Titular queen of Castile in a Handel opera / THU 5-19-16 / terminer criminal court / punny quip about perp's predicament / Turing test participant / Pollock painting unit / Bygone name in Chinese politics / Modern prefix with gender / One-named Grammy winner for American Boy 2008 / Daughter of Sweeney Todd in Sondheim musical / Nautical command

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Constructor: Morton J. Mendelson

Relative difficulty: Challenging (between the ... interesting ... fill and the made-up punny quip, I just couldn't find the handle)


Word of the Day: ALMIRA (51A: Titular queen of Castile in a Handel opera) —
Almira, Königin von Castilien ("Almira, Queen of Castile", HWV 1; full title: Der in Krohnen erlangte Glücks-Wechsel, oder: Almira, Königin von Castilien) is George Frideric Handel's first opera, composed when he was 19 years old. It was first performed in Hamburg in January 1705. [...] Almira is the sole example among Handel's many operas with no role for a castrato. (wikipedia)
• • •

I can't write about this in any way that I feel good about, so I'm going to keep it very brief. This type of puzzle is not for me, but you knew that. This specific incarnation of this type of puzzle is not for me, but you knew that as well. Punny quips (esp. those with cutesy alliterative clues) aren't my bag. Never have been. Never will be. I couldn't tell you who cooks the best liver because I don't eat that stuff. This is how I feel about punny quip puzzles. I have to wonder (out loud, partly because it's kind of my job) how made-up a punny quip can be. This one feels Highly made-up. PRIME appears to be there just to make the letter count in the answer come out right, and ... I'm no joke-teller, but isn't it somewhat poor form to have your laugh word, your "punch line," come in the *middle* of your joke. Everything after GRILLED is just filler ... filler that goes on forever. Seriously, the entire last part of this quip is arbitrary and anticlimactic. "... KNEW HE WAS COOKED AFTER HE WAS GRILLED..." stop. That's it. Get it!? Yeah, you get it. But ... the "grill" part really really really needs to come at the *end* for this to be a proper joke. Maybe end the quip with "... when the detective started grilling him"? Something like that. But instead the punny quip just steps on the "joke" and then keeps on walking. It's like a malfunctioning joke-bot wrote this. Crap! I said I would keep it brief. Not for me. Moving on.

The fill. Also not for me. Please don't make me relive it. ATRI OYER ALMIRA PEE. That is all. Seriously, I have to stop. There is nothing for me here. No, wait, one last thing. I'll confess I'm not up to date on all the different astrophysics prizes there are out there (????) but if you give me 33A: Bruno ___ Prize (astrophysics award), the answer better damn well be MARS.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. a couple of people (in emails) have floated the idea that "PRIME" is some kind of substantive adjective for meat (e.g. prime steak, prime rib). I don't know the stand-alone usage of "PRIME," but maybe this interpretation adds to the punniness? You be the judge.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:07 AM  

Tough for me too. Did not know RUTH was a synonym for pity and ROSSI, ESTELLE, ALMIRA, ANTOINE, and JOHANNA ( as clued) were WOEs. Maybe it's just me, but that seems like an abundance of fairly obscure names.

I do like a challenge on Thurs., but @Rex I'm not that fond of quote puzzles. Unfortunately, (again @Rex) the not particularly amusing quip in this one rules out a "liked it."

George Barany 12:16 AM  

Congratulations to @Morton J. Mendelson for his New York Times debut, and a hat-tip to @Rex for his heart-felt analysis. My own point-of-view: I don't really mind quips and I did get a chuckle out of this one when it was finally revealed. But therein lay my problem, I had to hit "check" and "reveal" numerous times before seeing the final answer.

Going off-topic, then, it was my pleasure to see a new movie (that I fear will have limited time in the theaters) called "The Man Who Knew Infinity" -- starring crossword-worthy @Jeremy IRONS and @DEV Patel, each in Academy Award-worthy performances. The mathematics advisor on the movie was @KEN ONO of EMORY, so there are some new cluing opportunities for future puzzles.

chefwen 12:27 AM  

I had my hopes up for a fun, interesting rebus and had to settle for this. Sorry Mr. Mendelson but I have to agree with Rex on this one,
pretty much a big disappoint for me. I wish @Andrea was still hanging around to explain to me why I should like this. Maybe @Loren will spread some sunshine.

The only thing that made me smile was GAZEBO. My 8th grade teacher used to make up fun, little stories about a young star crossed couple named GAZEBO and GAZEBETTE. There was always some kind of lesson in them. Memories...

Unknown 12:28 AM  

Is PRIME part of the joke? Like prime rib?

Anonymous 12:29 AM  

A many lettered unknown quip coupled with a lot of trivia (ANTOINE, INGE, ETTA, ESTELLE, ENLAI, CIS, ATRI, LOME, OYER...) makes for torture. And the quip wasn't even humorous.

Z 12:29 AM  

What Rex said. Solved it. Do not like quote puzzles.

aaron 12:49 AM  

Mr. Mendelson's outrageous quip amused me to such an extent I nearly tumbled from my writing-desk! My dear Puzzle Editor, you've done it again!!

Marty Van B 4:14 AM  

I most definitely agree with Rex. I straight hate multi part quotes, quips puzzle. They tend to almost always be more difficult since there's no theme to help rein in some answers and I've never found that extra effort to be worth the finished payoff. To boot, I can't remember a single commentor here ever wishing there were more puzzles like this published.

Loren Muse Smith 4:41 AM  

Yeah, boy this was hard. I almost gave up before finishing the northwest but finally saw AJAR and GORILLA.

