things look dire.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go wash out my EYEPITs.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 12:06 AM  

One doesn't wash out their eye-pits, one gargles with lye. Yes, you can gargle with your eye-pit.

Steve J 12:09 AM  

EYE PIT? Really?

Definitely on the challenging side for a Monday. AMOUR PROPRE is not within the realm of French that well-read English speakers will have picked up over time (stuff like ami, sans, après, etc.). I managed to enter it only because I took a guess on EYE PIT, thinking it couldn't possibly be right (but also couldn't be anything else.

Of interest possibly only to me: "eye pit" and "eyepit" combined elicit only about 17,000 google results. Anything that's remotely in the language would struggle to have so few results.

I didn't mind the theme, but I recognize it's simple and well-worn. I've definitely seen it many times before.

Since the NYT doesn't believe in marking anything as a variant anymore, I no longer have any idea whether UTAHANS or UTAHNS (both of which ave recently shown up) is the preferred form.

I've been spending much of my day working through a backlog of BEQ, Ben Tausig and Chronicle of Higher Education puzzles. Much more enjoyable.

Anonymous 12:10 AM  

People from Utah are Utahns. No amount of badgering from the New York Times stylebook will transform us into "Utahans." Grrr.

jae 12:33 AM  

Medium-tough for a Mon.  Started off with Basset and wondered about the second T.  Me too for AMOUR PROPRE being WOE and not trusting EYEPIT.

@Steve J - Also me too for UTAHN vs. UTAHAN???

I thought the theme was sorta cute, but a lot of the fill seemed off for a Mon. 

chefwen 1:22 AM  

I was so looking forward to my return to the puzzle world. What a disappointment. Saturday = impossible (for me). Sunday almost sent me back to my sick bed, out of sheer boredom. Monday was O.K., but nothing to write home to Mother about. Let's hope we're on an upswing.

Hi Chef Bea @41A - Please tell me that you don't really like Miller Lite. That would hurt me.

Unknown 1:23 AM  

I must be dense, but I still don't get SLAYS for "leaves rolling in the aisles." Huh? And I just watched Walking Dead, and still I'm baffled.

Also, isn't it PARENTHETICAL? My iPhone's predictive text thinks so, too.

Evan 1:38 AM  

@Steve Friess:

Think of someone saying, "Oh, you SLAY me," meaning they think someone's really funny.

And I also wondered about PARENTHETICAL, though it looks like they're both in use. I get the feeling that PARENTHETICAL is the preferred form, but I don't know.

(Fair warning: About to mention something from one of last week's puzzles)

Did anyone else see the clue early on for PARENTHETIC and think, are they doing the same theme that they did last Thursday? Maybe a good (a.k.a. not good) matching clue/answer on the other side would be [Like the start of this clue (in terms of letters)] = BEGINS WITH L.

ACME 2:14 AM  

Worse, I put in PeRiodless, realized it didn't fit, tried PeRiodfree...
THEN noticed that none of the clues have periods!

I think I've been making puzzles for 25 years and never really thought about whether the clues have periods!
(I mean, they have question marks and often closed quotes, etc. so theoretically they could have periods!)

Of course,I think this kind of theme is endlessly cute!

I didn't like the change of pronunciation with SHARON and all the stars both before and after are VERY old school, everyone is over 50 and in almost all cases over 70 or dead:


Only Sharon stone is under 65! And only 3 are alive!

But as I was born before 1960, it felt in my wheelhouse. I am guessing the constructor might be over 50 or 60 as well,
bec this hits that sweet spot with the names cited:


(I give Mary TODD Lincoln a pass, bec, she is of a different century altogether, along with Charles Lamb.)

These 8 names plus the 4 theme answers and the 4 folks they referenced, 16 people all over the age 50 with the median age being 80 years old.
That's a bit of a problem.
I don't think the theme is bad but some of them should have been under 40.
That's what I predicted @Rex rant would be about (along, of course with EYE PIT)

I would have tried to combat this with a different sort of clue for ROPE than a 1948 Hitchcock film to boot.
Saving grace: TWEETS!

Other than III, PIS and INST I thought the fill was very smooth.

Mini-dog theme with BEAGLE and TERRIER

OK, now I'm going to look up when everyone was born...

acme 2:35 AM  

Just as I suspected:

Sharon Stone 55
Harrison Ford 62
Ringo Starr 63
Rudy Giuliani 69
Sophia Loren 79
Dick Gregory 81
Ariel Sharon 85

and all the rest have been dead for years...
Age at death:
Lon Chaney 67 in 1933
Miles Oshea 67 in 1973
Rex Harrison 82 in 1990
Roy Lichtenstein 73 in 1997
Abba Eban 87 in 2002
Arthur Miller 89 in 2005
Bea Arthur 86 in 2009

(Shockingly the YOUNGEST person mentioned in this puzzle is OSAMA Bin Laden who died at 54, but hardly of natural causes...)

Still think theme was fine...
just need to mix it up a bit and have at least ONE of the 16 folks mentioned in the puzzle be under 50...
(preferably 8 of them!)
And, fwiw, only 3 of the 16 are women

Loren Muse Smith 4:52 AM  
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Loren Muse Smith 5:21 AM  

I liked this theme. Some are saying it's been done a lot. I've been a serious solver for, what, maybe three years? I have no recollection of a theme like this. Either it's because I have no recollection of telling my husband about the dry cleaning yesterday or it's because this was done years ago. . .either way, I got a kick out of it.

