SUNDAY, Apr. 29, 2007 - Henry Hook

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: "Circle of Friends" - each theme answer is the beginning of its own clue, which relates to itself AND to the next theme clue, creating a theme answer "circle," of sorts

[updated 4:15 pm]

My brain sputtered at the beginning of this puzzle, with my first pass through the top of the grid yielding virtually nothing until I got to the far NE and 22A: Something that might be tucked under the chin, where I tentatively entered VIOLA (which was correct, thank god). From there, I meandered in a southwesterly direction, and I got well into the "Colorado" part of the grid before I even began to process what the hell the theme was all about. My main problem was that I was not reading the clues correctly - took me a while to figure out the ellipsis that begins each theme clue means that the ANSWER to the clue is supposed to precede (or stand in for) the ellipsis. So in a way, every answer has two clues, its own and the theme clue that succeeds it. Having two clues sounds like it would make things easier, and once I cottoned on to the theme, it did.

The "Circle of Friends" looks like this:

  • 23A: ... and 25-Across have "canine" surnames (Mark Spitz) - I had only ever heard of a "Finnish Spitz," but apparently SPITZ refers to a whole class of awfully cute dogs.
  • 25A: ... and 41-Across sang with their siblings (June Pointer) - highly aware of the POINTER Sisters - they wanted a man with a slow hand, as well as one who would jump for their love - but I don't think I knew any of their given names before today.
  • 41A: ... and 52-Across are Mormons (Donny Osmond) - this one could have been MARIE - curse their matching 5-letteredness.
  • 52A: ... and 69-Across have affiliations with "Jeopardy!" (Ken Jennings) - OK, this was the first theme answer I had in the grid, one I put in more based on the crosses than on my fully comprehending the gist of the clue. It was only when theme clues I'd looked at early began to seem to fit other answers that the whole "Circle" theme opened up. I was like "wait ... KEN JENNINGS is Mormon too ... wait ... what?" I'm telling you, something just wasn't clicking at first.
  • 69A: ... and 80-Across have mythological creatures as surnames (Merv Griffin)
  • 80A: ... and 99-Across starred in musicals and share their first names with a classic sitcom couple (Ethel Merman)
  • 99A: ... and 101-Across are known for their fancy footwork (Fred Astaire)
  • 101A: ... and 23-Across and Olympic gold medalists (Carl Lewis)

And with "gold medalists" we're back to MARK SPITZ.

Today's puzzle was above-average in terms of difficulty, but also well above-average in terms of entertainment value and cleverness. One of my favorite Sundays of the year (which is saying a lot, considering how much trouble it gave me early on). Lots of lively, fresh clues from lots of differently realms of knowledge, including pop culture clues that spanned much of the past century. Also, lots and lots of K's and J's. I'll tell you what I didn't know, then what I liked, and then I'll be done.

What I Didn't Know (or didn't know well, anyway)

19A: 1998 Andrea Bocelli operatic album (aria) - ooh this was frustrating - the most basic crossword fill hidden under this over-hyped Barnes & Noble Pavarotti. Yeah, I know he's blind, I don't care. Not a fan. He was on "American Idol" once though, to his ... credit?

32A: Poet with a seemingly self-contradictory name (Noyes) - superior clue. This is a "poet" I know only from crosswords, which is to say, this is a poet I don't "know" at all.

33A: Bundle of nerves (rete) - see 32A, only substitute "anatomical term" for "poet"

37A: Healing aid patented in 1872 (Vaseline) - news to me!

64A: News exec Roger (Ailes) - "News" to me!
11D: Cheryl of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (Hines) - don't watch it, so ???

52D: Singer/actress Akers (Karen) - again, who?

65A: Glockenspiels' kin (celestas) - Bartok wrote "Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta," and that is all I know about CELESTAS. I never even thought to inquire what the hell kind of instrument a CELESTA was.

36D: Elizabeth Taylor's pet charity, for short (AMFAR) - an acronym the significance of which I have completely forgotten - ah, the American Foundation for AIDS Research. "Pet" is a bit belittling here...

89A: France's Oscar (César) - OK, I knew this, but if I hadn't had any crosses I never would have remembered it.

90A: "The Most Happy Fella" song ("Big D") - for "Dallas." I've been burned by BIGD before, because as you can see, it looks nuts in the grid (what ends in "-GD?"). I considered BIGD but didn't like it because I was certain that that "B" was a "T" - what else could 90D: Baffin Bay sights be but TERNS? (turns out, it could be, and is, BERGS). This meant I also had Xena's horse's name wrong (imagine that!?) - 105A: Xena's horse = ARGO (not ARNO, which is a river in Italy). BIG D had three fairly challenging crosses:

  • 81D: Close-fitting garment (maillot) - I know this only from the French phrase "MAILLOT de bain" - a swimsuit.
  • 82D: Georgia of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" (Engel) - remember her face well, but not her name.
  • 83D: Erythrocyte (red cell)

Stuff I Liked

57A: The King of Pop, in headlines (Jacko)
57D: Half of Brangelina (Jolie)

Contemporary tabloid answers that intersect at the "J"! Brilliant.