Sure, quip puzzles don't seem to be way up on some people's list of a great time, but I enjoy uncovering the quote for the same reason I like acrostics; it's fun to squint your eyes and think, "Hmm. That could be a THE right there. And over here could be an IN or IF." I like this third factor - what kind of word could go there based on its position in a sentence. In fact, now that I think about it, I really, really like figuring words out based on how they could work in a sentence. Most of the time with acrostics, I'm unfamiliar with the saying, so whether or not it feels made up makes no difference.

And I never would have had that thought about ending the joke with GRILLED. Didn't bother me.

I can't be the only one to have "crime" suspect first, right? And I was thinking "gorilla" first for ACT LIKE. And "acerb" for ACRID.

So the quip was fine, but the clue for RUTH upstaged everything for me. How had I not gotten the email that RUTH is a noun? (I looked it up; you can have some ruth for the poor schmuck but you can't ruth him.) This is really interesting. We've talked about these words a ton here, but if RUTH was among them, I don't remember it. But, hey, I can be pretty feck when it comes to remembering things.

I liked sussing out the parts of the sentence. It was hard. I really liked learning about RUTH. And Mom's (my avatar) middle name is DEEMS. Cool.

Alby 5:24 AM  

Always thought of Jackson Pollock's work consisting of drips and streaks, not blobs. And I've only ever heard "had beef (with)."

Late Boomer 6:54 AM  

Can anyone explain why RUTH is the answer to the 18D clue "Pity?"

Dolgo 6:56 AM  

I agree with Rex! This one makes you want to give up crosswords. Some of the clues are just plain dumb. Others are just plain mean. I'm SUCH an insufferable opera fan that I even love baroque opera and I couldn't come up with the Handel opus. And then there was stuff like pee. And the "quip" was just beneath contempt!

No BS 7:16 AM  

I was amazed to have it fall into place, more or less by pattern recognition as a few gimmes and reasonable guesses gradually led to more success and more recognition. Took over 40 minutes, but got it without Googling and without having heard of Alvira, Johanna, Rae, Estelle or Atri (rang a "bell" when I saw it appear). North was held up because I had drip instead of blob. Rejected by itself at first because I foggily thought (for a while) it needed 2 esses. Prime makes a little sense in the pun context with support from the auxiliary appearance of beef in an unrelated down answer. While I respect the artistic sensibility reflected by Rex and many of the regular commenters, I just like the challenge of solving. This one was very satisfying for me as impossible morphed into tricky and then fairly quickly into finished. Lots of aha moments.

Imfromjersey 7:18 AM  

I (mentally) groaned when I saw "Quip part 1" as the clue and knew this was not going.to be fun. Solved the quip from the bottom up, it didn't make it any funnier. Just had little joy in this one. It was a debut puzzle, so maybe the constructor will improve over time.

Anonymous 7:22 AM  

DOTTED I for "Two-part letter"---that took me awhile. This puzzle took me awhile. UTERUS seemed out of place, considering it had to there by intention.

Dorothy Biggs 7:29 AM  

Maybe it's true that I don't like puns because I don't quite understand them. Rex pointed out probably the reason why this "punny quip" didn't even strike me as a pun. To me a pun is something like a "punny yolk." Or when a joke is two-thirds of a pun: P-U. I could be wrong, but double entendre doesn't seem like a pun to me. I'm probably wrong...which makes me a Pun Rube, a title I am more than happy to bear.

As for the complete and utter randomness of the quip that takes up so much real estate in the grid, it reminds me of puzzles on the website sporcle.com/games. It's kind of an addictive site with all kinds of quizzes and games...but one of the games is to figure out a Disney song starting with nothing but blanks for each word. You enter a word, and if it's in the lyric, it fills it in. From there you just keep entering random words until a familiar Disney song emerges and then, of course, you just fill in the lyric. But at the beginning, it's just you and 1000 blanks. That's pretty much how I solved this puzzle. I got a "the" here, a "detective" there, and once I got "grilled," I figured it had something to do with being "cooked." It didn't fall into place because I knew the quip (like a Disney song), but just because I was able to piece it together grammatically.

I kept waiting for the big PUN reveal...but I didn't ever get it. Just double entendre.

Some of the clues felt really forced too. The clues to SLEET, PYRO, BOSUNS, and INGOTS...ugh. Lots of names I didn't know either.

I think I would have rather the revealer not made any mention of a "pun," per se, and left it at "quip." I think "quip" sort of sums up what this was.

Anonymous 8:02 AM  

Of course it is OK to dislike a type of puzzle, but it seems excessive to pick out an example like "prime" and say that it was just put in to make the line work. Of course it was! A crossword puzzle is by its very nature artificial, so why complain about its artifice? My complaint about this puz is the crappy fill. What made it hard for me was my almost complete ignorance of the various celebrity, sports, pop cultch, place names, lit and opera references-- but that's nothing to complain of. One man's arcane trivia is another's meat and potatoes. I had to get most of them by crossers. Ironically, the punny quip came to my rescue coz it was so obvious.

Anonymous 8:05 AM  

RUTH for "pity" only made sense to me as an antonym of "ruthless"---but it didn't click even once I had RUT

Glimmerglass 8:20 AM  

Clearly there are two points of view today. Those who agree with @Rex, and those who don't. I have a foot in both camps. I found the quip only slghtly amusing (yes, PRIME is part of the joke), and I agree with Rex that a joke should end with the punch line. However, the joke, such as it is, was pretty hard to fill in without a bunch of crosses, and some of the crosses were unfamiliar to me (RUTH, ESTELLE, JOHANNA, LOME, WIT as clued). This meant I had to work back and forth between the quip and the rest of the puzzle. That's challenging, and because I was ultimately successful, I liked the puzzle very much.

