Thursday, June 21, 2012

NPR Sunday Puzzle (Jun 17, 2012): Est-ce que tu parles français?

French word puzzleNPR Sunday Puzzle (Jun 17, 2012): Est-ce que tu parles français?:
Q: Think of a common French word that everyone knows. Add a "v" (as in "violin") to the beginning and an "e" at the end. The result will be the English-language equivalent of the French word. What is it?
Well, I never expected it to take me this long to figure out the puzzle answer. I spent much of last night pouring through lists of common French words as well as English words starting with V and ending with E. My wife was similarly stymied so we gave up and assumed that there must be a typo in the wording of the puzzle. Unfortunately, when I listened to the on-air puzzle, the wording was the same as what is posted. Perhaps it was the clearer head of the morning, but I finally figured out what Will wanted us to do.

It's actually refreshing, for a change, to have a puzzle that takes some time to solve, but I expect there will be some that want to voice a small complaint when the answer is revealed especially since you may find me guilty of not giving a very obvious clue either.

Edit: I think I was actually rather generous with the hints this time:
  • "Well, I never expected" --> initial letters spell WINE
  • "pouring" --> deliberate misspelling of poring, as in pouring WINE
  • "wife + typo" --> WINE
  • "clearer head of the morning" --> no personal experience with this, but...
  • "what Will wanted" --> string of words starting with W
  • "refreshing" --> another indirect hint to a beverage, coupled with France = WINE
  • "takes some time" --> as in aging a fine WINE
  • "voice a small complaint" --> WHINE
  • "Find Me Guilty" --> Movie starring VIN Diesel
  • "giving" --> hides the word VIN


  • The key for me was actually listening to the on-air puzzle and hearing Will say the puzzle was tricky. But what finally caused the "Aha!" moment was searching for the puzzle submitter "Kate MacDonald" "Murphys, California" and finding her listed as the Winemaker of Stevenot Winery in Murphys, California. In the end this puzzle was challenging but not impossible.
    A: French word: VIN, English word: WINE (VV = W)

    127 comments:

    1. Here's my standard reminder... don't post the answer or any hints that could lead directly to the answer (e.g. via Google or Bing) before the deadline of Thursday at 3pm ET. If you know the answer, click the link and submit it to NPR, but don't give it away here.

      You may provide indirect hints to the answer to show you know it, but make sure they don't give the answer away. You can openly discuss your hints and the answer after the Thursday deadline. Thank you.

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    2. Blaine, you describe my experience exactly (the lists, the hope for a typo, etc). Unfortunately, I did not wake up with a clearer head, so I still don't have a clue (nor, of course, the answer). I'm guessing that the slightly strange wording "the English-language equivalent" will turn out to be the key.

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    3. You have to think outside the box on this one.

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      Replies
      1. Had Joseph Conrad been alive when it happened I am sure his response would have been the same as mine: "The horror! The horror!"

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    4. There was one difference between the online and on air puzzles...on the air he said "it's a bit tricky."

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      1. I agree, this puzzle is markedly harder than any NPR puzzles Will has presented recently. Given that the number of correct answers submitted is likely to be low, that means solvers this week might actually have a chance to play on the air, if we don't give too much away. :)

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    5. I too had the exact same experience last night. Before going to bed though I re-read the puzzle and got a slight clue in the wording but still no answer. This morning the pressure got to me and the answer suddenly hit me.

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    6. I haven't got the VAUGUSTE RODIN IDEA-E on this one but I am working on it!

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    7. Very clever. My complaint is that I don’t think you can truthfully say that “everyone knows” the French word.

      Chuck

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    8. how did you get the puzzle last night? i usually get it around 9:30 on sundays.

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      1. It seems to generally be posted on the NPR website Saturday at 9pm PT (midnight ET). That's not always true, since last week it was delayed several hours, but it usually precedes the on-air playback.

