Wednesday, 3/2/11

[time_hdr postdate="2011/03/01" plug="wednesday-3211" puzz="Onion" anchor="av"]5:27[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/03/01" plug="wednesday-3211" puzz="LAT" anchor="la"]3:59[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/03/01" plug="wednesday-3211" puzz="NYT" anchor="ny"]3:10[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/03/01" plug="wednesday-3211" puzz="CS" anchor="cs"]untimed[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/03/01" plug="wednesday-3211" puzz="Tausig" anchor="bt"]untimed[/time_hdr]

Announcement the First: That Cru dinner I mentioned in yesterday’s post? Don’t be daunted by that “Cru” designation. If you are reading any crossword blog, you are officially a member of the Cru(civerbal) crowd. I encourage you to sign up for the dinner gathering, particularly if you are heading to the ACPT for your first or second time and don’t know many people there. You meet a bunch of people in a relaxed setting as the weekend begins, and suddenly you’re running into those folks all weekend and you’re completely in the swing of things.

Only about a dozen people go to the ACPT with an expectation that they might win some money. Everyone else goes to the tournament to hang out with like-minded puzzle people. And you can get to know some of them at the Friday group dinner.

Announcement the Second: If you’re on Twitter, you have until 10 p.m. Thursday to tweet your submissions to @EditorMark‘s National Grammar Day haiku contest. I am one of the “expert judges” and even have experience in judging a crossword haiku contest. Can I make a career out of this haiku judging business?

David Poole’s New York Times crossword

3/2/11 NYT crossword solution 0302

I loved this puzzle, y’all. A theme answer in a Wednesday puzzle made me laugh out loud? That’s a winner. A lot of the non-theme clues felt just right, too.

The theme is movie-related puns. Yes, they’re a mishmash of titles, near-titles, and catchphrases, but they were working for me.

  • 17a. An Affair to Remember loses its An and becomes the pun A FARE TO REMEMBER, clued as ["Taxi Driver" tagline?].
  • 25a. ["Back to the Future" tagline?] is A COMEDY OF ERAS. The Shakespeare play is The Comedy of Errors, not A Comedy of Errors, but “comedy of errors” is a common phrase on its own.
  • 42a. This is the one that won my heart. The kid’s spooky line in The Sixth Sense, “I see dead people,” turns into a ["Titanic" tagline?], ICY DEAD PEOPLE. Horribly tasteless, yes, but it made me laugh. I just read it to my husband and he laughed and said, “Nice!”
  • Look Back in Anger becomes LUKE BACK IN ANGER, a ["Return of the Jedi" tagline?]. Doesn’t quite parse grammatically, but it picks up a hint of Terminatory “he’s back” menace.

Edited to add: Well, I’m perplexed. Commenters sps and arthur118 checked out the site Joon was reminded of—Four Word Film Reviews—and all four theme entries are among the top 100. I give a lot less credit for a theme answer that makes me laugh if it wasn’t actually devised by the constructor, unless it’s a juicy quote with attribution. There was no attribution to Four Word Film Reviews (the website or the companion book) in the theme clues.

Highlights:

  • 1a. NORM is the only Cheers bar patron who appeared in all 275 episodes. There! You’ve got one answer in this TV character Sporcle quiz. Ignore the factual mismatch between crossword and quiz—the quiz says Norm was in just 271 episodes.
  • 21a. [Super Bowl XLV MVP Rodgers] is AARON Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers. My husband has a man-crush on him.
  • 39a. Is [Band of geishas?] a new OBI clue? It feels fresh to me.
  • 10d. HUMMER is the [GM brand discontinued in 2010]. I don’t think I had heard the definite news. Aww, my son will never be able to buy a brand-new Hummer and will just have to hope that the Cadillac Escalade is still being made when he’s old enough to buy a car.
  • 19d. I just learned something from this clue. You can call a Swiss person “a Swiss.” Leonhard EULER is the [Swiss who pioneered in graph theory]. Has there ever been a sports team of mathematicians called the Eulers? (It sounds like “Oilers.”)
  • 26d. I like word-oddity clues. The Honda CIVIC is a [Palindromic car name].
  • 28d. My favorite OVA clue: [They travel down fallopian tubes]. We get too many “lab”-related clues for OVA but really, the lab at an IVF clinic has far more spermatozoa on hand than ova.
  • 41d. Punctuation! The COMMA provides a [Short stop?] in a sentence. Very short.

