Like a wet blanket / SAT 9-26-15 / Frothy drinks with tapioca balls / Excellence, in modern slang / Old-school rapper? / Hirelings of old / Carry before delivering / How Viola dresses in "Twelfth Night"

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Constructor: David Woolf

Relative difficulty: Medium-Tedium

Word of the Day: FERULE (Old-school rapper?)—
noun: ferule; plural noun: ferules
  1. a flat ruler with a widened end, formerly used for punishing children.
• • •
...children and crossword solvers, amirite? Lena Webb here, literally filling in for Rex. It took me a while (an hour) but I filled it in and, well, it was:

I've solved some puzzles lately that make good use of staggerstacks, and the first couple steps down this puzzle's stairway are solid but the ground floor collapsed under the multiple awkwardnesses of VILLAINESSES. Yes, RADIO SILENCE and PUT A RING ON IT are lively, crisp, sparkling, dripping in DOPENESS, etc., but I felt pretty meh about CAMERA LENSES despite the "heroin chic" clue (38A: Shooter's bagful) and then VILLAINESSES. What, ESNES wasn't good enough? CameraLENSES, even! Why not throw in ESSES (?D: What this puzzle does not need more of). Personally, I've moved beyond the tacking on of "-ess" to women who are just doing a normal job... or being a normal villain-- let alone pluralizing them in a crossword. Stewardesses? Flight attendants. Waitresses? Servers. Villainesses? Villains. "Oh, Villainess! Can you grab me a can of whoop-ass from the fridg--" POW! 

LATTE ART and CILANTRO were very nice, PALTRIEST got some side-eye from me, and I didn't like THE MOB or AS A MAN (there is some unspoken crossrule that makes "the" best implied and not seen, and ASAMAN is just another arbitrary source of "gentle letters," as I like to call them).

The LATTE ART is not amused
And was the marquee-- an appropriately French word-- worthy of the additional life-giving square that makes this puzzle 15x16? I'm sorry, but no. The whole time I was thinking "jeez, everything is so vertical! Am I a boring, horizontal kind of lady?" Maybe. I will admit to feeling constrained by the single black square blocking my entry to the "mini-puzzles" in the  NW and SE-- but back to France. I love French. I gleefully pencil in all those French crossword answers you probably hate. But APRES MOI LE DELUGE was too much. Perhaps it is my own naiveté that had me thinking this would be something we might hear tossed around, say, the Republican debates but no. I got Seven Years' War-shamed on this one. Louis XV. Was he huge? I just figured this would have been a phrase that is used in modern political shenanigans. C'est dommage!

Despite what I've said, NO FUN is too harsh. I like that this grid flips the NYTimes' 15x15 table, and I know what it's like to have dynamite seed entries demand some compromises, so please join me in thanking David for constructing a grid for us to solve and discuss.

HUAC! Sorry I had to cough.

  • 27A: Travel mag advertiser (B AND B) — My boyfriend and I know this as the cocktail  "Bénédictine and Brandy," rather than that B&B on the Cape (point is, "and" seems weird with the already abbreviated "B")
  • 20A: Out-of-this-world settlement (MOON BASE) — Is there a moon base? Not yet.
  • 52A: Photographer's support (UNIPOD) — Selfie stick or the pics didn't happen. (Selfie stick in Wikipedia is described as a MONOPOD omg)
Signed, Lena Webb, Court Jester of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]
[Follow Lena Webb on Twitter]


jae 3:07 AM  

@Lena, thanks for filling in. Easy-medium for me.  I knew two of the actresses  because I've seen both movies (KAREN O was a WOE, no idea what she was nominated for), remembered FERULE from previous crosswords, but did not know the hubris statement which I guessed/sussed out.  Could have had a DNF if FERULE hadn't surfaced.  I had to look up C'est  dommage to realize that I too was hoping for something more au courant. 

 I have to agree @Lena,  a bit more meh than yesterday's,  but still a fun solve, liked it.  I mean PUT A RING ON IT buys you some slack.

Loren Muse Smith 8:14 AM  

At last a Saturday I could finish, but it was dicey. When I finally saw RADIO SILENCE, the APRES MOI LE DELUGE jumped out, and I dispatched the rest forthwith. As always with themelesses (hi, Lena), I had missteps, but today they are truly indefensible:

"unclad" for UNIPOD. Hey – aren't there nekkid models in photography studios? Bring in the unclad now, Lars. Let's get this done.

"putty art" for LATTE ART. Hah. Never heard of this one. I drink my coffee black, and yes, I'm a Black Coffee Snob. I just don't get the HalfCaffNonFatSoyThreePumpCaramelDrizzleVenti people, and my daughter is one.

Lena – agree on the B&B thing. Watch out though, hangover from hell is what I'm saying. Commode-hugging HUAC, man.

Enjoyed your thoughts on ESSES. We could say that the now-exiled guy jerks here are asses and the female ones are assesses. Female physicians could be DResses.