37D: Mission _____, Calif. (Viejo) - yes, if you are going to have a partial, make it a good one. This answer looks Awesome in the grid. Five letters with a J and a V? Sign me up.

58A: 1980s-'90s N.B.A. star Danny (Ainge) - annoying little jerk, but played on the Celtics when they won it all in '86, so I will always have fondness for him.

91A: Bailiwick of TV's Matlock (Atlanta) - God I love this clue in so many ways, from the word "bailiwick" to the hilarity of "Matlock" (most beloved show of everyone at the Springfield Retirement Community on "The Simpsons") to the banality of the answer, ATLANTA, which could have been clued a billion different ways less interesting than this one.

89D: Cicada sound (chirr) - that "sound" sounds so made-up (I wanted WHIRR), but I like it.

71D: Round all around (spherical) - SPHERICAL HAM! (only about three people are going to get that, but whatever ... SPHERICAL is a beautiful-looking word)

10D: Rogaine alternative (toupée) - I was looking for another medicine or topical ointment or something, but no - good old-fashioned rug. Nice.
66D: Leader of the Mel-Tones (Tormé) - Slightly better than cluing him as "The Velvet Fog," which is itself a very good clue.

96D: Bob of the P.G.A. (Tway) - with that crazy name, he should be in the grid a Lot more.

61A: He reached his peak in 1806 (Pike) - just a great clue. "The Most Accessible Mountain in Colorado."

45A: Compass point suffix (-ern). An ERN is an ERN is an ERN, and by any other name would still be this site's official mascot and still say "CAW!"

I'll clean this up later. Off to breakfast with friends.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

Just a couple late thoughts...

92D: Think way back? (trow) - This one is rough, in a good way. Sometimes I like it rough. You really gotta know your Early Modern English to pick up on this one.

51D: "The Female Eunuch" author (Greer) - a gimme for me, but only because I saw the title probably every day of my life on the spine of the book on my mom's bookshelf. Never read it.

Alright, that's it. I'm spent from watching the Yankees / Sox game. I get more and more nervous as the game comes to a close, even when we are in very good shape. ESPECIALLY, when we are in very good shape. Thankfully, this one ended well. Still, I'm tired. Good day.


Anonymous 9:09 AM  

...A "Challenging Circle of Friends" for challenging circle of friends....

Squash's Mom 10:29 AM  

I'm always amazed at the things I learn from doing these puzzles when I verify answers- Vaseline in 1872 - interesting way it was invented.

Ok, Rex, for the 3 of us who don't get it.... SPHERICAL HAM!!?? What's that about?

Linda G 10:43 AM  

After I finished this puzzle, I was at a loss for words to describe the theme. Orange had already posted and had described it, so I just linked to her for that part. You did an excellent job connecting the circle.

My high school English teacher was Mrs. Bailey. She had a sign on her classroom door -- Mrs. Bailey's Bailiwick. This is one of only a few times I've seen the word since.

I agree that VIEJO looks nice in the puzzle, and it sounds so much nicer than its meaning. Old, which my joints are feeling after working in the yard yesterday.

Fitzy 11:00 AM  

Big D... "my oh yes!"... sentimental fool that I am I dark inked in "Joey" as that was the character I played / song I sang
when I was in TMHF in college...some great show tunes in that one... greater Loesser if you ask me...

A tough puzzle all around for me...which came as a "jolt" b/c I decided to start the puzz backwards last night ... and so my first clue was that last clue ...
"Chances _ _ _"... I thought I'd be in for a whole lotta gimmees... not the case though...

Ultra Vi 11:55 AM  

For me, more challenging than Friday or Saturday this week! I absolutely loved the circular cluing.

Nice that VIOLA was in there and that it was the first gettable answer for a few people. I also laughed to see the clue for 79D: Uses a Moviola. I am henceforth respelling the word as Mo' Viola. There should always be mo' viola whenever possible!

Nice touch with celesta, also, which I couldn't think of unitl I had at least 5 of its letters. Oh well. It was that kind of morning.

Now I am off to play a concert of music by John Harbison on my mo' viola. Enjoy!

Anonymous 12:12 PM  

Okay, Rex, you have piqued our collective curiosity. SPHERICAL HAM? I'm guessing Falstaff.

Not One of the 3 Who Get It

CrsWrdLvr22 12:24 PM  

Great puzzle. The names came rather quickly once I got Merv Griffin (1st) and June Pointer (2nd). Some of the little words gave me more trouble.

