You in billet doux / WED 11-13-19 / Order since 1868 / Symbolic flower of Flanders / One of three in Buick logo / Role for John Huston in 1966's The Bible / 2015 Verizon acquisition

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Constructor: Ed Sessa

Relative difficulty: no idea. super slow for me, but that was def. because of early-morning fog brain ... so: Medium!?

THEME: BALLOON DARTS (56A: Carnival projectiles that might be directed at parts of this puzzle?) — a "POP" rebus, where "POP" appears inside five circled squares:

Theme answers:
Word of the Day: PES (23A: Foot, in medical dictionaries) —
n. pl. pe·des (pĕd′ās′)
foot or footlike part, especially the foot of a four-footed vertebrate. (the free dictionary)
• • •

I can't try to speed-solve first thing in the morning. I have to accept that it just doesn't work anymore (if it ever did). I could not see the "POP"s even when I knew they were there, even when I'd ferreted out the theme, so "IS THE POPE CATHOLIC?" (38A: "Obviously! (Duh!)") and SOAP OPERA were just unparsable to me for way too long. I've never heard anyone under 60 say "IS THE POPE CATHOLIC?" Maybe 70. Maybe I've never actually heard anyone say it IRL, and have only seen it on (old) TV and in (old) movies. Venn diagram of people who say "Obviously! (Duh!)" (how do you *say* a parenthetical???) and people who cutesily ask "IS THE POPE CATHOLIC?" is just two circles side by side. I had the last letters in place and thought answer was gonna be something something ALCOHOLIC (?). Found APOPLEXY hard to see too—whole NE corner briefly threatened Never to come into view (no idea on ADOBE, no idea on BAG, no idea on LEDGE, which, to me, is just an innocuous place where birds "perch" non-"perilous"ly all the time. Every day, in fact). Spelling on SPEX is super-suspext. I had SPEC in there at first. Anyway, it was all a disaster, as over and over I just stared at grid wondering what was wrong.

Misread clue on STAYS IN as [Eschews the right life] and thought it was trying to be some politics pun. Total blank on 29D: One eating before a king (TASTER) even when most of the letters are in place. It's so dumb ... like, what year is it? I need context for this to make any sense? Again, this is from the (old) movies. Anyway, my foggy brain isn't the puzzle's problem, but the stale answers and the aggressively bygone cultural center of gravity and crosswordese like PES (oof) VENI OVO NAE SST etc. that *is* the puzzle's fault. Also, I just don't think BALLOON DARTS is a thing. The theme concept, with the balloons POPping and all, is not bad, but the revealer was a major let-down. Also a let-down to have some of the POPs hidden inside other words or phrases, and then some of them ... just be the word POP (BANDS, IGGY, TOOTSIE). But "POP" is probably not the easiest word to bury over and over and over, so the unhidden POPs were much less of a concern for me than the PFFT of the revealer. Oh, and the "POP" in POP BANDS *means* POPULAR, so ... why is POPULAR here? You can't have a word and its own abbr. in the same grid. Change POPULAR to POPLARS or POP TART, redo the NE corner. It would take a few minutes, tops. Come on, editor. Edit!!

made this verion of a NE corner in under a minute—there are surely even better options

[Björk band of the '80s-'90s]

Honestly, what is going on with the clue on ROOT?!?!? It's like someone just pounded the keyboard. I keep reading it, and it doesn't get better. That is an insanely complicated and confusing way to come at a very general word like ROOT. It would be a great clue for WHISKEY if you just cut that end bit off there. I kept wanting it to be a whiskey-related answer. But no, it's just ... ROOT. Awful. 1966's "The Bible"???? GOD? At least I know who John Huston is, but yeeeeesh, this is a clue for TRICIA Nixon, not me. Is "The Bible" even a famous movie? Why would you go all the way ... there ... for something simple like GOD. Puzzle feels hostile to anyone born after 1960. IGGY POP is a young-skewing answer, and he's like 94 (jk he's actually undead). ADMEN is appropriate, though, as there's no women here except TRICIA (and DORA). By the way, while I'm down DORA's way, look how easy it is to get rid of "TORA!"—cruddy OLD 1/3-of-an-OLD-movie "TORA!" I did this in roughly negative three seconds:

TORA-free, properly edited version

I mean, in losing DORA you lose half the female presence in your puzzle, but it's clear you never cared about that to begin with, so [shrug]. Bye bye (bye), TORA! Anyway, overall, decent theme idea somewhat squandered by iffy revealer and creaky fill.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. Happy birthday, mom

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Hungry Mother 5:33 AM  

Just a hair under average time. I discovered the theme right away. Had “aerie” before LEDGE for a while. Nice grid, lots of fun, almost a cup of coffee’s worth.

Dawn Urban 5:37 AM  

Thought this puzzle was difficult, but very rewarding.

I am under 60, but do know the phrase ISTHEPOPECATHOLIC? It certainly does seem like something said in the "All In The Family" sitcom.

Had SaT for SST, until forced to change it.

And I misspelled HIPPOPOTAMUSES for quite a while. I will remember MUSES on the end of that word by recalling the dreamy ballerina HIPPOPOTAMUSES dancing in Walt Disney's "Fantasia". 😊

Lewis 6:31 AM  

The theme is refreshing, IMO, because it's visual rather than the usual wordplay-based. Maybe aural as well, as at some point I imagined hearing those pops I was seeing. I did miss wordplay in the cluing, however, though some vague cluing imparted some lovely resistance. And a Wednesday rebus! Overall, a fun POP quiz. Gracias, Ed.

Rhyme time sub-theme: LEDGE by the edge, STAT crossing SKAT, DORA crossing TORA. I also liked that the POP up in the northeast corner was right by AD, and in the same neighborhood, for better or worse, we have the adjoining OLD BAG.

Closing doggerel to be said five times quickly:


Anonymous 6:49 AM  

I had a very similar solving experience as Rex. Overall, it was stale and slow. I did know ADOBE though, so that made the NE a lot easier. At first, I thought the POP was going to be perpendicular to the rest of the word and only after trying way to hard to make that work did I admit it was a rebus.

The Charmins Bear 6:56 AM  

Does the Pope s*** in the woods?

Karl Grouch 6:56 AM  

No sleep at all tonight but unlike Rex I don't do speed-solving, so the ole mind worked without having to be pushed too much.

