SUNDAY, Jan. 14, 2007 - Harvey Estes

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Solving time: 22:57

THEME: "Sounds of Old" - all theme answers are familiar phrases, which originally contained "OLD" but which have had the "OLD" part respelled as a homonym, creating strange phrases which are then reclued, e.g. 37D: Rang true? (tolled it like it is)

Average Sunday for me. Maybe slightly above average - certainly way faster than last week's debacle. My nemesis at the Times applet beat me, though, and has beaten me two days in a row, after I flattened him/her the vast majority of the time over the past two weeks. I'm trying to get that competitive spirit going for Stamford in two months (my competitive spirit, for better or worse, needs very little coaxing to show itself). The theme itself was kind of blah, but much of the non-theme fill was fun and spicy (and tricky). I started out very, very slowly, with hardly anything coming together in the northern climes of the puzzle, and so - for the first time that I can remember, I worked my way through the puzzle diagonally, moving on a nearly perfectly straight NE-to-SW line, so that the whole center region of the puzzle was the first part I substantively finished. I think I really picked up (speed-wise and mood-wise, when I hit the dead center of the puzzle and discovered my newly-beloved DOGLEGS, which has shown up recently and, in conjunction with yesterday's DOGSBODY, caused of lot of DOG-word musing over the past few days by me and other readers (thanks, btw, to the etymology hounds out there, especially the one who provided the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the U.K." reference for DOGSBODY: "I wanna be anarchy! / No dogsbody!" Hot.

1A: Eponymous physicist (Tesla)

I wrote in FERMI. That was the wrong foot on which I got off. I thought for sure that FERMI was some kind of eponym, and he's very crossword-friendly, and he fit, so voila. Shmoila. I got the next Across, 6A: Mary Kay rival (Avon), but the crosses would not come. 10A is clued in reference to another clue so I skipped it. Then hit the NW corner where finally things started coming together. 15D: First name in horror (Lon) was a gimme, as was 17D: Small topper (beanie). They gave me crosses to get 14A: Corroborator, maybe (alibi), and then the rest of the NW came together, only even with the entire first part of the 15-letter 16D (THEME) Comment about suddenly thinner mares? filled in, I had NO idea what the clue was going for. I would solve this later, only after FOURTEEN of the squares were filled in: initially had I KNOW THE-D FOALED - which made no sense. Changed KNOW to KNEW (stupid Bambi! - 31A: "Bambi" character (Ena) - not Ona), and then saw the verb tense / contraction the answer wanted. I KNEW THEY'D FOALED. The "Y" came from 57A: "Funny Girl" composer (Styne), which made me reflect on my as-yet terrible dearth of knowledge about popular composers of the 20th century.

77A (THEME): Played tenpins in officers' uniforms (Bowled as brass)

Took me forever, as I was unfamiliar with the phrase (or thought I was). Had BOWLED ADDRESS for a while and wondered what the hell that meant. My life would have been easier had I known 70D: "Serpico author" (Maas), which would have given me the "A" in BRASS. A whole series of words coming off of this theme answer gave me trouble. SICK CALL (80D: Line of soldiers needing medical attention) isn't really a word I know (and my dad was a doctor in the Army!), and I thought I knew my ankhs, having seen so many stupid ankh tattoos on people (especially women, for some reason) in the 90s, but I somehow neglected the LOOP aspect (116A: Ankh feature). LOOP crosses SICK CALL at the second "L" - and this whole Louisiana region of the puzzle was screwed up (for me) by a tiny, tiny, harmless-seeming answer: 108A: Familiar sigh (Ah, me), which I understandably, and far more in-the-language-ly, had as OH MY. This caused me to take an Eternity to see 97D: Clean up, in a way (bleep!), which sat for many precious seconds as BLYED in my grid, the "D" coming from the stupid "Ankh" clue, which I had not as LOOP but as ROOD (as in "Dream of the ROOD," as in an old-fashioned word for cross, which is essentially what an ankh is ... right?). And so, for a while, nothing happened. BLEEP is a great answer, by the way, however much it tripped me up. It is great in part because if my solving experience had been on TV /radio, the FCC would have had to BLEEP a lot of my language at precisely the moment I was entering that answer.

I finished the puzzle in the NW - where I had my oh-so-inauspicious start. How bad was my second stab at the NW. Consider this: here are the clues for 1D, 2D, and 3D, followed not by their correct answers, but by the answers that I entered off the top of my head (all wrong):

1D: Chuck (hurl)
2D: Parrot (copy)
3D: SeaWorld performer (Orca)

These words do not like to be near each other, I assure you. I don't think the NW would ever have come together if I hadn't finally gotten the last (which was actually, on paper, the first) of the theme answers: 27A: Like shoes made in St. Louis and finished in New Orleans? (soled down the river) - an excellent clue that I only just now gave my full attention. So HURL became TOSS and COPY became ECHO and ORCA became SEAL, bam bam bam. Hit "Done" at that point and found out I'd left a square unfilled - the poor little "A" at the 65D: Kazakhstan's _____ Sea (Aral) / 71A: Certain finish (matte) crossing.

Stuff I didn't know
  • 23A: Hat with a plume (shako) - this is one of those tall, ridiculous, impractical European military hats. What's the etymology on THIS one? Hang on ... Oh I don't wanna run downstairs and get my barely adequate dictionary. Here's a picture instead:

  • 8D: Pearl Buck heroine (Olan) - ugh, Pearl Buck, my most hated of Bucks. She must have a novel on the Modern Library's 100 Best Novels list, which means I'll have read at least one thing of hers by the end of the year. Nope, nothing by her on there. Guess I'll have to continue to piece together my knowledge of her solely through solving crosswords.
  • 60D: "Blame it on the Bossa Nova" singer, 1963 (Gormé) - yep, officially way before my time, but I've at least heard her name before.

