SATURDAY, Aug. 15 2009 — Minstrel percussionist / Cousins of cutters / Wienerwald's whereabouts / They appeared on Ed Sullivan Show 36 times

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Constructor: Matt Ginsberg

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: 19A: Scathing review attributed to Ambrose Bierce:

"THE COVERS OF / THIS BOOK ARE / TOO FAR APART"

Word of the Day: MR. BONES (26A: Minstrel percussionist) — Form of entertainment popular in the U.S. in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It originated in the 1830s with the popular white performer Thomas D. Rice, known as “Jim Crow,” who wore the stylized makeup called blackface and performed songs and dances in a stereotyped imitation of African Americans. Blackfaced white minstrel troupes were particularly popular in the U.S. and England in 1840–80 and included groups such as the Christy Minstrels, who played on Broadway for 10 years and had songs composed for them by Stephen Foster. The minstrel show included an opening chorus and frequent exchanges of jokes between the emcee, Mr. Interlocutor, and the end men, Mr. Tambo (who played the tambourine) and Mr. Bones (who rattled the bones), interspersed with ballads, comic songs, and instrumental numbers (usually on the banjo and violin), as well as individual acts, soft-shoe dances, and specialty numbers. Minstrel troupes composed of African Americans were formed after the Civil War; in general, minstrel shows were the only theatrical medium in which black performers of the period could support themselves. Minstrel shows had effectively disappeared by the early 20th century, but the effects of their racial stereotyping persisted in performance mediums well into mid century. (entry for "Minstrel Show" from Brit. Concise Encyc. )
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Difficulty-wise, this was a very typical Saturday. Started out floundering, thinking the puzzle was very hard, but as things began to fall, I got a good momentum going and finished relatively quickly, ending with a very average time. There's almost always that tipping point in a Saturday puzzle, when I go from "uh ....?" to "OK, I can do this." Sometimes, getting just the first section of a puzzle set can take up nearly half my solving time. But in a puzzle like this, with minimal segmentation (i.e. lots of ways to come at nearly every answer), once you get a toe hold, thing can flow quite nicely. I would have thought a quip would compound the difficulty of a Saturday puzzle (since unless you know the quot. cold, you *must* piece it together from crosses), but the concision and wit of the quip (and the relative fairness of the all its crosses) helped make it gettable with a reasonable amount of work.

I am normally not a big fan of quip puzzles, which today's a great surprise. My first reaction to seeing a quip was "ugh," but then when the quote finally tumbled, I actually laughed out loud. This marks the first time ever, EVER, that I have found an allegedly funny puzzle quip actually funny. Or LOL funny, at any rate. I think the joke had the right impact because I actually had to work for it, and so the punch line (the last part) had real punch. I got all gummed up in the NW by inferring (wrongly) ALL LOVERS OF for the first part of the quip. I figured he was going to insult the people who thought the book he was reviewing was good ("ALL LOVERS OF / THIS BOOK ARE ..."). Seemed a Bierceian thing to do. But NW wouldn't work, so I changed ALL to THE, and that was better, but stupid 4D: Baby showers? wouldn't fall until finally I took out the "L" in LOVERS and TALCS became obvious. Before that, I figured [Baby showers?] was doing the typical clue trick with "shower" where it means "one who shows" rather than a downpour. First guess: MAMAS.

I have called for a puzzle ban on all playground taunts (just yesterday, in fact, at the L.A. Crossword Confidential blog). Few clues ire me more (exc. maybe the clues that expect me to believe "IRE" is a verb) [shout-out to Joon Pahk, whose IRE at said use of IRE I share]. IS/AM/ARE + TOO/SO/NOT = boooo! I challenge constructors to do anything, Anything, with said phrases except a schoolyard retort (or, in this case [Grade school comeback], IS TOO). I'd have taken a "Goldilocks" partial here ... that's how much I hate this genre of clue. I started the puzzle with ARE SO, which got me INDOOR (8D: Like much plumbing), which got me SRI (6A: _____ Vaishnavism (Hindu sect)), and then not a lot else. I somehow managed to fish a financial abbrev. out of my head today with IMF (16D: Global lending org.), though it GAO and the mysterious WMF were the first things that came to mind. Changed ARE SO to IS TOO and ended up with the whole Northern patch filled in. This left me with -------ANDM---- for 17A: They appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show" 36 times. Much as I adore STILLER AND MEARA (and I especially adore the crossword-solving Ms. MEARA), I feel that my initial wrong answer for this clue belongs in some kind of wrong answer Hall of Fame: WAYLAND AND MADAM. (sadly, real "Madame" has an "e" on the end):



Bullets:

  • 1A: Brig pair (masts) — proud of myself that I knew it was something nautical. But had SAILS instead of MASTS.
  • 9A: Org. that trademarked "Pony Express" in 2006 (USPS) — So that's their solution for making up the revenue lost to email. Brilliant.
  • 25A: Reaction dreaded by a performer (boo) — also considered PAN.
  • 40A: Old TV ministry inits. (PTL) — "Praise The Lord," with Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.
  • 43A: Agcy. concerned with ergonomics (OSHA) — never thought to put that word with that org., but it makes sense.
  • 46A: Last thing (shoe) — had WILL. I am embarrassed that as of right now, I can't remember how "last" relates to SHOE. Is it another name for a shoe tree? Ah, no, it's the rough form of the human foot used in shoe-making. Where have all the cordwainers gone?
  • 47A: Onetime foe of the Navajo (Ute) — had OTO. Why doesn't this clue read [Onetime Navajo foe]?
  • 52A: Where sledders start (hilltops) — so proud of getting this off just the "I" and "P."
  • 3D: Hucksters' deliveries (spiels) — wanted SHTICKS.
  • 6D: Whiplike? (smart) — helped me finally change ARE SO to IS TOO. There are 7 "?"-style clues today.
  • 7D: Free, but not for free (ransom) — that is a great clue.
  • 11D: Releases from a spring board? (paroles) — and the kidnapper from 7D walks. Where's the justice!?
  • 25D: Snake feeder (Boise) — family is from the NW, so this came pretty easily, but if you are from certain parts of the country ("Midland U.S.," wherever that is), "snake feeder" is another term for "dragonfly." There's a trap I was happy not to fall into.
  • 28D: Grammy winner Khan (Chaka) — Chaka Khan, Chaka Khan. Chaka Khan Chaka Khan ...



  • 32D: They're seen at Venice's La Fenice (operas) — yesterday SCOTTO, today this. Got nowhere with this at first, and when I saw it again later, it was all but filled in, mocking me for struggling with such a simple word.
  • 34D: Wienerwald's whereabouts (Austria) — and there was much rejoicing in Wienerwald — AUSTRIA makes the puzzle for two days in a row.
  • 38D: Cousins of cutters (sloops) — off the initial "S"; I'm telling you, this nautical stuff is starting to sink in. A lot more thoroughly than the opera stuff, at any rate.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

80 comments:

Leslie 8:53 AM  

I wasn't reading the clues carefully enough and figured the last long answer had to be part of the quote. Could NOT figure out what "greenhouse gases" had to do with the preceding parts.

twangster 9:09 AM  

I had the bottom third done and the rest mostly empty and was real close to giving up. After 10 minutes of going through clues PAROLE came to mind, which led to MEARA and everything else. Some incorrect guesses includes AWOLS, TONICS, REHASH, CHASE, and NIKE.

HudsonHawk 9:18 AM  

Just about perfect for a Saturday puzzle--challenging but ultimately gettable.

@twangster, I had a similar solving experience. I had the South region completed, but with almost nothing in the North. I thought about MOUSE before BOISE, but BOO worked too well, and once I changed COVET to COURT, DEVIOUS fell into place and things opened up nicely after that.

Given that I only had TOO FAR APART, I started wondering if the target's ears were not...too far apart.

dk 9:18 AM  

Ya Muddah, now thats a grade school comeback.

My early fills were all correct (rare).

I wanted irons for the Brig pair, that and thinking leaves were those things on trees muddied up the NW. Mask for BELT was the only other problem.

I knew it was STLLERANDMEARA. I wanted Topo Gigio the Italian Mouse. According to Wikipedia he/it had more than 50 appearances.

This puzzle was a hoot. Much laughter in the dk household as the fill was being penned in. I am now singing (to myself, lest I be seen as MANIACAL) OLORD wont you buy me a Mercedes-Benz.

I love the Bierce quote and once used a variant (and credited Bierce) when reviewing a band, something like "their amps were on too long" or some other pithy comment. It garnered my first death threat... some people are so thin skinned.

The best I ever heard was when a particularly obnoxious performer yelled (mid-set) to a stagehand "where can I get a glass of water" and the reply from some wag in the audience was "Out in the hall."

Continuing on (insert your yawn about here):

About this time some 40 years ago it looked like the sky was clearing up and the rain would stop. People were standing around makeshift fires in an attempt to dry out. I remember 100s of abandoned and wet sleeping bags. Alas the rain returned spirits however were not dampened.

Great Puzzle Mr. Ginsberg!

John 9:20 AM  

This puzzle was NOT on my wavelength. Could not figure out enough downs for the quote. Went to Amy's site for the quote. puzzle fell like a ton of bricks. Off to drink beer and play golf and enjoy myself, since the puzzle gave me no joy.

Crosscan 9:29 AM  

Sleepless in Seattle so I'll try to comment on this lousy connection.

I've heard the quote before but couldn't remember it exactly which drove me nuts. I was trying movie with the beginning and end too far apart...