Got the rebus in 20a right away, saw Hippo Muses and wondered what the funk is Pota..
(Later found that its an acronym for Prevention Of Terrorism Act!so a great potential for some nutty cluing there).

Tricks played on a sleepless mind..

And that was about all the fun I had during the solve.

And oh Rex, "two circles side by side" sounds a bit romantic, I think you meant two non-overlapping or non-intersecting circles.

Good day to one and all.

amyyanni 7:12 AM  

Perhaps the coffee kicked in sooner than did Rex's tea, but rather enjoyed this. GLOMS and APOPLEXY are wonderful words. Perhaps I am just more easily amused. Have a happy hump day.

BobL 7:12 AM  

Great puzzle. Pope answer fantastic. Lousy write-up.

Irene 7:25 AM  

Come on, Rex: Is old so very very bad? These comments are getting tiresome. Does anyone know the average age of the solvers and--by the way--your readers?

kitshef 7:29 AM  

Rex complains about seemingly half the answers in the grid, but doesn't mention SKAT, the one thing in the puzzle that was (to me) over-the-wall obscure. Thought about SpiT and SnAp and Stud, but SKAT doesn't ring even the faintest of bells. But maybe that's just me.

I really liked both of Rex's improvements, but on the second one it was getting rid of SKAT that I really appreciated, TORA being fine and dandy.

GILL I. 7:30 AM  

I have to get up earlier than @Lewis...he stole my OLD BAG.
Well...I'm not an OLD BAG although I'm older than I was yesterday. I like to think of myself as a SVELTE SENIOR.
I rather enjoyed the POP rebus romp. I always HEARD "Does a bear shit in the woods?" IS THE POPE CATHOLIC led me ASTRAY.
Had no trouble GLOMing the POP but I got stuck a few times in the middle of the west coast. I saw 34A Bears and I kept thinking oso or osa since we had a lot of foreign today. I'm glad to learn that Buick has a logo SHIELD. I'm also thrilled beyond belief that Friedrich has a product called ACS and that uisge beatha means ROOT. I was looking for a SCOT but they're not Gaelic.
I didn't eat much candy when I was a youngster but I remember when I came to the States and was introduced to the TOOTSIE roll POPs. I always cheated and bit into them just to get to the center. My favorite was cherry. I am the apple of your eye.

Eliza 7:38 AM  

I enjoyed this! Two things,OFL.
Balloon darts are a thing
Isn't the plural of hippopotamus hippoptami?

Tim Pierce 7:39 AM  

Today I learned that GUM is an iconic Russian department store facing Red Square. So... Thanks, I guess?

Lots of difficult cluing here and stuff that just felt kind of off. Like that GUM clue. That's a Friday or Saturday clue for GUM. Where's that come from?

Crossing HEP with ETRE clued as "Peut-___ (maybe: Fr.)" cost me a good five minutes after I had everything else filled in. I had HIP because, as a non-Francophone, why shouldn't that be ETRI?

The theme is fine but the clues all were a little off for me. At first I had TOOTSIE ROLL for TOOTSIE POP, BOY BANDS for POP BANDS, and spent too long trying to figure out the common theme in POP, ROLL and BOY. ("Pop, drop and roll? Snap, crackle, pop?")

Joaquin 7:49 AM  

If I hadn’t had about seven spelling errors and three typos when trying to enter the long and plural form of HIPPO, I would have finished this in no time flat.

Pretty easy for me for a Wednesday. But … take away the circles in the grid and you’d have a challenging Thursday puzzle.

Suzie Q 7:56 AM  

Rather tough Wed. with a rebus! The rebus was easy to spot but the rest put up quite a fight. Two answers required every cross. Never heard of Friedrich and have never gone shopping in Red Square. Learning that store was kinda cool. Surely that is a debut answer as clued. What do ad men do with a name like that?
I don't recall ever seeing this clue for SST either.
Lack of females in the grid Rex? I don't see many names at all.
I'm glad this was harder than I expected since it is so cold and windy right now that I think I will stay in.

Anonymous 7:59 AM  

Given that the public hearings start today Shortz could’ve made the puzzle more current by clueing 64-A as “Whistleblower Ciaramella“ instead of as an Attorney General from a previous administration.

Bruçalito 8:04 AM  

I’ve never seen SPEX, always SPECS.

relicofthe60s 8:07 AM  

The clue on STAYS IN is “Eschews the night life,” not “right life,” at least in the .puz version.

WeesaSuzi 8:10 AM  

Reasonably fast time for a Wednesday, but didn't enjoy it very much during the solve. Since we got a rebus today, maybe there is something extra special in store for Thursday? We can hope...

Debra 8:28 AM  

Sometimes it’s good to be old. Loved this puzzle. Fresh and fun.

Kathy 8:36 AM  

The Rexworld show goes on, today’s segment is shooting balloon darts as us boomers, again (although I have never heard of a balloon dart). What’s wrong with old tv, old movies? Always thrilled to discover a rebus, saw it about halfway through. But missed the PES/OESTE cross and had HiP instead of HEP so DNF. I don’t care for lame answers like STAYIN, but I have assimilated the crossword vocabulary enough over my first year of doing these puzzles that I usually get these fairly easily now, not sure that is necessarily a good thing!

Tyler Tillman 8:38 AM  

Yeah, my only complaint is HEP instead of hip... I guess they're synonyms in that way but Ugh. Made the change to go golden luckily before I gave up and DNFed. I've heard "hip to" something or another lots of times, never can I recall hearing "HEP to" anything.

Nancy 8:59 AM  

Just loved this puzzle to death. I got the theme at RED [POP]PY where I had been toying with the idea that the LILY was the Flanders Fields flower. How stupid of me. Because I love that poem: "In Flanders Fields the poppies grow..." Except that's not the poem, which I just looked up. It's "In Flanders Fields the poppies blow..." How I hate misremembering stuff.

I must be old because I did know IS THE POPE CATHOLIC? I used it a lot when I was younger. Then I stopped. As those of you who know me know about me, I'm a liberal who despises political correctness. I believe instead in tactfulness and consideration of other people's deepest feelings. And it occurred to me one day long ago that IS THE POPE CATHOLIC might be offensive to many Catholics, so I stopped saying it. I miss it -- it's a colorful phrase that can prove highly useful. So here's my chance to find out from my Catholic friends here: Do any/some/most of you find IS THE POPE CATHOLIC? offensive? Thanks for your help. I'd love to put it back in my lexicon.