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    9. How can "everyone" "know" any particular word, much less a French one? I'm disliking Will's clue immensely at the moment.

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    10. Replies
      1. Two ways to numerically represent the initials of someone who recorded a song dealing with the matter in question.

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    11. It's tricky but can't be that difficult or my son, who is not well, surely could not have solved it before me in so short a time.

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      1. You have a son?

        Who knew?

        Certainly not me.

        Well, Happy Father's Day, in any case.

        Are we trying to prove that I'm not a robot, or are we trying to prove that I'm not a robot who doesn't need bifocals.....I'm confused.

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    12. Is the term "phonetic" involve implied in this one? Is V a roman numeral?

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    13. It has to have somethimg to do with the v. I know it does.

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      1. Well, yeah, "it" has to have something to do with the v . Everyone knows that.

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      2. No, I think he's only half right. At least, during a brief period of wakefulness at 1 o'clock this morning, I thought of an answer, but I had to look up the English word and found it to be more of an opposite than an equivalent. I would observe, at least and for whatever it's worth, that the French word was much more common and "know"-able than the English. In the meantime, I'm still concentrating on the E.

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    14. I suggest going through a list of French words. The answer should pop out.

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      Replies
      1. Didn't work for me.

        Just sayin'.

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      2. Natasha:
        This is not a pop quiz; or was that a salute to Father's Day?

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      3. Skydiveboy:
        You are so clever!!

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    15. Spent all day trying in vain to find a word starting with "v", ending in "e", with a French word inside. Nothing. Getting bored -- oh, wait, I think I just got it.

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    16. Finally - a really satisfying "aha moment." What amused me the most was the demonstration that the French term for a particular item is more accurate than the English term which is identical except for a single letter.

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    17. Odd association: Elmer Fudd driving a Beetle.

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    18. I have often asked, when hearing Will Shortz issue the challenge for the week, "Is this April 1?"

      If I have stumbled onto the correct answer this week (as several of the comments above seem to suggest I have), the time would be exactly right for that question!

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    19. Aha...after agonizing all day yesterday and today, the answer finally came. I think of the French term more common in a different language with the addition of an additional letter. All kinds of musical clues but they would all be a dead giveaway.

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    20. Zut alors! I finally got it. If this is the intended answer, let me cast a negative vote. I did not care for the "trick". Pas du tout!

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    21. Seems remotely related to a prior puzzle. Requires very careful exacting thought.

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    22. Can anyone suggest a good BBC miniseries about the history of Rome or maybe a place where I could go to learn about the history of Rome?

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      Replies
      1. Wasn't Rome named after Remus's brother? His name is on the tip of my tongue...

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    23. Having read above, and having listened to the on air version, I would agree with the "tricky" label that Will gave it.

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      1. I was really struggling with this puzzle and began thinking of last weeks answers and how easy that puzzle was in comparison when the answer came to me

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      2. Good one! I guess we'll have to reserve judgment on the "tricky" aspect!

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    24. There are lots of words which begin with "v", so why violin? Seems like a reasonable question to ask, anyway.

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    25. Yes, this was a tricky puzzle, but to be fair (and enigmatic), Will did give a very useful bit of additional information, which hasn't been mentioned here yet, in his presentation, both on air and on the website.

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      1. Where on the website is the additional information?

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      2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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      3. I just noticed the "additional information." Nice observation!

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      4. Thanks. Yeah, you've got to consider the source.

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    26. Ah, and I wrote a bloody program to go through the entire English dictionary looking for words that start with V and end with E, then remove those two letters and look up the remaining "word" in the French dictionary, with the non-English characters in French converted to the closest English equivalent. It wasn't very long and it was a good exercise for me as a new programmer. However, I still feel rather silly. Here's the code if you're interested:

      http://blog.cswenson.com/2012/06/attempt-to-answer-quiz-question.html

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    27. Will's little tricky clue has me waking up at 4:00 a.m. with the words "English-language equivalent" running through my brain. I'm as stymied as I've ever been with a Will Shortz puzzle. How long till Thursday at 3:00 so I can end my frustration?

