Old Chevy model renamed Sonic / WED 9-12-18 / Literally small ovens / Literally thousand leaf / Attribute for my girl after five foot two in 1920s tune / Historic political visitor to Pearl Harbor on 12/27/16 / Like about 17% of land in Holland

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Constructor: Jeffrey Wechsler

Relative difficulty: Challenging (5:23) (3rd slowest recorded Wednesday since April)

THEME: FRENCH CHEF (63A: Julia Child's PBS show, with "The" ... or one associated with the answers to the starred clues) — French food that "literally" means something unfood-sounding when translated into English

Theme answers:
  • PETIT FOURS (18A: *Literally, "small ovens")
  • HORS D'OEUVRES (30A: *Literally, "outside the works")
  • BOUILLABAISSE (39A: *Literally, "boil and lower")
  • MILLE FEUILLE (46A: *Literally, "thousand-leaf")
Word of the Day: PETIT FOURS (18A) —
petit four (plural: petits fours, also known as mignardises) is a small bite-sized confectionery or savoury appetizer. The name is  Frenchpetit four (French pronunciation: ​[pə.ti.fur]), meaning "small oven". (wikipedia)
• • •

This will be fairly quick: Nope. First, this is just some French food, and then the rather boring FRENCH CHEF as a revealer. Second, despite the whole "Literally..." thing linking all the theme clues together, there is really nothing of substance holding the theme clues together. You can see this just by looking at the revealer, which, again, contains nothing that would relate it to the whole "Literally..." cluing gambit. A Thud-revealer if I ever saw one. Lastly, BOUILLABAISSE is Not Like The Others. The others are *Literally* literally what they say they are, whereas BOUILLABAISSE does not not not "literally" mean "boil and lower." It contains those roots, but that is very (Very) different from what is being claimed here (i.e. literalness), and it makes that clue stand out badly from the others, where the clue translations are, in fact literal. Literally literal. To recap: nope.

[j'aurais toujours faim de toi]

This felt harder than usual, partly because of tricky French spelling, and partly because the parallel longer Downs in the NW and SE made those corners potentially weird. I could not have opened worse, in the NW. Just a disaster. Got ENDO and then eventually guessed ASHE (though that is a bad clue ... I think it's trying to say that ASHE- is a "lead-in to 'ville'" in North Carolina (also), but that is not, grammatically, what is happening in the clue (unless "North Carolina" is being used adjectivally to modify "lead-in," which would be bonkers). Anyhoo, I had Lao-TSO (ouch x 2) and then dropped in AKIN TO at 1A: Just like. Brutal. But not as brutal as what I was about to do next, namely compound the one long error with Another Long Error: faced with H---O---- at 3D: Want really bad, I decided to try out HAS TO HAVE. It's a bad answer because 3rd person present singular verb doesn't work with the clue, but that didn't keep it from feeling right for a few seconds. So I had a mess up there. I had to leave the corner and then back into it with HORS D'OEUVRES before I could even begin to extricate myself. Other big trouble spot was down south, where I couldn't get either LATHS or LOW-CUT to fall, and so the SW was something I had to jump into with no help from crosses. I also couldn't spell FEUILLE because I thought it had to be plural. Gah. Oh, and RECLAIMED was hard for me to see. I guess Holland RECLAIMED the land ... from the sea? Or from Prussia, one or the other.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:03 AM  

Medium-tough. Had no idea how to spell most of the theme entries, fortunately the crosses were pretty fair. Nasty cross at SHINZO ABE/TZE. I’ve seen the latter as TSE and TZU so, unless you’re on a first name basis with the Japanese prime minister, good luck. Me? I give myself one chance to fix any “typos” if I don’t get the Standalone Crosswords iPad app’s equivalent of the Happy Pencil. One chance was all I needed.

More pain than pleasure from this one.

Syndicate Bob 12:09 AM  

This comment is not about today's puzzle because I have not solved it yet. At a glance, the "Challenging" label tells me a lot about my chances, but who knows.

Anyhoo, say what you will about OFL but I just pungled up $18 buckaroonies on account of him to support Xword writers. About whom I normally would care naught. But the "AVCX 1 Year Renewal Recurring" is money well spent for me. This blog turned me on to that. So thanks Rex.

Pete 12:10 AM  

Thanks, Rex. Just about all of the same trouble spots on my end. Always nice when you put better reasoning to the areas of a puzzle that I struggle through.

Tim Carey 12:16 AM  

This puzzle was a "Lena" puzzle... who cares?

k dub 12:20 AM  

Ashe County is a county in North Carolina, but Ashe can also be a leadin to Asheville.

Robin 12:23 AM  

Nearly had a woe on the TZE/SHINZOABE crossing. Originally had TSE and had to run through the puzzle a couple times to find the one latter preventing the Times website from giving me the happy pencil.

Got RECLAIMED from just the starting R, so no idea why OFL had so much trouble with it.

Okay for a Wednesday puzzle.

Paul Rippey 1:00 AM  

I flew through this on iPhone app and nothing happened when I entered the last letter. I couldn’t find my error so looked on Rex’s solve. I had an S instead of a Z at crossing of TZE and SHINZOABE. C’mon guys. Don’t spoil an otherwise good puzzle with a Sino-Japanese proper name cross.

a.corn 1:24 AM  

I CALL SHENNANIGANS!!! On most of this puzzle really, but specifically 44 - GUV is informal, Sir is anything but. Change the clue to SUR and bring in this garbage theme a bit. 42 can then be clued “Relating to Mars” (which ties in to 8...I guess...), and 32 becomes “first-person in Barcelona” (yes, I realize these are bad - but I thought of them in zero seconds...man did 44 really grind my gears!) Another gripe is the grid itself - those weird long Downs make for WAY too many trash three-letter answers: TZE ADD AAA SAO EMT OED I cant remember the rest now, but yeuuchhhhhh!!!

Dolgo 1:24 AM  

Yeah. You'd have to misspelled BOUILLABAISSE (bouillir baisser) to get even close, and "baisser" would be a pun then, I think. BOUILLA is ungrammatical, I think.