Michael 8:59 AM  

Rex thinks it's always spelled specs, not SPEX. I think this was a huge missed opportunity to link the video to "Oh Bondage! Up Yours!"

Ann 9:02 AM  

My question, too.

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 9:05 AM  

Speaking of OLD, how is 'in disuse' a clue for it?I use lots of old things. I play clavichord.

QuasiMojo 9:05 AM  

I liked this one, primarily because the constructor spelled "ooh la la" correctly. Spex bothered me because it's SPECS. But the POP gimmick was fun and even though I did not know about balloon darts I figured it out. I much prefer Is the Pope Catholic to its more current cousin, the one about ursine figures in the forest.

I certainly remember The Bible movie because Michael Parks played Adam, in all his glory. Well almost all. I cant recall if he had a bellybutton or not, though.

Pop is a great word. It has so many different meanings. Pop as in burst. As in soda. As in the old man at the stage door. As in to visit, pop in. And no doubt many more. Including the great Iggy Pop.

Loved seeing Trounces for Shellacs.

pabloinnh 9:20 AM  

Liked the POP rebus, which showed up right away, and was of course a great help throughout. I've seen carnival pop the balloon games, with their mediocre plastic darts, but have never thought to myself "Wow, great prizes! Guess I'll shoot some BALLOONDARTS!" Greenest of paint, IMHO.

Also old enough to routinely have heard allusions to the pope's religion, which took care of the middle lickety split.

And I remember hearing about the GUM department store in Moscow and thinking--what an odd name for a big store, and being GUM, of course it stuck. (Sorry.)

Liked it well enough, revealer aside, so thanks ES.

From yesterday--Thanks @JoeD for the additional bye byes and @Malsdemere for the correction on Bye Bye Birdie, which was clearly a real brain cramp.

albatross shell 9:28 AM  

A slow Wednesday solve skewing old, but I am old and slow too. I was pushing my grandson on a 75 foot rope swing and ran behind him to give him an extra boost, and found the swing was moving faster than I could sprint. Humiliation. Why did he have a 75 foot swing? Because his Dad had one. Why did his Dad have one? Because I had one. Not sure how far it might go back after that.

BALLOONDARTS have been at most county and state fairs I have ever been to. Were they labeled as such? Probably not, but what else would you call it? Definitely a thing,
A good revealer.

ROOT did have a difficult obscure clue, but also a fun fact.

HEP was just an earlier version of hip.
Never sure which the answer will be.

The POPs were a ton of fun and speeded up the solve.

jberg 9:30 AM  

Don’t go there @Eliza, you’re opening Pandora’s box!

Jyqm 9:34 AM  

Older folks, pay no attention to Captain Grumpypants — I’m under 40 and perfectly familiar with (the absolutely wonderful grid-spanner) ISTHEPOPECATHOLIC. Christ, some get this man a coffee, or maybe a tea at night to keep him up long enough to actually solve the puzzle when it comes out at night. Nobody cares how tired (or drunk) you were when you solved the puzzle, dude. Jeez.

An English professor should also know that the POPBANDS most certainly does not “mean” POPULAR. That may be its ROOT, but it has long stood on its own as a specific genre of music rather than a general descriptor of popularity in comparison with art music.

Odd Sock 9:34 AM  

The line I remember hearing is "Does the pope wear red shoes?"
Another one "Does the cat have a little red ass?"
There sure are a lot of ways to say "Obviously!"

Whoever suggested Jack Winter's essay "How I Met My Wife" yesterday thanks for the chuckle.

I did like the random pattern of where the darts landed.
I also didn't mind bending the rules for what sort of puzzle is published for each day of the week.

jberg 9:39 AM  

5D led me to my first circle, so naturally I put in TOOTSIE roll for the rebus. Then 4D seemed to call for POPPIES, so I thought of PIE and figured it was a baked goods rebus. It took IGGY POP to show me that the POPPIES were RED. I’ve never heard them so qualified though— certainly not in the poem @Nancy quoted. (I always said “grow,” too.)

loved it

Dan 9:39 AM  

Regarding POPBAND and POPULAR...

I would say that, while obviously POP came from the word POPULAR, it's definitely not an abbreviation of it. It's very much it's own thing. It's a genre. When talking about a pop band, you would never say "popular band." That would mean a band, of any genre, that has a big following. And in fact, I'm sure there are many "pop bands" that are not actually very popular.

In fact, if those two are problematic, then I think it could also be argued that Iggy Pop's name probably derived, albeit ironically, from pop music. And I don't think anyone would want to lose him from the puzzle!

Z 9:45 AM  

RED (POP)PY would have been extremely appropriate on Monday.

I see @Charmin Bears beat me to it, but I’m under 60 (for another 8 months) and the correct questions are, “Is a bear Catholic? Does the Pope shit in the woods?”

Apocalypse Spec 9:49 AM  

I was going to laugh at the soviets for having a store named "GUM," but I remembered we have Piggly-Wiggly, so I won't.

Is it HEP or HiP? You can be a "hep cat" (in 1920, maybe), but you are "hip" to the goings on around you.

Me: "Are you picking up what I'm laying down?"
You: "I'm hip!" <--- correct answer

ISTHEPOPECATHOLIC has probably not been said like that in at least 40 years. How do I know that, you might ask? Because I remember, soon after hearing it, it was replaced with "Is a bear catholic? Does the Pope shite in the woods?" From that moment on, it's never been said any other way than ironically and like that. No one says it "correctly" anymore.

And why are people always so defensive about anyone yukking their yum? Just because Rex doesn't like your puzzle doesn't mean you can't like it. Just because I dislike boiled Brussel sprouts, doesn't mean you can't eat them that way (even if you're in the minority). So Rex had problems with the puzzle, so what? Seriously. If you have problems with Rex hating on your puzzle, just read Lewis' posts...he loves everything. So it all balances out. (Duh!)