  • 68A: Moon of Uranus (Ariel) - This is a Sylvia Plath book to me - that, or the sprite or whatever he is in Shakespeare's The Tempest. Or, oh yeah, the little mermaid in The Little Mermaid. RE: Uranus, I won't comment on the fact - I'll just point out - that this grid has ASS, HOLE, and ANNAL (26A: One year's record) in it.
  • 9D: Elementary particle (neutrino) - I put this here because I got it with just the "N" in place, but I'd be lying if I suggested I could tell you anything even semi-substantive about a NEUTRINO. I'd heard of it, it fit, there it is.
I am not fond of the convention of cluing AMORAL as 11D: Making no value judgments. This makes non-judgmental-ness sound like soullessness. AMORAL is scary to me, while reserving or withholding judgment seems a decent life skill.

Lastly, congratulations to Harvey ESTES, not only for writing a very entertaining puzzle, but for managing to work his name into the grid - subtle (30D: Opera singer Simon _____). It is a measure of his (no doubt) considerable humility and self-deprecating nature that he made his name cross with both 44A: "Gr-r-ross!" ("Yecch!") and 46A: Got a facial piercing (holed one's nose).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Wendy 4:33 PM  

Rex, your shako is invisible.

(I don't believe I've ever said THAT before.)

Anyway, the image is not showing up on the screen, although I could right click and see it. Cool!

Rex Parker 4:38 PM  

Well, I can see my shako, but maybe it's like ... elves or fairies or whatever. You have to believe ... or be a child ... or something. SHAKO!


Wendy 4:41 PM  

It's OK now. I sprinkled fairy dust.

Steven 5:42 PM  

I hadn't even thought of the word "shako" since I quit marching band (which, by the way, might be their only modern use).

C zar 7:14 PM  

I can't look at a tattoo on a woman's lower back, or a picture thereof, without thinking of the line from Wedding Crashers, "Tattoo on the lower back? Might as well be a bull's-eye." (Don't tell my wife this is a memorable line for me).

IKNEWTHEDFOALD? Arrrrrrgh! Really messes you up if you didn't know the cross: composer of Funny Girl.

Crswrdlvr22 7:16 PM  

Please explain 66A Doglegs? I'm flummoxed. And I'm embarrassed to say I had oiled at 61D, not ogled. Oops. Caused me great distress.

MAry Rose

Rex Parker 8:53 PM  

One of a number of definitions of DOGLEG is a golf hole where there is a sharp turn on the course, such that you can't see hole from the tee. The very word comes from the shape of a dog's leg (sharp angle).


Anonymous 5:46 PM  

Rex, thank goodness I found your site....the tips provided for 1D,2D and 3D kept me from pulling my hair out.I too had your initial answers. this was my FIRST Sunday NYT puzzle. (I live in Chicago, do the Trib puzzle but the family got the Sunday NYT for X-mas) What a different animal this is!!! It took me hours, not minutes, to solve, but the completed puzzle lies before me and I feel triumphant.HAHAHAHAHA

Thanks for your help


dreemsluvr 10:27 AM  

One more thing, my puzzle happens to come in a different paper we get locally each week. The title however was "Sandwich Man" in lieu of "Sounds of Old" , so you can imagine my confusion when I tried figuring out what the heck my answers meant to the theme.

Rex Parker 10:38 AM  

WOW, that's horrible. They gave you the title for this (very entertaining) puzzle. Now *that's* added difficulty.

dreemsluvr 10:40 AM  

Apparently my first comment didn't take. I never posted one before. Anyway, I wanted to thank you for your help on this puzzle. I googled Eponymous physicist and got lots of nothing I could use, then I added Tesla since I had most of the other answers down. And voila! I found you! I also had oiled for 61D since I didn't know what a dogleg was, but now it makes sense. What didn't make sense to me was 19A drink. The answer is ocean.

Rex Parker 10:55 AM  

DRINK in this context is usually preceded by "the" and, in my mind, involves someone falling into the ocean. It's not exactly a common expression, and it didn't come immediately to mind, but once I saw it, I understood it.

MarkNS 10:47 AM  

We get the puzzle two weeks late in our paper and was misthemed as "Sandwich Man" like Dreemsluvr's. My nightmare area was the centre around 60D/A. Once I had _ORME for the "Blame it on Bossa Nova" clue, I immediately figured it was Mel Torme. "How many singers have names ending in ORME?" I thought. So 60A "Flips" became TOESAPE. Considering how toes may be involved in a Flip filled my mind with fanciful contortions.

Rex Parker 11:25 AM  

One of the greatest joys of running this blog is getting to hear other people's wrong answers. TOES APE does conjure images of orangutans doing gymnastics on the uneven bars. I think I saw that in "Every Which Way But Loose." Or was it "Any Which Way You Can"? I forget.


Anonymous 1:45 PM  

In the Dallas Morning News, this puzzle was named "Spellcheck." I found your website looking for a clue for 80d. (SICKCALL?!??!? I was trying to find some ungodly spelling for triage!) If I would have had the actual name of this puzzle, life would have been much easier. Also, if I forget the answer for Dadaist Max or "Serpico" Author one more time, I will scream. Those two answers should be burned into my memory by now.

Rex Parker 2:58 PM  

It's only been three weeks and I've already forgotten the "Serpico" author's name. I see now that it's MAAS. I will surely forget it again in about ten minutes.


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