JOHN X 2:12 AM  

I didn't enjoy this puzzle. First of all, it was all those French words. Now I've heard of all of them but I didn't know how to spell them, which led me to all that short fill everywhere. It seemed like there were a thousand words in here, and most of them were French. Oh, and then there's a former Japanese prime minister? Plus his first name? I don't think there's anything wrong with JAP it's just the same as BRIT and YANK and TURK, and there's a time and place for all of them, such as when SHINZOABE visits Pearl Harbor he's definitely a JAP. But let's hear it for all the American words like STURM and LEROI and LAS and even RECLAIMED was clued as something friggin' Dutch. And GUV. What's up with that word, crossed with a car name that's too obscure to be forgotten, it was never known. My goodness gracious. The only word I liked was TOAD.

Larry Gilstrap 2:40 AM  

Quelle coincidence! Tonight, I cooked duck l'orange and then slid into a French menu themed puzzle. Actually salmon in an orange marinade, but, anyway. My resident Francophone has yet to solve this, but she likes to spell when asked and I asked and she pretty much nailed HORS D'OEUVRES on demand. In college, for some odd reason I took French and what with Lab and all, it pretty much killed my GPA. And another thing, lots of hand wringing and grousing on this blog about the missing tilde. I get it: year = a**hole, but come on! Where's the apostrophe in this whole conversation? Discuss.

We get evil DOER as fill on this anniversary?

I have spent many weeks in the Sierra, singular please, and honestly, John MUIR is kind of a gasbag. Sleeps on a glacier in a wool suit and only has tea and bread for sustenance? Call me an apostate.

ONE'S, sans apostrophe, is a way to avoid the second person "your". Using the second person in expository writing is anathema. Ok, buy me a drink and you can second person me all you want.

I love music and know songs from way before my time. "Five foot-two, EYES OF BLUE, but oh! what those five feet can do..." I see that those lyrics are from 1925 and I'm wondering what she might have done. Win the US Open?

This has been a sticky week solving the NYT puzzle, but I finished and am dusting off my self esteem.

ZenMonkey 3:06 AM  

Add me to the TZE/SHINZOABE woe-cryers.

chefwen 3:20 AM  

Grandma Sofie was my first introduction to the art of cooking then came Julia Child and I was hooked. Watched all of her shows, bought all of her cookbooks, they were my bibles. Needless to say this was a puzzle I won’t soon forget, loved it.

After moving to the Islands I have veered away from European cooking and have gotten more into Asian foods. Love them both.

Also had a little hiccup at 23A with TZE vs. TSE, guessed wrong but I’m not counting it.

Anonymous 3:53 AM  

"Rex" had it right in his commentary: it is PETITSFOURS and NOT PETITFOURS. Grammatical case being so important in cluing, how did this groaner get by?

On a lighter note, I was stuck for a time on ETA crossing TOAD---I had ETD crossing TODD and didn't see anything wrong with it. Depends on who you know, I guess....

SethC 5:54 AM  


Anonymous 6:47 AM  

I love French. A lot. In fact, I’m writing this post from Orly Airport as I await my return flight to JFK after a brief stay in Paris. And even I thought this puzzle was tricky. Unless you’re fluent in French or a serious gourmand, you were gonna have trouble with those theme answers.

I thought some of the fill was okay. I liked SHINZO ABE, although I am growing to despise the “Lao ____” clue for the reason you mentioned. TOWER SUITE seemed a little too cute for me. I mean, I know it’s a thing, but how many times are you gonna come across that term in your daily life?

(Maybe I’m just saying that because I could never afford to stay in one.)

John Crowe 6:49 AM  

Good puzzle. The land was reclaimed from the sea. That's why they have dikes.

Dave 6:57 AM  

I have a problem with foreign languages invading my puzzle. Especially to such a large degree.

I've heard of these fancy Frenchy foods, but have not a clue how to spell them.

Not fair!

Rainbow 7:16 AM  

I don't know how you worked Jap into this. I mean, why? "Jap" has baggage. It is not a casual indentifier like Brit or Yank or Turk. It is not used that way. American words? I catch a slight whiff of xenophobia in your post.

Anonymous 7:21 AM  

Curious. Of what is September 12th an anniversary?

Unknown 7:25 AM  

Fun for those who like both food & French but perhaps not as much for those who don’t. I do & have to disagree with Rex about the literalness of the clues being different. PETITS FOURS are not literally little ovens, and thus quite similar to BOUILLABAISE vis a vis the definitions. Agree that the revealer could have been clued it a more sprightly & challenging way. It would be funny perhaps to just clue as Julia Child? With a question because of course she was decidedly not French...

three of clubs 7:42 AM  

Liked it. Don't mind a little looseness in language. Otherwise, I'd be complaining about INGOT which doesn't have to pricey, PAPA which doesn't have to be endearing, etc. Just because OTTERs look like they are gamboling, that might be an anthropomorphic fantasy with nothing playful about it. Do paramecia gambol, too?

Dawn Urban 7:51 AM  

I just wanted so badly to answer "thousand-leaf" with MILLEfiori, (thousand-flowers), those brightly-patterned rolled glass beads!

Not edible, but oh, so perfect, as an answer for yesterday's Flower Power puzzle.

Hungry Mother 7:54 AM  

DNF with a Z. I liked Lao TsE too much and had no idea of Abe’s first name. Wordplay please!

Diywriter 7:54 AM  

The Dutch land was not formerly dry land that got inundated before getting "reclaimed," so wouldn't it be more accurate to say they "claimed" the land?

Hungry Mother 7:55 AM  

DNF with a Z. I liked Lao TsE too much and had no idea of Abe’s first name. Wordplay please!

Anonymous 8:02 AM  

Flew through the puzzle. I am sure it helped since I speak French. I finished quickly but no music. I realized it must be the lao tze cross so I had to google that. Entertaining but forgettable puzzle. Concerning North Carolina, Ashe is the first thing that came to mind and I am not even from the East Coast.

Rhino 8:05 AM  

One word: Yuck.