Ben Tausig’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

3/3/11 Onion A.V. Club crossword answers

Timely theme this week: REHAB is where the famous people at the end of the starred entries have gone.

  • 17a. [*Sex column that coined the word "santorum"] is Dan Savage’s SAVAGE LOVE. Courtney Love is the rehabbed celeb hiding here. Am psyched that Dan and his husband are launching their It Gets Better book at a March 23 reading/signing sponsored by my neighborhood indie bookstore, Unabridged Bookstore. Take that, big-box bookstores!
  • 31a. [*You might use it to pay for staples] clues PETTY CASH. Johnny Cash did a few stints in rehab.
  • 37a. ASPARAGUS SPEARS are a [*Bunch in the vegetable aisle], and Britney Spears lends herself to this theme so much better than Lindsay Lohan does. Do you know any phrases that end with LOHAN?
  • 46a. [*Nickname for the area where politicians offer soundbites to journalists] is SPIN ALLEY. Never heard that term before. Kirstie Alley was in rehab? Wikipedia explains, she “went through Narconon, a Scientology-affiliated drug treatment program, to end her dependency.”
  • 64a. ULTRA SHEEN is a black [*Hair product that conditions and shines]. Charlie Sheen gets his shout-out here. It’s about time the Ultra Sheen/Afro Sheen product category gets a little love from crosswords.

Speaking of Charlie Sheen, he didn’t really stick with that rehab thing, because he could just use His Mind to kick the habit. And ever since, he’s been saying bizarre things that are practically indistinguishable from the breeds of nuttiness espoused by Muammar Qaddafi and Glenn Beck. It’s true: Take this quiz and see if you can peg the speaker of each quote.

Comments:

  • 21a. [Group with many Beck fans] had me thinking of Loser Beck rather than Glenn Beck, so as TEA PARTY emerged in the grid, I was confused.
  • 26a. [Guitarist on "Cherub Rock"] is James IHA. Don’t know the Smashing Pumpkins song, though.
  • 52a. I like [LGBT-supporting comedian Margaret] CHO.
  • 9d. THE ARTIST is the [Fantastically pretentious former nickname for one of the few musicians who could get away with it]. Prince! I’d link to a YouTube but he never has any videos up there. Heard “Purple Rain” on the Sirius XM ’80s station yesterday. Good times.
  • 13d. BOOYAH! ["That's what I'm talkin' about!"] Good fill.


Updated Wednesday morning:

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Leave Your Worries Behind”—Janie’s review

Wish I knew how to describe this one. It’s definitely a synonym gimmick (for “worries”) and the synonym is the last word (“behind” the others) in the theme phrase. It’s just that I’m having trouble seeing substitution-consistency in the theme set . Also, the title word promises a plural use of the noun; the fill delivers the worries in their singular forms. Or is it that the words are to be understood in their verb form?…

The worries that get “left behind” are: bother, upset, curse and pain. Am very iffy on how curse and pain made the cut, but maybe one of you will see things in a different light. Here’re the phrases they show up in:

  • 20A. “IT’S NO BOTHER” ["I'd be happy to"]. Things that worry you are things that bother you; “I have a lot of worries”; “I have a lot of bothers.” This mostly works.
  • 34A. STOMACH UPSET [Agita]. Ditto. Used to work with a woman who introduced me to the word “agita.” She had it a lot. Love the word. This clue/fill combo also ties in with [Gut feeling], though the fill here is the more benign HUNCH. No Pepto required.
  • 41A. THE DAIN CURSE [1929 Hammett novel]. Still have a big question mark here—but… if you enjoy classic stories of hard-boiled detectives, Hammett’s your go-to guy. Before there was Sam Spade, there was the Continental Op. Worth your own private investigation. Oh—the morphine-addicted heroine of The Dain Curse reminds me that NARC is also in the grid, too, with its Hammett-worthy slangy clue [Horse-seller's collarer?].
  • 57A. HOUSE OF PAIN ["Jump Around" band]. Great way to get the band and the song in the grid, but this still feels stretchy as theme fill. These hip-hoppers (with Irish-American roots) are a far cry from POP DUO [Hall & Oates, e.g.].