I resisted USAGES forever because of USERS.

RADIO SILENCE – a while back on an NPR Performance Today bloopers and pranks special, there was an interview with Itzhak Perlman, and the experience of performing at Carnegie Hall came up. Either he fell asleep or was closing his eyes, reliving it, but the silence was at once deafening and hysterical.

Man oh man how many times have I obediently scrambled for my wallet to ACT NOW while supplies last and get not one, but two! of that Osaka Huac Sac. I don't want to brag, but a couple of times I actually called fast enough to qualify for the free shipping and handling. I am such a sucker. Here are some I acted now to get, and yes, I'm kidding


On to sniff around the Stumper. Enjoy your weekend, y'all.

Unknown 8:25 AM  

I took French in tenth grade for a girl, and it was the only class I've ever failed. So I do hate french clues, and this one in particular. I had A P... OILED... something and thought I was getting there only to get the APRES and realize it wasn't going to help me at all.

Also, I don't think PUNT is throwing in the towel. Towel-throwing is quitting, and punting is a temporary retreat. If you threw in the towel in football, the team would quit in the third quarter because they were too badly beaten up.

That said, I enjoyed the puzzle fine. LATTEART was my last entry, and I had to stare at it for a few long moments, but when I parsed it, I liked it.

Zwhatever 8:27 AM  

APRÈS MOI, LE DELUGE is one of those moments of unfortunate candor. Seriously, how often do you think that this is the not-so-hidden attitude of your least favorite politician. So, for me, it's always current. We seemed to have witnessed the exact opposite attitude from our soon to be former Speaker of the House. I disagree with him on just about everything, but I think Republicans will miss him.

PUT A RING ON IT means "married," not "engaged," to me. Does anyone think Beyoncé thinks getting engaged would be enough?

Liked this. Played tough for me (suRGES --> DIRGES - yikes! BOBA TEA??? ESNES/MES?!?), but a fun tussle on a Saturday morning.

Questinia 8:48 AM  

{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{See Me}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}
{{{{Feel Me}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}
{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{Touch Me}}}}}}}}}
{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{Heal Me}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}

Dorothy Biggs 8:52 AM  

I completely agree with Lena that the French (probably seed) answer was just too frigging much French. Why not just make the whole damned puzzle in French? I'm sure with words like mer, and atoi, and amoi, and champagne someone could cobble together a puzzle with nothing but French crosswordese. Making the foundational answer in French is, well, un-English.

Second Saturday in a row that I felt the need to flip the puzzle off. I didn't like it at all. The clue to LATTEART was stupid. Yep, stupid. How does "Foam figures" translate to latte art? The clue was one step too far removed, in my opinion. And speaking of French, how about MES? Hey, I can burrito and taco and agua with the best of them, but MES? Sorry, I don't speak that much spanish and I think (as I said before) xword puzzles are primarily English with some well-known alternate language tid-bits thrown in. Mas, maybe. Medalla, maybe but probably not. Mes, no. And don't get me started on FERULE. I'm cool with new words in crossword puzzles, and it's one thing to add in something like DOPENESS, but it's another to stretch back in time and randomly pick some obscure word no one who is alive today knows anything about.

Passing scores? Tortured.

I only knew RADIOSILENCE because of a Thomas Dolby song.


Did I mention I really hated this puzzle? I need to dig deep into my stoic philosophy bag and find a way to my tranquil place.

RooMonster 9:05 AM  

Hey All !
Another tough SatPuz, not quite as bad as last weeks. Still, 7D was a bear. Looking for an English answer, so that didn't help. Some good fill with the constraints of a stagger stack with a long down through em. DRUM LOOP is odd, wanted DRUM Line. DOPENESS is never heard in the wild. It's just DOPE. Still trying to figure out what BOBA TEA is...

Plenty use of Check feature, and a few Reveal letter/word checks! Oh well, if I don't do that on a SatPuz, I tend to stare too long at white space, and then lose interest.

Lots of U's, M&A!


Unknown 9:07 AM  

100 minutes, but a successful solve assisted only by my better half, who verified that NANObacteria are a thing, among other nuggets of her vast knowledge base. So, a Friday-Saturday twin killing! Bodes well for my continuing goal of 7 consecutive error-free solves. I came close a few times over the summer, but got tripped up by early-week gottchas: a BBQ RuB, anyone?

jberg 9:11 AM  

I'm thanking my lucky stars, because the B in BOBA TEA/BAND B was a pure guess -- I almost went with BOlA, but plunked down the B at the last minute. I figured it was some kind of specialty radio frequency or something -- didn't see how to parse it until I came here. To be fair, though what B&B can afford to advertise in travel mags?

THE MOB is OK with me-- nobody just says MOB. But yeah, VILLAINESSES. I don't know how long I spent trying to figure out how to expand VIPERESSES to fit. (And trying to shrink Nagoya, another island airport). SerpentESSES does fit.