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      1. This should answer your (rhetorical) question:
        Countdown to NPR Puzzle Deadline. :)

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      2. Gee thanks, Blaine. Too bad it doesn't have a sound component so I could increase my stress level by hearing "tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock..."

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    28. Didn't I mention last week that "I'll Have Another" was scratched from the Belmont Stakes?

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    29. That puzzle was cowly good.

      -- Other Ben

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    30. 52 comments thus far..and nobody censored yet!!!
      Or Blaine gotten a bit more mellow?

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    31. I think I just got it and I have to say "OH no he didn't"
      jyo maaan, what a set up! Do you think I have nothing better to do than to wile away my hours figuring out the answer?

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      Replies
      1. "jyo?" Do I need to consult the Urban Dictionary?

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      2. Thanks, Ruth. Sounds like a "beltway" issue. And, I believe, a couple of beltways were mentioned on the Sunday on-air program (which I'm sure we ALL listened to).
        Since those beltways are pretty close to each other, I'm willing to cut some slack and let "jyo" mean "we're just hangin' together"...which, as someone in the Continental Congress (or whatever) pointed out, is a helluva lot better...than the alternative.

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      3. Like, its a combo of Joe and yo! and I do have an issue with belts that are misused or not used when needed (not talkin bout corporal punishment)

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    32. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    33. Got it!! (but the only clue I can think of might be too easily searchable, so I'm reluctant to leave it)

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      Replies
      1. oh please, give me just a small hint! i'm going nuts!

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      2. NO!!! Don't leave any clues that lead to the answer. PLEASE

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      3. SkyDiver:

        Gee, thanks. Having somehow divined the answer, you'd like to keep the rest of us far from it. Reminds me of the kids in high school who wanted the rest of us to dive exams, so the curve would be better for them.

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      4. MrScience:
        No one is keeping you from figuring out the answer just as we have. This blog is not here to help you discover the answer through our efforts. I suggest you grow up.

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      5. Hey, Ruth. How about "Supermex"?

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      6. Dear MrScience,

        First and foremost, it's Blaine's world and we just live in it.

        Blaine decided, once upon a time, and pretty much reminds us often enough, that he doesn't want the answers revealed here. The blog is more about:

        (a) creating a space where we all, having gotten the answer through sheer cunning or dumb luck, can leave cryptic clues that let others know that they have or don't have the right answer, and

        (b) just amuse ourselves by trying to be witty, silly, ridiculous, and so on. After all, we are all puzzle geeks, so we sit around at our desks all day wearing tin foil hats, listening to Wagner or Sonny Rollins, reading histories of the Bletchley Park cryptography team, and basically having no friends and eating sandwiches.

        So this is where we come for community and enjoyment.

        Our desire to have no answers posted isn't about watching others suffer. It's just a space Blaine made for us. Thanks, Blaine.

        -- Other Ben

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      7. Many folks here seem to forget that this is a contest.Giving out hints here ruins the contest for people you all do not even know and would never visit this space.

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      8. Other Ben:
        I feel I must take issue with your above post as I don't wear a foil hat because it won't fit over the arrow. I fully agree with the rest of the post.

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      9. Other Ben and SDB Maaaan! (in keeping with my theme) It is hot in the DC Balto area today. If anyone wears a foil hat today they would be toast!

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      10. One and all:

        Read carefully. I did not ask for the answer -- I'm playing too, and occasionaly use clues placed by some of you in seeking the answer. I was reacting to SDB's "NO!!! Don't give any clues that would lead to the answer. PLEASE" Note -- don't give clues that would lead to the answer. Heck, even Blaine does that, and most of you will be here in less than 24 hours showing how your clues related to the right answer.

        "NO! NO NO NO NO NO!!!" )Which of us needs to grow up?)