Agreed – pretty hard, considering; I actually had a dnf because I forgot to go back and guess the B and N in EBAN. The OBERON and SNOG crosses were a bit tough for me.

Too bad it couldn't have been all beer: ARTHUR'S MILLER, JODIE'S FOSTER, ALEC'S GUINNESS . . .

How 'bout STARR and HARRISON back together?!

O, GEE, @Steve J - this French major struggled with AMOUR PROPRE. I was all over ENTRÉE, though.

@Acme – I didn't notice the ages of the celebrities.

This is the kind of theme that sends me scurrying off to consider other stuff Edgar may have looked at:

Goldblum's fake teeth partials?
O'Toole's sales force?
Beene's hurry?
Ustinov's little yellow bird?
Hanks' Caribbean Carnival vacation?
Caan's college administrator? (not great – the S is already there)
Portman's lumber?
Kline's morning breakfast meat?

One of my sisters is a UTAHAN now and has been for over twenty years. UTAHN- either way it's a weird-looking word.

I'm going to do my level best to use GIRD in a sentence today, word nerd that I am.

Nice debut, Edgar. May your BEAGLEs and TERRIERs never have FLEAS. (Hey, @M&A!)

Acme 5:39 AM  

LOVE the beer idea, adds a whole new level and consistency and raison d'etre!
Successful Monday if it gets folks to play along and make up their own!

And mystery solved... Constructor mentioned he began constructing twenty years after he retired!

dk 5:57 AM  

Greetigs from Thermoplolis Wyoming.

Penned in RICHARDSPECK with SLADE as a cross and thought.... Most interesting. Serial for breakfast.

I expect EYEPIT will become the groaner of the decade.

Liked tthe mini Mayberry theme.

** (2 Stars) off to Utah where I will become Utonian I expect

dk 5:59 AM  


MetaRex 6:53 AM  

I like AMOUR-PROPRE a lot...also gave it a 1 as obscure for Monday. ESE count = 63 1/2.

Like the fused male-female, black-white images of all the themers except HARRISON'S FORD...Ariel in the last themer had me thinking mermaid at first...the jump from Disney to the warrior politician to the femme fatale was pleasantly funky.

K9doc 6:56 AM  

How do you cross EYEPIT with AMOURPROPRE on a Monday? Doing the puzzle for 30 years and can scarcely remember a DNF on Monday. I have taken gross anatomy and never encountered eye pit. How did this one sneak by Will?

Anonymous 7:06 AM  

Beagles are not long eared dogs

Anonymous 7:19 AM  


Airymom 7:21 AM  

Nothing to say about this puzzle, beyond Rex's comments. But, here is good news for all you Moms who read this blog---you are not the worst mother in the world. I am. Why?--because I will not get my 15year old an iPhone. Have a great Monday.

AliasZ 7:27 AM  

EYEPIT is that hard stone inside the eyeball that almost broke a tooth while trying to enjoy my favorite: eyeball soup. Why don't they take the pits out? "Waiter, can I have another order of this soup? Make sure the eyeballs are pitted this time, please."

r.alphbunker 7:36 AM  

Given our host's disdain for anonymice it seems odd that he uses an unnamed group of constructor friends to support his opinion of this puzzle.

Perhaps he should change the format of this blog to focus on great puzzles of the past, describing what makes them great. Sort of a Norton's Anthology for crossword puzzles.

And the theme could have been worse. It could have thrown in a Boston accent.

For example
1A {Garment of a well-known crossword commentator} REXS PARKA

10A Where to buy 1A {MICHAELS SHOP.}

AliasZ 7:49 AM  


I liked your clues, except in today's theme all first names were clued as last names.

jberg 8:09 AM  

Well, I liked ELIA over RAMS for an ovine North Dakota. And the Mayberry subtheme, even though a) I've never watched it, and b) OPIE is ultra-crosswordese. And I know French (if that's French -- the French find a lot of what we consider French expressions to be strange). But yeah, it's not great.

I think you'd use EYEPIT if you were talking about a skull, but not about a face.

Rob C 8:11 AM  

Med/Chal Monday for me. Fine theme for early week. I forgive a lot in the fill in exchange for a nice theme. But EYEPIT...ouch!

Also, there's only 4 themers here, shouldn't be terribly taxing. But, this is a good example of why 12-14 letter themers make it tough. Those middle theme answers were placed on either side of the middle row, thereby making that section tough to fill. And we see EYE PIT, III, TATA, OGEE, OPER, INST all close to those middle answers.

Rex didn't strike me as the type who would have to check with others to justify his opinion.

Liked the before and after of Sophia Loren Muse Smith.

Unknown 8:13 AM  

When my two year old nephew fell and bonked his head, he cried to his mom that he hurt his EYEPIT. We all laughed hysterically at his cute growing vocabulary. Joke's on us.

Is it possible that the NYT isn't getting the cream of the crop anymore since folks have their own websites / other online venues to distribute? Is this the new normal?

Mohair Sam 8:35 AM  

Yikes! This wasn't as terrible as we're making it. Yes, I hated EYEPIT, and Rousseau on a Monday? Please. But no problem here with the theme. And this is not the first time we've seen pronunciation tricks in a theme. How many Ariel's are out there anyhow? - and who is the most famous Sharon in Hollywood? Geez Louise - it was a gimme.