One of the most enjoyable puzzles I've done in a while.

(Yes, please explain spherical ham)

-Mary Rose

M. Murphy 12:43 PM  

Guess what! I got a fever, and the only mo' viola!

profphil 2:03 PM  

Rete used to be a puzzle regular. I did not get it immediately but when it came to me, it felt like deja vu all over again.It was almost a daily answer many moons ago.

It was smooth sailing except the SE Florida corner: I too had terns instead of bergs and arno instead of argo. I Should of known argo as in argonauts especially as I used to watch the show with my niece. Googled it and therby got bergs. BigD was lost on me did not realize there was a musical with that song. Tway threw me off especially as I had Carl but not the L and W of Lewis. Those sports clues kill me. Finished the puzzle but had to google for Lewis.

However, I liked the trow clue. I don't recall seeing that word before.

Wendy 3:34 PM  

So many out of the ordinary words in this and unexpected clues for ordinary words; that's what I find most thrilling, I think, about doing these puzzles. As someone who loves all culture, pop and otherwise, I was impressed by everything from Percy FAITH (whatever happened to him ... oh, he's dead) to Cheryl HINES, who is one of many hilarious improvisers on Curb Your Enthusiasm.

ERN elicited a pleased yelp from me, even after I didn't see the "suffix" part of the clue at first and didn't know how the typical ESE or WSW was going to accommodate an N in the third slot. Despite its mascot status, which I wholeheartedly support, I still love that it appeared in another incarnation.

CUR was a great word (on top of FIDO). Liked the cluing for RICE - a bit unusual. RUING was nifty; I grew up with a father who constantly advised me not to spend my time "RUING the fact" of circumstances that were what they were.

I was expecting DeSoto or LaSalle to be an explorer at first, and thought that cicadas chirped instead of CHIRRed. Why, I don't know.

NOISE and NOYES. TINSEL is a lovely word that I couldn't get to save my life.

Anyway, Henry Hook, good stuff. And of course thanks to Rex for the daily grind. Or grist.

rock rabbit 3:47 PM  

Heehee, I was thinking glockenspiels must be big german assault weapons (guess I was fooled by the glock beginning), so I filled in berettas. Took me a loooooong time to become convinced that it had to be so very wrong. Pretty funny to see the real answer, CELESTAS, sounding so, so heavenly and peaceful.

Other chuckles.... I misread clue 37A as "heaRing aid" and when I eventually guessed the answer thanks to other fill, I was completely grossed out by the fleeting thought that people used to stick petroleum jelly in their ears.....

I liked the answers CUR and FIDO cozying up to each other.

scriberpat 4:05 PM  

Rex, the May-June 2007 Utne Reader has article page 54 "Out of the Drink" by Tess Gallagher widow of Ray Carver.

Thank you for your website.

Kitt 5:55 PM  

Great puzzle! Agree one of the best Sunday's in quite awhile. Challenging and fun!

I began in first go round with all of the "acrosses" yielded only a few answers I was sure about (unusual for a Sunday for me)...then went through the "downs"....still not a whole lot to go on...but helped me to get an anchor "Fred Astaire" which led to "Ethel Merman." Phew. Now I could see what was going on as far as the theme. So, I waded through the bottom and worked my way up.

I'm pretty up on my dog breeds so I grinned when I got Mark "Spitz" and someone "Pointer" -- had no clue the first name of any Pointer Sister though I knew it started with a "J"....

I considered "Marie" as an Osmond too, Rex, but already had "Marie" as a must be Donny....

Anyway, good puzzle, clever theme and cluing. All in all I 9D (enjoyed) this puzzle.

Thanks, Henry Hook.

Rex Parker 8:25 PM  

scriberpat - thanks for the tip. The one autographed Carver book I have is autographed by her (Gallagher), not him, strangely.

SPHERICAL HAM is meaningful to me as an anagram. That is all I will say. Seriously. All.


Linda G 9:41 PM  

I was thinking that DeSoto and LaSalle were cars, but stared at A--O for the longest time without seeing AUTO. D'oh...

I'll figure out that anagram. May take a few minutes, though.

Wendy 10:14 PM  

I figured it out!

Linda G 11:07 PM  

That makes two of us, Wendy. Who's the third?

mmpo 12:52 PM  

NO YES. Had to think about that for a minute. Was thinking "how does Alfred contradict Noyes?
What else could Baffin Bay sights be? Seals (right?). That was my first answer.
Georgia. I remember her face too, but her voice, even more. I saw her in something else not so long ago. She seemed eerily unaged...and had the same voice and dazed look.
I translated some chapters in a book in which some quotations were already in English...using the word bailiwick (in reference to the Monroe Doctrine). A delightful word.

Anonymous 5:08 PM  

Impressive! Thank you, Mr. Parker. Bodoe, Norway.

