Frankly Speaking

New York Times crossword Nov. 4 / Constructed by Brendan Emmett Quigley

Bonjour! Comment allez-vous? Today’s puzzle does not involve Rhett Butler or the word “damn,” as was my initial guess when I saw the title “Frankly Speaking.” It’s more clever but also a bit exotic, requiring familiarity with basic French nouns. “Frankly” turns out to be an aural play on the prefix “franc,” as in Francophone.

The theme answers are common English phrases that take on slightly different meanings when you realize one of the words has a French translation. “Marseille mothers who are not goddesses?” are MERE MORTALS (25 Across), with “mere” also being the French word for “mother.”

Others: “Working on one’s biceps and triceps in Toulon?” is TRAINING BRAS (40 Across), with “bras” meaning “arms.” “Cowardly end in Cannes?” is YELLOW FIN (59 Across), with “fin” meaning “end.” “Online feline in Lyon?” is an INTERNET CHAT (94 Across), with “chat” meaning “cat.” “Nine to five, generally, in Grenoble?” is OFFICE TEMPS (113 Across), with “temps” meaning “time.” And “Bordeaux bear cub?” is ONE OF OURS, which I solved with crossing letters because “ours,” which apparently means “bear,” was on my high school French vocabulary tests.

More going down: “Prizefighter in a Parisian novel?” is a ROMAN GLADIATOR (3 Down), with “roman” meaning “novel.” “Expert at brewing oolong in Orleans?” is THE ARTIST (5 Down), with “the” meaning “tea” (although “the” would have an accent on the “e” that I can’t replicate here). “Overseeing of a Bayonne bakery?” is PAIN MANAGEMENT (54 Down), with “pain” meaning “bread.” And “French-speaking country where illegal activity runs rampant?” is CRIME PAYS (82 Down), with “pays” meaning “country.” Perhaps it’s a coincidence that NOSTRA (“Cosa ___,” 86 Across) happens to cross with that last one.

Encore Une Fois Dept.: There’s more French at 28 Down — IDEE (“___ fixe”) — and 71 Across — LA DANSE (“Matisse masterpiece”). I thought the Matisse answer referred to his mural here in Philly at the Barnes Foundation. But it looks like he did two other paintings by that name, one of which is at MOMA in New York, the other at the Hermitage in Russia.

Speaking In Tongues Dept.: Not to neglect other languages, the puzzle includes Spanish (“That, to Tomas” is ESO, 68 Down); Hebrew (“Country whose name means ‘he that strives with God'” is ISRAEL, 48 Down); and ERSE (“The language Gaidhlig,” 111 Down).

Wall Street vs. Main Street Dept.: “Who said ‘I owe the public nothing’?” is JP MORGAN (94 Across).

Non-Green Thumb Dept.: I’m not a plant person, so I didn’t know that a “Large fern” was a BRACKEN (46 Down). I had BRACKE_, but the crossing clue for the missing letter was no help — “Phooey!” (83 Across). The answer to “Phooey!” appears to be NERTS, to which I say nerts on Will Shortz for such a ridiculous word.

Apple A Day Dept.: Mac users know that the “Operating system between Puma and Panther” is JAGUAR (100 Down).

Philly Shout-Out Dept.: “QB Donovan” is MCNABB (1 Down), the former longtime Eagles player-turned-NFL commentator. While we’re in the pocket, “QB legend nicknamed ‘the Golden Arm'” is Johnny UNITAS (81 Down).

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