Curiously, I wanted "L'etat, c'est moi" right away for 7D, so I was on the right wavelength -- it took a few crosses to get the right French hubris, though. Learned only today that the phrase was not uttered by Louis XIV, but by his grandson (or, according to Wikipedia, by his grandson's "official chief mistress," Madame de Pompadour). Crosswords are so educational!

Nice writeup, Ms. Webb!

jberg 9:13 AM  

By the way, @Rex's word of the day yesterday established that IRANIs are a group of Indian Zoroastrians, not Shia at all.

Anonymous 9:21 AM  

While I agree that RADIOSILENCE is good, the clue was off. Radio silence is a thing, but it's a deliberate directive (or the result of a directive) to not use the radio. Inadvertent "radio silence" is called dead air. Purposeful radio silence can't really be considered uncharacteristic.

There's no such thing as DOPENESS, something's dope or not. Things are not imbued with dopeness, things don't have degree of dopeness.

Nancy 10:05 AM  

Wow, was this hard. I gave up first and then I cheated, looking up MILA KUNIS (I had MI-A -UNIS). When that didn't remotely help me in the Middle Upper North section, I came here, squinted, and looked up only 5A, which then unlocked the rest of it. I hate SEAL UP as an answer, btw: the clue is a noun and the answer is a verb. At least it is the way normal people talk.

I'm torn about this puzzle. I loved the challenge and I loved all of the non-proper name answers (except for SEAL UP.) I never heard of LATTE ART, so I guess I don't spend enough (any) time at Starbucks. Never heard of a FERULE, although I was looking for a ruler-type answer. Loved the answers to "Dis twice" and "Passing scores." Loved the answers APRES MOI LE DELUGE and PUT A RING ON IT. Also loved the two different "wet blanket" clues.

But I hated all the proper names, which done done me in, as per usual. With one exception: HUAC was my first answer in, and it unlocked the NW for me.

A much less smooth and polished puzzle than yesterday's, but also much more of a challenge. It delighted me; it frustrated me; it annoyed me. But it wasn't dull.

Started typing this when the blog said 0 Comments. When will the blog moderator decree: "Let there be comments" ?

Teedmn 10:17 AM  

Well, I'm with @Lena on the French phrase. I had no idea what was going on there. With all of the east and all of the west filled in, I had this monarch butterfly corridor of white spaces spanning my grid. 46A and 21D were holding me up plus having frAU in at 48A (ESAU, my old friend, how could I have missed you?)

Ran the alphabet to get the N of CARON when NO FUN hit me. This cleared up the Texas section and let me see that 7D was French but I couldn't bring the phrase to mind. With DIRGES, LAG, USER and P_SEN, and guessing that the _ would be an O, you would think I would see EL PASO because obviously a team named the Chihuahuas would be from the SW, but I didn't and I don't think it would have cleaned up that section anyway. Maybe I would have gotten SEDAN then.

Anyway, official DNF because I finally looked up the definition of bagatelle in the dictionary and #4 gave me ELISE. Fini. Whew!

cwf 10:19 AM  

I liked this more than the Court Jester did. Maybe because I got the 16 letter marquee with only a smattering of crosses, and that made me feel smart. I also liked RADIOSILENCE and PUTARINGONIT.

I've only ever called it "bubble tea," and have never been able to get far enough past the gag reflex caused by things floating in my beverage to enjoy it. Also, I question the modernity (and the noun transformation) of DOPENESS.

GILL I. 10:23 AM  

This was a picker upper and put her downer sort of puzzle - maybe about 5 or 6 times. I just could not get started except for running around and plunking in as many esssssses as I could find.
Took a sip of Merlot and a few answers began to trickle in. I had the MOI in place and dagnabit I remembered APRES MOI LE DELUGE. I use to read a ton of books about European kings and queens and I'm almost sure this is where I heard it. Or maybe it was Boehner's parting words after his SEDAN with the pope.
Didn't know DOPENESS nor what foretoken meant. BOBA TEA sounds stupid and I thought FERULE had two R's....
Lots of Google because I wasn't up on my VILLAINESSES but I thought the clue for MRS was la meilleure.
Lena...Hah! great, funny write-up....Please come back!

Billy C. 10:32 AM  

Hong Kong's airport is now also out on an island that is partly fill.

In the old days, Kai Tak was the airport, right in Kowloon Bay. Because of surrounding Peaks and high-rise buildings, the landing approach required a sharp right turn at about 200 feet altitude to line up with the runway. I would always take a right-side window for the view. Most arrivals from the US West Coast was in the morning HK time. Looking in the windows of the nearby high-rise apartments while in the turn created some interesting views!

Steve J 10:39 AM  

Agreed with Lena's review nearly across the board. There are some excellent moments here - RADIO SILENCE, PUT A RING ON IT (@Z's correct quibble with the clue aside), the clue for FERULE - but there are also some pretty shaky ones. The end result is that it pretty much falls right in the middle of the quality spectrum. And difficulty felt typically Saturdayish.