Love the triple-6 columns NW and SE with clue fill combos like [Play book?]/SCRIPT, [Pampering place]/DAY SPA and [Stoops]/DEIGNS (the choice of a [Hoity-toity type]/SNOB). But love even more the symmetrically placed PRO BONO [Free of charge] and ROBOCOP [Peter Weller's role as a policeman]. I’m uncommonly tickled by the one letter difference between the two. Not sure that Robocop ever worked pro bono, but it seems he did TASE [Zap, as a perp] every now and then.

And I’d be a total AIRHEAD (great word!) [Scatterbrain] if I didn’t cite some more examples of Tony’s terrific cluing. Take a bow: [Bowed orchestral instrument] for VIOLIN, followed directly by [Blown orchestral instrument] for OBOE; [Kitty letters?] for IOU; and the alliterative + homophonic [Caracas cash cache] for BANCO. Is this the Klahn effect? Whether or not, works fer me!

Dan Naddor’s Los Angeles Times crossword

3/2/11 LA Times crossword answers

I’m partial to themes that assemble a collection of cool words with something in common. (Palindromes and other word oddities? Yes, please.) This Naddor theme presents six words that have NINE LETTERS but just ONE SYLLABLE: STRAIGHTS, SQUELCHED, STRETCHED, SPLOTCHED, STRENGTHS, and SCRATCHED. Yes, they all end with -S or -ED, but they do indeed meet the criteria. It’s not necessarily an entertaining theme, but I feel my mind is enriched a tad by having this list of words in it now.

Highlights and lowlights:

  • 4d. ONE PART (as in “one part sugar, one part brown sugar”) isn’t a great entry, and its ONE duplicates what’s in ONE SYLLABLE.
  • 12d. “WHO’S THERE“? is the [Obligatory joke response] to “Knock, knock.” It looks weird in the grid but I like it.
  • 28d. [Gift shop items on a rotating stand] are POSTCARDS. Who doesn’t like seeing three-stacked 9-letter answers in a themed puzzle?
  • Overall, fairly lackluster fill. ESTO IDEATES SCH USD RET SRS SWE CHA ROS ONO OTT? Eh.

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Remixes”

Ink Well crossword answers 3/3/11 RemixesBen “remixes” a song by scrambling the letters in SONG six different ways, and burying those remixes in the middle of longer phrases in the circled squares:

  • 18a. BAKING SODA is an [Ingredient in some tooth whiteners].
  • 23a. [Video series in many a frat house library] is GIRLS GONE WILD. I’ll go on record as deploring those exploitative videos.
  • 31a. [Chemical warfare weapon] is POISON GAS. No matter how bad flatulence is, I believe it does not rise to the level of being poisonous.
  • 40a. LIONSGATE is the movie [Studio with the "Saw" series]. Deplore!’
  • 48a. “NO GUTS, NO GLORY” is a [Pre-game platitude].
  • 59a. ["Octopus's Garden" composer] is RINGO STARR. My kid pegged someone on TV as looking like Ringo’s fellow Beatle, George Harrison. You know how he knows what the Beatles look like? Because his class has been studying the historical era of the Sixties in social studies, that’s how.

Interesting batch of theme entries. This sort of theme carried out with boring theme entries would feel pointless, but it’s got some zip to it. The “remixed SONG” concept is cute, too.

Five more clues:

  • 28a. [Pig Latin 101 word] is IXNAY. One of those words you learn during the first week of Pig Latin class.
  • 38a. EPT, short for Early Pregnancy Test, is a [Brand used while waiting for a period].
  • 47a. The HOA are a [Vietnamese minority group]. No, I didn’t know that either.
  • 10d. I like how [Major export from the islets of Langerhans] makes you picture islands with a bustling ports and cargo ships. These islets are in your body and they make INSULIN.
  • 45d. KAL PENN is the actor who’s your [Kumar portrayer] in the stoner pic Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. His hair-trimming scene at the beginning of that movie was a delight. Apparently he is still an Associate Director in the White House Office of Public Engagement.
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42 Responses to Wednesday, 3/2/11

  1. John E says:

    Hey Amy – getting a 404 error when I click the NYT link from the home page (as well as the Onion link). The “read more” link worked ok though. I don’t know who Dave is or I would call him :)

    I really liked today’s NYT – I am still giggling at ICY DEAD PEOPLE. Did OVA in this context pass everyone’s “breakfast management” test?