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    34. Just my two-cents worth on this puzzle: I think a lot of folks are going to groan when they hear the answer. When I found it, my basic response was "really?"

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      Replies
      1. Check out Ken Rudin's "Scuttlebutton" Political Junkie puzzle for this week. His puzzles almost always involve SOUNDS of words pictured on the site, rather than the word itself. Sometimes, one or more words can be a term derived from the pictures rather than a word or pronounciation.

        The answer to this week's challenge is a real groaner.

        You can find it at http://www.npr.org/blogs/politicaljunkie/2012/06/19/155321456/its-scuttlebutton-time

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      2. @LMP,
        How appropriate for today... by the way, thanks for the mention of "Ask Me Another". I'm hooked on the show and have added it to my podcast subscriptions.

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    35. That was 3 days of agony until I figured it out. And I agree with everyone elses comments about the puzzle....is this for real?

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    36. Some puzzles are too early. Some puzzles are too late. This one's just right.

      C'mon, now.

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    37. Day 4 of total frustration with this puzzle, and the only light ahead is knowing the deadline is in less than 24 hours and perhaps I'll get my life back. The more non-clues I read on Blaine's Blog, the more lost at sea I find myself. Should I focus more on the "V", the "English-language (with a hyphen) equivalent," the "it" factor? Or should I try to figure out the "trick?" Mind you, I'm not fishing for clues or answers, just ready to fold and concede defeat, which is anathema to me. I even know the difference between "pouring over" and "poring over," but what good has it done me? None. I guess I'm going back to AM radio.

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      1. Without giving clues, I'd say focus on the "trick." And, don't overlook things that are obvious about France. Blaine's initial post will become much clearer once you see that trick.

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      2. Oh, Ruth, you are SO close! Do you know French at all?

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    38. Ruth, if it's any consolation, I'm totally lost, too.

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    39. Finally got it. Pretty lame puzzle.

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    40. Well, well, well, what a weird and wacky way to finish the week. I may have figured out the puzzle, finally, but it left a bad taste in my mouth. Thanks to several of you on this blog. I owe you one.

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    41. Finally got it! I had to think of things quintessentially French, after several attempts down the wrong paths. I am so exhausted, I must take a nap,a much needed respite.

      In terms of the debate over giving clues which may increase participation and thereby decrease chances of being selected, I say that when my name is pulled, it won't feel better or worse to be 1 in 100 versus 1 in 2000. While it would be fun to win, it is even more fun to challenge myself to "get it", to learn new things each week and to have a blog of like-minded souls with whom I can read and share the games. Thanks, Blaine.

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    42. Would Mitt Romney know this?

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    43. Not unless it's tied to the top of his car.

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      Replies
      1. Not unless he is More Man than I think he is.

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      2. Great clue, jutchnbev! You figured this one out standing on your head, I guess.

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    44. Sorry I was MIA for so long. OK, I admit it, I didn't get it until a few minutes ago. (Not that the puzzle got any better during that time.)

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    45. I'd have to say not everyone knows that French word, and the "trick" works immediately if you know French but doens't work the same in English (it stops just short, if you will). Hence I'll say the "clevverness" of this trick is debatable.

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    46. VIN = VVINE or WINE

      As those obnoxious ads say: Learn this one easy trick...

      My hints:

      "This morning the pressure got to me and the answer suddenly hit me."
      Pressure in a champagne bottle can cause the cork to pop out and hit a person.

      "(It's) tricky but can't be that difficult (or) my (son), who is not (well, s)urely could not have solved it (before) me in so short a (time.)"

      I put ()s around what spells: Orson Wells, before it's time. Referring to his TV ads for Gallo's bad wine. As in "We will sell no wine before it's time." Of course for Ernie and Julio, that time could never come soon enough.


      Another blogger, Al, posted:

      Al Sun Jun 17, 07:49:00 AM PDT

      You have to think outside the box on this one.