I was slowed in the SW by UNIPOD. In all my years as a photographer, I've never heard anyone refer to that piece of equipment as anything but a momopod. Getting the U from VACUUMS and not thinking of what could possibly begin with U there caused me to erase the whole corner for a while.

@NCA President: Agreed in principle with relying too much on foreign words in English-language crosswords, but APRÈS MOI, LE DÉLUGE is one of the most famous phrases in the language, and one that has crossed over into periodic usage and more frequent allusion/quotation in English. I think it's entirely fair as a feature answer. Advisable is a different story.

@Anon 9:21 a.m.: RADIO SILENCE also has colloquial usage that fits the clue.

AliasZ 10:41 AM  

Put a ring on...what? "Hey Claude, you finally decided to PUT A RING ON IT, huh? Did she slip it on while you were asleep?"

Once the constructor decides to use the quad-slantstack 12s in the center of the grid, he has no choice but to stretch it to 16 rows to maintain symmetry. As David Woolf states at xwordinfo, the 16-letter APRÈS MOI LE DÉLUGE was a fortuitous happenstance. Can we believe him?

-- CAMERA LENSES: the CAMERA modifier here is necessary to clarify that a photographer does NOT carry a bagful of magnifying or monocle LENSES with her.
-- VILLAINESSES: Cinderella's stepsisters, Cruella de Vil and FERULE-wielding nuns are well known and respected examples. It's about time for the NYT to honor them.
-- POSEN: The name of the Polish city is Poznań. It is a slap in the face of Poles to use German names for Wrocław and Poznań, or for Germans to use their Polish names. Take your pick.
-- KARENO: I know who Leslie CARON is, but KARENO? K. ARENO, K.A. RENO, KAR ENO (related to Brian), KARE NO, or KAREN O? I have no idea and couldn't care less.
-- UNIPOD: Seriously? Unibrow, unicycle, unitard, unisex yes. UNIPOD no. Uninspired, yes.
-- DOPENESS, shmopeness. More like dopiness.
-- What did MILA KUNIS ever do besides looking sorta cute to warrant puzzle stardom? I know: nice and easy consonants alternating vowels.
-- ASAMAN: six-letter partial? "Please explain again, ASAMAN idiot."
-- ALTO: Mama Rose in "Gypsy," e.g. is the poorest excuse of a clue for ALTO I have ever seen. Kathleen Ferrier or Eula Beal e.g. would have been so much worthier. ALTO is a masculine adjective in Italian meaning "high." Back in the 18th century this range was exclusively sung by castrati and countertenors of both the over- and under-the-counter variety -- members of the countertenorism task force.

Enjoy your weekend at least as much as I did this puzzle. And, APRÈS MOI LE DÉLUGE, of course.

Carola 10:44 AM  

@Lena - Thanks for the lively write-up, the exact opposite of NO FUN.

I did the puzzle last night and was all set to tell a TALE of how this was the rare easy Saturday for me, done in one non-stop sweep around the grid. Then Lena told me that there was LATTE ART in the puzzle....wait, what? Ohhhh, I see I didn't finish the SE - had no idea about KAREN O, didn't know bacteria were small enough to be NANO, and got faked out by the EONS clue, leaving 4 empty squares.

From the "a little learning is a handy thing" department - I filled in 7D from AP, having no idea of its context. I appreciated the DELUGE going down.

Trouble spots: newEST, trIPOD, DRUMbeat, DAR?A. Last in: those VILLAINESSES - I really thought they were going to be actual snakes.

A fun one to solve - wish I had! :)

joho 10:52 AM  

Very nice write-up, Lena!

I got LES, yay! But APRESMOILEDELUGE was beyond my French (and obviously historical) knowledge.

I was sure BANDB was BANff and CILANTRO habANeRO. These are two of my many missteps making this puzzle impossible to finish and, in the end, NOFUN.

Norm 11:04 AM  

Boy, a lot of negativity at the top of the leader board today. I liked this puzzle. It was challenging for me, since proper names are not my strong point and the ones in the grid spanned a lot of years, but the crosses were fair. "Apres moi le deluge" is such a famous phrase that the criticisms voiced here are off the mark. Some of the cluing could have been more precise, but if the flaws actually misled you, you're thinking too hard. Thanks for a good workout, Mr. Woolf.

Maruchka 11:08 AM  

Away from the NYT for two whole weeks. Every puzzle in the local paper had been previously done, par MOI. Happy to see some freshness again.

Phew, what a stinker. My chops have clearly suffered during this hiatus. Speaking of chops - watched the Pope chopper fly off to Philly this a.m. Couldn't miss it - choppers, choppers, everywhere. Ciao, bella!