Anonymoose 9:50 AM  

No shit the rebus was easy to spot. It was circled! I agree with @Joaquin 7:49

Altar Boy 9:57 AM  

@Nancy, I am not offended by "Is the pope Catholic?". I AM offended by priests sexually assaulting young boys and no pope ever doing anything about it. I was not a victim but thousands have been.

mrn 9:59 AM  

Solved it fast, but had one error. Then spent six minutes trying to hunt down the near Natick of an unknown French term (to me): ETRE and some seriously outdated slang: HEP (which, to me, is short for hepatitis). Had etri and hip for ages. Frustrating.

Dorothy Biggs 10:02 AM  

HEP/HiP...can never keep them straight.

If Rex and I accidently were stuck sitting next to each other on a plane, one question I would ask him would be about editing a puzzle. He sees a problem in today's puzzle, and edits it "properly" by getting rid of something like "TORA," but he's only added in words now that he would probably criticize as crosswordese later. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it does make me wonder how many times we see puzzles with "bad fill" that, in reality, are actually better than what was there in the first place.

It is an argument from silence, I know. There's no way to tell without seeing the original. But I always see the fill as just part of the puzzle...whether it's TORA or Tone; SKAT or Skew, they're just words in a puzzle, (even though HEP, to me, should be HiP)...I usually just shrug and move along.

I'm not saying anything about Rex's style or his reviews, but I am really interested to know what objectively constitutes good (or preferable) fill, and what doesn't. When you get rid of DORA from your puzzle and replace her with DOne, what have you really gained?

I do agree with him many times about cluing...fill is a mystery to me, but cluing is something I feel I can judge for myself. And the clue for ROOT was objectively bad. It was TL;DR...I just filled it in with crosses...saw "ROOT" and thought, "huh."

The Joker 10:02 AM  

Does the pope have a little re...never mind.

Dominus Vobiscum 10:03 AM  

To Nancy @ a Catholic, I am not offended if you inquire as to the POPes religion. But please don't ask if he in fact POoPs in the woods.

Anonymous 10:13 AM  


Whatsername 10:20 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
mathgent 10:20 AM  

Wonderful puzzle in so many ways. Fifteen red plus signs in the margins, more than for most of the recent Friday and Saturdays.

I hadn't heard of the takeoffs on ISTHEPOPECATHOLIC before. Hilarious.

I'm a life-long Catholic and so are most of my friends. We don't find the expression at all offensive. We put a twist on it when Karol Jozef Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II in 1978. "Is the pope Polish?"

A recent puzzle in Incorrectly referred to the Elks as a club. 70A properly calls us an order. Lodge would also be OK.

Back in the 40s, red poppy lapel pins were worn widely here in San Francisco in honor of WWI veterans. A copy of the poem came along with the purchase of the pin. I recently read that Canada still does it.

jrstocker 10:23 AM  

You just can't have HIP/HEP crossing some random French fill. All the NOPE on that one.

Anonymous 10:25 AM  

Is the pope Catholic? A lot of people are wondering that these days.
Anybody who follows The Church knows it's roiling. The German bishops have strayed pretty far from the reservation and Francis has not reigned them in, let alone rebuke them. The recent Amazon synod was another mess that Francis could've handled better. And finally, the Holy Father has yet to respond to the dubia that some of the best theologians alive presented him some time ago now. The question, once ironic and snide, is now terribly sad and real.

David 10:30 AM  

Yep, HEP came long before HIP. Hep cats wore zoot suits. Maybe the demographic here isn't old enough. I see a few others posting who know, though.

Was it Woolworths that had balloon darts at the lunch counter? I forget. There were balloons on the wall and, if you were a kid and ordered a sundae, you tossed a dart at them. If you hit one it exploded and a bit of paper came out which had the price of your sundae on it. The price was usually less than the menu price.

The bear in the woods leaves SCAT. When I was young those two phrases always went together. Sometimes the subjects were switched around for fun.

People sit on ledges also, sometimes it's quite perilous for them to do so. One day drive on over to Kaaterskill Falls and try for yourself.

I saw that triple tora movie in the local theater and remember nothing of it but the name and the poster.

The POP was easy to get, and it made the puzzle pop for me; pretty fast solve. And fun.

Ethan Taliesin 10:39 AM  

APOPLEXY is a fun word. After that second POP I filled in all the other POPs. This would have been a cool puzzle for Father's Day.

Yesterday, a number of you enjoyed the New Yorker Shouts and Murmurs piece. I realized that there was at least one paragraph missing, apart from the format being messed up--I tried (who knew the TAB key just sends it straight out for posting?). Anyway, here's the whole thing:

Originally published in the July 25, 1994 edition of the New Yorker magazine:

How I Met My Wife

By Jack Winter

It had been a rough day, so when I walked into the party I was very chalant, despite my efforts to appear gruntled and consolate.

I was furling my wieldy umbrella for the coat check when I saw her standing alone in a corner. She was a descript person, a woman in a state of total array. Her hair was kempt, her clothing shevelled, and she moved in a gainly way.

I wanted desperately to meet her, but I knew I’d have to make bones about it since I was travelling cognito. Beknownst to me, the hostess, whom I could see both hide and hair of, was very proper, so it would be skin off my nose if anything bad happened. And even though I had only swerving loyalty to her, my manners couldn’t be peccable. Only toward and heard-of behavior would do.

Fortunately, the embarrassment that my maculate appearance might cause was evitable. There were two ways about it, but the chances that someone as flappable as I would be ept enough to become persona grata or a sung hero were slim. I was, after all, something to sneeze at, someone you could easily hold a candle to, someone who usually aroused bridled passion.

So I decided not to risk it. But then, all at once, for some apparent reason, she looked in my direction and smiled in a way that I could make heads or tails of.
I was plussed. It was concerting to see that she was communicado, and it nerved me that she was interested in a pareil like me, sight seen. Normally, I had a domitable spirit, but, being corrigible, I felt capacitated–as if this were something I was great shakes at–and forgot that I had succeeded in situations like this only a told number of times. So, after a terminable delay, I acted with mitigated gall and made my way through the ruly crowd with strong givings.

Nevertheless, since this was all new hat to me and I had no time to prepare a promptu speech, I was petuous. Wanting to make only called-for remarks, I started talking about the hors d’oeuvres, trying to abuse her of the notion that I was sipid, and perhaps even bunk a few myths about myself.