  2. joon says:

    ha! this theme cracked me up. i wonder if it was at all inspired by the 4-word film review?

  3. anonymous says:

    I have a problem with the LUKE BACK IN ANGER clue. The whole point of Return of the Jedi was that Luke didn’t give in to his anger. In fact, Lucas released a fake-poster called “Revenge of the Jedi,” which real fans were supposed to recognize as phony because Jedis “want not revenge.”

    I will now go not kiss a girl.

  4. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Whoops, coding snafu. Thanks for the heads-up, John E. Fixed!

  5. janie says:

    re: ICY DEAD PEOPLE

    >Horribly tasteless, yes, but it made me laugh.

    major ditto. brilliantly, deliciously tasteless. the best.

    please tell me that whoever gave this puzzle one star “goofed” and then entered some fours and five to compensate. i know how subjective one’s reaction to any puzzle can be, but it’d be interesting to know *why* someone felt this puzzle merited so very low a rating.

    imoo.

    ;-)

  6. Travis says:

    hmm there were only 270 total episodes of Cheers… Factual mismatch and both are wrong.

  7. Jan (danjan) says:

    “Only about a dozen people go to the ACPT with an expectation that they might win some money.”
    I’m not going to be one of those dozen, but I do plan to be at the Friday night dinner. Hope to see a lot of you there – I still have some screen names to put to faces. In the meantime, if you want to see my face on national television, tune in to Millionaire Thursday and Friday this week.

  8. Howard B says:

    Congrats Jan!

  9. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Janie, the 1-star person was vexed by the odd development of the theme, from a mishmash of original phrases that don’t cohere at all.

  10. janie says:

    >the 1-star person…

    or persons, apparently.

    oh, well.

    ;-)

  11. Ladel says:

    @Amy

    how is it possible to compute how many stars any particular rater gave?

  12. Amy Reynaldo says:

    If you mouse over the stars, a thingy will pop up and tell you how many of each rating there are. It doesn’t tell you who the raters are, though.

    And there seems to be a sniper who comes in late in the day to give 1-star ratings to puzzles that have high ratings overall, some sort of petty creature who doesn’t want to see a 4 1/2 star average for anything. If I could ban that person, I would.

  13. Duke says:

    Really enjoyed this too. Favorite: cat’s tongue: jive!

  14. Aaron says:

    Hi,
    Personally I don’t think a rating should be knocked down more than a point on account of the theme.
    If you hate a particular type of theme, or the execution of the theme why not just post your opinion.
    Personally I loved the Titanic clue, but I’d rather read a note saying “My grandmother died on the Titanic, and I couldn’t finish the puzzle,” than just see a 1 star rating.
    - Aaron

  15. sps says:

    Way to go, Jan!

    Joon—Love the four-word film review site and yes, you called it: three of the four theme answers are there. The one that isn’t? LUKE BACK IN ANGER…

  16. arthur118 says:

    Terrific puzzle and, as joon shows us, they are all harvested from “the 4-word film review”.

    (sps- LUKE BACK IN ANGER is #53 on the list).

    There are dozens more on their list, just waiting for the next constructor to employ them.

  17. john farmer says:

    I am vexed by that odd collection of Four Word Film Reviews. Seems like a mishmash of original phrases that don’t cohere at all.

    The puzzle, otoh, I found enjoyable.

  18. Phoebe says:

    Enjoyed the puzzle and also got a laugh from icy dead people, but I did too when Patrick Blindauer used it (I think in a Sun puzzle). Can’t recall his clue, though.

  19. janie says:

    looks like the phrase was a theme entry in patrick’s 7/28/06 new york sun puzzle. the clue was [Cryogenic corpses].

    thus spake cruciverb!

    ;-)

  20. Gareth says:

    NYT: Loved this one too! Esp. ICYDEADPEOPLE which is amazingly bad taste for a NYT answer! Also loved the OVA clue!

  21. Pete M says:

    Loved this puzzle. Had a brief snag trying to decipher LUKEBAPKINADGER (sounds like some Dickens character), showing my age with DEC as an IBM competitor, though I can’t be the only one who went with SPAM over SCAM for the Nigerian prince.