Quickly entered STILLS AND MEARA and wondered what the extra box was for.

GREENHOUSE GASES gimme when you live in a jurisdicton with a Carbon Tax.

Nice change for a Saturday.

Meg 9:34 AM  

Thought brig was the military jail and wanted CUFFS.

Overall I thought the cluing was deviously wonderful. De? What the hell is that? "Like some leaves" had me in biology. Thought "baby showers " was meteorological and totally missed the standard crossword meaning for "letters". I love being outfoxed!

In the end I got all the puns, but I don't understand how a titan's home is a silo. Is Silo a place? Do titans live on farms?

Husband gave me WAYNE AND SHUSTER for Ed's guests, which thankfully I ignored.

I miss Tammy Faye. She was so.......entertaining. Permanent eye makeup really is a bad idea.

Barbara 9:34 AM  

I also filled in the bottom third quickly and then had a hard time but eventually got it. Doesn't help if you spell CHAKA with an S instead of a C. Also tried MASK for BELT, and I agree, I dislike the schoolyard chants. BOARS are a source of leather?

Andy 9:48 AM  

I support 100% the ban on playground taunts! Where did this assinine clue come from anyway? It is like crabgrass - one day it's just there, in profusion, and you have no idea where it came from. Ugh.

joho 9:49 AM  

@Meg ... a Titan is a missle that is housed in a SILO.

Loved this puzzle. I didn't know or remember the quote so, like @Rex, laughed when it was revealed.

I had a reright with ANTHEM.

At one point I had OEDS and BOOKS for EELS and BOARS. I was thinking of leatherbound.

Loved SCAVENGE, MUSTER, DEVIOUS, RANSOM, PAROLES ... and more.

Clever clues and fresh fill abound.

Wonderful puzzle, Matt Ginsberg!

Anonymous 9:51 AM  

@Meg: A Titan is a missle. Its home is a silo.

mac 9:57 AM  

Great Saturday puzzle and very funny pun...

I had to roam around a bit for a foothold, as well, and might as well admit right away to mama, mask and Shaka. The O in Boise was the last one I filled in, and I lived there for 2 years!

I caused myself a lot of trouble by writing in ...slope in the SW, it took a while to fix that. Wienerwald was a popular restaurant chain in Holland, specializing in Wiener Schnitzel and Backhaenchen.

Got to go and unpack my suitcase.

pednsg 10:05 AM  

Liked it a lot, but I am sad that, after Friday's smooth puzzle, I had to hit the G-spot to get STILLER AND MEARA, even though I knew who they are, and had enough crosses in place. I had many errors that plagued some of the above - MOUSE was a great snake-feeder, especially when a performer dreads hearing "MEH!" (a word I'd never heard until I began coming to the Rex-aco station. BEQ uses it as a clue this week!). Had BEARS instead of BOARS for a long time, too, and SHAKA...

I don't like seeing TAR HEELS anywhere.... Can a clever constructor try to work Krzyzewski into a grid? That would make my day, month, and year!

Can anyone explain UNPAID for leaves?

PTL it's the weekend!

Anne 10:05 AM  

I love the quip, and unfortunately, I have read too many books about which this could be said. My most recent one was Pillars of the Earth, which I just threw into my get-rid-of-pile. For too long, I was unable to quit reading a book once I started it.

Anyway, I didn't check my work before I came here and I had chart for court and rento for recto (both obviously wrong). I could have fixed those so I guess those are not errors, just carelessness. I wonder what's worse.

Also it takes me forever to do Saturday but I'm getting better at this.

fikink 10:16 AM  

This was particularly enjoyable if you hadn't heard the attributed quote, which I had not. Great, clever clueing, especially for MASTS, SLOOPS, SHOE, and RECTO.

I had GENIUS for quite a while for "strikingly original" - Would that be considered slang?

"Smart as a whip" always reminds me of a Burns and Schreiber routine with Jack Burns as the conventioneer.

Anonymous 10:21 AM  

@pednsg - You can take an UNPAID leave of absense from work.

Alex 10:21 AM  

First time in my NYT history that I've entirely filled in a theme without a single cross.

That quote was the first thing that come to mind when I saw who said it and it was with a fair bit of shock that it fit perfectly.

Anonymous 10:30 AM  

I forgot that the Spanish alphabet is not quite tha same as ours; wanted it to be for the letter P (our 16th), but it was clearly an N, our 14th letter..
Fun puzzle though.

Also hate schoolyard taunts. And things that people "cry aloud", too! Abit melodramatic sounding.

Smitty 10:31 AM  

@Rex - I'm with you on SHOE=last thing?

Waiting for the other SHOE to drop?