She responded well, and I was mayed that she considered me a savory character who was up to some good. She told me who she was. “What a perfect nomer,” I said, advertently. The conversation became more and more choate, and we spoke at length to much avail. But I was defatigable, so I had to leave at a godly hour. I asked if she wanted to come with me. To my delight, she was committal. We left the party together and have been together ever since. I have given her my love, and she has requited it.

Copyright 1994 Jack Winter and The New Yorker.

Anonymous 10:42 AM  

Fun and clever. Not too hard to find words containing POP (Scrabble Dictionary) but harder when the rebus spans words.
Rebus puzzles are pretty easy to spot, even without circles. When I absolutely know a fill but it doesn’t fit, well, there it is.

puzzlehoarder 10:59 AM  

They dropped the puzzle stack again at the NYT. Yesterday was a Wednesday level solve and today was a Tuesday.

GUM was an unknown, as clued, but everything around it was easy.

I'm not familiar with today's French phrase but ETRE (like SKAT) is crosswordese 101. That made HEP a foregone conclusion.

Besides from the POPE and the bear phrases there's also the "Is a frog's ass water tight?" one.

Joe Dipinto 11:01 AM  

Talk about -Pop Muzik
-Pop -Pop -Pop Muzik

Hey Rex, if you don't like IS THE POPE CATHOLIC?, how about IS REX IN A BAD MOOD? Same letter count (minus the -op). Maybe we can make it go viral. The "pop" in "pop bands" stands for "pop music", which yes, derives from "popular", but U2, Radiohead, and Metallica, e.g., are/were popular but they aren't pop bands. But you know that. A-hole.

I enjoyed this puzzle a lot. The balloons are great, I just wish the graphics folks had made them look more like balloons instead of the usual boring circles. How they could have done that I'm not sure. Lots of good answers in the grid. Oh yeah – Rex? There was a non-pop band called X-Ray Spex.

I've always liked it in Aida when Aida and Radames get bored in the tomb and go out for a cigarette break. I didn't know they smoked Camels. There's a Russian department store called GUM? I've never heard of it but it strikes me as hysterically funny. "You have Gum on the bottom of your shoe!" "Da, that's where I bought it."

Let's go cruising with the top down on the 66 Way to go. (not sure that was intentional on the constructor's part but it's a cool touch)

Joaquin 11:15 AM  

@Joe Dipinto 11:01 - Great catch on the ROUTE 66 clue. I'm an old car guy and completely missed it. Give me an entirely new opinion of this puzzle.

Whatsername 11:18 AM  

I love a rebus and was happy to see one today plus it was a case of the rebus helping the solve. Started out with redPOPpy, then TootsieROLL and thinking maybe we were going to do some sort of a musical theme with pop, rock, etc. I agree with Rex that the clue for ROOT is atrocious but disagree that the SW corner needs editing. Nothing wrong with that fill, and I don’t see how his version of it is any better. I had a Natick at 53A and 49D with the two proper nouns that were obscure and unguessable but that’s probably on me.

Big trouble in the northwest corner with SPEC at 24A and APPLE for Adobe. Also I take issue with two of the clues there: Does something OLD really equate to something not used? Like @Greater Fall River Committee, I have old things I use every day. Next, BAG means a pouch or purse, a container to put groceries in, or a reference to game hunting. I couldn’t even find the clued definition in the urban dictionary.

Nice theme and fun today. Thanks Mr. Sessa!

gilly 11:18 AM  

Tough at first, but once I hopped on "pop," my apoplexy abated...

...Which is why I applaud its publication today. (I think circling the rebus squares was the right choice to make this suitable for a Weds.)

-Would've been nice if the POPpy-seeded answers formed answers w/o the POP (or if just using the P),
-And/or if the revealer itself featured the rebus,
-Was disappointed by so much poppycock (SKAT, STAT, SST, PES, OESTE, etc), especially in a grid with such closed-off corners

-working out how to squeeze HIPPOPOTAMUSES into such a small space
-loved the voice in ISTHEPOPCATHOLIC
-the inherent idea of needing to "pop" the bubbles" (or, alternatively, to inflate the popped bubbles?)

Overall, I enjoyed this (hip?) pop quiz--but mostly for it popping up on a Wednesday.

Masked and Anonymous 11:19 AM  

Entertainin brain-fogged blog write-up. @RP was evidently too pooped to POP.
But, hey -- M&A had TOOTSIE (ROLL) as his first themer entry try, due to possible cinnamon roll fog [yo, @Tim Pierce]. Sooo … can't complain too much.

Haven't ever heard the exact term BALLOONDARTS before, but it wasn't much of a leap to figure out what the revealer was gettin at. ISTHEPOPECATHOLIC I have heard many, many times. It's right up there with that there bear potty habits cousin-phrase.
But … shootin up POP with darts? MOM would clearly object [to somebody *else* doin it, at least].

staff weeject picks: POP. URB [mostly becuz it sounds like an apt nickname for a city's mayor]. BAG [mostly becuz of its mysterious clue]. Nice weeject stacks, in NE & SW, btw.

fave fillins included: SYRUPS. SVELTE. TROUNCES.
Agree with fogmeister @RP … that the ROOT clue was pretty raised-by-wolves.
Disagree with foggopotamus @RP … that SST is bad, but that the DST in his NE corner re-do was ok. Kinda weird weeject pwefewences, dude.

Thanx for the POPfest, Mr. Sessa. M&A fave: Dr. Pepper [have been to its Waco museum, one time].

Masked & Anonymo5Us


RooMonster 11:28 AM  

Hey All !
First put in the singular HIPPOPOTAMUS (it fit), thinking the theme would be the Downs going over a few spaces before returning down. Ad in RED POPPY, with the POP part in HIPPOPOTAMUSES. See it? So even having GLOMS in and correct, changed it to GLOtS to get the single HIPPO.
Then tried BOY BANDS before getting the Revealer and realizing that all the circles were POP. Is POP BANDS a thing?

Ended up liking puz, with the BALLOONs POPping up. (Or POPping with the DART.)

Two-letter DNF, SPEc and HuP for 39D HEP. Should've seen that one with HIP already in HIPPOPOTAMUSES.

But I'm sure a bunch of y'all like the surprise Rebus. Better than a POP quiz.

One other writeover, Sub-SST. Sneaky sneaky.