I will agree, however, there has been a drop off in puzzle quality recently. Maybe the 'net is partly to blame. @Steve j mentions "only" 17,000 google hits on EYEPIT. But if I'm constructing a puzzle and see 17,000 hits on a word I might say to myself, "See, it exists", especially if I need a letter. Just sayin'

@acme - check those ages, Ringo Starr is north of 70 for sure.

Cynic Al 8:36 AM  

" realize that I have been disliking a lot of puzzles lately, but please understand that it is not without a Ton of consultation with other people, mostly constructors, all much more discerning than I. "

What a load of manure. Rex's ego is too large to allow for other opinions within 20 miles.

joho 8:37 AM  

This made me remember that old saw, "Well, it's better than a poke with a sharp stick in the EYEPIT!" No, that can't be right.

I actually liked how the clues related to the theme answers. That added a bit of an extra level for me. But I agree with @ACME, the people in the puzzle could use a little dusting off.

Regardless, congratulations, Edgar Fontaine, on your debut, I hope you enjoy your day!

Z 8:41 AM  

OBERON, besides being King of the Fairies, is the "most likely to be found in a bar or restaurant near you" craft beer brewed in Michigan. The beer started out as "Solsun" but a Canadian brewery threw a hissy fit about potential confusion and the name was changed.

The theme is fine. Like @LMS, I don't recall seeing it before so it didn't seem overworn in the least. Of course, there are lots of thing a I have seen before in Xwords (III); having been used in a Xword before in and of itself is not a negative.

Beer rating - Schmohz Brewing Co. Hopknocker (an imperial stout) - a little heavy for a Monday.

Anonymous 8:49 AM  

As a professor of Optometry, should I be embarrassed that I have never hear the expression eyepit before?

Z 8:51 AM  

@airymom - I bet all her friends have one.

jburgs 8:56 AM  

Seems like this puzzle has caused a lot of grumpiness on a Monday. As my mother used to say, "Oh just shut your tongue pit and get on with it"

John Child 9:03 AM  

>> Relative difficulty: Challenging (3:26, which is très high for me)

@Rex I don't believe that 3:26 is enough time to write in all the answers, even if you knew them all in advance and took zero seconds to read each clue. Show us a video of you solving any puzzle that fast.

Anonymous 9:06 AM  

@cynic al: actually, rex references friends often. this may the first time he's ever alluded that their input might influence his, but it does sound like he occasionally talks with friends before and during the writing of his blog to check words, themes, etc.

@joho: according to, this is edgar's 5th solo puzzle with the NYT.

Erin 9:10 AM  

I'm a doctor married to a doctor, and neither of us had heard of EYEPIT. Maybe we should have paid more attention in cadaver lab instead of falling in love...

PanamaRed 9:19 AM  

@acme - pretty good trick that Miles O'Shea played the judge in "The Verdict" (1982) nine years after you have him passing on.

Hand up for hating AMOURPROPRE any day, but especially on a Monday.

Anonymous 9:23 AM  

Things I've try to avoid on a Monday:
EBAN,ELIA,AERO(as clued), PIS, OGEE, III, EYEPIT, RECOAT, OPIE, OPER, RATA, INST, OSAMA (we need a new OSAMA before this one will be fine), LESSEES, AMOURPROPRE, IONIAN and GIRD. Not sure if ALF is well known enough to be placed on a Monday.

17 pieces of crosswordese/obscurities/contrived entries is very high for any puzzle. Contrast the Friday puzzle last week, which hardly went over 10. Not good, not good at all.

Norm 9:27 AM  

I liked it. Different strokes for different folks.

joho 9:50 AM  

@anon. 9:06 ... thanks for correcting me. I never read the solution there until I've posted and today I never got there due to busy morning.

KRm 9:53 AM  

@jburgs- thanks for making me laugh with "tongue pit". I needed that on a Monday morning...

Mohair Sam 9:55 AM  

@PanamaRed - Good catch on O'Shea, and wasn't he fun to hate in that flick? Great, great movie.

Davidph 10:06 AM  

@John Child: "@Rex I don't believe that 3:26 is enough time to write in all the answers, even if you knew them all in advance and took zero seconds to read each clue. Show us a video of you solving any puzzle that fast. "

Let's suppose Rex solved the puzzle using only the Across clues. There are 37 of them, which took him 206 seconds. That's a little over 5.5 seconds per clue. I'm sure it's possible to write that fast, but I'd love to see a video of him doing it.

Anonymous 10:22 AM  

It's MILO O'SHEA, not Miles.

He was great to hate in "The Verdict" and was a wonderful song-and-dance man on Broadway. He played Eliza's dad, Alfie Doolittle, in "My Fair Lady."

Milford 10:26 AM  

Tough Monday. The theme doesn't bother me - gave me a little workout, I guess. Yesterday we had Han Solo, and today we have HARRISON'S FORD. I used to swoon over him, but his habit of trading in his current wife for a younger model kinda turned me off. Expect him to drop Calista for a twenty year old.

I didn't think I could dislike EYEPIT more than when I had to write it in the grid... and then I read @AliasZ's post. Ew. @Erin - I'm sure you never learned EYEPIT in medical school because there is no way any doctor would want to use that term, especially in front of a patient.

@acme - it did feel jarring to enter the TWEETS entry, but now I realize its because the rest of the puzzle did feel so much older.

@Rex - do you RECOAT using green paint?

AMOUR-PROPRE is not a phrase I've read or heard, but I've had enough Latin to fake the spelling. "Self-love", huh? My junior high school brain wants to put that right next to GREGORY'S PECK and giggle.