Carola 8:24 AM  

Tough. For a while I was YOYO-ing on the "worth the time to try to finish?" question, as I'm not so fond of quip puzzles. But I stuck with it and evetually succeeded in clawing my way up from the POLICE DETECTIVE to THE PRIME SUSPECT (yes, @Loren, I wrote in the c for cRIME). Had to erase "drip," "assets," and "man" (Turing test).

Anonymous 8:28 AM  

While PRIME is a grade of beef that is COOKED when it is GRILLED, making that association in the "quip" (and I use that term only because the constructor used it) is a bit of a stretch.

I've never heard RUTH used as a synonym for "pity." But it turns out it's an archaic term for pity which lives on today as the root of "ruthless" which, of course, means "without pity."

Generic Solver 8:28 AM  

@Late Boomer (6:54 AM):
noun: ruth (archaic):
a feeling of pity, distress, or grief.

Great to see someone in my age bracket make his Times debut (see xwordinfo.com).

I was surprised to see that PEE was so ubiquitous in the NYT (42 appearances), but then I'd forgotten about the legendary PEE Dee River.

Anonymous 8:29 AM  

Hard but enjoyable despite the fact that the only proper name I knew was ANTOINE. This was my first answer, making me think it was going to be an easy puzzle. Ha. It took me forever, but I sighed with pleasure when I at last filled in DOTTEDI, giving me BOT for the Turing answer. The quote isn't memorable but it's not all that bad--PRIME definitely added--and it's fun sussing out letters from the sentence structure.

chefbea 8:30 AM  

Of course I loved the puzzle...I love puns and I love cooking (or grilling)
Hand up for not understanding ruth

Suzy 8:33 AM  

Parts were rather easy, parts painful, and parts just plain hard-- took me forever to suss out 'dotte i'! Never heard of Estelle-- sigh...

kitshef 8:35 AM  

Harder than the average Saturday! Less entertaining than the average Monday!

The challenge comes from the quip style, which means large areas of grid that you really cannot fill in until most of the crosses are in place (as has been noted, similar to an acrostic, of which one every other week is ample for me), and from the plethora of tough clues and WoEs.

Then you kind of hope at least you'll get a funny joke out of it, but that quip was not quippy, nor WITty, and I re-read it a couple of times to make sure I hadn't missed something, thus dragging out the misery even longer.

@Beau Davenport - I took PRIME to be part of the 'humor'.

Started with open at 1A, got no crosses, then kept going on the acrosses. The next gettable one (and first correct one in) was ANTIONE. That's 20 clues in before hitting a gimme.

gEo before PEE was the a big slowdown in the SW. With LANEONE in place it was semi-confirmed, and with 39D a WoE no reason to question it.

tb 8:39 AM  

Huge DNF. I basically just gave up. And then I was infuriated when I saw RUTH, which I had to reveal. I only reveal when I have given up any hope of completing the puzzle. So I saw RUTH and didn't even bother with the rest of the puzzle.

Jlb 8:59 AM  

Oh dear. I enjoyed the puzzle a lot and finished eight minutes under my average time. I never cease to be amazed at how differently people's minds work. What's hard for one is easy for another. Tomorrow it may be the reverse.


Anonymous 8:59 AM  

At 38D I confidently entered got griEF instead of HAD A BEEF. And then very little else. With 66 letters taken by the pun and a huge number of obscure entries the puzzle was very difficult. I was intrigued enough to try to solve with Google help.
After seeing the pun, I have to agree with Rex and many of the other commenters. It fails on all the levels that Rex mentioned.

Unknown 9:06 AM  

Tough going moving from E to W but with only the SW ending up a no-go without some cheats. My only fill there was SPILL & LSD for 37a & 40d. That was coupled with no clue for the PPPs 39d, 50a, 34d, 61a, 47d. I needed a couple of letters to mend my ways to get enough going around there to suss out or fill those PPPs and get it done, otherwise very satisfyingly and successfully, the immediate jingle with the last letter in telling the latter’s tale.

Liked the quip, but @Rex is correct about the joke’s form. This, from Rodney Dangerfield, is a PRIME example in four words that makes it crystal clear:

Please!.....Take my wife.
Take my wife…..Please!

I rest his case.

Mini nautical theme?:

BLOC & fall (37a clue)
“JOHANNA and the Whale” (the feminine perspective)
The TATE on the river Thames
CUP (World, America’s, et al)
AFT (34a)
USOC (U.S. Oceanographic College – OK, made that up)
REEBOK (might be better than nothing for a deck shoe)

and, of course --
YO YO HOO and a bottle of rum. HAR!

If you DEEMS my brain NOT HOME this early (as I continue to ACT LIKE I AM awake), you’d be correct. though it’s not from an aforesaid bottle. Don’t like rum ‘cept in egg nog.

And speaking of egg nog….


Nebraska Doug 9:12 AM  

DNF. Way too tough for me. Wasn't even close to finishing. Ruth?

Ludyjynn 9:17 AM  

In a word: UGH.

No thanks, MJM and WS.

Anonymous 9:25 AM  

Like everyone else, I approach the dailies based upon what I assume the difficulty will be. Had this been a Saturday, I probably would've had an easier time (if that makes sense). This puzzle, other than RUTH (please, there are a gazillion different ways to clue this. . .Pity is not one of them), was fine. It's just two days early.

Anonymous 9:27 AM  

I sometimes find Rex a bit too critical, but not this time. This puzzle was pfffft.