SeniorStan 10:34 AM  

First fill was 13A: UNPAID (discussion at work yesterday re: staff leaves .. blah, blah). 17A: StillerandMeara was a gimme .. for me. 6D: SNAKY was a great answer, until it wasn't. I tried MASK for BELT and had 27D: DEUCE for too long. Two things I learned today; 56: RECTO - right hand page of an open book. VERSO is left. I will remember this forever.
46A: SHOE? A quick google explained 'Last' forms. My shoes are 'everythings', I guess.
Loved the quip, funny and too true at times.

Doug 10:41 AM  

Thinking of Tammy Faye and Jim made me laugh more than the quip, I must say. Who's the Ambrose Bierce of our time? Stephen Colbert? Jon Stewart? Whoever can get the Birthers to shut up gets my vote.

JC66 10:41 AM  

I wonder which is more satisfying, filling in the quote "right out of the box" ala @Alex, or having to figure it out via crosses like Rex and others (including me).

Ulrich 10:42 AM  

I also laughed when the quote finally emerged--like others, I worked bottom-up, which gave the suspense a peculiar twist. I admit to googling CHAKA when the middle just wouldn't yield. All in all, yes, great fun.

And the Wiener Wald in Austria is spelled in two words--I know the Germans are fond of hitching words together, but they don't do that with an adjective and a noun. The restaurant is another story, but it's not located in Austria AFAIK...

retired_chemist 10:45 AM  

Harder than medium for me. But doable, and my only use of Google was to confirm that a brig has two MASTS. Slow going though. Some unexpected words - BRACE, BOARS, EELS (I'm not into leather but knew ??LS wasn't OWLS), TALCS, PHASIC (had PHASED), VON (had AUS), others.

Thought ther would be a spoets clue, but no... Although I did have SPORTS @ 32D briefly, not knowing LA Fenice.

Momentary WTFs for some of the cluing once I got the answer from crosses but eventually each sunk in.

Grumble - ñ (ENE, 39A) is the fifteenth letter of the Spanish alphabet, not the sixteenth, AFAIK (or as my 50 plus year old HS Spanish taught me). Wikipedia agrees. A mild kick in the ANO (not the AÑO) to the constructor and/or editor. If you are going to find a new clue for ENE at least make it correct. Or if I err, someone please correct me.

All in all a good experience. Thanks, Mr. Ginsberg.

chefbea 10:52 AM  

Wouldn't you have thought I would remember tar heels from the other day??? Well I didn't and we are off to the tar heel state on Monday for the closing of our house so I won't be around next week.

Welcome back Mac

PlantieBea 10:53 AM  

Funny quip in a puzzle that gave me plenty of trouble in the top. I didn't know STILLER and MEARA and I had to look them up to finally crack this one. I see they are Ben Stiller's parents.

I really liked some of the answers here including GREEN HOUSE GASES and its cluing, MUSTER, DEVIOUS, SCAVENGE, and on and on, especially with the downs. Enjoyed the Mr. BONES lesson, Rex. Thanks Matt Ginsberg!

mac 10:55 AM  

Happy Birthday Orange!
If it's as hot where you are as it is in CT, you may want to take Andrea's adice.

chefbea 10:56 AM  

@Bill from NJ from yesterday..LOL
Just gave my madeleine pan to a friend yesterday - don't think I'll make any for the Tar Heels

Glitch 11:05 AM  

Liked this puzzle. Lots of good clues and "ahas", about my average Saturday time (2-3 cups).

Too much time spent in the NE where my mental block on Ms. Meara continues --- I know it's not Merra, but can never remember where the "H" goes (Mehra? Merah?). Trying to fit that h in made the crosses all that much harder --- sigh.

.../Glitch

Norm 11:05 AM  

At the start I was thinking a quote puzzle was kind of unfair for a Saturday since the level of cluing would make it hard to pick it up from the crosses and the quote entries took up a lot of the puzzle, but I ended up loving this one. Tough, but it didn't call for scads of useless knowledge (e.g., an actor I've never heard of here, a rapper I never want to hear of there), and everything was inferable, given patience and a willingness to rethink exactly what the clue might be asking for. (I too started off thinking some sort of manacles for 1A, for example, and I kept trying to fit BANGLES or JINGLES or some such into 26A, before some synapse fired MRBOJANGLES and MRBONES finally fell into place.) I think my mind is definitely awake now. Time to get to work.

Two Ponies 11:09 AM  

I thought for certain that Rex would call this one Easy or Easy-Medium.
But I seem to be at my best with misdirection clues. (Puzzlemate calls it being a smart-ass) Puzzles like this one tickle me pink. I know I am improving when I am not fooled by the trick of Snake being capitalized not because it is the first word of the clue but is a proper noun. So many fun and trickiness today and a witty quip as well. Thanks Matt.
@ Anne, I tossed Pillars too. I guess the covers were...well, like Bierce said.
@ dk, What wonderful memories you must have. I got in a huge fight with my parents because they would not let me go to Woodstock. I never forgave them but they were right, I was a bit young.