@Airymom - chin up - definitely not the worse mom in my book. Look, I'll probably be the worse mom by next week, so you can just hand the title right over to me.

ArtO 10:26 AM  

I once saw a video of a fellow who did the puzzle in two minutes flat - on paper! I believe there is also reference to a constructor who couldn't beat the same solver while doing his own puzzle. There are simply a number of outliers (including many who come here) who make most of us seem like total dummies.

Anonymous 10:27 AM  

EYEPIT was terrible but the rest was fun. BEAGLES have long ears, just not as long as bassets. Great bit of misdirection. AMOURPROPRE was not a stretch - not sure of its meaning, but I'd certainly seen it. Fun puzzle. Hope something strikes Rex as acceptable soon. Thought this would be the one.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:29 AM  

@lms -- I am always awed by the creativity and effort you put into your comments, and your devotion to good grammar as well. So I must, ever so gently, observe with respect to your suggested possible themers:

Hanks' Caribbean Carnival vacation?
Caan's college administrator? (not great – the S is already there)

that my understanding of possessives is that the rule is that plurals ending in "S" only take an apostrophe (horses' tails) but proper names which end in "S" take an apostrophe and and "S" (Hanks's vacation, James's dean).

Or does this put me in an impossibly old-fashioned group?

Gordon Shumway 10:36 AM  

@Anonymous, 9:23 - Is ALF famous enough to be in a Monday puzzle? I would say he is right up there with ABE Lincoln, ALI Baba, or ANI DiFranco!

Anonymous 10:44 AM  

As for all the conspiracy theories:

You're just being ridiculous. 200 keystrokes per minute is the average for people who type. So about 60 keystrokes per minute - totally possible.

Nick 10:46 AM  

The cultural references are all so old it's just a dreary experience. At least we were spared (Thom) McAn and other 1950s dreck.

Oh please pick up the quality here.

Loren Muse Smith 10:57 AM  

Hey, @Bob! Yay – a punctuation discussion! Mr. Parcels, my purist pedantic college English prof told us that with names like James and Jones, you could go either way, but he said your way is preferable. I don't like the way James's looksssss', so I never add the s. Renegade me. But I infer that it once was the rule – that s was mandatory?

Something even more interesting – I learned that with proper nouns that end in s - like Jesus, Moses, Archimedes – only the apostrophe is used. So. . . if you pronounce Jesus' as jee zus iz, then we have a case where an apostrophe becomes a kind of letter, as it were, that you pronounce as iz. Cool, huh?

One more thing – I've pointed this out here before, but no one has commented (yawn, I know). We add the plural s to the first noun in things like


But we add the possessive sto the entire phrase


I guess I need to let that one go.

Speaking of punctuation representing sound, I heard that there is a girl whose name on her birth certificate is Ta-a. Pronounced ta dash a.

Steve J 11:03 AM  
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wreck 11:06 AM  

Well .... I was kind of surprised by the general reaction today. I found it very normal for a Monday albeit a few hard answers such as AMOURPROPRE. I'm 55 so it might have been more in my wheelhouse. I use the magmic ipad app, and about 10 minutes is about the fastest I can enter a Monday or Tuesday. I think I could cut that time considerably with paper and pen.

Elle54 11:08 AM  

@Airymom At least you didn't have the Audacity to call your son at college to ask how he's getting home for Thanksgiving!
Also not a fan of EYEPIT. Seriously?

Steve J 11:12 AM  

@acme: I hadn't noticed that all of the people referenced were on the old (or deceased) side. Although, now that I think of it, while I recognize the name, I have no idea who Dick Gregory is. The others were around enough when I was a kid, I guess.

@John Child: I've solved the occasional Monday puzzle in under 4 minutes, and I'm not remotely a speed solver. I also solve on an iPad, where one cannot type or move around the grid as quickly as one can with a standard keyboard. Given that Rex has ranked as high as he has at the ACPT, and that the top-ranked solvers can tackle early-week puzzles in as little as a couple minutes (the current fastest teenaged solver - Erik Agard - has a personal best of 2:17, according to the Washington Post, I don't find his stated time implausible. Impossible for me, yes, but not implausible for someone who can rank in the 40s at that tournament.

Also, if you see the documentary Wordplay, as I recall there are clips of some of the fastest solvers blazing through puzzles at an incredibly racy pace.

@Bob Kerfuffle: I've personally never encountered that rule about apostrophe use. I've always known it as having both s' and s's acceptable for dealing with possessives in words/names ending in S, and it's a matter of which individual style guide applies to the medium you're writing in. I no longer keep stylebooks handy for reference, but to the best of my recollection, neither AP nor Chicago stylebooks specified that rule. I could easily not remember that correctly, and there could easily be other stylebooks out there that specify that, however.

@Loren: Re: mothers-in-law/mother-in-law's: Expecting consistency in English? Surely you know better. (Said with a wink.)

Meanwhile, Ta-dash-a reminds me of a recent conversation I had. Usually when I hear about the occasional story of some country like Sweden or Austria not allowing parents to name their child something, I think that it's just daft to have governments weighing in on babies' names. And then I encounter something like Ta-a and think that, seriously, someone needs to step in and prevent parents from doing awful things to their children like that.

The original conversation was sparked by hearing about some jackass who named his boys Winner and Loser. Granted, Ta-a doesn't rise to that level, but it's still a mean thing to do to a kid. Of course, kids will pick on even the most generic of names (I'm Steve; I know firsthand), so there's really only so much prevention to be done.