Nancy 9:44 AM  

Just missed the cut-off by 2 minutes. Maybe because I took the extra time to skim the 33 comments up so far. I wanted to see if everyone found this as difficult and torturous as I did, and found out they did. Like so many here, including Rex: I hate quote puzzles; I couldn't get a toehold; I almost gave up; I asked myself throughout the process why on earth I was doing this. But I suppose I'm glad I persevered, because I did solve this, without cheating. Just like Loren, AJAR finally enabled me to complete the NW, my last section in. I had been thinking OPEN from the get-go, but it didn't work. Had been thinking IMITATE for 1D, but that didn't work. Complaints: I would never use ACRID as a synonym for vitriolic. Who thinks of DOTTED I as a two-part letter? Had ELMIRA before ALMIRA, of course. But my biggest downfall was 24D, where I had --N. And so I put it TAN confidently. Which made it look as though something was going to be KNEaded at 28A.

I adore the song JOHANNA from Sweeney Todd. But did I remember she was his daughter? Not at all.

Nancy 9:49 AM  

@lms -- I love "I can be pretty feck..." Even more impressive that you came up with it at 4:41 in the morning. And btw, your mother is really cute!

Aketi 9:50 AM  

@Rex, I can count on you to express the type of reaction I typically have to "punny quips". Just like I can rely on Nancy to express the reaction I sometimes have to puzzles with a high PPP count.

My first lmental hicCUP started at 1a. As a lactation consuotant most of my work is spent assisting mothers to latch and unlatch their babies. AJAR doesn't exactly describe some babies mouths in the process of unlatching. Some of them hang on for dear life until they are pried off, which sometimes causes what we call nipplash. The big PRIMATE hanging down from 1 didn't help either. I had to flee the NorthWest for more hospitable terroritory,

@ANONYMOUS 7:22 am,
I wanted the DOT in the DOTTEDI to be pluralized and plunked down in place of BLOB, which I always think of as huge thanks to the 1958 sci fi movie. So what I LFCed today is that it was originally called the Molten Meteor and that there was a remake in 1988.

@Alby, had DRIPS fit, I would have gone with that over DOTS.

I've seen many OVARIES and WOMBS in crossword puzzles, but it's the first time I've seen the recent ESTRUS and today's UTERUS. Given its placement in the puzzle, I couldn't help thinking that some mysogenists tend to think of the UTERUS as a PRIME SUSPECT for their perceptions of the criminal failings of the feminine, just as some misandrists might blame a certain other body part (that to my knowledge has yet to appear in a puzzle as anything other than a euphemism) for the criminal failings of the masculine,

The inclusion of BEEF into today's GRILL oun puzzle, made me think of Tuesday's substitute which I once ate in Amsterdam and found rather dry and chewy.

PS @Nancy, having a teenage son has helped me immensely with clues for rap. I must confess that while we were driving down the Califirnia coastline visiting colleges, I discovered that I actually like a subgenre that I dubbed "stoner rap". I wanted to listen to the Beach Boys, but my son had control of the iPhone that doubled as our GPS and source of music. The advantage of stoner rap over other rap is that it doesn't have the violently aggressive lyrics. Our student tour guide at UC Santa Cruz grew up in Santa Barbara and was the proud son of two Dead HEAD parents. UCSC houses an extensive Greatful Dead archive (https://library.ucsc.edu/grateful-dead-archive). None of the prospective or incoming students (other than my son our tour guide) had a clue who the Dead were, which made me feel very old.

Anonymous 9:52 AM  

Waste of time and newsprint.

Aketi 9:54 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve M 10:06 AM  

Guess it was Friday on Will's calendar

Wm. C. 10:15 AM  

Bad, bad, bad. BAD!!!

Too many PPPs crossing a long difficult quip. And on a Thursday??? I'd'a given it some leeway on a Saturday,, but Thursday? Sheesh!

Echoing everyone above, RUTH hadda be unknown as a word to 99%+ of solvers. And on a Thursday!

Shame on you, Mr. Shortz.

Bookin' the Cooks 10:16 AM  

We're more familiar with "ruthless," which means to be pitiless. It's one of those words that we're much more used to seeing in its modified form, not its root.

gifcan 10:16 AM  

Well said.

gifcan 10:23 AM  

Ok, ruthless, yes, now I'm beginning to understand.

Hartley70 10:26 AM  

Oooo, I loved this!! The top half was tough. The bottom half was worse. It took me a full Saturday time to finish, without the cheater shirt, I might add. Heaven!

I think @Loren hit the nail on the head. I really like the NYT crossword puzzle, but I adore acrostics. When the magazine used to hit my door and I saw that Emily and Henry had the byline on the second puzzle, my Sunday was made. I had that same feeling today, and the fact that the quip was unknown just enhanced my enjoyment.

Add to this that I didn't have a gimme on the proper names and RUTH was a surprise to me as well. All was revealed slowly and that made this a perfect Thursday. You can keep your rebus this week, WS!

Bookin' the Cooks 10:26 AM  

I also had DRIP instead of BLOB because they're called drip paintings, not blob paintings! But I couldn't decide between AJAR and OPEN since nothing was coming to me on the downlines either way.

This was a very difficult puzzle for me. Being able to complete a few words of the quip helped a lot, but Google was my lifeline to get the ball rolling.

gifcan 10:29 AM  

Thanks for the Rodney Dangerfield memory, I still laugh every time I hear it.

gifcan 10:34 AM  

When exactly is the cut-off?

Mohair Sam 10:37 AM  

Well this was worth the effort if only for @Rex's write-up. Loved it when he opened with "I'm going to keep this brief" and then rambled through an endless paragraph ending in "Crap! I said I would keep it brief. Not for me." It's why we love him, in spite of all his sins.