QuasiMojo 8:06 AM  

Bonjour mes amis and a few BFFs! Speaking of coincidence, I was just watching The French Chef last night on Channel 13 (online version). It's amazing to revisit these old episodes of Julia Child's show. The lack of technical expertise (in the taping, that is) and the total lack of cutesy-wootsey or staged cutthroat antics. She is just herself, sharing her secrets, some of which still confound me. I am not a cook and know "rien" about cuisine. But I did think that Bouillabaisse was an outlier, and that "petits fours" is plural and I even erred on the side of ignorance by assuming it was "milles feuilles." I remember ordering some once at the Ritz in London at high tea. It gave "flaky" a positive meaning again.

As for the puzzle, I had Lao TSE too because that is how I've always spelled his name. Isn't he the guy who was born as an old man? Unlike Benjamin Button he never got young again. Or so I recall. I tried Lao TZE because I knew SHINZO seemed more Japanese. But I did not get the finishing bell. Turns out I had misspelled RECLAIMED and when I went to fix it, I was too bored with the whole thing to finish it. I came here instead.

Three cheers for the non-tennis ASHE clue. A for effort.

One giggly moment when I wrote in AVEA for the car and got a much different answer to the San Francisco clue. Especially with SISSY nearby. Ouch. :)

mmorgan 8:09 AM  

I didn't have the best time with this thing, but when you look at the whole grid, there are a lot of really cool words in there!

Suzie Q 8:10 AM  

I've suffered through countless sports puzzles so it was such fun to have a theme that was right up my alley. Love Julia Child.
Lots of other food clues/answers added to the theme. Nice one Mr. Wechsler.
Nice pairing of the clues for wind and fog as a little bonus.

Anonymous 8:24 AM  

It’s telling what offends Rex and what doesn’t. Apparently he has no problems with Isis as clued. Me neither but then I’m not offended by right wingers being included either.

Dan Ackroyd 8:53 AM  

Save the liver!

Sir Hillary 9:00 AM  

Not much fun. SHINZOABE is the only entry with any zing.

LATHS? Not for me, thanks.

I know it's legit, but I have a visceral fury at seeing ISIS clued as such.

DEMI MUIR -- I always enjoyed her work and wish she would act more.

The great Julia Child deserves better than this.

Nancy 9:01 AM  

I loved everything about this puzzle. Not only the mouth-watering French food, but the things you learn about the word derivation of those French dishes. PETIT FOURS means "small ovens"? Who knew? I mean, I knew "small", but I sure didn't know "ovens". And I studied French.

But it's not just the inspired theme -- a theme I imagine no one else has ever thought to do. It's all the wonderful non-theme clues. That WIND is a noted feature of Chicago. (I was thinking of a building, a subway, a museum, or Lake Michigan.) That FOG is a feature of San Francisco. (I was thinking of hills or BAY.) That ASIMOV had an asteroid and crater named after him. That SHINSO ABE visited Pearl Harbor. And the clever clues for PETE (7D); DOLL (25D); LOW CUT (48D) and ISOLATION (37D). So much care seems to have gone into every section of the puzzle. Great fun from beginning to end.

GILL I. 9:02 AM  

French food. What's not to love. Then you have my idol, Julia Child. I like that her title sits on top of TOWER. She was definitely larger than life.
I thought this was a great little Wed. puzzle. I did think, though, that people who have no interest in food or have trouble spelling French words were going to groan. It already started with the first posters. Too bad.
My only little problem was MILLE FEUILLE. I had forgotten what that was. I don't really bake so my desserts are unknown unless it's chocolate mousse.
Like @chefwen, I've watched all her shows and own all her books. I'm so glad this wasn't all about baseball. Thank you Jeffrey for something different and fun to learn.
@JOHN X...SHINZO ABE is STILL the Prime Minister of Japan. He's all over the news and so I'm surprised some of you haven't heard of him. I always pronounced his last name like our Lincoln. He's an ahbeh. And, JOHN X, I don't think he'd be too fond of you calling him a Jap. Not cool.
Loved the clue Rose no longer seen in fields for PETE and being reminded of EYES OF BLUE.
Yummy puzzle.

arc en ciel 9:03 AM  

The food/french connection (GETIT) did not bother me. I rarely expect to know or like everything in a puzzle. It's always fun to do my best and google a little if I have to. I learn stuff (which I soon forget-HA!)

Anonymous 9:03 AM  

Oh please Rex. Bouillabaisse means literally boil and lower but is not, just like petit fours is not really little ovens. Come to think of it, Mille feuille is not *really* a million leaves, it’s neither a million nor truly made from leaves. I did laugh when French Chef popped up. It really isn’t necessary to be ornery, every day, just for the sake of it.

Anonymous 9:06 AM  

Please explain, why is “Sir, to a Brit” GUV?

TomAz 9:14 AM  

This theme was a down-the-middle hanging curveball for me. I crushed it, came in* a good minute and a half under average Wednesday time. This is not because I'm a genius, it is because the theme just played right to a couple of my interests.

Like Rex, I also started with AKIN TO for 1D, but when I saw "outside the works" I knew that had to be HORS DOEUVRES. And when I saw 63A highlighted I went there and immediately dropped in FRENCH CHEF. but while there it highlighted all the other themers, and I was able to immediately drop in PETIT FOURS and MILLE FEUILLE. So there I was, barely one minute into the puzzle, and four long across answers done. (BOUILLABAISSE took longer, and some crosses, because as Rex correctly notes, it is not "literal" at all.)

But I am sympathetic to those, including Rex, who found this puzzle Not Fun. If you don't know French, or aren't a Julia Child acolyte, I can see how this would be a slog.

* - Put me on Team 'That Z Sucks', though. I had an S too, and didn't change it until the very end when I didn't get the jazzy piano riff. I'm not counting that part.

GHarris 9:16 AM  

One of those days when, at first glance, the puzzle seemed undoable but patience and persistence paid off big time . Though I initially put in cent for change, bistro for cafe and an s in Tzo I made all the right modifications and had the satisfaction of correctly completing a puzzle Rex labels challenging.

Hodor 9:17 AM  

I wonder if it is true that 1) 17% of Holland or if 2) 17% of all of the country of the Netherlands was re/claimed. Holland is a part of the Netherlands sort of like Wales is a part of the UK. The Netherlands is a relatively small country, but if almost a fifth of the entire country is under sea level, that is amazing.

Anonymous 9:22 AM  

This will be very quick: Yep.