Robert Morris 11:44 AM  

I was born in 1982 and none of this was old fashioned for me. It's been a long-running Hollywood joke that *obviously* John Huston is the voice of god. Simpsons even references it. My fiancee is Catholic so I hear that Pope phrase quite a bit. And what's not to like about an APOPLE(ctic) SVELTE SENIOR TROUNCing the BALLOONDART booth (which was my favorite carnival game as a child)?

albatross shell 11:57 AM  

The old line about HEP/hip was if you say HEP you're not hip.

When the dual questions ISTHEPOPECATHOLIC and doesabearshitinthewoods were POPULAR (74??) I started mixing the questions. For several years I got confused looks about the bear's religion and replies like 'if he has to'. about the Pope's personal habits. And some laughs. Years later when it became well-known, I was convinced somehow if they discovered how it became popular it would somehow track back to me.
Imagine my disappointment when watching an early 70s movie the joke was told. Shit indeed.

A similar one was around here people would say "My mom didn't raise no fools." I started replying "Your dad raise you up, huh?". About a year later folks around here stopped saying it. I liked to think I was responsible for the decline, but never really believed it.

Anonymous 11:58 AM  

May haps those who kvetch about OFL's constant kvetching would shut the hell up if he, OFL, offered up his 'improvements' each time he complains. IOW, OFL, put your money where your mouth is. And, to be sure, it's not that OFL's 'improvements' are really better in some absolute sense, but that reasonable alternatives are easy (for OFL to claim) to make.

As OFL said "Edit!"

jb129 12:01 PM  

Is today Thursday?

I hated this puzzle at first (upon wakening) but grew to love it.

chefwen 12:10 PM  

Got the rebus right out of the gate with the big, wallowing Hippo and RED POPPY. Filled in all of the POPs and was off to the races. Did it last night after my first glass of wine. We hit The lanai at four, but I have to wait until five to get my puzzle now that day light savings time is in effect. So, if anyone is going to complain about “fog head” it should be me. I had no trouble with this one at all, I guess I’ll have to factor in my advanced years.

Loved TOOTSIE POPS, eat the the same way that @GILL I does.

xyz 12:28 PM  

I was fine with all of it.


Sgreennyc 12:57 PM  

I'll stop by this blog occasionally to read the comments, which are often quite illuminating. But I'm done reading Rex's portion. Who really cares what he knows or thinks is relevant (or politically correct)? His contribution to anyone's understanding or appreciation of the puzzle is worthless.

Joe Dipinto 1:03 PM  

@Nancy – Are you kidding? In my experience most Catholic School survivors recognize the absurdity of various ritualistic trappings of the religion and we have no problem with poking fun at them. It's not done maliciously. (Some of the *extremely* devout might object, but...)

So feel free to reinstate. But the original expression got merged nonsensically with other common phrases over time, as witnessed by some of the posts above. So you could add your own twist to it. For example, you could say, "Is the Pope Jewish?" Which of course is idiotic, but that's the point. Other morphs:

"Does the Pope rise in the east?"

"If the Pope sh¡ts, wear it."

"...when Popes fly."

"...when the Pope freezes over."

You get the idea. The more ludicrous, the better.

(Sorry if part of this post turns to be a repeat, I may have hit Publish too soon earlier.)

Teedmn 1:09 PM  

I developed Rex's POP blindness at the SOA[POP]ERA-[POP]BANDS cross. It wasn't until I finally had TROUNCES and HEARD in that I got 50A and then wondered why I hadn't automatically put in the POP to aid in the solve. I dunno.

I agree with Rex's take on the weird clue for ROOT and sort of agree on the clue for GOD. But his APOPLEXY over POP music because POPULAR and POP BANDS are duplicates doesn't fly for me. The term "POP music" might have derived from POPULAR music but nowadays when POP music is applied to a song or band, I have a distinct idea about what that sounds like so to me it has evolved into a genre rather than a description.

Did anyone else consider POSe as "ooh-la-la" inducing for 1D?

Ed Sessa, I found this cute, a tad tougher than my usual Wednesday, and fun to solve. Thanks.

Anonymous 1:18 PM  

I guess that nobody cares that "tootsie pops" aren't a thing...they're Tootsie Roll Pops, but whatever...

Fred Romagnolo 1:26 PM  

@Quasimojo: the reason you couldn't see his bellybutton was that he was shot from behind; you could see his behind: Huston also played Noah in that film. Seconding @Mathgent's comments about selling red poppies on Armistice (later Veteran's) Day, I think that may have carried over to the '50s. I see no reason for a Catholic to object to the crack (I was one). The critics of Rex's continual whining about crosswords using ideas that are "too old," should remember that his usual environment is surrounded by young college kids, he has to be influenced by that. We all know that the young know everything (except history). Shouldn't it be hippopodes?

EricStratton 1:47 PM  

Just for fun, say Elephant and Hippopotamus in French. It's free and it will bring a smile to your face. I hope it will, anyway.

Anonymous 1:50 PM  

has everyone forgotten bubblegum music? and that bubblegum bubbles POP??? that's where it came from.

RooMonster 2:02 PM  

HippopotamusSes? Not muses. Like our Loren Muse. I do like @Fred Romagnolos Hippopodes.
And fishes. Or fishies.

RooMonster Animal Pluralizing Guy

Anonymous 2:26 PM  

@Joe Dipinto: I object to the phrase Catholic school survivor. It's glib. And frankly, inaccurate. Catholic schools are by any measure not only among the best in this country but the world.
You seem to be otherwise astute, perhaps your catholic education inculcated some love of learning. Maybe it imparted some valuable knowledge. Could be it even blessed you with wisdom and grace. If it didn't, perhaps you weren't paying attention.
Finally, just which ritualistic trappings are absurd?

davidm 2:41 PM  

What missed opportunities, to cross POPPYCOCK with POPINJAY, for example, or POPEYE THE SAILOR with POP GOES THE WEASAL. SODA POP WITH POP-UP BOX.

Easy. Got BALLOON DARTS right off, wrote in TOOTSIE ROLL, wondering what the heck ROLL had to do with the revealer, but then got IGGY POP and revised to TOOTSIE POP. Then, of course, I wrote in POP for all the remaining circled squares, and the rest of the puz fell like dominoes. No challenge. Loved IS THE POPE CATHOLIC? Best part of the puz.

