TUESDAY, Jan. 2, 2007 - Sarah Keller

Monday, January 1, 2007

Solving time: 7:04

THEME: TEAS - all the theme answers (4) begin with anagrams of TEAS, which itself is featured in the central Across clue 40A: Eight-sixed wares of 1773 (teas in the harbor)

Took me a Long time to "get" this puzzle's "theme," which isn't much of one. Said my wife to me last night as she solved the puzzle in bed: "Did you know Cannery Row has the same number of letters as EAST OF EDEN (17A (THEME): Steinbeck classic)?" Said I: "No. Did you know Grapes of Wrath won't fit in those spaces?" It was not until I had worked my way down to the recalcitrant SE of the puzzle that I realized that the first four letters of all theme answers were anagrams of one another; and I never saw the clue that "hinted" at the puzzle's theme: 45A: "Cómo _____?" (with a hint to this puzzle's theme) [esta]. Wife pointed it out to me while she was solving. Would it have helped ... yeah, maybe.


50A (THEME): Indonesian condiment (sate sauce)
50D: Rio dance (samba)

Wife and I made same mistake here at this crossing, with MAMBA instead of SAMBA. How to tell them apart? This was only the beginning of my SSE troubles. I had never heard of 53D: Reo contemporary (Essex), which was a car produced between 1918 and 1922, and, if Wikipedia is to believed, helped usher in the era when closed sedans were to be the norm for automobiles, as opposed to open touring cars of earlier years. I believe there should be a limit of ONE olde-timey car question per grid (for violation of this non-existent rule, see 35A: Sporty wheels (GT cars)) - wait, I'm being told that GT CARS are not olde-timey; stands for "Grand touring" and refers to any number of small, fast cars. Did you know REO stands for Ransom Eli Olds? I did not. Shouldn't the letters in REO be capitalized in the clue? "Ransom" is a Great first name. I'm naming my next child and/or dog "Ransom." Then we can call him "Handsome Ransom."

63A: Come together (mass) was somehow Very Elusive and tricky. I believe there are several words that could realistically go in a four-letter answer clued "Come together." I, for instance, had GELL, which is not only wrong, but in fact a wrong spelling of a wrong answer. The correct wrong answer is JELL. GELL is "a leech," as far as dictionary.com is concerned.

46A: Ambulance letters (EMS)
67A: Champion skater Brian (Orser)

With a name like ORSER, he should have been an OSTLER (see Sunday's puzzle). As my wife aptly noted, "I know only one skater named 'Brian,' and his name doesn't fit here." OK, so fine, Rex, you didn't know ORSER, but what in the world is the problem with EMS? Well, I'll tell you. I had EMT. Simple. A paramedic is often called an EMT, so that's the abbreviation that came to mind. Had the "E," presto whammo, EMT. Only ... with ORSER and SATE SAUCE A.W.O.L. and a T in the first position (where the "S" should have been), I had T_P_E_B for 47D: Four-star, and if that "T" had been ANY OTHER LETTER I would have realized the area of my mistake immediately. But with the lead-off T_P and the clue "Four-star" I OF COURSE thought TOP-something, but what? TOPEBB, TOPEGG? Maybe 70A: Waist-ful (obese) was wrong ... but it couldn't be! Unh! Thus the S and SE added a good minute or more to my time. Oh, the correct answer to "Four-star" is SUPERB. But you knew that.

40A: Eighty-sixed wares of 1773 (teas in the harbor)

Inelegance, thy name is "40A." TEAS IN THE HARBOR is not a phrase. It's just not. How do I know? Kindly Google ["teas in the harbor"]. I'll wait. Well, what did you get? That's right, NOTHING. Zero hits. Surely there should be some kind of Google litmus, where your fill gets at least ONE HIT. The "IN THE HARBOR" part of this answer feels very redundant. Teas in the harbor were not 86'd. TEAS were 86'd. The HARBOR was the means of 86-ing. Have I mentioned hating the term "86" yet? Here's the messy, confusing story of the expression, in case you are interested. I am not. If I were going to "86" something, I would bombard that thing with music by XTC, R.E.M., The Replacements, and Janet Jackson.

1A: Water carrier (pipe)
1D: Song of praise (paean)

Both wife and I entered EWER immediately upon reading the clue to 1A, so conditioned are we to seeing that Pantheon standard in the grid (see also 16A: Banned orchard spray (alar), which we have been seeing everywhere in our puzzles, lately). I decree that PAEAN is a pretty uppity word for a Tuesday puzzle. Whoa, what the hell is 34D: Conductance unit (MHO)? I just now saw it there in my grid for the first time - never saw it during the solving. OK, hang on: can anyone tell me if this is in fact true?:

A unit of electrical conductance. Symbol, symbol of the mho, an inverted Greek letter omega, and sometimes Ω-1. This unit has been renamed the siemens. Conductance in mho being the reciprocal of resistance in ohms, mho is ohm spelled backwards!
Two questions come to mind on reading this. 1. if it's been "renamed," shouldn't the clue here reflect that (say, [Old conductance unit])? 2. Did the SIEMENS corporation buy the rights to rename a fact of nature? Isn't this like renaming clouds MIRACLE WHIP or Mount Everest IPOD?