Brutally tough for us. Lady M slipped over to the bookshelf then whispered "ANTOINE" to me when we were frozen in the South. It ain't exactly Googling, but we probably have to confess to a DNF. We had "Gnomes" for GAZEBO for the longest time and it absolutely killed us, especially when NYSE worked off that for BLOC - what a mess. Not a big fan of quip puzzles either, but they bother me less if they're from, say, WC Fields or Groucho Marx - you know what I mean?

I think I'm the only American male who just didn't enjoy "Butch Cassidy". On the other hand "The Count of Monte Cristo" is one of my favorite books. It's where I learned that "Better is the sworn enemy of good" - can't count how many times I've relearned that.

Unknown 10:38 AM  

Ruth = Pity
Ruthless = No pity

AliasZ 10:51 AM  

I wish Will's decision to not bother with quips ever again took effect before today's puzzle was published. Especially a quip is this lame.

Otherwise the puzzle was a proper-name-laden hodgepodge, with little to offer in terms of enjoyment or cleverness, unless you consider HEAVE TO and LEAD TO clever, or if you find wondering if HAD A BEEF was a PRIME cut GRILLED rare, medium or well, gratifying.

I still admire Morton J. Mendelson's effort, and his success selling this one to Will Shortz. Enjoy your $300.00 bud, you earned it.

I always thought the saying was "his goose is cooked" rather than "he is cooked." But what do I know about quips.

QuasiMojo 10:54 AM  

This puzzle would have gone down better with "some fava beans and a nice Chianti"...

Z 10:54 AM  

Schadefreude - That feeling I get when others not only fail to get it, but then broadcast their failure as if the fault lies elsewhere.

I know. I'm bad. If I were Catholic I'd go to confession, but I'm not so I'll just rub a little more salt in the wound while I feel all feck. (@LMS - not a retronym, so what would one call "feck?")

I really liked one thing in this puzzle, the clue/answer at 18D. I actually smiled a little smile and thought of the Notorious RBG.

GILL I. 10:57 AM  

BLOB? Pollock's nickname was "Jack the Dripper." Drip would just not go away and I wanted the perp to be GRILLED like a cheesburger.
Quips are OK by me, but dang, at least let me get some of the letters. JOHANNA I knew (Hi @joho-if you're still around) and it took me a very long time to guess so many others.
USOC PEE ROSSI & RUTH - my favorite Law Firm.

Charles Flaster 11:00 AM  

For the first time in a long while I disagree with Rex and most of previous comments.
I enjoyed battling the quip and it became apparent after sussing GRILLED.
The construction was nicely held together by the 7's in each corner.
Write overs--ACT LIKE for imitatE and PEE for nEo.
Liked the creative cluing for UTILITY, COVE, GYM, and PYRO.
Thanks MJM. Great debut!

Mohair Sam 11:02 AM  

Oh yeah - forgot.

@Rex - 1. DCI Tennison at her strongest. 2. The Oakridge Boys at their "Elvira" best. 3. An awesome Bruno Mars video I'm betting 90% of us have never seen. You have set the mark for multi-culturalizing. What a mix!

My much older sister and her husband owned a deli on Long Island for years. In my teen years I would often help out behind the counter after school. A sweet old couple, the wife named RUTH, were frequent customers. On the rare occasion that the husband would shop alone and I would be waiting on him, my brother-in-law would mutter in my ear, "the RUTHless bastard". Can you imagine being 14 years old and trying to keep a straight face in front of that nice old man? Of course every time I cracked the grin my sister would give me hell.

jberg 11:17 AM  

"Look homeward, angel, now, and melt with RUTH." It's from Paradise Lost -- not only a great line in itself, but famous enough for the novelist Thomas Wolfe to use the first three lines as a title for a novel. And, as several have said, it's what you lack when you are ruthless. So I loved seeing it in the puzzle, even though the rest of it was terrible.

A quote puzzle can be OK if you have some chance of recognizing the quote; a quip puzzle can be OK if it's a famous quip. This was neither -- and since it was unguessable without a lot of crosses, it effectively divided the grid up into 4 mini-puzzles, connected only by ADEAL -- not much of a connection, either since it crossed three themers and two threes.

Redeeming qualities: OLAF clued as King of something other than Norwar. And, yeah,GAZEBO, just a fun word.

@Chuck McGregor, that joke belongs to Henny Youngman.

jberg 11:21 AM  

@Aketi from yesterday -- I remember camping in Namibia in the 1990s. There were water tanks held aloft that fed the showers by gravity flow; the temperature depended on how long the sun had been out. Fortunately, the air temperature made cold water a lot less unpleasant.

Princeton Mom 11:24 AM  


Aketi 11:30 AM  

@WmC, apparently I'm part of your 1%, which I find highly ironic given my dubious solving skills, I just lopped off the LESS and arrived at Chuck McGregor's explanation. It doesn't mean that I refraining from cheating in other areas of the puzzle. My EGO has accepted that crossword puzzle solving will never becime something I can brag about.

Upon seeing that my post made it through the ether I actually didn't have the dyslexic moment I thought I had but did have my typical typo skip hop moments It should have been GRILL pun not GRILL oun, My son was not the tour guide, He AND the tour guide knew about The Grateful Dead,

puzzle hoarder 11:32 AM  

I'm no more a fan of quip/quote puzzles than anyone else but I enjoy a challenge and this one was nothing more than a prolonged ALMIRA. It's something you have to work around but as the letters come in eventually you can infer the sentence and it can actually help with the solve. This was a nice 46 minute work out to a clean grid.
The NW was probably the easiest. I recently read an on line synopsis of the 3D novel. The middle north was held up by a major DRIP/BLOB and DONESOLO/BYITSELF write over snafu. The NE was mostly easy but it lead to an INACOMA/NOTHOME write over. The only other write over I can recall is ELMIRA/ALMIRA. That entire 5th column of RUTH,ATRI and CIS went in strictly on the crosses. I hate to admit it but I scrolled down the answer grid on xwordinfo like a kid waiting to see how they scored on the SAT. Now I have to deal with stupid reality again.