    Icy dead people. ROFL.

  22. Jeffrey says:

    ICY DEAD PEOPLE is over the line for me, because they were real.

  23. joon says:

    hmm, i only got 7/14 on the sheen/qaddafi/beck quiz. slightly better than random guessing, but not to a statistically significant degree (15% of trained monkeys would do as well or better).

    cherub rock is one the earliest smashing pumpkins hits. i want to say it was their first, but i guess it depends on whether you thought anything from “gish” was a mainstream hit. certainly cherub rock was the first pumpkins song i can remember hearing (and liking) on the radio.

    the LAT puzzle strikes me as quintessentially naddoresque. if i remember correctly, STRENGTHS is the longest english word with only one vowel.

    like janie, i confess to being somewhat discombobulated by tony’s CS theme (in addition to being totally unfamiliar with THE DAIN CURSE). it’s almost true that the four ending words are synonyms as verbs, while they serve as nouns in the context of their grid entries. but i don’t think CURSE is really synonymous with the others as a verb.

  24. HH says:

    “ICYDEADPEOPLE which is amazingly bad taste for a NYT answer!”

    I’m hoping this starts a long-overdue trend.

  25. Martin says:

    Dear Mr. Orbach,

    AHI is not a Japanese word. It’s Hawaiian. It’s not the preferred tuna for sushi, which is the bluefin, or maguro. To make matters worse, “ahi” is used in Hawaii (and the rest of the US) for two species, the yellowfin tuna and the bigeye tuna. Yellowfin is not too bad for sushi, but is called kihada. A sushi chef would more likely lie and call it “maguro,” but its pink color would signal the deception and drive away serious customers.

    More tuna sold as ahi is bigeye, or mebachi. Mebachi tends to be too soft and has a very unpleasant tasting fat that can taint the meat if not removed with skill. This ahi has a very poor reputation among sushi people.

    As you can tell, I don’t like AHI clues that use the word “sushi,” even though the bulk of them do.

  26. Aaron says:

    Here’s Prince wailing away in a video on YouTube named
    “Greatest Guitar Solo Ever”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifp_SVrlurY

    If you want to go straight to the solo it’s 3 and a half minutes in.
    - Aaron

  27. Tony O. says:

    Hey gang,

    As people have actually chimed in (thank you!) on the CrosSynergy puzzle I feel compelled to respond in kind.

    Joon, back in 1929 when I read this book…OK, I’m not that old. I did read it and some other Hammett books in junior high, though, and I thought some folks might appreciate a reference that was not TV or movie-related. If I taught you something new, I’m honored!

    As for the 4 theme words: what can I say? They’re all worrisome things, no? I believe they hold up as synonyms as either nouns or verbs – just don’t get my wife started on the prevalence of nouns AS verbs, a whole other line of discussion. Let’s see who can come up with some good examples.

    Martin, my humble apologies for any mistaken attributes of the AHI – and I was just in Hawaii!! …and I did not encounter “half a fish” there on any menus, either, for those wondering.

    See some of you in Brooklyn!

    Regards,
    Tony O.

  28. Rex says:

    I ask this question sincerely of constructors who read and post here: Do you think “harvesting” theme answers the way today’s NYT does is good practice? Would you do it? Just … take someone else’s cleverness, lift phrases of equal length, plop them in a grid, hit autofill, and submit? Or are we all convinced that he came up with them all on his own and their appearance at 4wdmoviereviews is pure coincidence? I know the line is VERY blurry when it comes to originality in xwords, but something about today’s puzzle sits very badly with me … and yet I seem to be nearly alone in feeling this way.

    Again, sincerely curious, not wanting a fight,
    RP

  29. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I just wrote the following comment at Wordplay (not posted yet) without seeing Rex’s comment:

    What’s fair game for previously compiled material in a theme? Every quote theme uses existing material. Famous anagrams are well known (e.g., Pepsi Cola/Episcopal, Britney Spears/Presbyterian) and have appeared in the puzzle. Today’s LAT theme may well have come from a preexisting list of 9-letter 1-syllable words, and I was fine with that. The NYT/FWFR connection doesn’t sit right with me—although others who are fine with that one might think a word-list theme lacks originality and wit.