Thanks for a tasty puzzle Mr. Wechsler. And what a wonderful bonus that it left a bad taste in Mr. Sharp's mouth. Easy to predict given his elephantine time: he choked on it.

Will 9:36 AM  

Why so much complaining about Shinzo Abe? The current Japanese prime minister, who has met with 45 and who did make big news when he visited Pearl Harbor, seems very fair.

Anonymous 9:42 AM  

Hand up for Shinzo Abe crossing Tze. Ugh.

TJS 9:58 AM  

This is why I am addicted to this blog after one year of reading. Did the puzzle late last night,{almost always a bad idea because it throws off my morning routine}, and fpound nothing positive about it. But after reading the comments, I see that many found redeeming features that made the puzzle enjoyable and after all, that is what it is all about, n'est pas ? {not sure of spelling, isn't there a "c" in there? So thanks @Nancy,@Gill.I. etc.
And @Tom.Az, I've been a member of that team ever since I started reading the comments here. LOL

Anonymous 10:03 AM  

Tom AZ And TJS,

I'm on team that says Z sucks.

TJS 10:04 AM  

Forgot to add, not crazy about the 40 Down cluing. "Tell it to the Marines."

Phil 10:06 AM  

Another cooking term ... but hasn’t exported well
Aller retour ... direction go and return but for thin beef steak or maybe fish means to do a quick fry and flip, et voilà

Leprof 10:10 AM  

If you want to be fussy about the French,
une (feminine) mille-feuille or millefeuille is
a plant, the yarrow, less commonly called the milfoil. Un (masculine) mille feuilles is the pastry. But who cares?

Anonymous 10:15 AM  

I thought MILLE FEUILLE was a disgraced pop singing duo. Live and learn.

Z 10:22 AM  

Neither SHINZO ABE nor LAO TZE is actually spelt that way (しんそ あべ and 拉塔特 if Google translate is to be trusted), so the S is as correct as the Z no matter what your rather limited App might say. That Z is an English approximation of a sound in two different languages using different written forms. JUST. TERRIBLE. @Will - it’s not about SHINZO ABE, it’s about crossing two transliterated names.

I see the foodies all love this puzzle, but I’m more of the “really - French translations?” I mean, easy for lots of us who had a smattering of foreign language in high school or college, but it felt intentionally elitist as I solved. If one has no Romance Language in their background don’t the themers essentially become uncrossed? Or is at least a little Latin/Italian/French/Spanish/Portuguese/Romanian now presumed? Or is it just that French cuisine is so widely popular that everyone is presumed to know the dishes and their spelling? Curious, I just checked to see how many restaurants in ASHEville serve French cuisine. Of the “Five Best” the fifth is a food truck!?! I have at least a dozen Mexican restaurants between me and the nearest French restaurant. As someone who is more than a little snobby about my beer and coffee I’m hardly one to criticize, but I’m sympathetic to anyone who is put off by this puzzle.

Anonymous 10:32 AM  

What? in English the Prime minister of Japan's name is spelled Shinzo Abe. The s is not as correct a the z. Any assertion to the contrary is silly. Please stop with the false erudition.

RooMonster 10:35 AM  

Hey All !
TsE here too. UGG. After grokking rest of puz, which had its tough spits, was so proud of myself, and then a DNF s/Z. Not NEAT.

But, did think puz was good. A TAD choppy, 22 threes which seemed like there were more. Those four side blocks, which happen alot when you have a middle-puzzle 13.

Even though not up on my FRENCH cuisine, I have heard of them except for MILLE FEUILLE. Downs got the correct spelling for me. Helped get Revealer, as also not up on my cooking shows.

Laughed at clue for ISOLATUON. The ole brain read: A quarantined person is kept in it, I thought, "Uh, quarantine?" Har.

Overall, a nice WedsPuz. AYE.


Tim Aurthur 10:49 AM  

A French dictionary (Trésor) says that bouillabaisse literally does mean "boil and lower":

ÉTYMOL. ET HIST. − Vers 1835-40 masc. bouille baïsse (Pons de L'Hérault, Mémoires dans Quem.); 1840 fém. bouille-abaisse (Mérimée, Colomba, p. 7); 1845 id. bouillabaisse (Flaubert, L'Éducation sentimentale, p. 216). Empr. au prov. mod. boui-abaisso (boulh-abaisso, boulh-abais) attesté chez Chailan (ds Mistral), composé pour le 1er élément soit de la 2e pers. du sing. de l'impératif, soit de la 3e pers. du sing. de l'ind. prés. du verbe bouie « bouillir », pour le 2e élément de la 2e pers. du sing. de l'impér. du verbe abaissa « abaisser » (ou bien : bouie-abaissa, littéralement « bous et abaisse [adressé au mets cuisant dans la marmite] », ou bien : boui-abaissa « elle [la marmite] bout, abaisse-là », parce qu'il ne faut qu'un bouillon pour cuire ce mets)

So you bring the pot to a boil, then lower it, i.e., let the stew simmer rather than continue to boil.

Nancy 10:50 AM  

@Z (10:22)-- ...and I'm sympathetic to anyone who has "at least a dozen Mexican restaurants between me and the nearest French restaurant." Mind you, Mexican food can be very tasty and enjoyable, but to be so lacking in opportunities for French food -- all I can say is quelle domage! Worse from my own standpoint is that there are many fewer French restaurants in NYC than there used to be; that many of those that remain no longer serve the wonderful artery-clogging, cream-and-butter laden dishes that Julia made famous; and that in any event I can't afford the few French restaurants that remain. The more affordable bistros are gone.

@Quasi (8:06) -- Love your description of those old Julia Child shows. I'm wondering if I can find them online as you did? If I can, will watch. It seems that everything is slicker and more packaged now than it was in the days of yore and Julia, n'est-ce pas?

@Larry Gilstrap (2:40 am) -- I loved your post and especially your description of John Muir. I have absolutely no idea if it's accurate or not, but I chuckled.

David 10:56 AM  

Shinzo Abe was a gimme for me. Saw the first "literally" clue and went straight to the reveal. Given that I watched Julia when I was a child and grew up to spend 20 years working as a cook and chef, the rest was a lark, but without any spark. I didn't much care about the "literal" thing, but "Guv" was truly horribly clued. Perhaps "Ashe" fell for some because of the recent focus on Ashe stadium in Queens. Given my age, "eyes of blue" was also a gimme, but I totally blanked on "isolation"; I just could not remember that word.