Anonymous 11:22 AM  

Wow, spot on with the Simpsons graphic today! "Jeremy's... Iron." I'd like to give you a ball to bounce, Rex.

Milford 11:43 AM  

@lms, @Bob, et al. - My last name is Lakkides, and I have never been able to figure out a way to use the plural or possessive form that feels right. I usually chicken out on holiday cards by writing "The Lakkides family", rather than "Lakkides's" or whatever. Among friends, we jokingly pluralize ourselves as "the Lakkidi".

Also, @lms, if it makes you feel better, I cringe when my kids say they are going to "lay" on the couch, and I bite my tongue when people say they are "nauseous" rather than "nauseated".

Lewis 11:45 AM  

@anonymous 7:19 -- very funny!

AMOURPROPRE is definitely impropre for a Monday. So is EYEPIT, but I am so grateful to learn this strange strange term that I'm glad it's here.

I like the theme, it was fine for Monday. Loren and Acme, very good observations!

Bob Kerfuffle 11:52 AM  

Glad that I was able to stir up a little discussion. :>)

It was a bit dismaying to look up the subject online and find how loose some of the guidebooks are with respect to possessives!

Anyhoo . . . I was just at BEQ's site, and he has posted a link to an article about generating crosswords by computer which might be of interest, considering how often the derogatory charge of "computer-generated fill" is tossed around. And this article is more than 20 years old! I recommend it.

Anonymous 12:08 PM  

A silly puzzle, but I take particular exception to "eyepit" (or is it two words? or a hyphenated word? who cares? it's never been used anywhere that I've seen with my own eyes in their SOCKETS).

AliasZ 12:20 PM  

For all the simplicity of today's theme, it is not that easy to come up with names of famous people whose last names are also first names of other famous people, whose last names in turn are common nouns or brand names. But I did come up with a few more:

"Car driven by F. Murray" for ABRAHAM'S LINCOLN
"Builder of stone monument for Henry" for JAMES' MASON
"Vacuum cleaner used by Victor" for HERBERT'S HOOVER
"Pastry shop often used by Lewis" for CARROLL'S BAKER
"Gem for Vince" for NEIL'S DIAMOND

And closer to home:
"Scarf worn by Gene" for BARRY'S SILK
"Preferred fruit of race car driver Danica" for PATRICK'S BERRY

Anoa Bob 12:23 PM  

I thought the theme was serviceable for a Monday. I liked AMOUR PROPRE. C'mon people, it adds a touch of class, and was a learning opportunity for some.

Yes, as a matter of fact, I did notice the trifecta of two-for-one, helper-square POCs across the bottom with UTAHAN/FLEA, LESSEE/EXE, & TWEET/DEN all sharing a final letter-count bumping S.

Rob C @8;11, spot on about the difficulties that 12 and 14-letter themers, especially the 12's, can create for getting smooth fill. The standard odd-number 15X15 grids make odd-number letter theme entries easier to work with in terms of arranging the black square patterns.

Lewis 12:37 PM  

Oedipus' valet?

GILL I. 12:52 PM  

I find the comments's today more amusing then the crossword. Although I didn't find it that bad, I thought it might be more interesting if GREGORY S PECK had an ER on his end.
@Milford. My maiden name is Echols and I had the same problem. I liked the Echols's wish you and yours..... It sounded like an RX prescription.

Anonymous 12:59 PM  

Bottoms worn by George? = WILL'Z SHORTZ

Steve J 1:02 PM  
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Steve J 1:04 PM  

@Mohair Sam: To give you an idea of how obscure only 17,000 results makes something, amour propre returns 650,000.

@AliasZ: "Abraham's Lincoln" reminds me of a Chronicle of Higher Education (edited by Patrick Berry) I did just yesterday that included presidents and cars (but it was marque/president and model, such as Pierce Arrow and Ford Mustang).

(@Loren: Perhaps that's why I felt this type of theme has been around the block a bit. I did two puzzles on the same day with it.)

joho 1:12 PM  

@Miford, my maiden name is Hawkins and I was taught by my mom that the plural is Hawkinses. By that rule you'd be the Lakkideses!

Sfingi 1:14 PM  

We're expected to know odd French concepts on a Monday, but not a simple German preposition. German and French are now equally gone. Stick with Spanish and Arabic, rising languages.

I kept imagining Dick GREGORY saying, "My WHAT?" when told he made it into a NYT crossword puzzle.

@Friess - the only time I've ever seen or used PARENTHETIC was in reference to NYS job titles; for instance, Teacher IV (Math). So, yes, it's odd.

To say something nice - I do like references to doggies. And glad to see OBERON instead of Mab. I don't mind this type theme.

@Acme - Also, am over 60. One of my people lists (I'm OCD) is of those I knew who have died - actually 2 lists, one before 70, one after - the expected 3 score and 10.

EYEPIT. Just reminds me of a joke which includes, "Wood eye/Would eye," but that's another type of word game.

Anonymous 1:14 PM  

Cute and easy with one erasure [had PARENTHEses instead of PARENTHETIC.] 3 minutes +! I can't even read the clues that fast. A nice Monday after a rather frustrating Sunday.

Dick S 1:17 PM  

A Scotsman ys asked "Do you know the name of the father and son Prime Ministers of England?".

He answers "Aye. Pitt".

A conversational commonplace!

Evan 1:26 PM  


PERIODLESS. Ha. That would have been priceless.