Did not know that ROE had anything to do with agility - 62A: Agile deer. How would you test for something like that? Run the deer through a battery of field tests? 26D: "Alas" utterer (sigher) is a pretty bad Odd Job. Also, it's not a very accurate clue, as I can utter "Alas" quite nicely without sighing. I'm doing it right now. And what is the difference between ENTENTES (42D: International pacts) and DETENTES - besides the fact that both are crossword mainstays? Well, I can guess, but I'm about to find out for sure.

From m-w online:

Main Entry: en·tente
Pronunciation: än-'tänt
Function: noun
Etymology: French, from Old French, intent, understanding -- more at INTENT
1 : an international understanding providing for a common course of action
2 [French entente cordiale] : a coalition of parties to an entente

Main Entry: dé·tente
Variant(s): or de·tente /dA-'tänt/
Function: noun
Etymology: French
1 : the relaxation of strained relations or tensions (as between nations); also : a policy promoting this
2 : a period of détente

Today is a day for remembering President Ford. He was a football star at my grad school alma mater (Michigan), where there is a School of Public Policy named after him. My very first political memory - besides being accosted by some guy dressed in a Nixon jailbird costume on the Mall in D.C. when I was 3 - was the Carter / Ford debate, which I have a very weird memory of watching part of through a sliding glass door in some motel courtyard. I wish I could explain what that means. Apparently, Ford was the first incumbent President to agree to debate his opponent, which set a precedent that continues to this day. That's cool. He was old-skool conservative, and while that isn't my thing, I respect it a hell of lot more than new-skool-nutjob- destroy-the-world conservative. Ford's would-be assassin also has the best name of any would-be (or actual) assassin in world history: "Squeaky" Fromme. That is all.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Isabel 11:09 AM  

The unit "siemens" is named after the scientist Ernst Werner von Siemens, who founded the corportation which is named after him.

Also, there's a unit of electrical elastance called the "daraf", which is the reciprocal of the farad, the unit of capacitance.

Orange 11:30 AM  

Mamba's a snake—mambo and samba are dances. Little Black Sambo is neither.

Think of Ransom Eli Olds whenever you listen to REO Speedwagon! (Which is often, i'm sure.)

In crosswords, the ambulance abbrev. is almost always EMS (system? services?), whereas the paramedic within the ambulance is an EMT.

"Teas in the harbor" will soon get a couple Google hits, thanks to you and me. Wait, wasn't that a Police song on the Synchronicity album?

Did you know that XTC's Andy Partridge has a nine-disc set of songs called Fuzzy Warbles? I read about it at Ken Jennings' blog.

You know what a toof is? It's the reciprocal of a foot. And a margolik?

will 11:35 AM  

There's also the yrneh, which is the reverse of henry, which is a unit of electrical resistance or inductance or happenstance or something. MHO is playable in Scrabble here in North America, but YRNEH and DARAF are only good in SOWPODS, the awesomely entertaining international dictionary.

Rex Parker 11:53 AM  

CRIMINY! Of course MAMBA is a snake and MAMBO is a dance (and SAMBO is neither). I can't even claim to have made the mistake off of an errant "O" - I of course had the correct "A" - from ALEX - as every character on "Family Ties" is a gimme for me, especially when that character is played by one of the greatest teen stars of all time (what number was Michael J. Fox on the VH1 Countdown, honey?...).


verbsleuth 4:32 AM  

After giving up on Reo contemporary, I admit it. I Googled. Maori didn't fit, but after about six links about New Zealand or the Maori language, I found you. Thanks for the help (didn't find Essex at Wikipedia) -- and the fun site.


Anonymous 10:38 AM  

Yes. I'd given upon on "Reo contemporary", too until I found your article. After that everything else fell into place. (I'd already googled skater Brian.)

Martin 10:57 AM  

I made the exact same MAMBA/SAMBA and EMT/EMS mistakes. But I had the bonus problem of entering MASON for MOOSE. This one just didn't hit me right for a Tuesday, it took me 9:14.

Anonymous 2:10 PM  

"Ransom Eli Olds"? Who knew the name "Ransom" had an actual precedent for an actual person I actually knew. I just thought his parents were cool. He lived up to the name, too, complete with a mysterious facial scar that began at his temple and ended at his jaw. Definitely a Great name.
Great blog, too.

Mr April's Stapler

Sam 7:10 PM  

Thanks for the help. I always thought sate sauce was from Thailand or Laos.

Pomsmum 8:47 PM  

You are always a huge help thank you. Satay sauce as I know it isn't Indonesian.

Dalya 7:23 PM  

I'm glad to know other intelligent people had trouble with this one... I might be crazy, but I thought Sunday's was actually easier. As for the "eighty-sixed" business... as far as I know (from working in a restaurant) "86" can only be used as a verb to replace "leave out"... not "destroy", "throw away", or "make a political statement using". So using 86 in the clue doesn't really make sense unless the "wares" were something people stopped using all-together (say, carriages in the early 20th century) or something that people naturally ran out of, like in a potato famine. People didn't stop drinking tea, a couple of "Indians" just threw out a batch. Boo!

Anonymous 9:37 PM  

I can't believe that I googled REO contemporary and came up with this article. The path(s) and mistakes you made were the exact ones that I have gone through. What an eerie coincidence!

minesaperry 12:27 AM  

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