Anonymous 2:51 PM  


well ... in my high school days, with 4 public schools and 1 Catholic (Cathedral), the Catholic one out pregnanted the public ones by a mile. I guess all those white kids just didn't get the rhythm. but I will grant that Cathedral didn't teach snake handling like some Pentecostal ones Down South.

davidm 2:57 PM  

@Nancy, as someone raised Catholic but now atheist, IS THE POPE CATHOLIC? is perfectly OK. I can't even imagine someone objecting to it. As I said, I found it to be the best part of the puzzle.

burtonkd 2:59 PM  

@ Ethan - thank you so much, that was the article I was thinking of yesterday - enjoying it just as much now!

Gentleman 3:13 PM  

@Anonymous 1:18
I care. Deeply.

Joe Dipinto 3:37 PM  

@Anonymous 2:26 -- I won't respond to someone who posts without a name. But I will clarify, for anyone who may have misinterpreted my post the way you seem to have, that my intentions were humorous. I'm pretty sure those who know me here will have figured that out. I don't regret in the slightest having gone to Catholic school.

Clover 3:39 PM  

Yes!!! My first thought! I so wish that this was the direction the clue went in

Fred Wollam 3:39 PM  

...poop in the Vatican? (gets wayyy more laughs)

Jyqm 3:41 PM  

@Anonymous 1:18 -- While the wrappers indeed say "Tootsie Roll Pop," they are listed as "Tootsie Pops" on the manufacturer's website, and they are referred to as "Tootsie Pops" multiple times in the iconic animated commercial.

jae 3:47 PM  

Medium? Not sure because I had to go back and change the P I put in the circles to POP to get the Standalone iPad app to acknowledge I’d finished.

Something different on Wednesday, liked it.

Clover 3:51 PM  

Adding my voice to the chorus of people confused by HEP crossed with some random french phrase. I was also stumped on the east coast because I didn’t know SST, TRICIA, or TOI. Thought the name might be Ericka, so I ended up with sse and tok, which both mean as much to me as the right answers do.

DNF, even after combing through multiple times looking for mistakes. This one did feel like it was meant for an older crowd. While I eventually got the pope answer, it took me an embarrassing amount of time and it was the first time I had ever heard the phrase. All this being said, I really enjoyed today’s puzzle! Somehow didn’t feel hard, even though I ended up with three wrong squares. I think the rebus choice helped here. Felt cute and fun.

tea73 4:02 PM  

I was puzzled for a while that POPPY (maybe you spell it POPPEY?) didn't fit, but then I saw the HIPPO and it all fell into place. Confirmed that (boring) they were all going to be POPs and filled them all in, at which point this was a somewhat faster than average puzzle. I'm on the tale end of the baby boom and had no problems with the POPE's religion, or Nixon's daughter's name. Took me forever to see SHIELD. I learned to play SKAT in Germany - it's a great little three person game, surprisingly useful. I hate that spelling for SPEX, but I've seen it a million times in crosswords.

albatross shell 4:10 PM  

@QuasiMojo 905am
Ooh la la
spelled correctly, but in the clues, not the grid.
Baby steps, I guess.

Anonymous 4:12 PM  

Joe Dipinto.
You may want to check your first sentence for logic. And your comedic chops.

Uke Xensen 4:17 PM  

Easy for me. Maybe because my eye fell on ERIC Holder so I started there rather than at the top, and it all just went really fast.

albatross shell 4:33 PM  

@mathgent 1020am
Don't you have American Legions where you are? The Woman's Auxiliary doesn't sell red paper poppies, if they ever did, but offers them for a donation. A difference with small distinction. I think they discontinued the poem a couple decades back. Life in rural PA.

fkdiver 4:36 PM  

Pretty easy Wednesday puzzle. My big objection is the circles in the grid. Shouldn't we have to figure that out for ourselves? The circles take all the fun and all the challenge out of it.

Nancy 4:55 PM  

That's funny, Joe D, 1:03!! My favorite? "When the Pope freezes over."

If so many Catholics and former Catholics are okay with IS THE POPE CATHOLIC, I'll put it back in my repertoire of expressions ASAP. Or STAT, as today's puzzle prefers. I've gone decades without it -- biting my tongue, in fact -- but better late than never. It really is a useful phrase.

Also, Joe, it should have been obvious to anyone with even half a HIPPOcampus that "Catholic school survivor" was said in jest.

QuasiMojo 5:39 PM  

Ah yes thanks @Fred Romagnolo. Clever cinematography! And @Albatross true dat!

Molasses 6:23 PM  

Fun popping all over today.

Hardest bit for me was ACS - never heard of that company (it seems to be an NYC thing) and _OAPOPERA just wasn't clicking for me. Dope slap once I finally got it.

I liked the reminder of the year I spent reading a whole bunch of spy novels - Le Carre, Trevanian, Forsythe, I don't remember who else - a GUM store figured prominently in one of them, and the odd name stuck in my head. (Stuck, ha ha.)

Anonymous 6:24 PM  

Happy Birthday to Rex's Mom. May you have many more

Moderate Democrat 6:54 PM  

Nice going Nancy and Adam. You’ve ensured Trump’s re-election. Ugh.

Anonymous 6:57 PM  

by the bye, GUM isn't where you buy Bazooka Joe, but rather an acronym. one of the first things we learned in my high school Russian class. No, I don't recall what it stands for. don't even recall whether those are real cyrillic letters or transliterated. goes along real well with bubblegum POP music.

Malsdemare 6:58 PM  

I think I just channel Lewis; I like almost all puzzles. And this one was just a delight. I fought the spelling battle with HIPPOPOTAMUS, scratched my head over ROOT, surprised myself by knowing IGGYPOP. Good time.

Oh, dear anonymous 2:26, I feel compelled to chime in here. I had twelve years of an outstanding Catholic education, but I can still keep non-Catholic friends in stitches with stories of stuff like: “French kissing is like using someone else’s toothbrush (particularly hysterical to teenagers), you need a phone book width between you and your test partner (beloved by the well-endowed with a misplaced sense of just what placement was required, of which I was not one), slamming myself against the stairwell wall when a nun passed on the steps, kneeling so SIster could determine if my skirt was long enough. I could go on, will spare the late readers. @Nancy, score me in the column of actually saying, “Is the pope Catholic?” and later “Is he Polish?” Most Catholics have a fine sense of humor, or at least did until priests started abusing their youth. Reinstate the phrase; it’s a good one.