However, I wanted to respond to one of your follow-up statements where you said it's a sign of a "Successful Monday if it gets folks to play along and make up their own" theme entries. A few others here have made the same point on other puzzles recently (I can't remember who said it), but I disagree. I think that means it's a sign that the theme is simple and flexible enough to accommodate other possibilities. Add-a-letter and drop-a-letter themes are among the most common out there -- especially ones that add an S, which I've probably seen dozens of times -- and not every puzzle employing them is necessarily well-executed. You still have to think about fill (EYEPIT?), and also the end product of the theme answers (the pronunciation switch in Ariel Sharon to Sharon Stone is inconsistent with the others).

Granted, I think it's fun to come up with new themers just as much anyone, and I like @Loren's idea to create a common pattern between the entries like beer. I just don't believe it's a given that creating new theme entries makes it a successful puzzle.

Anonymous 1:26 PM  

I didn't read all the comments, but did anyone besides me think it was Richardspeck 20A)? I was apalled to think a mass murderer would be a puzzle answer and almost put it down.

Acme 1:31 PM  

@gil IP
You give new meaning to "cockpit"!

Of the 17,000 google hits for EYEPIT, what if 16,000 of them are from Rex and his friends today? How mysterious that people googled EYEPIT.

I'm still laughing at/with @jburgs' tongue pit!!!

Proper names' apostrophes always look wrong to me, no matter which way you do it, unless it's Jesu's...

I like "The Lakkides Family" solution. I'm both in a way, my last name is Michaels, but only because I took my dad's first name as a compromise when I was dumping Eisenberg, much to his disappointment. I finally agreed to keep his name, but his first I became Michael's (daughter). I only re-adopted the (nee) Eisenberg to make my ACME Company name work.

@mohair sam
I stand corrected... MilO OSHEA didn't die til earlier this year...and Ringo is indeed 73 (??!!!??), but makes my point even more so.
Just noticing the end an O start with O, and that OSHEA is but two letters away from OSamA, so some more puzzle possibilities there.

Nice list... Tho the old thing still sort of holds there... Carroll Baker must be over 80 by now... Folks of a certain age might still know James Mason. But I admit I don't know who Victor Herbert is.

Masked and Anonymo3Us 1:32 PM  

Kinda like EYEPIT. Has that sweet smell of desperation that I so cherish. Socket to me.

GREGORYSPECK is the Themer of the Day. Sounds sorta like somethin that Beavis and Buttpit would have a good snark about.

AMOURPROPRE. Dang, dude. 11-letter French phrase? Holy pere pits, Batman. Gimme a break.

Jazz hands up, for also wonderin where PARENTHETIC's AL went. For pit's sake, dude...

@Anonymous 12:59 - har


Bird 1:35 PM  

Ouch. But I liked it more than Rex did. Thought the theme cute and somewhat fresh (don’t recall last time I saw it), but 41A doesn’t work for me because there is a Miller beer that is not lite (and I don’t know if lite in the clue is capitalized because it’s the brand or because it’s the first word). 55A also does not belong for reason Rex pointed out.

And I didn’t care for all the stale/poor fill. Not sure what’s going on with the clue for 24A – trying to be cute or clever? 46A is poor fill as well as it’s clue. EYEPIT?!

I did like the long downs. Somewhat.

@lms – your themers are much betterer, especially the beer answers
@AliasZ – very good themers

Acme 1:52 PM  

Grrrr, you missed my point, sorta.
The puzzle is not immune from criticism nor critiquing, but it ain't no failure.
Of course you have to think about many factors including originality, fill, pronunciation consistency, etc. I said as much five comments ago! ;)
I mean successful on the audience engagement/ enjoyment level rather ...
(Not referring to those who go nuts over one entry, or skip or denigrate Mondays or use them in a throwaway howfastcanidothispuzzle and miss-the-theme-altogether way.)
Yes, I'm going to get a life now...

AliasZ 1:53 PM  


Of course you know who Victor Herbert is, even if you don't think you do.

M and Also 2:15 PM  


Ok, now I'm possessively possessed, like the resta y'all.

Fun puz. Generatin lots of cool discussions. @4-Oh: ain't we yer friends, too? Some of us are even constructors, with an asterisk or two. Or are we less discernin, cuz of substandard French skills. Dang... I've watch Journey to the Earth's Core twice now with the French subtitles turned on; I give and give and give...

But III digress...


Benko 3:02 PM  

@JohnChild--if you don't believe a puzzle can be done in three and a half minutes, you're way off! I do almost every early week puzzle in less than that time...did this one in two and a half. My record is just over two minutes. Plus I solve on an iPad where I only type with my two index fingers (still faster than on paper). And, although I have some tournament credit now, I'm not even part of the top tier of solvers...Dan Feyer's times are regularly UNDER two minutes. Please watch wordplay or look at YouTube for videos of speed is completely possible to be that fast, especially if you read and type fast at the same time!

Anonymous 3:05 PM  

The puzzle was easy and mildly amusing -- but EYEPIT is simply ridiculous.

Loren Muse Smith 3:10 PM  

@AliasZ – I see what you mean about how mine don't follow the pattern. That's why it was so easy to find them. So what Edgar did, and yours (nice ones!), were much harder. I actually had several more but couldn't clue'em.

@Milford – too funny about your last name! (And @joho's solution!)

Yeah – I get the feeling people shy away from nauseated maybe because it feels red-neckesque and ignorant? But nauseous is to nauseated as exciting is to excited.

@Acme, et al – fret not – apostrophes seem to be going the way of the dieresis in words like naïve and coördinate. You just see more and more signs like "Moms Place." Heck, even Mens Room."