And yes, Rex, the Netherlands has spent centuries reclaiming land from the sea and will soon be laughing at places like Florida as they sink under water due to the USA's hubris.

Will 10:57 AM  

@Z I appreciate the education on transliteration (this is not sarcasm, seriously, thanks). I do think that if a puzzle is to reflect it’s publication, then it’s worth noting that the Times always uses the z. I guess I was also a little less willing to deal with the argument about the crossing, since the puzzle used the same spelling as the Tao Te Ching on my book shelf. It’s funny how puzzle critique exposes worldview

jberg 11:00 AM  

I liked it OK - but I sort of know French. Anyway, don't eat what you can't spell is what I say. OTOH, don't eat SUSHI in rolls if you have a choice -- the hunks of fish on top of rice are the way to go.

I didn't think I had any idea about Mr. ABE's first name, but after I had a few crosses it came back to me. I had only the vaguest notion that he'd visited Pearl Harbor, but for the visit to be "historic" it had to be either him or the Emperor.

On @Z's point about transliteration of Chinese characters, it is true that SHINZO is the English standard (i.e., used by the press); but the NYT varies TZE/tse/tzu etc. as needed to make the crosses, so it is a little unfair to count the S as wrong here. Doesn't bother me, because a) I got it right, and b) I solve on paper, so I don't have to worry about whether the app says I'm done.

relicofthe60s 11:02 AM  

Who doesn’t know that the Dutch have reclaimed land from the sea with dikes that are world famous (remember the story of the little boy? Rex, apparently.

Fashionista 11:04 AM  

Julia Child’s cookbooks make great reading even if you are not going to actually cook from them. But I think she would hope that her thorough explanations would inspire one to try. Plus I think that with any cuisine one is unfamiliar with it would be good to just know about the food names and dishes. So if and when one is invited out to a French restaurant (or Mexican or Vietnamese) one could look at the menu with interest and curiosity rather than fear and distaste. I.E. “coq au vin” is just really good chicken!

pabloinnh 11:04 AM  

As that annoying kid who always won the spelling bee thing in school, I was very happy to see BOUILLABAISSE,because I never know how to spell it and the occasional humbling experience is a fine thing. Hadn't thought of "fours" as ovens but it makes sense when thinking of Italian "forno" (Spanish "horno", consonant shift). I'm no foodie, but anyone who didn't know of and enjoy Julia Child has missed someone special.

@three of clubs-If you don't think otters gambol, you haven't seen them sliding down a snow-covered slope just for the sheer hell of it. They're always smiling, and if it's quiet and the wind is right, you can hear them laugh out loud.

Cassieopia 11:13 AM  

Not my tasse de the (thank you, Google Translate). The NW corner was brutal, absolutely brutal. I put in lake before WIND, which got me HaNkERFOR, which then got me stuck forever. INGOT was difficult but fair, and while I too (et tu?) had an S for a Z, that did not strike me as unfair. I do crosswords to learn something, and I felt I *should* know the name of Japan's Prime Minister. So I thought that cross was fair.

The unfair cross was AVEO/GUV, in my opinion. I agree with whomever said that "GUV" is not the same as "sir", and why do I have to know car model names? Japanese Prime minister = useful knowledge. Defunct Chevy model name = useless except for this crossword.

Like an idiot, I kept wanting the FRENCHkitchen for FRENCHCHEF; the brain works in such odd ways. I was so stuck on FRENCHkitchen, even though it so obviously didn't fit, that I couldn't get to Chef until I got OHIO.

PETITFOURS brought back a happy memory. As a child growing up in Fairbanks, the Sears Catalog was the only game in town when it came to school clothes and Christmas presents. I spent hours poring over the thing, and there was a tempting section on foods, including a delicious photo of the prettiest baked goods I had ever seen - petit fours, delicately decorated, all in a box, all wrapped in little papers, like jewels. I coveted them but knew Santa would never bring me such an indulgence. However, my brother secretly saved up his allowance and Christmas morning I awoke to find the magical box under the tree. I remember it to this day, and yes, my brother is still the same sweet person he was all those decades ago.

Malsdemare 11:14 AM  

I really thought I'd never get the NW; I dropped in LAKE for the Chicago feature, despite having worked in the loop and needing the person behind me to shove open doors to the street on occasion. I pulled LAKE, 'cause that K was no help with 3 down, and then I left the whole section empty for a long while. And then I just put my head down and bullied my way through the rest. EYESOFBLUE gave me hope, briefly, that I'd encounter friendly faces along the way, but I totally forgot ANDY Capp, perserverating on Al and not able to move on. I got the idea at HORSDOEUVRES, but despite years of French, I couldn't have told you what boil and lower was in translation. After 4 Rexes, I typed in the S in SHUN, and groaned to see I had an error. Turns out, like Rex, I mispelled ABE's name, had an S rather than Z. Tzit!

It was San Gran's FOG that pointed me to WIND for Chi-town. I loved the clue for PETE Rose and enjoyed the evilDOER. Fun puzzle; lasted through one very nice cup of coffee.

jb129 11:27 AM  

Kept me going & I loved it ... especially Example of Change - Dime.

Thanks, JW!

QuasiMojo 11:49 AM  

@Nancy, merci bien. I think you have to sign up for Passport thru your PBS station. I used Thirteen. It’s only about $5 a month but you get not only her a bunch of her best shows but others, Great Performances, American Masters, Frontline, et al, as well as most of the Brit shows. I watched a gorgeous concert filmed at Schonbrunn palace in Vienna recently. Highly recommend. My subscription was a gift from an old NY friend who worried so was not getting enough culture.

Joseph Michael 12:01 PM  

Please pass the Pepto Bismo. Like most French meals, this left me feeling still hungry and with a slightly upset stomach.

I can never remember how to spell HORSDOEUVRES so the crosses helped with that, but I did not find it particularly interesting that this translates to “outside the works.” Nor am I a fan of cooking shows, FRENCH or otherwise. So I guess this just wasn’t in my wheelhouse, even though I was able to solve it without any ERRors.