Fav (memory) of the day - HUAC. I wrote a term paper on that nasty bunch senior year of high school. My civics teacher had a somewhat reactionary response; but, being a gentleman and a scholar, he maintained a collegial attitude and assigned a high grade. I appreciated that, and his broadmindedness.

LATTE ART - Had my first Blue Bottle caffe yesterday. The design was delightful, and the flavor sublime.

Anonymous 11:14 AM  

Horrible puzzle all around. And I agree with Anonymous that the clue for RADIOSILENCE is just flat-out WRONG.

old timer 11:23 AM  

Not enough dopitude for me. With a fair amount of help from Wikipedia, I got most of it, though I wrote in "after me the" and had to replace it with APRESMOILE DELUGE. About the last thing I got was LATTE art. Something they do at Starbucks and certainly at a lot of more local places.

But I decided I disliked the puzzle too much to finish the NW and N center. DIRGES! Ugh. glad I didn't get it.

I was looking forward to a Rexrant, and sorry not to find one today.

Robso 11:46 AM  

I think Rex would have liked this more, due to the occasional dopeness. As for me, I dropped in about six wrong answers at the bottom, took a two hour nap, then came back and finished.
Where's my medal? Huh?

The Ear Worm 12:00 PM  

I only knew the long French themer? Cornerstone? Centerpiece? From a song by Regina Spekter, but with moiledel-ge staring at me, it seemed the only answer.

Overall this played medium Saturday, the four stack was nice to see, and I didn't hate villainesses, though my autocorrect does.

My biggest challenge was trying to make salsa in the south west (which is a fitting place for salsa, now that I think about it) where I added both jalapenos and habeneros before cilantro, somehow blocked by thinking that a photog used a triPOD before the UNIPOD.

Other writeovers were FoRULE who I was guessing must be the elder cousin of Ja Rule?

Had vice before USER. qUiT before PUNT, and ASAboy before ASAMAN, but otherwise this was mostly slow and steady.

I agree that clues for RADIO SILENCE and PUT A RING ON IT were oddly imprecise, though neither were wrong (in this case you have to take radio silence metaphorically, as in "I sent an email to a friend but got nothing back but radio silence.")

Andrew Heinegg 12:14 PM  

Sorry but, there is just way too much to dislike about this puzzle to save it, in my view. Seal-up, ferule, nano, unipod, punt (because of its cluing), Sac?! and put a ring on it are simply awful. You add to that there being no humor or interesting tidbits and this one is unacceptably bad.

Lewis 12:21 PM  

@Casco -- Wow! WTG! I remember when Tuesdays were tough for you.
@anon 9:21 -- Are you the Grammar Nazi?
@lena -- That writeup was a hoot and informative to boot!

Tough tough tough, just as I like it. I needed help and didn't mind it because it allowed me to figure out previously unsussed out answers. There was some superb cluing: EONS, SNOW, AURORA, TALE, DIRGES. Learned FERULE and LATTEART, as well as KARENO. RADIO SILENCE is brilliant -- when that radio goes quiet it always gets my attention. Thank you David, and keep 'em this tough, Will!

Greene 12:48 PM  

In the Arthur Laurents libretto for "Gypsy" the character of Rose Hovick is referred to as Rose or Mrs. Hovick and her daughters call her Mamma. At no point is she ever referred to as "Mamma Rose." This conflation irritates me almost as much as using the character as a clue for ALTO. Call me when someone uses the character as a clue for BELTRESS (with apologies for the feminizing suffix).

Anonymous 12:52 PM  

FERULE crossing DESE is not okay. DESE could be DOSE and if you've never heard of it like 99.9% of English speakers, FERULE and FORULE is a toss-up. Should have been edited further or scrapped.

Anonymous 12:55 PM  

About clues in general: I don't mind ? clues, or foreign language clues, but getting to hate contractions and "for short".

Shamik 1:09 PM  

It has been so long since I've had the luxury of time to read the comments that I no longer recognize any of the commenters. Alas.

My way of solving is to solve with wrong answers rather than look up answers. In 46 minutes I had 5 wrong letters in a "finished" grid. I shall primarily blame it on lack of knowledge of this French phrase. This ended up in RIGIDSILENCE. GARIB could have been a cartoon misanthrope. It was as familiar to me as DARIA. THEMOS is probably some very popular rap or punk group that I'd never heard of whose members drink BOSI tea. It could happen.

In an alternate universe.

quilter1 1:23 PM  

My salsa also had jalapeno and habanero chiles before CILANTRO. Challenging Saturday and I went away and came back several times. A fresh look sometimes helps things come clear.

Tim Pierce 1:31 PM  

Liked it a lot, was pleased that there are no slack clues in this one. As a non-Francophone, I found APRES MOI LE DELUGE diabolical but fair.

But Steve J is right. That thing that photographers use to steady a camera? Absolutely not a UNIPOD, not ever. Monopod only. That's really my biggest quibble.