Campesite 11:21 AM  

Don't think I was familiar with RECTO, or verso for that matter. Its last two appearances in the NYT puzzle are from Matt Ginsberg.
Very smooth and ultimately satisfying quote puzzle.

Brendan Emmett Quigley 11:41 AM  

Really liked it. Got STILLER AND MEARA with just the AND M. Weird. Put me in the same category as: why GREENHOUSE GASES?

ArtLvr 11:46 AM  

I had Tears at first for the baby's showers, so it looked like the quip was going to start with "The role"... So I skipped down to the bottom part and got something about "Too fat a part", presumably for an actor or actress on the skinny side... Oops!

Also thought the 36A clue "They're often stuffed" called for Tummies (more baby language) rather than TURKEYS, and that 23A clue "Holdup accessory" was going to require Bras again. Laugh a minute, that was me.

Yea verily, I did get it all straightened out in the end with no google and in fairly good time... MUSTER was a favorite, plus KINDRED, MANIACAL, RANSOM and SCAVENGE. Also a BRACE -- as of birds brought home by hunters.

Nicely done, Matt, SMART as a whip in spite of the Grade school comeback... Go with Goldilocks tasting porridge next time, as Rex suggested?

∑;)

poc 11:53 AM  

@retired_chemist: you're right in saying that N is not the 16th letter of the Spanish alphabet. That would be O. N is the 14th letter. It used to be the 16th but 'CH' and 'LL' were demoted as separate letters about 15 years ago. Ñ is thus the 15th letter (and *not* an N with an accent as I'm sure you know but some constructors don't.)

This was a very good Saturday puzzle and took me far too long to complete :-)

retired_chemist 12:03 PM  

@ poc - Thanks for commenting. Your comment indicates my tildes might not have come through. Did they?

mccoll 12:09 PM  

Good and tough. This one required two g-spots as PEDNSG would say. LOL You'll do a lot of laughing out loud if you read much Ambrose Bierce. I can think of no contemporary who is in his class. Bierce, Oscar Wilde, Twain and GB Shaw are my LOL favourites. Jeff Foxworthy is pretty good at times.
Frontier households nearly always had a shoe "last" because they did their own repairs.If they couldn't afford a metal one, they carved one from soft wood. I remember it well.
Thanks Matt G. for a tough but do-able puzzle.

buster 12:41 PM  

where oh where is the LA Crossword Confidential blog for Saturday?

Brian 1:40 PM  

OK, I had to cheat. I also was going for Stiller and Meara. Your choice of "Madame" vids was a little eerie. Loved it.

edith b 1:44 PM  

I had a weird time with this one as Ed Sullivan was the highlight of my parent's Sunday night and I remember the sheer number of times I saw STILLERANDMEARA and filled it in immediately, using only ANTHEM to confirm it but I KNEW it was right.

Also I knew the Ambrose Bierce quote and filled IT in right away. So I had the mini-theme and one of the 15s at once and was off to a JimDandy start.

Not.

From that point forward, I struggled. I had rerights several times in several places ISTOO BOO and, like Rex, alternated between ARESO and ISTOO and also RAGS and TOGS OSHA and USDA.

The SW gave me a pair of neons in CHAKA and TARHEELS but I had to piece together the other three corners pretty much a word at a time as I had parsing problems especially in the nautical area.

This puzzle was a combination of major league guessing and spirited wordplay and I spent more than an hour fighting with it.

But I endured and finally won. WHEW!!!

Lurker0 1:50 PM  

My first response ever to Rex, who asked...

47A: Onetime foe of the Navajo (Ute) — had OTO. Why doesn't this clue read [Onetime Navajo foe]?

Because the original clue is poetry: It scans well -- three trochees with elision of "of the," and a final accent to emphasize the rhyme. The rhyme is OK in "Onetime Navajo foe," but the line as a whole limps. :-)

---

On my now usual soapbox:

Perhaps I shouldn't complain about the unhinted abbreviation in MRBONES, and I know STPAUL has snuck through recently. But I will!

Grrr!

---

A very amusing (and a bit easy for a Saturday) puzzle, BTW.

Larry

XMAN 1:54 PM  

No trip to Auntie Google, no errors.

I didn't like TALCS for "Baby showers?", first, because the plural makes no sense and second because I don't think you "a shower" is what a baby gets with talc. I don't know what the right noun is, but I'm pretty sure that ain't it.

Other than that and the ñ (eñe) goof, this is a fine and worthwhile puzzle. (And I'm going to remember the quote.)

green mantis 2:07 PM  

Hi people! Sorry so MIA so long. We're finally in San Cristobal, Chiapas, one of the most beautiful cities I know.