I live in Chicago and don’t find it any WINDier than anywhere else. I believe the sobriquet “The Windy City” derives from a late 19th century reference to the hot air of Chicago politicians vying to host the World’s Fair.

I did enjoy learning that ASIMOV has a Mars crater named after him and that 17% of the land in Holland is RECLAIMED, but overall this puzzle made me a TAD TESTY.

Ben 12:01 PM  

The cross of MILLE FEUILLE and AVEO nearly Naticked me, but luckily it was my only trouble spot, so some quick "try various letters" got me the happy pencil in short order. Still quite long for me for a Wednesday at 16:15

Anonymous 12:01 PM  

"I say Guvernor" (governor), always mix up the s and z

Malsdemare 12:02 PM  

Ouch! San Fran, not San Gran.

Odd Sock 12:04 PM  

All this time I thought the line from Marc Antony was "let loose the dogs of war". Learned something.
If you watch British cop shows the underlings always seem to refer to the superior officer as Guv. Didn't even blink for that one.
Even though that old song is way before my time I could hear it in my head immediately.
One of the things I love and admire about French cooking is how much trouble goes into some of the dishes. You really have to love to cook and eat to work so hard for your meals.

Masked and Anonymous 12:07 PM  

Oh my stars and stripes … French themers. Watchin our "At the Earth's Core" DVD several times with French subtitles turned on [a coupla years back] did not come even close to preparin M&A for this. Them explorers didn't eat that good, while underground. Eventually I got thru most of the puz, except for the SHINSO/TSE faux splatzer.

staff weeject pick: TZE. Would also accept TSE. Honrable mention to GUV.

Kinda enjoyed the funky grid layout. Nice giant black L's, and lotsa extra-credit longball entries. Also, nice to see Isaac ASIMOV & Julia Child appearances.

Merci merci merci, Mr. Wechsler.

Masked & Anonymo9Us

Ellen S 12:11 PM  

@Seth C — apparently SHINZO ABE was the former once, until 2007, and the got reelected in 2012. Maybe @John X lost track in between.

Z 12:17 PM  

@Nancy - At the nearest Mexican restaurant I can get a decent lunch for two and leave a 33% tip for $20. That’s why there are so many. I must confess that I’m extremely intrigued by the very notion of a French cuisine food truck.

@anon10:32 - I’m sure you will be shocked to discover that there are at least three different transliteration systems for Japanese to the Latin alphabet. Not that I’m familiar with any of them. I did the very simple exercise of putting SHINZO ABE and SHINSO ABE into Google Translate. Oh, look, they both return ぞ for the ZO/SO sound. It’s almost as if we are all on a stairway to heaven.*

@Will - I’d agree with you on the NYT reflecting its wider practice on SHINZO, but the NYTX is capricious about Lao TZE/TSE/TSU/TZU. Heck, I had to go check to see if that’s one person or two. I do think Z is currently the better choice (preferred?) for both, but there is no argument for calling the S “wrong.” I say “currently” because I remember when “Peking” and “Bombay” were “correct.”

*I know but how could I resist?

puzzlehoarder 12:22 PM  

Spelling was definitely an issue for me today but then it always is.

SHINZO was no problem. He may not quite be crossword 101 but he's a strong 102.

Speaking of old SHINZO, @John X,

"when SHINZOABE visits Pearl Harbor he's definitely a JAP"

Any other skeletons you wanna let outta that closet?

Unknown 12:35 PM  

I finished with a few errors.

First, I had T*S*E crossing SHIN*S*O....

Eponymous naturalist in California woods, MUIR, I put CUIR because I put DECI- from blanks...

Never heard of BOUILLABAISSE, MILLEFEUILLE, or AVEO... so two squares from _V_O were hard/needed to be guessed/given up when I didn't know where my errors were (cUIR and TsE)

Why is every corner GLUE'd via proper names, except NE?

TAFTS/SISSY makes the SW, ANDY/EDDA SE, and ASHE/SHINZOABE makes the NW (shifted over one letter...)

Really hard for a Wednesday. A ton of proper names, a ton of French, and then the English words being clued with heavy vocabulary rather than wordplay? Succor, Irascible? I've never heard Vive LEROI, either. So that was great.

LEROI, FRENCHCHEF, TAFTS, SISSY all crossing the SW lol... If I didn't know TAFTS/SISSY...

I also hate "ending with _" or "beginning with _" and when they are strangely phrased. I didn't know if it meant a word that ENDS with evil, or an ending that GOES with evil. Sure, that's crosswords, but that isn't wordplay... that's just... may as well just say -fix with evil...

Unknown 12:43 PM  

Ah, also, not knowing BOUILLABAISSE, and ST*U*RM und Drang... or "GAMBOLER" lmao... at least river gamboler was an attempt at wordplay

Chip Hilton 12:49 PM  

Paper solver, so my TsE stayed as was. My only error, although the French spellings did present quite a challenge. As did an earlier poster, I got RECLAIMED off the initial R. Seemed pretty obvious.

Happy to be given a testing Wednesday challenge.

Teedmn 1:12 PM  

I join the DNF due to S vs. Z crowd today. But I have no boeuf with the French in the puzzle. I took two quarters of French in college and also a "Reading French" course - I'm far, far, far from fluent but I love to read the French version of instructions that come with every widget we buy, to see if I remember anything.

For weeks after we saw the movie, "Julie and Julia", my husband would warble like Julia Child (or at least Meryl Streep's version of her) whenever he picked up a spatula. You all may have noticed a pattern here - yes, my husband loves trying to recreate different accents - he's more of an AURAL than visual type.

I'm with @Diywriter in thinking that unless the land in the Netherlands was originally dry, then inundated, then RECLAIMED, we should just drop the RE. But I've certainly heard that term applied to said land; it doesn't actually bother me.

The TWO clues I circled today as favorites were 26D's "River gamboler" for OTTER (a riverboat casino reference came to mind first) and 67A's "Example of change" = DIME. Those just tickled me for some reason.

Thanks, Jeffrey, for the Wednesday challenge I haNker, I mean HUNGER FOR!