    I imagine each of us has our own line in the sand between “Nice find!” and “Ooh, that’s not good.”

  30. joon says:

    i don’t think it’s good practice, and i wouldn’t do it. but i’m not convinced that david poole “harvested” these from fwfr. neither am i convinced that he didn’t, but i’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. i guess that puts me squarely in opposition to rex. i also think the attribution of “hit autofill and submit” is going way beyond the bounds of legitimate speculation as to how this puzzle came into being. in fact, the fill was pretty good and (especially) the clues were unusually lively today.

    i will admit that my initial reaction to this puzzle was way more positive than how i feel about it now, or even shortly after i found the fwfr site. but maybe that’s the curse of overanalysis. i knew i had seen ICY DEAD PEOPLE somewhere (it turns out to have been the PB2 puzzle from the sun that janie cited), and googling it turned out to open up a veritable pandora’s box.

  31. Rex says:

    Joon is right about “hit autofill and submit” comment (I will say that before I knew about the *apparent* harvesting, I thought the fill was completely unremarkable, hence the comment). That was crankiness talking, and I apologize.

    Joon is my go-to guy for stats analysis. I’m having trouble getting my head around the kind of coincidence that would have a constructor come up with these answers completely independently when we can see that they are all together on one page on an apparently not completely unheardof website. It just seems so unlikely. Tell me why I’m wrong. Again, I’ll be Happy to be wrong.

    rp

  32. Martin says:

    With all four entries found, verbatim, on a single web page (the All-time top reviews) it’s pretty compelling that this was the ultimate source. On the other hand, the internet being what it is, it is certainly possible that the constructor got them via an email humor list without attribution. Would that have been fair game?

    But it doesn’t really matter who knew what when. I would think a published attribution is in order. I’m convinced of that partly because the puzzle calls them “taglines,” which seems like an attempt to hide their origins as “four word film reviews.”

    Assuming one or more of these made it into the book, there may be copyright issues as well.

  33. Jim Horne says:

    I like this puzzle a lot. Most pun puzzles don’t thrill me. This one did. Most puns in puzzles are retreads I’ve heard before. These ones aren’t. I can’t muster any outrage at all that they came from a website. Had they previously appeared verbatim in another puzzle, I’d feel bad. Repurposing these seems not only legitimate, but given their strength as great crossword entries, even desirable. Just my 2 cents.

  34. john farmer says:

    Crossword themes get repeated, so it’s very possible for different people to come up with the same idea independently. One example is below, and based on the constructors involved, you can say with near certainly it’s just an odd coincidence.

    Constructor S.N.
    Publisher code sn
    Date Wed, May 23, 2001
    ANTARCTICCIRCLE 15 About 23 degrees North Latitude
    BERMUDATRIANGLE 15 Mysterious Atlantic region
    TRAFALGARSQUARE 15 Lord Nelson statue site

    Constructor Nancy Salomon
    Publisher code cs
    Date Sat, May 11, 2002
    TRAFALGARSQUARE 15 Where to see Nelson’s Column
    ANTARCTICCIRCLE 15 Emperor penguin’s realm
    BERMUDATRIANGLE 15 Storied ship swallower

    If you had a repeated theme that was not a coincidence, that’s what I’d say is definitely unacceptable. No constructor should intentionally copy a theme from another puzzle and call it their own. That’s plagiarism. Not professional. Anybody who tried it shouldn’t be working in the business for long.

    That said, I think a lot of constructors do get inspiration from other puzzles. I know I do. You see something, it gives you an idea, and you want to take it to another level or in an other direction. The key is to make it new, so that you’ve created something of your own, not just copied something.

    I think there should be more leeway for constructors who get ideas from other sources. If you see something and can make it work in a puzzle — something not done in a crossword before — generally, I’d say: more power to you. All puzzle ideas come from somewhere. Even the most original ideas have a seed someplace.

    I’d guess the discomfort some people feel about today’s theme is that the puns had already done before. The punning — the creative part of the theme — we like to think is the work of the constructor (although we never really know). (A theme of four non-pun answers — say, all straight movie titles — would probably not be an issue.) So, does it really matter? I don’t know. A good joke is funny the first time you hear it, not so funny the next. It doesn’t matter who originated the joke, just who told it to you first.