      Replies

      skydiveboy Sun Jun 17, 09:31:00 AM PDT

      Excellent clue!

      skydiveboy Sun Jun 17, 05:48:00 PM PDT

      Had Joseph Conrad been alive when it happened I am sure his response would have been the same as mine: "The horror! The horror!"

      I was making an assumption that Al was hinting at the thoroughly disgusting, recent practice of marketing wine in boxes. I may have read too much into his comment, but I have no doubt Kurtz would have said, "The horror! The horror!" Can you imagine Omar Khayyam saying, "A box of wine, a loaf of bread and thou..."?


      It seems a lot of folks did not enjoy this puzzle, but I am not among that number, in fact I savored this puzzle like a fine vintage port. Just remember that sour grapes make for lousy wine and we had plenty of that plonk here this week. I don't find a great deal of satisfaction in solving one of these puzzles simply by going through a list of possible answers, but when I have to solve a puzzle by actually thinking about it I find true pleasure. So now I expect we will return to more of the same old, same old.

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    47. Vin --> Wine. Last Sunday I said, “Very clever. My complaint is that I don’t think you can truthfully say that “everyone knows” the French word.” A complaint is a whine, pronounced wine.

      Chuck

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    48. VIN -> WINE

      > Getting bored -- oh, wait,

      Bordeaux

      > Elmer Fudd driving a Beetle.

      Be vewy vewy quiet... I'm dwiving a VW.

      > Will did give a very useful bit of additional information

      "Next Week's Challenge comes from listener Kate MacDonald of Murphys, Calif."

      According to Wikipedia, Murphys "is well known for its beautiful vineyards and award winning wines. Visitors can enjoy the unique experience of having 25 tasting rooms along the Murphys Main Street, all within walking distance." And Kate MacDonald? A little Googling reveals that she's a winemaker.

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      Replies
      1. Yes, Jan, I enjoyed your clue especially. I minored in German in college, and I realized that a Beetle was a VW, pronounced "faow vay". But I'm always amazed how much of my high-school French I remember, and, in French, VW would be pronounced "vay doobla vay"; that is "V" and "double-V." So I got the "trick" about a day before I managed to find the obvious word! Thanks!

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    49. All my hints are now posted above as well as here:
      "Well, I never expected" --> initial letters spell WINE
      "pouring" --> deliberate misspelling of poring, as in pouring WINE
      "wife + typo" --> WINE
      "clearer head of the morning" --> no personal experience with this, but...
      "what Will wanted" --> string of words starting with W
      "refreshing" --> another indirect hint to a beverage, coupled with France = WINE
      "voice a small complaint" --> WHINE
      "Find Me Guilty" --> Movie starring VIN Diesel
      "giving" --> hides the word VIN

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    50. What finally caused the "Aha!" moment for me was searching for the puzzle submitter "Kate MacDonald" "Murphys, California" and finding her listed as the Winemaker of Stevenot Winery in Murphys, California.

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    51. And this week, she's a whine maker.

      -- Other Ben

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    52. This really was an April Fool's Day type challenge, I thought.

      "The time would be exactly right" was meant to refer to a good vintage!

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    53. This week, "aha" moments might more appropriately be called "Ah So" moments.

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    54. VIN <-> WINE.

      My clues:

      Not that the puzzle got any better during that time.
      Alluding to wine getting better with age.

      The "trick" works immediately if you know French but doesn't work the same in English (it stops just short, if you will).
      In French, the letter w is called a "double-v," so that works (one v attached to another).
      Obviously, in English it's a "double-u"; the alphabet "stops just short" of the v at the letter u. (No pun intended, by the way, in the use of "short" and "will"; I only noticed that afterwards.)

      The "clevverness" of this trick is debatable.
      Intentional typo here.

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    55. I don't think anyone was kept out of the loop* this week.

      Pass that bottle to me.