Anonymous 1:14 PM  

Actually my wife is half Japanese. I'm guessing I'm more familiar with Japanese transliterations than you. Perhaps you too live with someone who's mother tongue is Japanese. But I'm guessing not. It's unclear to me why you think I'd be surprised by various transliterations. But it's a mystery I can live with. What I can't abide, is letting your rankly mistaken claim to go unchallenged.
So I say, for the last time (but with supreme confidence and more than a little knowledge) that the only acceptable way to spell the name in English is Shinzo Abe. That's with a z.

Artyblonde 1:20 PM  

Easy. I got the French foods with just a few letters. Only hang up was s/z until I recalled the actual dignitary who is often in the news.

Anonymous 1:44 PM  

Have you ever liked a NYTs puzzle?

Anonymous 2:06 PM  

Knowing French food, and how to spell the entries, made this an easy puzzle.

SteveHikes 2:34 PM  

Glad to see I was not only one who enjoyed and admired this puzzle. Not surprised by Rex’s nitpicking, but sad to see so many other comments reflecting anger at other languages. Too much anti-“foreign” ranting and complaining.

Banana Diaquiri 2:42 PM  

at least the NYT puzzlers are aware of the Japanese leader's name, if only to one letter. the low information population, not so much. foreigners just don't matter. even when they're brown citizens with a messy language on a distant island. may be not too much longer?

Leprof 2:49 PM  

Guv (from governor) can be used to address a hierarchical superior or an unknown male. It is much less formal than sir. In the first case, one could also say boss, which seems to be spreading in the U.K.

Cc’d 3:03 PM  

I had the same error

tea73 3:06 PM  

Like others I fell down on the spelling of SHINZO ABE even though he's been prime minister of Japan forever. I spent a gap year in France and I own three Julia Child cookbooks so the puzzle was easy in my book. 2.5 Rexes instead of my usual 3.

Surprised no one has posted a link to this: SNL Julia Child skit

GILL I. 3:18 PM  

Oy...GUV has been around for ever. Think My Fair Lady.
@Quasi: Dang, I think you should have left in AVEA for the car. Just be relieved that FAG in England means a cigarette. Thanks for the loud chuckle.
@Cassiopia. I love stories like your. Somethings - even small ones - are to be remembered for ever. Mine was getting a Roy Rogers silver cap pistol from my dad!
@Joseph Michael. To me Chicago is the only Windy City on this universe. Fresh from balmy Cuba, I went with my dad. I never had owned a coat in my life until I arrived at the coldest, windiest place ever. Two things I will always remember: WIND and the best steak I ever ate.

Here Diagonally 4:20 PM  

S for Z here too but my real hangup was the I in DEMI. I’ve never known that means half. My only non-Moore knowledge of the word stems from parochial schooled seventh-grade me sneaking peeks at the VS catalog and witnessing demi bras in all their glory. Thanks Rex for “Hungry for You.” The Police are my all-time #1 and Ghost in the Machine my favorite album.

Blue Stater 4:28 PM  

This one was a breeze for me until I ran aground in (about) Arkansas, with the brutal crosses, an error (GUV is not the British equivalent of "Sir," not even close -- who edits this stuff again? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? I lived in Britain for three years and am married to a Brit), and a Frenchism I've never heard (in my 80 years on the planet) in an English-speaking context, MILLEFEUILLES. The BOUILLEBAISSE booboo has already been pointed out by OFL.

I do not understand how blunders like these keep getting into the paper in, of late, increasing numbers.

Anonymous 4:47 PM  

So,Anonymoous@7:21: On the desktop version of this blog, your response to Larry Gilstrap does not link up to his post like on the mobile version (in case anyone was wondering why you were questioning "anniversary of what?" when he wondered about why the constructor would use "evil doer" on this anniversary, of all times...

The answer, of course, is today is the anniversary of LAST September 12 and the one before that...jeez, they have them every year, for Pete's sake. Obviously you don't acknowledge September 12th.

If you read long enough here, you will see Larry's posts are about quantity, not quality. But you were probably the only one who actually reads his posts, so...bravo!

Hartley70 4:49 PM  

For me, this was one of the best Wednesday puzzles that I can remember. The theme entries and their spelling were familiar to me, but the literal translations were not, and I enjoyed the struggle. The clueing was fresh and interesting. I got a kick out of INGOT for some reason.

@Cassieopia, oh lucky girl to have a brother like that!

I’m feeling the need to dine st my favorite little French bistro very soon.

I too had to guess the Z in ABE’s name as my last square was completed.

I’ve never been to Chicago but I love the idea that the WINDy description stems from windbag politicians. I don’t even care if it’s true. It should be.

Z 4:55 PM  

The thing about stating absolutes - even mostly accurate absolutes - is a single exception of that sound being spelt differently in English is all it takes to disprove. TBF - It’s not that I know much about Japanese transliteration. It’s just that I know language changes, sounds morph and shift, and transliteration is tricky. It took me all of 22 seconds to find an example of “SHINSO.” Now, I’m sure there are very good reasons that the prime minister always appears as SHINZO, logical and good reasons. Maybe the two are actually different sounds, or maybe it’s a tonal thing. I don’t know. Here’s what I do know, transliteration is tricky. “Z” might be better in that square. It might be preferred for both the Japanese and the Chinese. But the “S” is defensible enough that that crossing is awful. In short, NEVER BE AN ABSOLUTIST. N.E.V.E.R.

Okay - that’s three. I’m done. How long before someone takes me to task for that last sentence? I mean, I thought the Zoso/Stairway to Heaven line was pretty obvious, too.

Blackbird 5:17 PM  

Easy. Came together easily.

Nancy 5:32 PM  

@Cassieopia -- Let me join Hartley and GILL in saying you have one terrific brother! That's just the sweetest thing I ever heard! How old was he at the time?

@Hartley -- That's the cutest picture you've provided of your beagle in a dog's age!

@Anon 4:47 -- Larry G. is one of my favorite posters. An interesting guy. A very good writer. So there!

john towle 6:13 PM  

Horse overs for hors d”oeuvres in sailorspeak.


john aka I yam what I yam

Jofried 6:31 PM  

I thought this puzzle was insanely easy. I literally flew through it other than trying to remember how to spell ABE’s first name. I was shocked when I went to the blog and saw that OFL had rated it as challenging! I actually almost beat his time! Not trying to brag as my times are usually dreadfully slow...I guess I know French fairly well? So that was fun!