@Pabloinnh, thanks for the marvelous story. My sister went blind, overnight, two months ago and I love collecting short things to read to her in my frequent phone calls. I just added “How I met my Wife” to the pile.

May I recommend to all the amazing puzzle of Dec 15, 2011 by Jim Hilger. It was a blast to complete.

Hank 7:01 PM  

Nice enough puzzle.

I agree with Rex that it could be improved with the removal of TORA *and* DORA.

Tu-144 was obscure to me. Apparently not to others.

I had HiP till the end but saw it had to be HEP. That was my last bit of fill.

As Dave Frishberg said - "When it was hip to hep I was hep."

Anonymous 7:17 PM  

Thanks for the gratuitous insult.
I'm curious, why do you think Mr. Dipinto's comment was a joke?
Was it his insulting comment about Catholic rites that pointed you in that direction?

BobL 7:43 PM  

Hey, was this puzzle fun? Is the Pope catholic?

Richardf8 7:52 PM  

Where I live, we have an eyeglass shop whose name puns on Sex Appeal - Specs Appeal. Note the absence of any X’s there. So, if SPEX was a thing, I would expect it there but it isn’t.

ROOT’s tougher. To me, this just look like an etymology. But maybe the argument is that uisge, being the only borrowed part of uisge bheatha, is its root? But that’s wrong, because it’s the genitive in a genitive clause, not an intrinsic component of a bigger word.

Malsdemare 10:22 PM  

@ethan Apologies for my erroneous assignment of your excellent submission. Addled brain.....

Montrealxworddiva 10:32 PM  

I’m a French Canadian married to an Irishman. I was very nervous the first time I met his parents so when his mother asked me if I wanted seconds, I replied “Does a pope shit in the woods?”. And people say they have no regrets...

John Hoffman 11:31 PM  

I’m old enough to remember the movie review:

Tora! Tora! Tora! Is a Bora! Bora! Bora!

Anonymous 12:42 AM  

GUM comes from "Государственный Универсальный Магазин", or "Gosudarstvenny Universal'niy Magazin". Which means "State Universal Store". Basically a big-ass supermarket, Soviet style.

Anonymous 12:45 AM  

TU-144 was the Soviet version of the Concorde.

Anonymous 12:47 AM  

As much as I don't appreciate Rex's rants, he did mention that he misread the clue.

Anonymous 6:02 AM  

X-Ray Spex?

Anonymous 6:06 AM  

I respectfully disagree. Spex are glasses; specs are specifications. The specs for your spex might be your prescription. Either would make a good fill!

Anonymous 11:32 AM  

I'm 32 and I've at least heard of Tora Tora Tora, that was kinda easy. But never in 32 years have I ever heard "Is the pope Catholic?" Not from my long dead grandparents, not from my parents, not from anyone. Ever. That clue was impossible. Will Shortz is a tired old man and needs to be a retired old man.

Burma Shave 10:33 AM  


who STAYSIN with you, SAY,OVER night.
GOD what a PAIR and a MORAL demeanor,
a SVELTE OLD BAG with a great GUM BYTE.


spacecraft 10:53 AM  

Re: OFC's female count: How could you miss POSH Spice, DOD and one who certainly elicits an "Ooh la la" from THIS observer!?!

Puzzle today at first seemed post-Wednesday, until, wandering around the whole grid with only a scattered gimme here and there, I came upon SOAPOPERA. Then the fog lifted and all was OK. I even guessed HEP correctly (well, not too hard: ETRE over ETRi).

SAYOVER has an ODOR of desperation; it's "say again." There are other issues fillwise, but little to take away from a cute rebus with an awesome aha! moment. Birdie.

rondo 12:01 PM  

I thought everybody and his brother, including the POPE, had HEARD ‘ISTHEPOPECATHOLIC’. Some of you folks need to get out more. I don’t much care for rebapodes, especially when they fall on non-Thursdays; at least this one had a little POP.

IGGY POP had a minor hit a few years back with ‘Gardenia’. But he is getting OLD.

The 4 corners spell PEAT, or PATE, or TAPE. Very often you’ll find words there. I found BEER there once.

Sorry Ms. Nixon, the SVELTE TRICIA Helfer as Number Six in Battlestar Galactica and the upcoming Bombshell earns a yeah baby.

Tolerable puz. No APOPLEXY here.

Diana, LIW 2:37 PM  

So one of the dreaded rebi POPs up on a Wednesday. At least we had circuls to guide the way for them.

Even tho I was proud of finishing by myself with no errors, the rebi still don't make my heart go pitty-pat. I'll leave that to the kitty in my lap.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

leftcoaster 2:48 PM  

With all the POPs conveniently circled, you get one, you get them all, making the whole game fun and easy.

HIP[POP]OTAMUSES set it all off with its six syllable plural, then ending with a shot of ROOT whiskey.

I think even POPe Francis might get a kick out of this one.

rainforest 3:01 PM  

@OFA hates Ed Sessa's work, but apparently he didn't trash this one, too much, so there's that.

What's wrong with saying IS THE POPE Argentinian? Hearing no nays, I move on. I liked this puzzle for the novel theme even though it contained a rebus. Several actually.

I've seen SKAT mentioned in puzzles before, and I've often wondered what sort of a card game it is. Once a HEP cat, I became a hip/cool cat, then the big cat, but now I'm just an old and senile cat. Oh well.
Thanks, Mr. Sessa.

strayling 7:30 PM  

When the current guy chose his Pope name he went for St. Francis, so he's known as Pope Francis. Fair enough, but one of his options was St. Ignatius, and wouldn't it be cool to have IGGY POPE?

Ahem. Sorry, couldn't resist. I had a blast with this puzzle, thanks Mr. Sessa.

leftcoaster 7:53 PM  

Again, let me SAYOVER, Rex's comments are idiosyncratic; they're his own. They're neither good nor bad, soft nor harsh, or whatever. They're just Rex at work. You either like or agree with them or you don't. He doesn't limit you your responses. That's one of the great pleasures of this blog.

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