Mohair Sam 1:53 PM  

What Lena said . . . . and . . . .

Thought we had this one beat but our guesses at a couple of pop culture names were off the mark (MILeKUNIS and KAcENO) so we dnfed. Yeah, yeah, I know - but REjeCT makes some sense at 22A and that gave us jOPENESS (why not?); and if you've got KAcENO then what's your problem with LATTEAcT, huh?

We opened the puzzle with Leslie CARON, and HUAC, and Beethoven, so this geezer doesn't dare complain about the 21st century pop culture stuff - especially on a Saturday.

Hand up with the grumblers about RADIOSILENCE - actually hesitated as it filled because of the clue. Had no problem with the RING thing however. My professional photographer niece agrees with @Steve J on UNIPOD as an unknown term. Almost went with DoSE but DESE made a tad more sense. FERULE? Yikes.

demit 1:57 PM  

Had EERIE SILENCE for uncharacteristic quiet spell and didn't doubt it for the longest time. Still like my answer better. Also thought the un-Polish names for Polish cities was a slap. Agree with the criticism of "esses" as outdated. Much not to like in this puzzle!

GeezerJackYale48 2:01 PM  

AliasZ and others: you are right on. I put this puzzle down several times, finally gave up. So maybe that's why I thought the puzzle - especially the cluing - was so hard. Or maybe not!

Masked and Anonymous 2:02 PM  

Nope. This puppy gets a rare thUmbsdown from the M&A. But I hasten to point out that I feel the non-pain of other solvers who might have liked it.

Personal reasons:

1. M&A is not a member of the French club. What little Fr. he knows comes from…
a. Crosswords. But these are usually served in small dabs of may-urd, tolerable kinda like short abbrs. are. Don't see many 16-letter abbrs, tho, right? 16-letter Fr. phrases are guaranteed to do M&A in. Lil M&A took Latin; he can alea jacta with the best of em -- but would pity solvers who had to cope with ginormous Latin phrases.
b. Once watched "At the Earth's Core" with French subtitles turned on. That helped, for a few days.
c. Saw this Fr. postcard once, along about 8th grade. Learned Par Avion and some anatomy pointers.

2. Anything clued with "tapioca balls". I have my constitutional rights, not havin to serve people requestin that.

3. ESNES. Crossin MES. Makes a MESSNES. Reaction of the M&A solving panel: RODEO SILENCE.

4. HUAC. Latin almost lives today… HIC, HAEC, HOC, HUAC, PTUI. HUAC in the openin NW corner tends to make the solver uneasy, somehow.

5. NOFUN at the bottom. Ominous. The first crossword had FUN as a tiptop entry. Is this the last NYTPuz? And is @009 cumin back, or has Lena [excellent write-up, with bullets, btw] been handed the reins? M&A may not sleep real good, tonite.

6. USER USAGES. On second thought, DESE are OK. Part of a nice 009-U collection. But, watch it, Shortzmeister.

7. ASAMAN. Has too much of a ASAGREENPAINT smell. E-specially since we are made to grapple with the dreaded KARENO LATTEART, all in the same dumbloop.

On the plus side, got yer 9 U's and yer ELPASO Chihuahuas. So, okay to cmon baack, Mr. Woolf.


Mr. Grumpypants 2:26 PM  

So much whining. There's nothing "wrong" with RADIO SILENCE. At least, I'm not aware of any rule that says a constructor cannot use a technical term for purposes of misdirection. Dead air => silent radio => radio silence. There is nothing wrong with PUNT. Check a few dictionaries, please. An accepted, if informal, usage is "to give up" or fail to take action as in "I'm gonna punt on that one." There is nothing wrong "apres moi le deluge." Come on, you never heard that phrase? What about "Don't fire until you see ..." or "I only regret that I ..." Ever heard of those? Rather famous historical phrases. I'm disappointed with the petty criticisms of this very nice puzzle.

Annette 2:27 PM  

Although I agree there seem to be too many non-English words creeping into the NYT puzzle, I also agree that après moi is well known enough to be fair (whereas mes is not!)

Had eerie silence before RADIO SILENCE, and I submit that mine is a better answer!

I predict that OFL would say this puzzle trended young, maybe too young. Never heard of dopeness, Kareno, drumloop, though I did know put a ring on it (two young employees of mine just got married, and I nixed our company's congratulatory draft tweet incorporating that phrase).

Had a hard time with GESTATE, never realizing it's the mother that gestates, not the baby. Who knew I was doing that for 9 months of my life?

Agree that towel-throwing is quitting, not PUNTing.

In whose mind is Mama Rose an ALTO. She's a stage mother first and foremost.


Norm 2:35 PM  

Lena said: "20A: Out-of-this-world settlement (MOON BASE) — Is there a moon base? Not yet."

Au contraire. "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed."