I thought I would get help on the 16th letter of the Spanish alphabet, but nobody here at the posada knew it, inexplicably, so Mexico is doing nothing for my crossword quasi-cheating. Got everything else just fine, though, to the sound of much oohing and aahing. Now the Brits are forcing me to try the London Times puzzle to take me down a notch.

Sunshine and cobblestone and filigree and magenta bougainvillea everywhere, and last night a hot pink cloudform climbing out over the peeling cathedral--right out of a painting from that guy who does those paintings that are all illuminated- looking and dreamy.

Again, sorry I haven't checked in; I DID read your well wishes weeks ago and appreciated them so much. Lots of love.

Greene 2:14 PM  

Holy Moses this was a tough one for me. Like @EdithB I confidently threw STILLER AND MEARA down without a second thought. I had great traction in the north and quickly filled in ANTHEM, SILO, SMART, AND UAE. Unlike EdithB, I did not know the quip, so I spent a great deal of time staring at that point.

I had MR TAMBO in place for quite a while and this gave me fits in figuring out the downs in the NE. GREENHOUSE GASES came fairly easily in the south, but it was still slow going, largely because I had to solve the quote cross by laborious cross. In the end it was a swell victory and I had quite a chuckle over the quip.

I won't bore you with the details of my solving time, which was embarrassing, even for me. Serves me right for being at the piano until 4 AM this morning (all night singing party at my house as daughter leaves for college in 3 days). The empty nest awaits!

Happy birthday, Orange.

treedweller 2:19 PM  

Another disconnect for me--I found this one easy, yesterday's impossible. I mean, it took me just shy of an hour, but I finished in one sitting without cheating, which is major on a Saturday for me. I'm still perfectly happy with any Fri/Sat I can finish.

I've heard the quote, but didn't remember it, so I had complete blanks there for a long time. Finally began piecing it together from the bottom up.

STILLERANDMEARA was also mostly blank for most of the hour. I finally had an "aha" moment toward the end. I learned they were a team from crosswords fairly recently. MRBONES was pretty much my last fill--never heard of it/him.

In addition to some missteps others mentioned, I stalled a long time in the north because my plumbing was copper.

@Rex I'm with you on the brilliance of USPS. That decision seems almost as ridiculous as hiring "Cathy" as a spokescartoon.

archaeoprof 2:20 PM  

Good Saturday -- tough, but doable. Tried "OhGod" before OLORD.

MRBONES is mentioned in one of the songs in the movie "White Christmas." That film has to be one of the best awful musicals of all time. I watch it every Christmas.

@pednsg: yes, a Duke theme puzzle!

Ben 2:21 PM  

Happy birthday Orange.

Like BEQ, I got STILLERANDMEARA off the ANDM. I figure any commonality between my solving and BEQ's is a good thing.

Is Wienerwald the Austrian Walley World?

poc 2:27 PM  

@retired_chemist: Don't worry, your ñ's got through unharmed :-)

chefbea 2:30 PM  

@green mantis... glad to have you back. Sounds beautiful where you are. The artist you are referring to is Kincaide (don't know if I spelt his name right)

Nick 2:56 PM  

Can someone explain BRACE for "pair"? Never heard of that definition. Glad I guessed right, though.

matty lite 3:12 PM  

Tough one for a young solver-- I didn't know the Bierce quote, but I also had no idea who STILLER AND MEARA were, so if it weren't for those GREENHOUSE GASES I would have got all the long acrosses the hard way.

WIENERWALD had me cracking up like a ten year old or the whole rest of the puzzle.

I will sign a petition about those schoolyard taunt clues.

@Retired Chemist-- I partially grew up in Spain in the era when CHE and ELLE were in the alphabet, making ENE the 16th (and EÑE the 17th) letter, so I guess that makes up for never having seen the Ed Sullivan show.

@Nick-- ya, what does Brace have to do with a pair? My guess is oxen.

JC66 3:19 PM  

@ XMAN

Why not try thinking of TALCS and showers as verbs?

bill from fl 3:22 PM  

OSHA adopted an ergonomics rule in the last days of the Clinton administration; Congress repealed it using a special fast-track procedure in the first few months of the first Bush II administration.

Glitch 3:24 PM  

@Nick & @Mattie

BRACE: a pair usually of game-birds; a brace of pheasants

(Free Dictionary, waaay down the list)

.../Glitch

fergus 3:32 PM  

So set on the idea that a Brig was a ship's jail cell -- making the NW corner a real bother. INLAID leaves, E-PICS, etc ????

Best other mistakes were COVET for Pursue, and MOUSE for Snake feeder. CARBON EMISSIONS also considered.

SCAVENGE felt quite appropriate for my first real answer. Not, by any means, because of the garbage in the Clue, but because I went hunting all over the place.

mac 3:51 PM  

@matty lite and Nick: I know "brace" from hunting (or cooking!), a brace of pheasants or partridges, for instance. Didn't actually know it was two, just more than one.