Joseph Michael 11:33 AM  

When I finally got to the final part of the quote, I was expecting a great pun but all I got was ... POLICE DETECTIVE. Made me regret the time it took to get there.

I agree with Rex that the punchline goes last, just as in good dialogue where the operative word goes at the end of the line not in the middle. (Ask William INGE).

Aside from the letdown of the quote, the puzzle had some clever cluing and soone good fill sprinkled among the bad. I especially liked DOTTED I as a "two part letter."

old timer 11:44 AM  

I liked the puzzle. at first all I had was ANTOINE. but the SE corner was Easy thanks to UTILITY and its neighbors. Which gave me CTIVE, and I soon had POLICE at the other end, so DETECTIVE. The top was slow going until I Googled for ESTELLE. I soon had THE cRIME SUSPECT (I ended up getting PRIME on crosses).

The rest was tough, but fair. Though I think you'd be sunk if you had never read "The Count of Monte Cristo" and never played Monopoly. Fortunately, I was playing Monopoly before I could read the rules (age 5 or 6, in other words) and when my daughter fell in love with "The Count." I found the 4-volume French version and as she read her unabridged version in English, I read my borrowed version in French, It has always been my favorite Dumas novel.

I don't think you could reasonably end the quip with GRILLED. Someone has to do the grilling.

RAD2626 12:05 PM  

While quips are not my favorite, I do not object to sussing them out on occassion and this one was pretty cute. Agree entirely with @jae's lead off comment that there were a lot of very hard proper names so between needing to get the quip and the names from crosses largely it was tough sledding. Not great at staring and figuring out what words will fit. Had fits figuring out the two letter word after AFTER. Had "an" for what seemed like forever.

While we all seem to be grumpily focusing today on features we do not like, I hate spelled out letters like PEE today as a "leader" or "starter of a word with that letter. Grimace every time. Should be a "Non starter". Err...ENN.

nick 12:18 PM  

A dreary and random trivia quiz in service of a dreary and random quip. Joyless.

Anonymous 12:20 PM  

I often think Rex is too critical. Not today. A horrible, awful puzzle. Finished it, but didn't much enjoy it.


Greg 12:21 PM  

Nothing but a trivia quiz. I stared at this…thing for almost an hour before throwing up my hands. I can accept a certain amount of trivia and arcana in a puzzle, if the theme is inferable and the crosses are solvable with enough thought. This, however, was simply a trivia contest with a random sentence running through it. Just to illustrate, here are the proper names, random abbreviations, and arcana


That’s 19 straight-up “you know them or you don’t” answers out of 70 clues, (27%), but also, a huge amount of real estate (52 squares) is taken up by a completely arbitrary phrase. To those who knew enough of the trivia questions to finish this, I salute you.

Andrew Heinegg 12:29 PM  

I always have a sense of self-doubt when criticizing a puzzle that knocked me flat but, I thought this one was past the point of pretty bad. I thought gush for emote, Ruth for pity and others were simply unacceptable.

All the above having been said, I would still give myself thirty lashes with a wet noodle if there had been some joy to this puzzle but, as Rex pointed out, there was zero to like about it.

Unknown 12:50 PM  

@jberg 11:17 AM

you are soooo KEEErect! I started to write Henny Youngman, did a too-quick Google check and Dangerfield was its drop-down "suggestion." So I dumbly accepted it. The worst part:

I met Henny on a plane. His back to me so not knowing it was him, he was putting his violin case in the overhead. It had his name on it. So I tapped him on the shoulder and said, "My favorite one-liner man." He turned with a smile reached into his sport coat pocket, saying, "Then you should have this." He handed me a one page list of his favorite one-liners. Of course "Take my wife...Please!" is on it. GRRR!


Hungry Mother 1:18 PM  

This one made me sweat, but I felt good when I finished it off. I knew very few of the names, so I was surprised that I could get through it.

Masked and Anonymous 1:55 PM  

@indie009: Agreed. POLICEDETECTIVE is a sorta wobbly punchline.
But, quips always make the puz more fun to suss out, and there were five U's (up from **zero**), and it's a debut for this dude, so … ok. But, I digress. The main purpose for M&A's presence, here, today, is …

The seven new daughters of Sweeney Todd, attempted in this solvequest:
* Jolanda: First guess. Gal at my office said she knew of a baby someone had named Placenta; so … coulda been worse.
* Jowanda: Second guess.
* JoeAnna: 3rd guess. Really wanted JoAnne or JoAnna, but wouldn't fit.
* JoLinda: Was now sure I had it nailed. But, … wrong again, M&A breath.
* JoVanna: Gettin slightly desperate, now.
* JoWanna: This looks like a partial sentence, more than a name.
* And, when all else fails … JoPanda.
* Right answer: JoHanna. So … was gettin at least close, with my JoVanna/JoWanna attempts. Moral victory.

Pollock painting unit:
* Okay, so grill m&e. Was immediately on the pollock-joke wavelength. First guess: it takes NINE pollocks to paint a picture. Then tried MOPS. Also tried some other numbers and even stupider stuff.
* GLOP/GLOB. I figured a first-time constructioneer mighta had to get desperate.
* SPAT. (Short for SPATTER.)

