SUNDAY, Feb. 11, 2007 - Mark Feldman

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Solving time: 27:10

THEME: "Love is All Around" - a [HEART] rebus puzzle, e.g. 6D: Oscar-winning "Titanic" song by Celine Dion ("My [HEART] Will Go On")

How do I get my keyboard to produce a little "heart" symbol? I'm sure it has the ability, but I can't be bothered to figure it out. And what the hell happened to everyone over at the applet? The times for this puzzle are way WAY higher than normal. 27:10 is a crappy Sunday time for me, but it was lightning fast compared to most people so far - many people as good as or better than I seem to have forgotten how to fill in a rebus puzzle when solving on the applet (first letter of the rebus word goes in the rebus square - I think there are other options, but that's the fastest).

I didn't enjoy this puzzle much, for a number of reasons. First, the theme is pretty uninspired. I mean, there are a TON of theme answers, which is admirable, but a lot of the answers are of a piece, e.g. SAD [heart]ED, HARD [heart]ED, GOOD [heart]ED, etc. It's only in the movie / book / song titles that things get a little interesting and animated, and even then the titles get pretty obscure, not to mention boring, e.g. THE [heart] OF A LION (17D: 1917 Frank Lloyd film) and [heart] AND SOUL (101A: 1938 #1 hit composed by Hoagy Carmichael). So, solving-wise, kind of a blah experience. But...

Then I got sent a link to another blogger who had demonstrated that the arrangement of the rebus squares produces the outline of a very appropriate image: a heart! (well, more exactly, a valentine). Here is a link to a picture of the completed grid with the rebus squares filled in with valentines, so you can appreciate the artfulness of the construction.

My three favorite theme answers:

  • 4D: Where "sage in bloom is like perfume," in song ("The [Heart] of Texas")
  • 77A: 1972 #1 Neil Young hit ("[Heart] of Gold")
  • 85D: Joseph Conrad classic ([Heart] of Darkness)
Shouldn't that first answer be "Deep In THE [h] OF TEXAS?" I know that song only from Pee Wee's Big Adventure. [H] OF DARKNESS was one of the few books I read the summer before entering graduate school, when I was worried that I was very poorly read (you know, for an English major from a decent liberal arts college) and that I needed to know more of these "classics" I'd heard so much about. I can't say that reading Conrad did anything for me. I did learn that Conrad's first language is Polish. Like Nabokov, Conrad wrote his most Klassic work in a language that was not his "mother tongue." That's all I know.

Potential theme answers that went unused:
  • Wild at Heart
  • The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
  • Miss Lonelyhearts
And the very hardest (actual) theme answer to get!

56A: Washington's profile is on it (Purple [H]eart)

I am wondering if anyone else out there had the U (from ESTUARY - 39D: Rio de la Plata, e.g.) and the second E (from MORESO - 41D: To a greater extent) and blithely entered QUARTER for this answer. Anyone? This clue, in the, let's say, "Valley Forge" region of the puzzle, threw me way, way off and all of the surrounding territory remained quite wide open for what felt like forever. There are several really hard crosses that kept PURPLE [H] hidden.
  • 32D: Coll. fraternity with a skull-and-crossbones symbol (Sig Ep) - OK, so that's SIGma EPsilon, but I've never heard it referred to as anything but "Skull-and-Bones." Had the SIG and then everything thereafter felt arbitrary.
  • 57D: Cell stuff that fabricates protein, for short (R-RNA) - is there even a hyphen in that? I don't know. Had the RNA, and could not remember what letter went before it.
Then there was the first of many ridiculous, seemingly non-words that populated this puzzle. This one ran right on top of what would become PURPLE [H]:
  • 51A: Reddish-brown gems (sards) - now, I am told by professional solvers (well, one of them, anyway) that SARDS is a common answer; I was even sent proof from the cruciverb.com database (I'm pretty sure that's where it was from) showing me that it had been in several grids in the past ten years. Still, I'd never heard of it. Further, it looks ridiculous. It's a name a kid would make up to describe some new weapon he'd invented for his Power Rangers. Also, it sounds like a disease.
Other crazy words:
  • 49A: French white wine (muscadet) - muscatel, muskrat, Muskie, musketeer, Mouseketeer - those are all familiar to me. MUSCADET? No. Is it like Space Cadet?
  • 95A: Pregnant woman, in obstetrics (gravida) - doesn't this mean "fat chick" in Latin?
  • 31D: Of the morning (matutinal) - I swear that I always thought the word was MATITUDINAL. Why is that? Is that a word? It does not appear to be, alas.
  • 30D: Eastern European pork fat dish (salo) - I didn't even see this crazy answer until just this second. You eat pork fat? Like, just the fat? As a "dish?" How many famines do you have to endure before that starts to sound like a good idea?
  • 75D: Fishhook line (snell) - the most made-up-sounding of them all. Now please you all the following words in one sentence: SARDS, MUSCADET, SNELL.