@Green Mantis: good to hear from you! Enjoy your sojourn. When you say cathedral and light I think Monet on the Thames.

Greene 4:00 PM  

@archaeoprof: The minstrel sequence you reference from White Christmas was heavily inspired and, in part, lifted from the Act 1 finale of The Ziegfeld Follies of 1919 which also featured the Irving Berlin standard "Mandy" and the famous risers covering the length of the stage.

Even by 1919 the mistrel show was a dead entertainment relic, but Ziegfeld's revitalization left such a lasting impression that many a movie tucked in a repugnant minstrel bit for years to come. This was especially true at MGM. Thankfully, by the time White Christmas rolled around in 1954 the idea of blackface was unthinkable so Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye just did the number straight.

I agree that the film is just awful -- treacly and maudlin --but hangs on as a Christmas tradition for many. The Irving Berlin score is generally terrific though. For holiday cheer, I much prefer Paramount's Holiday Inn which also features an all-Berlin score and is the original source of the song "White Christmas." The film White Christmas, is in fact, a sort of warmed over remake of Holiday Inn, only minus the charm (and Fred Astaire for that matter). Bing Crosby stars in each and, most unfortunately, appears in a minstrel sequence ("Abraham"), complete with blackface, in the latter. Thanks for that legacy, Mr. Ziegfeld. (I usually just fast-forward through this part).

Two Ponies 4:04 PM  

Welcome back green mantis!
In England suspenders are called braces (I think). They definitely come as a pair.
@ artlvr I like your answer for "baby showers"! Clever word play and would have fit right in. Remember that one if you decide to write a puzzle.

joho 4:08 PM  

Hey, @green mantis ... great to hear to from you. Isn't the London Times a cryptic? That's a whole other animal isn't it? Like apples and oranges between the NYT Times and London Times puzzles.

Speaking of @Orange: happy birthday!

Leon 4:13 PM  

Thank you Mr. Ginsberg.

Last year I saw An Evening With Jerry Stiller. Anne Meara heckled him from the audience and then joined him on stage.

Great stories including one about rescuing a mutt from the streets to star as Crab in Two Gentlemen of Verona.

retired_chemist 4:54 PM  

@ matty lite, poc, and Spanish alphabet students everywhere -

I guess ENE can be anywhere from the 14th to the 17th letter, depending on the year when you do your count and whether you mean N or Ñ. The two are indistinguishable in these puzzles. I think this thread underscores the weakness of the clue used, albeit for reasons I did not fully appreciate when I complained.

And, yes, if I had put ENE in despite my misgivings I might has solved a little faster. There. I feel better now.

jae 5:16 PM  

Very nice Sat. with a chuckle as the pay off. I also tried CHAKA with an S and had PHASED briefly. I'm with XMAN on TALCS, it seems a bit of a stretch.

I've heard of BRACE of pistols, as in a dueling set.

Aviatrix 5:23 PM  

I had DOES and BUCKS as sources of leather, then BEARS. (I'm glad to see I wasn't the only one, even though in retrospect there's just no way Will Shortz is going to let someone clue BEARS as a source of leather. I love to laugh at how stupid you can make yourself, trying to make something work). Don't google "bear leather" looking for supporting evidence. You won't find leather made out of bears.

I found it hard to shake DIGEST, where I should have had RESORB. I had DEAD for "Some batteries" for too long, but one should still write in things that silly, because that's what YOOHOO was to me as I wrote it in.

Thanks all for revealing the Titan/SILO connection, and for helping with my Spanish alphabet skills.

michael 5:36 PM  

I thought this was easy for a Saturday. Great quip!

I didn't like the ene answer. I understand the rule that tildes aren't used in puzzles, but when this is key to the answer and furthermore crosses with an ordinary (non-tilde n), it just doesn't seem ok to me. And this is compounded by the confusion about the Spanish alphabet with the changing rules about ll and ch.

michael 5:37 PM  

Or is the ene supposed to refer to "n" and and n with a tilde? If so, I partly withdraw my comment.

michael 5:38 PM  

I meant "and not n with a tilde."

My apologies for the multiple posts.

XMAN 6:42 PM  

@JC66: It was clued as a noun.

poc 7:05 PM  

@Two Ponies: suspenders are indeed called braces in British English, but it never occurred to me that this usage of brace had anything to do with the notion of a pair, rather of a brace meaning a support. You may be right however.

@joho: the Times (of London) crossword is indeed a cryptic, and one of the best around. I do the NYT crossword every day and only very rarely need to Google, but I stopped trying to do the Times crossword years ago as it was too frustrating (and Google wouldn't be of much use anyway). Nonetheless, there are people who can knock it out in 10 minutes every day. Ability with the Times crossword was used to spot potential cryptographers during WWII.