      *Sun Jun 17, 05:47:00 AM PDT

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    56. If you stare at "violin" long enough (or after enough wine) you go cross-eyed and the two i's come together. Then you see "vin." I am sure that's what Will intended... At any rate, they both start with "vi" and end with "in."

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    57. Tommy BoySun Jun 17, 12:29:00 PM PDT
      It has to have somethimg to do with the v. I know it does.

      v. I know --> vino

      A clue for Ruth - "Supermex" was the nickname of the famous golfer, Lee Trevino.

      As someone mentioned earlier, "vino" is probably much more familiar than "vin".

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    58. Hmmm, i dunno how "clever" that was. Lame is more like it! I curse you Will Shortz!

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    59. My clues were referencing I, Claudius, a museum, and Romulus or as they would be spelled in classical upperclass I, CLAVDIVS, MVSEVM, and ROMVLVS, all examples of the orthographic connection between u, v, and the so-called "double u".

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    60. Actually, I was just complaining at first then thought about set em up Joe but did not mention m"boy Frankie"
      of course toast referred to clinking glasses. I thought the puzzle was fun but my friend says v-oui-e on Will

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    61. Because of the "trickiness" of the puzzle, at first I was focused on "voila" as being the answer, but it just didn't work. Then I got it.

      It made me think of an old Leo Rosten musical about immigrants (The Education of Hyman Kaplan) in which there is a song about them trying to learn English. Many of them cannot pronounce a W, which doesn't exist in their native tongue, instead saying only a V. So the teacher has them do exercises to learn to pronounce a W by saying OOOOO-EEEEEEE slowly, and then faster and faster, to make the W sound. And, being a musical, there is a song about it!

      Loooong explanation (for a clue I did not post) but there you go.

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      1. The musical is based on a book of the same name, written by "Leonard Q. Ross," a pseudonym that Rosten later explained. As a Ph.D candidate "pining to tske the academic vows {poverty, bibliography, and jargon)," he put the first story in the New Yorker under the false name because he "was afraid of what his professors might do if they discovered he was spending the weekends on his secret vice --- the art of writing fiction. Worse, that the fiction contained humor." [Quotes from the Preface to "The Return of Hyman Kaplan."}

        And there you go! Great stuff.

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    62. My clues -

      "having read" = having red
      "trick" label" = wine label
      "reserve judgment" = reserve

      We'll see if the bar stool to vin/wine theme continues....

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    63. Wolfgang and others covered my I-got-it with the "double u, double v" reference.

      How many others spotted the spoiler that was completely obliterated? I think SDB did. At least this was one time that that no fuss was raised indicating that "hey, this is a really hot clue"

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      1. Yes, I saw it, but did not post because I did not have any way of knowing if Blaine had seen it and decided to let it go, and if I posted it would add credence to the offense. I wish Blaine had seen it earlier than he apparently did, but both it and the wonderfully eloquent follow up post informing the poster of his family background were removed completely.

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    64. Mr. Science - thanks for that info - I did not know about the pseudonym. Also, to be perfectly correct, and to include one of my favorite things about that book/musical, the title is really The Education of H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N. I think the stars in his name just give it the perfect touch. It has stayed with me all these years because when I was at summer camp (a "few" years ago) I was in a production of it.

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      1. Deborah:

        Mr. Pockheel agrees. What role did you play? Mitnik?

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      2. Alas I was just in the chorus. But for a few glorious days, (when someone "quit" in a huff of teenage angst) I stepped into the role of Mrs. Moskowitz, only to return to the chorus when she came back.
        Somehow this show stuck in my mind all these years. Now as an adult theater lover, googling it shows me that the cast included Hal Linden, Tom Bosley (as Hyman), Donna McKechnie, Dick Latesssa (at least those are the names I recognize). And it only ran for 28 performances.
        Sorry for hijacking this, everyone!
        http://www.guidetomusicaltheatre.com/shows_e/educationhymankaplan.html

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