I like the stacking of FERNWOOD (65A: Mary Hartman's TV hometown), MARYANN (69A: "Gilligan's Island" castaway), and GARR (73A: "Mr. Mom" co-star), because they are all pleasantly pop-culture-y. When I was a young man, and other guys my age were hot for, oh, let's say, Cindy Crawford, I had an Enormous Crush on Teri GARR. I remember when she did print ads for Jockey underwear. Boy do I remember. I don't think they were supposed to be particularly sexy, but supposed to, schmosed to. Love her. "FERNWOOD 2Nite" is one of my favorite 70s TV shows - one I didn't discover until I saw it on Nick at Nite in the 90's. It's a fake local talk show with Martin Mull as the host and Fred Willard as his sidekick. If it's not available on DVD, it should be. And as for the old Ginger / Mary Ann debate, if you don't know which side I come down on, then you are a very, very bad judge of character.

Call out the composers! Specifically ALBAN Berg (1D: Composer Berg) - who has a very convenient first name, from a crossword perspective - and GIAN Carlo Menotti (12D; Composer _____ Carlo Menotti). I'm pretty sure GIAN here wrote "Something something and the Night Visitors." I remember [Menotti boy] was a clue a few months back, and I didn't know it then, and I clearly don't know it now ("Something something"). It's AMAHL. No wonder I can't remember it. Here, it didn't matter. I think of GIANCarlo as one word, but I guess not.

One more answer I didn't know:
  • 99A: Pulitzer-winning biographer Leon (Edel) - not much to say; just don't know him.
Last thoughts, at random: 67A: Screened, as a patient (pre-seen) is a little bit of absurdity. Who would say it? It's got more syllables than the far more comprehensible "screened." I don't normally like seeing NAZI in a puzzle (too ... depressing?) but here it's positioned neatly (under 113A: White-collar work (desk job)) to form a phrase, DESKJOB NAZI, that aptly describes Dwight Schrute, the best character on TV's best (current) sitcom, "The Office." I kicked ass on the ancient clues today, like 60A: Old Aegean region (Ionia) and 96D: Golden calf crafter (Aaron). I can tell you that NIKOLAI Gogol (34A: Writer Gogol) is the eponymous "namesake" in the upcoming movie The Namesake, for which I saw a confusing but compelling trailer recently. I have never read Uncle Tom's Cabin, but I am ├╝ber-familar with both little EVA and Simon LEGREE (86D: Stowe villain), thanks to the crossword! Another crossword staple that you should never forget: 1A: Shooting marble (agate). Let's end on an 80's note by teaming up Mork from ORK (127D: Sitcom planet) with, oh, let's say, JASON (114D: 1980's screen slasher) from the Friday the 13th franchise. Yes, that works. I'd pay to see that crossover.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

24 comments:

C zar 1:02 PM  

On Across Lite 2.0 for Macintosh, from the Edit menu, select "Insert" and "Symbols" and you can put a little heart in there.

Chris 1:14 PM  

At least part of the reason why everyone's time was so high is that this one's a 23x23, so that's 88 extra squares to handle. I'm sure a few people also forgot the rebus rule, though.

There were a bunch of words in here that I'd never heard of (matutinal, sards, salo, gravida, etc., and my Firefox spell checker hasn't heard of them either), but the rebus was easy to get, so I guess things balanced out.

Oh, and just for education's sake, "RRNA" is written as rRNA.

Orange 1:35 PM  

Fishing doesn't have to be so rustic—done right, it can be an aesthetically pleasing pastime. For example, I like to hand-craft my fish hooks from semiprecious stones, so it came to pass that I tied my snell to my sard hook, cast out the line, and anticipated sipping the dry white Muscadet that would be a perfect accompaniment to the catch of the day.

Crswrdlvr22 1:41 PM  

...and as I finished up this (cute) puzzle, I'm pulling over what the heck a shed-e-mon is. Yikes! I drank too much Muscadet last night (actually it was Chardonnay).

..keeps me searchin' for a heart of gold, and I'm gettin' old...

-Mary Rose

Crswrdlvr22 1:42 PM  

oopps...puzzling. Drat that wine!

Linda G 2:25 PM  

Well, I enjoyed it. Any time I can finish a Sunday NYT with only a couple of blanks, I'm a happy girl. Congratulations, Orange, for boldly taking on Rex's challenge. Great sentence!

Of all the odd words mentioned, GRAVIDA was the only one I knew -- from my medical malpractice paralegal days.

FYI, parity is also used regarding pregnancy; i.e., I am nulliparous (have not given birth to any children), Sandy is uniparous (one birth), etc.

Linda G 2:28 PM  

Crswrdlvr22 -- SHEDEMON, better defined as my last supervisor.

Rex Parker 5:31 PM  

Crswrdlvr22,

I thought "pulling over what the heck a shed-e-mon was" was some cute colloquialism ("pulling") that I'd just never heard. Then I figured you had typo'd "mulling," even though "m" and "p" aren't very close to one another on the keyboard. I never ever would have thought you meant "puzzling."