    Puzzle themes work the same way. If you come up with a novel idea, it’s more likely to sound fresh to a wider audience. If you have a theme (pun, quip, whatever) that has already had a life somewhere else, more likely some people have probably heard the joke before.

    I have no idea how David came up with today’s theme. It seemed new to me, so I don’t have any complaint.

    Btw, the Four Word Movie Reviews, most likely, aren’t all that original to begin with. I’d bet a lot of them are submitted by people who had read or heard of them somewhere else. Does that make a difference?

  35. David Poole says:

    Here is the entry that I posted on the Wordplay blog:

    “I’ve been sitting on the fence for quite a while, wondering whether to respond to the firestorm that has erupted around my puzzle. Here is how the puzzle came into being. Two of the theme answers came to me via a friend who (with way too much free time on his hands) frequently sends humorous emails, often things that others have forwarded to him. I had never seen them before but thought they might form the basis for a nice puzzle. The other two I came up with on my own and with some help from Will. I did check to see if such a theme had been done before but couldn’t find one. However, until today, I had never heard of the FWFR site. That indeed is likely the source of the ones in my friend’s email but I didn’t know that. I’m truly sorry that this has stirred up such hostile feelings. I only intended to craft a fun puzzle. Over and out.”

  36. john farmer says:

    David,

    Thanks for the background. You really shouldn’t have to go through the crossword equivalent of a TSA screening just for having a puzzle in the paper. I hope you did have some today to celebrate the occasion. Despite a few questions (some being more general than directed at you), most of the reaction today was quite positive. You did your job, entertaining the cru crowd with the fix for the day. Nice work!

    Your process on this one sounds pretty typical (meaning that in a good way).

    Keep ‘em coming!

  37. wobbith says:

    To John, Jim, and Henry I say RUH-RUH!
    Or whatever the heck Gabby Johnson was trying to say.

    This was a GREAT puzzle, and I enjoyed it immensely as a SOLVER.
    That’s the goal for constructors, no?
    I really don’t care where the inspiration came from, or even if the constructor found all of the theme answers on a single website. So what?
    It was fun to solve, and it made me laugh.
    You can’t beat that.
    Thanks, David!

  38. John E says:

    It seems like crosswords which involve a quote with a known author will reference the author as being the source. If an author is unknown, there is a reference to “anonymous”.

    I would think it to be standard practice to search for the source of a quote before putting it into a puzzle, and notating as such upon finding the author. If nothing else, the editors should perform this due diligence. This particular situation is a little tricky in that there were multiple sources, and so I am not sure how you would extend credit.

    That all said, I still liked the puzzle and, if nothing else, it brought to the forefront some fresh puns….and the FWFR website really made me laugh.

  39. Meem says:

    Whew! David, please end your day with a smile. The conversation today has been conducted in too loud a voice. In my book, Michael Sharp needs to take a time out. To accuse you of “shooting it from the truck” is a very cheap shot.

  40. joon says:

    david, thanks so much for chiming in. of course it’s entirely possible for two different people to independently come up with the same witticism(s); that’s why i was reluctant to leap to any conclusions. just a few days ago i mentioned to BEQ that it might be fun to do a mythology puns theme, to which he responded, “yeah, i did that one back in the day. HERA THE DOG.” lo and behold, that was my planned seed entry. so i gave up.

    now that the unpleasantness can be put out of our minds, there is still the more general question of what’s appropriate source material for a theme (or even a clue). i’d like to share jim’s view that taking good material and making it into a crossword is a good thing, but the question of attribution would have to be addressed somehow. i think a puzzle based on the 4 best steven wright one-liners might be fairly hilarious, but if the clues (or “reveal” entry, or title) didn’t mention steven wright, that would be plagiarism.

    last note: i’m mildly curious if fwfr.com has seen a noticeable spike in their traffic today. :)

  41. sandirhodes says:

    Now that THAT is settled (!), from the Onion write-up we have:

    “Do you know any phrases that end with LOHAN?”

    “Millenium Falcom pilot in the phone book?”

  42. Erik says:

    FYI – A couple days after this, I ran into “Band of geishas,” sans question mark, in the Shortz “Sleepy Sunday” collection.

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