The clue did not say it had to be a current base, although I'll grant you that "settlement" is a stretch for the short time that Apollo 11 spent on the moon.

mac 2:47 PM  

Tough puzzle to me, names and expressions I didn't know.

Got into a major slowdown because of "eerie silence" at 33A, Punt means something different to me.
I liked the cab/sedan set; of course I was thinking red wine.

Thank you, Lena, fun write-up!

RAD2626 2:54 PM  

I always mess up the X AND X fills by wanting to make it two rather than three words. Do it every time, and B AND B was my last entry. BAND B just did not seem right. And never do MAND M or RAND R. My brain just always goes there.

@anon 9:21. I think RADIO SILENCE works, as in "We expected to hear from her on our job offer, but so far all we've gotten is RADIO SILENCE ". No?

Zwhatever 3:00 PM  

@Steve J covered RADIO SILENCE, the same can be said of PUNT. That's the thing about language USERS, they're never satisfied with original meanings and are constantly repurposing words to new settings and meanings. If someone says to you, "if all else fails, PUNT," they mean, "if you've tried everything it might be best to stop." I'm thinking the phrase, "know when to PUNT," has also been used in discussions of the Sunk Cost Fallacy. In short, being too literal can really hurt your solving pleasure.

Anonymous 4:05 PM  

a press file deluge. that is all.

GILL I. 4:40 PM  

@Shamik......Well damn. A great voice from the past!
Are you still doing your thing in Alaska?
Come back on board, girl!

wrooster 5:06 PM  

Rest easy @M&A. I think Lena meant she was literally filling in the white spaces for Rex today.

Didn't much care for the puzzle today but Lena's write-up brightened my mood.

Thanks, and belated happy 9th birthday to CrossWorld!

Rabi Abonour 5:06 PM  

That marquee is out of control. That "deluge" is also an English word kept me from realizing it was looking for some obscure French. Beyond that, "monopod" is far more common parlance than "unipod" amongst photographers.

Some very good stuff here, but that marquee was rough.

Norm 5:09 PM  

Oops. To be precise, Apollo 11 spent no time on the moon, although two members of the Apollo 11 crew and the Eagle landing module did so. I hope those who objected to the clue for RADIO SILENCE and other entries in this grid won't treat me too harshly.

Erin Milligan-Milburn 5:17 PM  

@NCA President, MOONBASE is a Thomas Dolby song too!

Nancy 6:02 PM  

@Gill -- You took a sip of merlot and then were able to solve? Is that what I should have done, rather than cheat? Ah, but you, California girl, were probably solving in the p.m., whereas I, New Yorker, was solving in the a.m. And we can't allow tough crossword puzzles to drive us to drink in the morning, can we? Or can we?

BTW, as I type this (5:51 p.m.), I'm sipping a gorgeous, but amazingly inexpensive cabernet: Excelsior from South Africa. Delicious -- but I don't think it would have made today's bear of a puzzle any easier for me. But it would have made the NON-solving of it roll right off my back.

P.S. OMG, I just checked the blog and I see you posted at 10 a.m-ish my time, 7 a.m.-ish your time. Were you drinking that merlot in the morning, @Gill? Please say it isn't so. Please say that the NY Times crossword isn't driving you to drink. :)

kitshef 9:20 PM  

SlC (SALT lake CITY) before SAC, buyNOW begore ACTNOW, eerIeSILENCE before RADIOSILENCE. Liked it a lot. Don't get the objection to MOONBASE; we have lots of terms for things that don't exist. Grand unified theory, leprechaun, Neverland - but all validfor crossword use.

OISK 10:28 PM  

Finished correctly, and loved the clue for dirges - passing scores-sort of a double pun. But that was about all I liked, even though "après moi..." was no problem at all. Forule was no fun, dope ness is contrived, didn't like the clue for radio silence either. Too much obscurity, not enough clever misdirection . @aliasz got it right!

KevinDenelsbeck 11:07 PM  

I didn't come close to finishing this. Highly embarrassing -- I am usually a terrier about these things -- but the whole top-middle just wouldn't come together. I've never heard of LATTEART, and if I've heard FERULE it's been quite a while, but I wasn't getting any help in the bottom-middle either, so the long phrase was also a miss. I know APRESMOILEDELUGE, but having OILED in the middle had me going a zillion (wrong) ways with BOILED, SPOILED, etc. I definitely had NOFUN with this puzzle.

jgkramerdc 10:38 AM  

Much agreement with both positive and negative comments of the multitude above, but no one mentioned what I consider to be one of the best clues I've ever seen: 18A ... PASSING SCORES. (DIRGES)...Bravo!

jgkramerdc 10:39 AM  

Much agreement with both positive and negative comments of the multitude above, but no one mentioned what I consider to be one of the best clues I've ever seen: 18A ... PASSING SCORES. (DIRGES)...Bravo!