SweetCaroline 6:43 PM  

Thanks for this lovely story.

Larry Gilstrap 7:35 PM  

Thanks @Nancy for the kind words. I do the puzzle everyday and read Rex most days, and post when I have the urge and the opportunity. I enjoy the challenge of posting in a pretty tough room, a place for me to practice my composition skills. I try to be respectful of constructors and other blog commenters. I have been known to take a jab at OFL, but never in a cruel or personal manner. As always, readers have the option of scrolling down. No harm, no foul.

Anonymous 7:50 PM  

You were off the ground, moving through the air!! WOW!!!!!!

Anonymous 7:59 PM  

No understanding of how the V sign can represent "two."

Anonymous 8:30 PM  

Everybody got that? N.E.V.E.R be an absolutist.
I'll let the philosophers untangle that paradox.
As for the z sound in Shinzo, I'm at home, my wife is next to me. I had her review the tbreadm and she just looked at me with a puzzled expression and said : " That's not the same sound."
I don't care how long the search takes or how many hits it yields, the only transliteration of Shinzo in English is with a z.
Hell, google between you and me and see how many hits you get. Lots of ignoramuses post. Some of them here.

David Grenier 8:31 PM  

I’m not a speed silver or a crossword purist, so I eventually figured out what the French words were phoenetically and googled them. That helped a lot.

I misspelled Shinzo Abe’s name with an S but guessed that when I got the annoying “you’re done but not” box.

My biggest peeve was the Chicago/SF clues not being at all related to the theme. They were cute on their own but because they were related to each other I kept thinking they had to be part of some bigger theme.

Jeff B. 8:36 PM  

Completed in a normal time for me. But having so much French in a puzzle always bugs me. It feels very snobby. Living in the USA, unless you live near Quebec, it’s much more important to have some knowledge of Spanish, a language that doesn’t appear enough in crosswords. Más español, menos francés!

JC66 8:40 PM  

@Anon 7:59

When you make the "V" sign, how many fingers are raised?

Anonymous 8:50 PM  

Oops. I meant between you and I as an example of a common error. Gomen'nasai.

Anonymous 9:13 PM  

So Rex is good with ISIS benignly clued but not DeVos. Got it.

John Hoffman 12:14 PM  

No reason for name-calling here.

Anonymous 2:10 AM  

I am not saying I believe all (or even most) of what I learned in college. However, I often ponder a Psych 101 or 201 class that professed that 80% of anger is rooted in fear. I pose this question to myself whenever I feel anger rising, and I can sometimes come to terms with the source of the anger. I can't imagine what horrific fear could be the source of such anger demonstrated by @Anon 10:42 (and probably 10:03 and others). Just sayin'... (and "just sayin'" needs to get into a crossword puzzle before it's completely out of vogue, if it hasn't already.)

kitshef 9:22 PM  

DNF and and I'm sure I don't have to say where. Other than that one square, a fairly easy and very enjoyable Wednesday.

spacecraft 10:13 AM  

As a paper solver, I saw that either S or Z would work there, so I picked one and refuse to count myself wrong either way. There's another spot that's almost as ambiguous: was it ETA/TOAD or ETD/TODD? See, I happen to know a "contemptible sort" named TODD, so... Anyway, I don't associate TOAD with that definition; perhaps that's too "literal."

I'm afraid I don't HUNGERFOR any of the theme dishes; the very idea of cold soup leaves me...cold. But other than a slight problem with spelling here and there, this puzzle went down quite easily. A TAD of trouble seeing BUFF, but that was momentary. Hey, I have a BUFF BFF. Har.

Last line filled was DOD wannabe SISSY; she would have been but for DEMI Moore. There's no un-sashing HER. Oh, one other nit to pick: "Has anybody seen my GAL?" NOT "girl." C'mon, man. Par.

Burma Shave 10:24 AM  


in a TOWERSUITE we TWO are enough.
AS that DOLL and I GETIT on in the BUFF.


rondo 11:41 AM  

I’m not really up on FRENCH, especially the spellings, but this puz - c'est une affaire simple, or part de gâteau. Piece of cake. Finished in about 2X Rex and no write-overs. Because I’m just not that fast anyway, the solve time doesn’t really suffer from trying to spell FRENCH words.

There’s an invasive plant species in MN lakes called Asian milfoil, probably not much like FRENCH MILLEFEUILLE ? And this is the time of year for churches and veteran’s groups to have *booya* fundraisers. Must be derived from BOUILLABAISE?

SISSY Spacek in the ‘70s film Prime Cut. Yeah baby.

Even if you’re no FRENCHCHEF, you OTTER GETIT.

Diana, LIW 1:11 PM  

Per Bill Butler (on his daily crossword blog):

"Bouillabaisse is a traditional seafood stew that originated in the port city of Marseille on the Mediterranean coast of France. The term “bouillabaisse” comes from Provençal dialect meaning “boil and simmer”, or more literally “boil and lower (heat)”."

I trust Bill B, who grew up in Europe. And who researches, dispassionately, his definitions.

I found it easy, 'cept for the errant Z. Carry on.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

leftcoastTAM 2:52 PM  

Clever, fun, and fair, with crosses very helpful in getting correct French spelling. And HUNGER FOR is a perfect complement to the theme.

Elsewhere, SHINZO ABE might go for some SUSHI, but probably not at your local EATERY.

BFF and BUFF deserve a nod.

Enjoyed it.

rainforest 3:14 PM  

Well, my four years of high school French, and two extended sojourns in France came to the fore today. Nifty idea for a theme given that French cuisine is usually held in high regard, and the four themers are pretty well-known. I've never seen SHINZO spelled any other way, btw.

I sailed through this baby just like @Burma Shave with his poetry (good one, @BS).

I just saw "Old man with a gun" featuring Redford and Ms. Spacek. Sweet movie. I also had a bag of popcorn - never again. Just greasy awful.

For the record, I love French cooking. Unfortunately, my favourite bistro out here (La Regalade) has closed down. But there are others, fortunately.
Nice puzzle. Merci mille fois M. Wechsler.

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