Moment of pride in a sea of glop: M&A knew RUTH for {Pity} off the ??T?. Kinda like RUTH-less = pitiless, right?

Thanx, MJM. (I got the "PRIME" SUSPECT pun with "GRILL", btw.)

Masked & Anonymo5Us


John 2:10 PM  

Lucid as--not Paradise Lost.

M and Also 2:12 PM  

Oh, and only a 72-worder. Wide open spaces, for a rookie to fill. Courageous, but hence the fillins that @indie009 already clamped down on and snarled at, like a doggie pull-rope. But, hey -- coulda turned out much desperater. The LOME OYER was probably yer best pairing, in there. So ... still ok.


Greg 2:20 PM  

I have been a professional opera singer for 20+ years, and I have never heard of ALMIRA. Semele, Orlando, Xerxes, Alcina - yes. Almira - no.

xyz 2:30 PM  

Oh my God, just fantastic.

No, not for me either. Rex was right on today, rubbish full for a nothing 'quote' feels like a waste of time, every time.

chatten 2:37 PM  

The line "Look homeward angel now, and melt with ruth" is a beautiful line, but it's from Lycidas (another Milton poem), not Paradise Lost. Anyway, my wife and I did find this puzzle tough, but didn't hate it as much as Rex. More importantly, why the heck is "pee" clued as "political leader?"? I'm sure there's some pun here that will make me feel stupid when I get it, but can anyone explain this?

Dick Swart 2:50 PM  

I like quips because it is fun to have some letters filled in and then finish the quip from the quip clue.

I had the quip before I finished the puzzle. Well, the quip was the easy part. Many of the crosswordese were not on the tip of my Pelikan pen.

Hard except for the quip.

Lojman 2:53 PM  

Absolutely, no doubt about it. PRIME SUSPECT is a thing. That thing is the leading suspect of a crime in a police investigation. That thing is, apparently, also a British police procedural from the 90's, with an American spin-off from 2011.

PRIME is also listed by dictionary.com as an adjective (6th) and noun (14th), meaning the highest quality of meat, especially beef. It's a pun. Of course PRIME was there for a reason. And that reason was not to make the first line of the quip 15 letters long.

Not a huge fan of the quip puzzles, but glad my solving skillz have improved such that they're not lost causes. Solved this one from the bottom up, and was looking for a food-crime pun on top to bring it all together. Found it easily with PRIME.

Didn't like BLOB for Pollock either. imitatE for ACT LIKE was a major woe. Thought CIS was freshly clued.


Tita 2:55 PM  

@Jersey...i groaned out loud...
Hate quips.
I've been robbed on the cleverest day of the week.

drips...not BLOBs. But I won't get into an argument over one of the Emperor's New Clothes kind of artists. (I'm looking at you, Rothko...)
I'm headed to the Dali Museum in St. Pete this afternoon. Now *there's* talent.
(Mock away re: my pedestrian tastes...)

Once again, in agreement with Rex. Didn't care -so- much that I just revealed letters willy-nilly when I got stuck.

skua76 3:02 PM  

Mostly with Rex here, although it is good to see a new constructor...Morton can only get better, right? Turns out I left the INGOTS/RUTH cross empty...was trying to get some form or RUE (?) to relate to pity, and wanted INGOeS to be stuff you put in a mold. Looked things afterward, and of course there's the archaic definition of RUTH...and never thought of the depository as where the INGOTS went, just where they were formed.

lg 3:50 PM  

Most challenging puzzle for me in a very long time. I couldn't figure out the first part of the quip for the longest time. The last two parts came much easier for me. I have nothing more to say, this puzzle was just a major bummer for me.

Chronic dnfer 5:00 PM  

Had to cheat to finish so glad everyone struggled to. Probably got 80% so I guess a victory.

L 5:30 PM  

Pee?!? Really - this is ok?!? Ugh, this puzzle sucked. DNF.

Ellen 6:44 PM  

Finished this in half an hour without cheating -- but also utterly without joy.

I adore acrostics. But I hated, hated, hated this puzzle.

old timer 7:07 PM  

Using the spelling for an initial letter of a word is almost a sacred tradition in Crossworld. Bee, Cee, Dee, Eff, Gee, Aitch, Eye, Jay ... Those who carp need to get used to it. I think the only answer that was so obscure almost no one would know it was ALMIRA. Many might have known JOHANNA and ESTELLE but I didn't. On the other hand, I'm a lawyer who has taken an interest in English legal history, so OYER went right in for me.

For those who got BOSUNS, a trivia challenge: What is the actual name of the person whose post is pronounced BOSUN?

Norm 7:29 PM  

Ugh. What nick @ 12:18 said: "A dreary and random trivia quiz in service of a dreary and random quip. Joyless." Yup.

Z 7:31 PM  

Hand up for gnomes and drip.

@Wednesday's child - Most days comments get cleared once or twice or thrice in the a.m. If you miss this "cut-off" your comment may be in moderation limbo for several hours. Some of us fret over this.

@chattan - the prime (think rib) suspect knew he was cooked after he was grilled by the police detective. Not really puns so much as words with double meanings, though not double entendres because there is no sexual subtext.

@skua76 - Sure. I mostly blame Will for this kind of thing. If you're going to publish a new constructor in the NYTX it is on the editor to insure it is NYTX worthy. Otherwise, a nice letter pointing out the strengths and illuminating the weaknesses would serve the constructor and solver better. There are some real skills here. Too bad those skills were wasted on a quip puzzle.

BTW - iPad solving for the next couple of weeks. PPP Analysis will return with my paper sometime in early June.