GILL I. 12:18 PM  

Dearest @Nancy...
(Snort) HAH! just to be clear and keep my pristine reputation intact, I usually down-load the puzzle after dinner. With belly full, I sometimes can only stare at words and many times the aftertaste of some scrumptious food particle keeps me from concentrating. A fine shot of Merlot can sometimes clear up the over saturated dendrites.. (sometimes)
Of course I drink in the A.M. Who doesn't enjoy a Mimosa or a Bloody in the wee hours of Brunch? (I'll have to try one with Maruchka's damn okra)....
Viva la Vida Loca say I....!

old timer 12:18 PM  

Dunno if this will ever be added to the blog, now that it's Sunday. But I have to say that I never took French until the summer after my Freshman year in college. And I certainly had read and heard the famous phrase, "Apres moi, le deluge" during my high school years and even before.

Longbeachlee 1:11 PM  

@marushka. take your next vacation at the Grand Wailea on Maui. Same day puzzle. I lve in syndicate land so I'll have your experience in November.

spacecraft 10:44 AM  

I must be losing it. I managed a couple of small areas--NE and south--and that was it. The rest of it I just plain didn't know. And now I see: DOPENESS??????????????? You have GOT to be kidding. Someone may say that a person is DOPE with some skill, but I can assure you there is no such word, or "modern slang" term, as "DOPENESS." No. Never has the yellow hankie been thrown more justly. I mean, I wouldn't have gotten this puppy anyway, but DOPENESS is totally unacceptable.

And UNIPOD? Not being a pro photographer, I can't rule out such a piece of equipment, but who isn't going to write triPOD? No one. It's like yesterday's curry vs. cumin. You can't expect to give a clue like that and have the solver come up with any other answer. That is the height of unfairness. Look, if you guys are going to continue deliberately steering us to the obvious--but wrong--answer, I'll just "throw in the towel." Fourth and long, baby.

I usually score an INComplete on ones I DNF, but this one gets an F.

rondo 10:47 AM  

Big fat DNF. +/- 90%. Blame it on the French. The UGE had me thinking Trump hUGE. And never heard of LATTEART, don’t go to those places. And MOONcAmp didn’t help matters, nor a Polish city. Got the long ones across the middle, which were OK. Maybe I have the other kind of DOPENESS?

KAREN O is a yeah baby in a certain light, the dark.

MILA KUNIS is a yeah baby in any light.

Leslie CARON could light a fire in a VACUUM, yeah baby.

The NE and the long middle acrosses fell like dominoes, the rest that I got fell like lead. Finally had to PUNT and come here. No joy in this Mudville.

Burma Shave 11:33 AM  


ASAMAN I prefer bad girls POSEN for CAMERALENSES
with only RADIOSILENCE on, they’re such VILLAINESSES.


rain forest 2:28 PM  

Wow. This newfangled moderation thing has really changed the feel, the essence, the spontaneity of the blog. My three months absence has probably amplified the difference, but I don't much like it. I think that @Spacecraft isn't there yet because of this (although probably by the time I finish this, he'll be there as usual, anchoring we syndies, if only in retrospect). Spellcasters are gone, but that's the only advantage I can see.

So, the puzzle. Liked it a lot. Many excellent clues, hip lingo, some French, in which I am now rather more fluent, and a nice feeling to finish a tricky one. B AND B will rile @Spacey, but I give it a pass, especially since I stayed in a few while in France (where I never said "B ampersand B"). Je vous en prie.

The thing that makes this puzzle work is that every single time I didn't know something--KARENO, POSEN, MILA KUNIS, DOPENESS--the crosses enabled me to get it. I think that is good construction.

So now, apres moi, le moderation.

rondo 5:45 PM  

Almost forgot, let's all sing some DIRGES to celebrate Halloween in syndi-land.

HAha, a pumpkin captcha!

leftcoastTAM 6:35 PM  

Okay, @rain forest, welcome back, and congrats for both liking and finishing this one. I haven't been doing badly in your absence, but this one made a DOPE out of me. When it's NOFUN, I PUNT.

Au revoir.

Anonymous 6:53 PM  

I'm with Spacecraft on this one. I did almost the very top, the NE corner, the SE corner and much of the bottom parts. Unless one was FLUENT in French and knew what female snakes were (I was thinking of a biology word) the middle was a Monstrous Morass of Monkeyshines and Muddle. Two wedges and a nuggie for Mr. Woolf, taken twice a day.

Uncle, I give up, I quit, I'm finished, frustrated and flatly floundered and flummoxed! Can't wait for next Wed. puzz to gain back my self respect. Since here, in La Mesa, it is Halloween day, I say BOO to Mr. Woolf and may his candy bag be null and void.

ARRRon Diego, La Mesa, CA ( Where All Hallows has turned into an annual nightmare).

Leishalynn 8:02 PM  

I totally agree with you on throwing in the towel! I went to a high school that dominated in wrestling--it's nothing like punting (our football team sucked).

Anonymous 3:36 AM  

David Woolf is on my merde list

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