Rex Parker 5:42 PM  

Bodø, Norway! You are the first person from Inside the Arctic Circle to leave a comment on my site. I have an occasional reader in Barrow, Alaska, but he / she never speaks up.

Thanks for reading,

charm city cupcake 8:52 AM  

I got the theme almost immediately (ie, how the ellipsis works), but I didn't fill any in until I got to Ken Jennings. Then the rest was smooth sailing!

I'm actually not done yet (I started late last night and put it down because I had to go to bed) - I have a few things left in the top section.

I just discovered your blog today and I love it, although I have learned that I should only come here after I have finished the ENTIRE puzzle!

Judy 2:20 PM  

Would someone please explain how Compound Number (9 across) is ETHER?
And Tongue's End (12 down) is ESE? Is that like chinEse, japanESE?
Great site!

WWPierre 11:25 PM  

Checking in from the past. Nice puzzle today. Got the theme figured out early on with DONNY OSMOND. My worst hang-up was in the N/E because I thought ICES IN was a gimme for "Strands in winter" especially when ABASHED "confirmed" it, and SUCH seemed to fit for "This and that"(I got Hooked)

I had no mistakes, but I had to google "Brangelina" (Had NO clue what that meant) Duh. I also googled "Cheryl HINES" because, like Judy, I cannot fathom the meaning of that clue.

At the risk of sounding like a HORNY old coot, I especially liked MAILLOT, because it reminded me of an old girlfriend, who had a red one really did it for me.

Anonymous 1:49 AM  

Karen Akers - big lounge singer in the early '80's in NYC. Bizarre clue unless Henry Hook hung out in cabarets in the Village. (think, not sure, she was also in the Broadway show, "Nine".)

Anonymous 11:14 AM  

Was it just my puzzle that read "baliwick" instead od "bailiwick for the Matlock clue? I read it as bailiwick then thought maybe this is an actor's last name when I realized it lacked the first "i"...

WWPierre 12:46 PM  

It was spelled correctly in the Vancouver Sun.

Anonymous 1:04 PM  

Rex, let me first say that I LOVE your site!! You have saved me from many completely wasted sundays. I come here when I am at my wit's end with a last few clues. I love the NYT crossword and the triumph of finishing is unparalleled. Is it cheating to google the more obscure answers?? My hubby thinks so.

Anyway, this puzzle was fun. I got Donny Osmond right off, since pricey (41D) was dear. The cyclic clue formation was easy to pick up as well, I just didn't know alot of the names right off. Had to wait until I had some letters in there.

Question, since when is 'the finest' an epithet??

I will keep coming back every week to save myself a brain hemorrage. LOL

Rex Parker 1:10 PM  

"L.A.'s FINEST," "New York's FINEST," etc. I'm pretty sure that's shorthand - a name, or epithet - for the police. I think we are used to seeing "epithet" used with more negative connotations, e.g. "racial epithet."


Rex Parker 1:11 PM  

PS thank you for "loving" my site. Right back at ya.

Johanna 8:02 PM  

Three Men in a Tub by Jerome K. Jerome is one of the funniest books I have ever read.

I'm a wednesday (almost puzzler) and I check you out just about every day.

jae 9:31 PM  

Yes, a fine puzzle! Got the theme early and steadily worked through it. Had the same problem as others with SE. Terns seemed so right. Is chirr a word?? I also don't get 9A ether for compound number? Help??

Rex Parker 9:57 PM  


Anonymous 12:32 AM  

In Canada we get the puzzles a week late! Circle of Friends just in the Sunday paper 5/6/07/ Great puzzle, clever use of clues. One of the easier ny times in recent weeks, finished in under 30 minutes!

jae 1:48 AM  

Thanks Rex. Thought I was on to those types of clues. Damn, need to do more puzzles!

Anonymous 3:19 AM  

Alfred Noyes wrote "The Highwayman", a very famous poem.

A celesta is a nice tinkly, keyboard instrument. Actually spelled celeste, and pronounced "chelesta".

I thought this was an easy puzzle. Got the theme right away...Merv Griffin was the first clue that I filled in on the puzzle and went from there.

Thank goodness I am done now so I can go to bed!

Love the blog.


Anonymous 11:03 AM  

found this blog googling a clue, because I had no clue!
these seasonal allergies dont help!
this is an annoying puzzle.
but nice site!

mydogischelsea 7:52 PM  

Is it me, or is this the third week in a row that we've had a Sunday puzzle with the word OBESE?

The Flick Guy 11:30 AM  

From another Canuck:

Sometimes ya get lucky. I'm not sure how many of us Great White Northerners have ever heard of Mission Viejo, but if you happen to have family that lives there (like I do)then it's your first guess (but I'm sure that about a million readers from Orange County beat me to it anyway).

Anonymous 8:58 PM  

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