@michael: the answer is ENE, the Spanish pronunciation of the letter N, so ambiguity with Ñ doesn't arise here. I don't think I've ever seen a cross with N in one direction and Ñ in the other, which would be truly horrendous. OTOH this might be an indication that constructors do know the difference.

Sorry for rambling on ...

ArtLvr 7:12 PM  

@ two ponies: Thanks! I'm toying wth another concept for a puzzle, but doubt if I can bring it to fruition. (Saw a shout-out to Foodies in another xword today, by the way).

@ nick: I think Brace may be related to Bracket, with the same image of a pair -- one on each side like suspenders or one in each hand, like the pistols.

@ green mantis: Super to hear from you too. I have a hard time immersing myself into vacation mode completely, but yours does sound wonderful.

@ greene: I always enjoy the richness of your background info, and what a neat coincidence that I'm now into Moss Hart's "Act One" where he's just discoursing on the phenomenon of Blackface minstrel acts, too long perpetuated! Amazing...

Just my luck too, a local library's annual book sale today with all one can cram into a large grocery bag for $2. total in their last hour. Heaven! I was able to snag 20 books of interest: should keep me happy for the rest of August.

∑;)

joho 7:37 PM  

@poc ... I'm glad to hear you think the Times cryptic is as difficult as I do. I sat down to do the puzzle and ended up wanting to tear my hair out. For those who do it 10 minutes, God bless them!

sanfranman59 7:58 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

All solvers (this week's median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 6:30, 6:59, 0.93, 32%, Easy-Medium
Tue 9:34, 8:35, 1.11, 81%, Challenging
Wed 14:01, 12:41, 1.10, 78%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 16:49, 18:35, 0.90, 25%, Easy-Medium
Fri 20:11, 26:00, 0.78, 8%, Easy
Sat 29:29, 27:55, 1.06, 68% Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:32, 3:43, 0.95, 43%, Medium
Tue 4:49, 4:25, 1.09, 78%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 6:54, 6:11, 1.12, 84%, Challenging
Thu 8:04, 8:53, 0.91, 24%, Easy-Medium
Fri 9:06, 12:12, 0.75, 7%, Easy
Sat 17:32, 15:50, 1.11, 82% Challenging

Matt 8:05 PM  

Let's see. People seem to have enjoyed this, which is always the main point. I even made Rex laugh out loud, so my life is complete.

A few comments on the cluing. But before I get to that, I must confess that Pillars of the Earth is my favorite book, bar none. I don't know if that's a character flaw or something, but I have to stand up for the book!

But back to the cluing. I originally clued IMF as [Fictional org. for Tom Cruise] or something along those lines, which I still prefer. I cannot claim responsibility for the ENE clue or credit for the RANSOM clue. :)

As far is ISTOO, I was a very small and unpopular kid; if I used a playground retort, it meant I would get the tar beat out of me! So now I will put those clues in puzzles at every opportunity, thereby filling a gap in my childhood.

archaeoprof 8:45 PM  

@greene: thanks for the background on the minstrel show tune in "White Christmas." I agree that "Holiday Inn" is a far better film. But it's become a tradition to watch "White Christmas," in all its schlock-ey glory.

@Orange: happy birthday, all day!

tim 11:48 PM  

Although I did eventually get the Bierce quote (and it turned out I'd actually heard it before), I'd like to share the incorrect but kind of astonishing guess I made early on: "THE EMBERS OF CHASTITY ARE COOLING FAST."

green mantis 12:52 AM  

Ack...not Kinkaide, Painter of Light and Producer of Nausea, but an older artist...lots of clouds and cliffs and women in gauziness. I could google that for me, but it's right on the tip of my brain and I want to try to remember on my own steam. Or one of your steams. Anyway, good night and I'll try to check back soon.

mac 7:51 AM  

@Green Mantis: maybe Caspar David Friedrich? Don't remember gauzy women, though.

Waxy in Montreal 3:36 PM  

As a proud Canadian, confidently began by entering WAYNEANDSHUSTER for 17A. Somewhat ired thereafter when nothing else worked. Consolation trivia from Wiki- the Canadian duo set the record for appearances on Ed Sullivan at 67. Take that, STILLERANDMEARA!

Anonymous 5:35 PM  

Shoe is the last thing you put on when you get dressed I think...... I also had Mask for Belt. Absorb instead of Resorb messed me up for a while, Manwacal too. Tried Irons and Seas @5D until I got Indoor. Then Stillerandmeara fell into place and it was a goner except MRBONES. I still don't know what a Brace has to do with pair though.

XMAN 6:40 PM  

Anonymous 5:35: A brace is a pair, as in 'a brace of pheasants.' Peculiarlarly, it is not in my Webster's II.

Anonymous 3:55 PM  

'Brig pair' should be 'AWOLS.'

A brig is not a ship, it is a prison.
Dismasted again.

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