@AliasZ – your "Neil's Diamond" one reminded me of this performance. Look, I'm not getting all preachy and religious here – it's just a great performance. And I know it's with Vince Gill and not Neil. But still. . .

Carrie Underwood

@M & A –
Peter Piper picked a PECK of pewit EYEPITS
a PECK of pewit EYEPITS did Peter Piper pick. . .

retired_chemist 3:24 PM  

I thought this was easy. Knowing AMOUR PROPRE plus the easy theme answers (obvious after a few crosses) gave me a lot of early squares, which I don't ordinarily get easily.

IMO Mondays are for the beginning solver. Accordingly a theme previously done often is not a big deal. I have seen this theme before but certainly not often enough to call it hackneyed, so it gets a nice pass from me.

What doesn't get a pass is EYE PIT. Never heard the term, and nobody here defends it seriously, so bah. AMOUR PROPRE is also hard to defend for a Monday, but one or two non-Monday answers is fine in my book.

Nice debut, Mr.Fontaine. Thanks.

Anonymous 3:41 PM  

Ah, one of those rare puzzles where DNF turns into DN-care-to-F.

I'll give your eyepit some amour-propre :(

Two Ponies 3:52 PM  

Maybe it's an eye pit if there is no longer an eyeball in it.
That has to be the stupidest answer ever.
Try using that in an actual medical setting and see where it gets you.

oldbizmark 3:59 PM  

DNF because of the EYE(PI)T, AMOUR(P)ROPRE and (I)ONIAN crosses. I don't mind not finishing but this was just a horrific puzzle.

AliasZ 4:10 PM  

EYEPIT quotes:

"The EYEPIT of a theatre is the one place where the tears of virtuous and wicked men alike are mingled." -Denis Diderot.

"Violence does, in truth, recoil upon the violent, and the schemer falls into the EYEPIT which he digs for another." -Arthur Conan Doyle

"An EYEPIT for an EYEPIT only ends up making the whole world blind." -Mahatma Gandhi

"The way to see by Faith is to shut the EYEPIT of Reason." -Benjamin Franklin

"A film is never really good unless the camera is an EYEPIT in the head of a poet." -Orson Welles

"Anybody that sings the blues is in a deep EYEPIT, yelling for help." -Mahalia Jackson

"Whenever a man has cast a longing EYEPIT on offices, a rottenness begins in his conduct." -Thomas Jefferson

M and A's Last Silver Bullpit 4:14 PM  

Quote the Shortzmeister: "Among the nontheme entries I especially liked AMOUR POOPEREZ". (Sp?)

Just go ahead and stab away, twistin it in a might deeper. Day-um. Y'all want any American fries with yer puz, Mssr. Editorz? snort

@muse darlin: I got the worries comin on, that I'm agettin as hard to fleas as 4-Oh and "friends". Thanx for the oh-so-soothin poem, tho. U are friendlier than most 4-Ohs I know.


Milford 4:31 PM  

@joho - I know, right? Lakkideses, who wants to write that? It's a bear of a name to begin with, it just makes it worse!

So I think in my cards this year I'm going to sign, "The Lakkides-iz", as @lms suggested...

Anonymous 4:36 PM  

All the cool kids are publishing for the other venues now. They don't feel like waiting 2 years to get published.

Blue Stater 4:57 PM  

Well, Rex, I've been saying for years that the NYT puzzles are in decline, and taken a fair amount of abuse for it (not on this blog). I find it hard to believe that the NYT puts these puzzles through the copydesk to check for accuracy; if they don't, they should. EYEPIT my aunt Fanny.

sanfranman59 5:06 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak I've made to my method. 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 6:36, 6:06, 1.08, 82%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:04, 3:46, 1.08, 83%, Challenging

Okay. So I'm not adding anything to the discussion here, but I have to vent ... EYEPIT?!?!???!???!! WTF?

acme 7:37 PM  

You left out
"EYEPITy the poor fool" - Mr. T

Davis 7:49 PM  

@Mohair Sam and @Steve J-- Another thing that's really important to keep in mind is that Google hit numbers are almost always deceptive, especially when you have a relatively small number like 17,000.

To see what I mean, start clicking through to the highest-numbered page of results you can. When I searched EYEPIT, Google stopped me at page 38. Now look at the number of results at the top, and you'll see it's much lower. Google now shows only 371 results for EYEPIT. That seems incredibly obscure to me.

What's going on? If you look at the bottom of the page Google tells you "we have omitted some entries very similar to the 380 already displayed." It's not entirely clear to me how Google decides what "very similar" means, but some experimentation leads me to believe most or all of what's cut is comprised of: (1) hits on multiple pages within the same website (for example, every page on the NYT online will contain the phrase "New York Times," but Google truncates this list); (2) hits on mirrors of or reposts from results that have already been listed.

Anonymous 8:04 PM  

Beagles are long eared dogs. They have lovely long, silky ears!! They are the sweetest, smartest, bravest breed of all dogs!!!

Anonymous 8:34 PM  

I'm only getting 272 results for EYEPIT. Clearly not a Monday word...or a Tuesday word...or a Wednesday word...or a Thursday word...or a Friday word...

dogbreath 8:57 PM  

Rex clearly needs a vacay--thank goodness Turkey Day is right around the corner.