I have stared at this grid many times and thought "!?!?!" about a word, only to realize that it's a rebus and I have the "H" in there instead of a heart. I've been double-taking on DISHENS and GREATHED the most. EAT ONE SHOUT and HAND SOUL are weird too.

RP

Donald 7:04 PM  

O pick pick pick,really it's just a valentine to crossword folk -- don't be so unromantic! Getting all those little hearts in there and making them form a big heart, did anyone else but me use a red pen for the hearts? Imagination just flies right out the window with electronics! A nice breakfast-soiled crossword valentine, how can you beat it! At least the weather was dry and I didn't need to nuke it!

Anonymous 7:17 PM  

ok, what is 18 down?

Anani Maus 7:28 PM  

As I flossed with a piece of SNELL after my MATUTINAL SALO and MUSCADET, a fellow member of SIGEP informed me that after her PRESCREEN our SHEDEMON friend in her necklace of SARDS is now a GRAVIDA!

Chris 8:04 PM  

Mmmmm...matutinal salo.

Wendy 8:25 PM  

Donald - I was using a green pen and I drew the hearts with that then colored them in with a red pen. So you're not alone. So much of this is a tactile experience; I do not enjoy doing these things online although I have done that periodically.

Crswrdlvr22 8:37 PM  

I'm not much of a typist - esp. when you consider that l and z are miles away from each other on the keyboard.

I started the puzzle in blue ink, but once I got the Rebus, my red pen came out for the hearts and then I connected all of them. Very satisfying.

Mary Rose

Fitzy 1:39 AM  

- is the shooting marble ever called an "aggie" instead of an "agate"?
- "nazi" is an ugly word...but what are ya gonna do?
- as a pat on the shoulder, I too filled in "quarter" but got "purple
heart" as soon as I figured the rebus...which was a gimme once I got to the 1972 Neil Young #1 hit...
- I agree that there were some "iffy" quasi-words... but all in all a good balance since the rebus wasn't that hard...
- kept trying to squeeze "edgars"
into the mystery award slot...o/c it wouldn't fit... would have been nice since Poe wrote "The Tell-Tale Heart"

Rex Parker 8:28 AM  

Yes, the EDGARS. I did the same thing. I'm not nearly as familiar with the AGATHAS - though, thankfully, I'd heard of them.

RP

Ger 2:18 PM  

Got the theme with 4D: when I started humming ... deep in the heart of Texas.. (where did that come from??) whilst reading the clues.
56A: didn't think of quarter for this; we're elks or queens up here. Read on ..
32D: I know not SIGEP. I know SIGMA, until it made my MUSCADMT look funny. I needed 42D: sad[heart]ed to make sense of it all.
I thought 117A: was a sweet clue.

Anonymous 4:23 AM  

Neil Young had a 1972 hit with HEART OF STONE??? Try HEART OF GOLD instead.

(Which makes me wonder -- why didn't we get HEART OF GLASS? Imagine the clue: "Blondie song or Herzog film"...)

Rex Parker 8:17 AM  

Had "[heart] OF GOLD" in the grid, just put "STONE" in there in my commentary for some reason. Problem fixed. Thanks.

RP

PS "Heart of Stone" was Cher's first multi-million selling album, which canNOT be what I was thinking of...

onbase 6:17 PM  

Your solving time, 27:10. Is that 27 minutes or 27 hours? 27 minutes, eh? You must be some kind of genius. I hope that your genius brainpower is being applied to some of the country's technological and cryptological problems. I'm impressed. My time?
4 hours for some, 40 hours for some others, and sometimes, never.
Thanks for PURPLE HEART.

Anonymous 10:10 AM  

This one didn't take too long, and the pattern was very helpful. But I still don't get what the clue for 136 across means. And the answer is atno????

Rex Parker 10:13 AM  

I'm gonna say (without the clue in front of me) that AT NO is either short for ATOMIC NUMBER, or else it's part of some phrase, like "AT NO time..." I'm guessing the former, as surely you would have figured out the latter. But again, I'm shooting in the dark here.

RP

Anonymous 4:29 PM  

i did this puzzle a week late...and on the bus no less...i actually drew a little heart into the squares to denote the word...i found the puzzle a little unfulfilling..kind of squicky....but when done, and not yet having reached my destination, i was going back over it and i noticed the placement of the hearts into the heart shape and my ho-hum experience was rocketed upwards....glad to see that somebody else NOTICED it before READING about it...

The Schwab 7:17 PM  

Hey Rex,

I'm doing all the archived puzzles and then reading every one of your commentaries because a. I enjoy them, and b. I'm undiagnosed OCD. As a member of the fraternity system at nearby Syracuse University, I have to mention that your SigEp comment is off base. SigEp (Sigma Phi Epsilon) is NOT Skull and Bones.

Skull and Bones is a secret society at Yale, which claims hundreds of famous members, including both Bush presidents. I believe the president of Yale's chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE)is an automatic inductee into Skull and Bones. Skull and Bones is not at all affiliated with Sigma Phi Epsilon. Just figured I should point that out.

Your sports and fraternity expert:

-The Schwab (Phi Kappa Psi)

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