Da Bears 9:02 PM  

About a year ago I received this rejection letter from Joel Fagliano, writing on behalf of Will Shortz:

Thanks for showing us your "_____________" 15x, which unfortunately, we're going to have to send our regrets on. It's a cute theme, but Will almost never runs riddle/quip themes anymore because they only have one payoff "aha" moment, and even that only works if you like the joke.

Mohair Sam 9:50 PM  

@chatten - "P" is the first (leading) letter in Political - surprised nobody else posted this by now.

Want to raise my hand with the gang complaining about BLOB clued by Pollack. He was indeed the dripper.

Lewis 10:04 PM  

@chatten -- PEE is the letter P, which is at the front (the leader, in other words) of the word "political".

captwitting 10:30 PM  

Prime Suspect starring Helen Mirren was the best police procedural ever. But I did find the puzzle very difficult. Way beyond Thursday.

Joe Bleaux 10:55 PM  

Whew! Finished it just as it was about to finish me, and agree with most solvers' damnations AND praises. If Friday and Saturday are harder, I'll see y'all Monday.

Anonymous 11:30 PM  

Hartley and Loren, I do an acrostic every Sunday in the local newspaper and many of the solutions are not much different than this quip.

Old timer a boatswain is typically called a bosun. When I was growing up (Navy brat) my dad had a friend he called chief boats.

Paint that drips from a brush forms a blob, tilt the canvas and that blob drips down the slope. I have no problem with the answer. Think painting as a verb and this works out quite well, rather than the finished painting as a noun.

Anonymous 11:50 PM  

bitch ,bitch , bitch. never heard so many unwarranted complaints. you don't have to know the trivia to get the answer.you're supposed to work it out.but it should make sense after you get it, which will help you get it.the puzzle was hard which made it fun.

ulysses 9:23 AM  

my worst DNF in a very long time. couldn't get going anywhere. kept on going back and having the same result. don't mind not finishing but doing as pathetic as i did really took a toll on my ego. at least today's (FRIDAY) was easy.

teevoz 10:56 AM  

Pee=first letter of "political"

kitshef 1:20 PM  

@Tita A - no ridicule from here. I've never ranked favorite painters, but Dali would surely be in top ten - maybe top five. I've always felt that for art to be important, it must speak not just to artists, but to a larger audience.

Burma Shave 10:48 AM  


HOO would ACTLIKE a thief AFTERHE burned down the GAZEBO.


rondo 1:38 PM  

Well, BYITSELF it’s better than jamming a whole word into one square. Too bad it’s unfunny. Probably the only type of clue to get PEE into a puz. And UTERUS passes the “breakfast test”? But the only w/o was at TORn.

Combo platter of yeah babies today with singer ESTELLE (another from the land of one-named people), and LIV Tyler, who fortunately did not get all of dad’s looks. I’d like to LIV a little.

At least 18 three letter answers, which seems kinda high, even if it includes the shortest possible complete sentence in English - IAM. Still, I spent plenty of time on it due to the quip, which should have contained more WIT.

leftcoastTAM 2:00 PM  

This one took some doing.

Had to piece the quip together before I could deal with some tough fill in the downs that cut through it.

LOME, RUTH, ATRI, and CIS, each of them totally unknown to me. RUTH seemed logical enough, but there was no logical path other than the crosses to the others.

I liked the PRIME COOKED or GRILLED, and found this overall to be good outing.

rain forest 3:40 PM  

Ah, those poor folks who didn't get "their" rebus today, sniff. I must say I kind of like quip puzzles. True, they are frequently unfunny, but it is fun to, as @LMS, figure out what words or letters will work as the quip unfolds.

Knowing LOME and guessing JOHANNA got the North, and then it was a matter of some savvy intuits to finish the deal. Like @M&A, RUTH came from ruthless. Cute. So many times, those ---less words are nonsense. In the SW (the hardest part for me, I immediately thought "inside LANE" for the track thing, but then remembered those lanes are numbered.

I thought all OLAFs were Norwegian, but it had to be. Write over for eLMIRA, and then done.

I really can't say anything negative about the puzzle, and certainly don't look to crossword puzzles for humour, generally.

Sailor 4:00 PM  

The satisfaction was all in finishing this challenging puzzle. RUTH should have been clued as archaic; have you ever heard "have RUTH on me?". @old timer's opinion notwithstanding, I've been doing crosswords for years, and still detest spelled-out letters. I just roll my eyes and try to move on.

Diana,LIW 4:16 PM  

Hooray for quips and puns! Don't you love the word "quip?" Go ahead, say it. Makes you smile, right? Quip!

That said, when a puzzle has a PPP count over 35% by my reckoning, and then 5, count 'em 5, lines are quippy, unless your wheelhouse is being tapped you're gonna struggle.

Don't get me wrong, all's fair in love and puzzles, but the quip/ppp combo made this less enjoyable than usual. If you're playing "guess what I'm thinking?" without a clue, it doesn't really give you a brain workout. Just a lot of "I don't know." So I plan to put the new answers into my future wheelhouse.

Actually, the quip was one of the easiest parts once some crosses were in place. I can see OFL's point about at the end of the joke placing the punchline. But, since I solve all over the map, it didn't to me much matter.

RUTH for those solvers who had their day ruined. There's a puz for every person. Just as some don't like the TATE, one needn't go all PYRO.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Got a small toehold, but then looked up some of the woes. So true dnf.

Teedmn 10:25 PM  

@Diana, LIW, what you did there, I see it.

r.heeb 9:57 PM  

I was content to walk away from the puzzle with "blob" unfinished. Thursday puzzles should have funky themes like symbols or entire words that fit in a single block. To quote Shallow Hal, "It's a quip, not a slowp."

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