I found the puzzle amusing, and ok for a Monday, hardly deserving of Rex's spurious venom. Chill dude--this blog is starting to reek of sour grapes.

ahimsa 9:09 PM  

Funny comments today! Thanks to @lms (a peck of pewits!), @acme (EYEPITy the fool!!), and many others for all the laughs!

@Davis, good points about Google results. Another point is that the results depend on who is searching.

Some people say "Google returned xxxx" as if those results came from a static, printed resource. But the search results returned by Google are both dynamic and context dependent - the searcher's location, past searches, and other variables can change the search results.

I'm no expert, and don't know all the details, I just know that it's extremely complex.

Anonymous 9:16 PM  

This is the gold standard of crosswords?

Steve J 10:08 PM  

@ahimsa: The results Google displays are indeed varied depending on the individual user, search history, etc. But that primarily affects what you see on the first page; the number of results it indexes doesn't change.

And my point in citing numbers isn't to provide an absolute, authoritative number. It's simply to gauge relative popularity of something. While the details may vary, the combined results for EYEPIT and EYE PIT are very, very low.

Sfingi 10:11 PM  

@SteveJ - Dick Gregory is an 81 year old comedian, civil rights advocate, writer, and for a while he had a treatment camp for obese people. Fascinating.

Happy pre-Thanksgiving from the Drees' family, or the Dreeses, or, as Google likes to transform it, the Dresses.

@jburgs - the funniest, but ya gotta be here to get it.

sanfranman59 10:11 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak I've made to my method. 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 6:36, 6:06, 1.08, 82%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:59, 3:46, 1.06, 78%, Medium-Challenging

Anonymous 10:37 PM  

Sorry, it's late and I am sleepy. So forgive me for not reading the over one hundred responses. Hmm, two dogs down in this one. Maybe the puzzles are going to the.....?

Anonymous 10:39 PM  

Oh, I forgot to mention my eye pits are closing

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Kent Manning 9:05 AM  

Posting here is akin to me showing up to a Blue Jays game and hoping to be in the starting line-up. I've only ever done the Monday puzzle as my confidence level says, "Monday is the easy one you can do". And until I found this blog a few days ago, I was only mildly interested in getting the puzzle correct and working quickly. My usual is to buy the Monday paper (which comes a day late here in my part of Canada) and puzzle away all week. Not this morning. Rex, you have encouraged me to 1) stick with a puzzle and work until it is done, b) figure out the clues - they make the puzzle easier! So today I worked the puzzle all the way through, figured out the clues and enjoyed the puzzle like never before. Thanks to you and all the commenters for a great blog. Thinking I'll get a Tuesday puzzle now.

Unknown 3:12 PM  

just did this today, EYEPIT, really, my biz partner and I , both healthcare professionals say Nope!

spacecraft 10:57 AM  

Oh well, we can't all be Jeff Chen. But hey--I'll say one thing about this much-unloved grid: there's nary a rapper to be found! But while we're nitpicking, the clue for 9d is wrong. It should read "Sapiens, for humans." Homo is, of course, the genus. On to tomorrow.

And here we go again with the totally illegible captchas. I think I finally figured out #5. Have a heart, guys!

Dirigonzo 6:05 PM  

Any time a puzzle garners more than 100 comments I'm willing to bet a. Rex didn't like it and b. most of the comments are negative. Case in point today. I liked the puzzle - EYEPIT is a plausible if not perfect answer and AMOURPROPRE went in fairly on the crosswords. I will give credence to the complaints only when each and every complainer has produced a grid that is better.

Davis 7:00 PM  

I will give credence to the complaints only when each and every complainer has produced a grid that is better.

Yes, it can be annoying when people dislike a puzzle you enjoyed. However, this argument is just a facile way to dismiss criticism out-of-hand rather than engaging with it. To highlight its hollowness, applying this theory to other media would suggest that, say, Roger Ebert's film criticism was worthless because he never made a great film.

Thoughtful consumers can still generate insightful criticism, even if they themselves are not producers. Which is not to say that every criticism in this thread is valid or insightful, but rather that it needs to be engaged with on the merits.

Dirigonzo 8:33 PM  

@Davis - you are right, my frustration with constant nay-sayers and nit-pickers led me to set the bar too high for criticism to be valid. But I still find the pig-piling on of nasty remarks by those who have done nothing to establish their credibility to be annoying.

Good luck with your law career - the analytical nature of your comment suggests you have promise.

rain forest 1:55 AM  

I don't wish to dismiss, out-of-hand, anyone's criticism of any puzzle. Well, OK, yes, sometimes I do wish. However, let me point out that I liked this puzzle, even if one had to slur the possessive in SHARONSSTONE, and even though this puzzle took me 11seconds longer to finish than the usual Monday.

What the heck, Gregory Peck, I'm older than dirt, and so I don't mind that the personages in the puzzle were/are of an age.

I think that I'm with @Diri in saying that there are individuals who contribute to this blog whose sole purpose is to find fault rather than to enjoy the challenge, even if that chaallenge is somewhat flawed. I much prefer today's puzzle to, say, last Saturday's, where I didn't get the license number of the truck that ran me down.

This particular puzzle was/is nowewhere near as disgusting as some bandwagon jumpers-on would try to have me believe. I'm always impressed by the ability of almost any constructor to put together a grid which, to my view, is pretty tight, even if it didn't quite bring tears to my EYEPITS with its beauty.

Keep 'em coming, I say.

Anonymous 11:59 AM  

I are a doctor as well and the eyepit is absolutely a thing. You can find it above the mouth pit and in between the two ear pits.

Dr. Mike from Ohio

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