TUESDAY, Apr. 24, 2007 - Brendan Emmett Quigley

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: -ZZY - four theme answers all feature "celebrities" with first names ending in -ZZY

Not the most imaginative theme in the world, but it gets you a lot of Z's, which makes for some inventive crosses. Didn't we have a double-double-Z theme not too long ago, with answers like FUZZY WUZZY and (gag) HUZZAH HUZZAH? This seems to be of a lower order of difficulty, but there are still a lot of answers that make it a pleasing puzzle overall.

The theme answers:

17A: Pitcher of baseball's Gas House Gang (Dizzy Dean)
30A: Golf's 1984 U.S. Open winner (Fuzzy Zoeller)
44A: Patriarch on an MTV reality show (Ozzy Osbourne)
60A: The Fresh Prince's partner DJ (Jazzy Jeff)

Strangely, DIZZY DEAN - the first of these that I got - did not give me the theme, and if memory serves, I ended up in the far SE, with JAZZY JEFF, before I got another theme answer and figured out what the theme was. Not sure how I traversed the grid without picking up either FUZZY or OZZY, but there it is. I think I didn't know the former and didn't see the clue for the latter until very late. My favorite answer is JAZZY JEFF, both because it's the most out-of-left-field (all the other answers are famous in their own right, while JAZZY is famous primarily as a sidekick), and because you get not only two "Z"s but two "J"s. FUZZY ZOELLER gets an honorable mention for its triple-Z factor. Speaking of "honorable mention," a former student of mine just won "honorable mention" in the Atlantic Monthly's student writing contest, and I'm exceedingly proud of her. She doesn't attend college here anymore, sadly (for me). She now attends a University whose initials are seen not infrequently in crosswords. Hint: this school is not in Durham.

Today's puzzle had me very frustrated at one point because - well, normally I solve all early-week puzzles in an unbroken chain of answers, working off crosses rather than jumping around to empty parts of the grid. But yesterday I hit a point where I couldn't continue in that fashion. Three different Down clues, unknown to me, kept me from being able to work my way out of the top of the puzzle and into the middle. I had to reboot over in the "Maryland" portion of the puzzle somewhere (thank you, WENDY - 28D: "Peter Pan" heroine). It's a rare Tuesday puzzle that can freeze me like that. The three Downs that kept me stuck:

  • 8D: Exotic dancer Lola (Montez) - Mistress of King Ludwig I of Bavaria who somehow ends up performing exotic (i.e. underwear-free) dances for Australian miners... "Whatever Lola wants / Lola gets" ... yeah, that's her.
  • 18D: Syrian/Lebanese religious group (Druze) - this sounds familiar, but I can't tell you what it means without looking it up... OK, I just read the first part of this "article" and I still don't fully understand. The opening paragraph under "History" reads: "Analogous with Jews, Druze are an ancient people who preexist modern constructs of identity. In some ways, Druze are a nation, an ethnicity, a tribal kinship, a religion, and so on, and in some ways not really any of these." Thanks for the help, Wikipedia!
  • 22D: _____ y plata (oro) - my Spidey-sense tells me that this is an old crossword standard. I'm well aware that ORO is Spanish for "gold," but this expression slipped my mind.
Other than those answers, this puzzle was pretty tractable. Of note:

57A: With "cum" and 32-Down, a diploma phrase (magna / laude) - You had me at "cum"

63A: How the confident solve (in pen) - little shout-out to all the hard-core solvers. Nice touch. I always think of the phrase as IN INK, but this'll do. I solve in pencil. I'm pretty damned confident.

2D: Theater awards since 1956 (Obies) - this is just to remind me that the Pantheon needs updating. I don't believe this word has ever been considered, but I don't see how you can expect to solve crosswords efficiently without it.

25D: Russian autocrat: Var. (tzar) - good to see the variant spelling of this word get some play. TSAR and CZAR are the other spellings I know. There seems to have been a marked uptick in "Var."-containing clues this year compared to last. That's just an impression - I haven't counted.

39D: Pouty look (moue) - makes a return to the grid. Appeared recently. It's a weird word I wouldn't use. Looks like a typo for MOUSE. MOUE gets you a nice, unusual three-vowel combo.

43D: Baseball's David, nicknamed "Big Papi" (Ortiz) - "I love it when you call me 'Big Papi!'" After Saint Manny, Ortiz is my second favorite player on the Red Sox. I call him "Grimace," as he looks eerily like the amorphous, purple, shake-loving McDonald's muppet of the same name. See also yesterday's discussion of his future, genetically engineered, and as-yet fictional baseball-playing son, A-ORTA.

The other day, in Barnes & Noble, I saw a special deck of UNO dedicated entirely to David Ortiz. All I can say is that better be in my stocking come ("cum" ... "cwm") Christmas time.

Off to teach.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

20 comments:

Ultra Vi 9:11 AM  

Solvers IN PEN, unite! I still can't bear using a pencil on crosswords. Fun but challenging for a Tuesday. Sadly, I'm not up on my golf icons, especially those from '84.

This puzzle teemed with food references (or is it just me?): EAT AT, GNAWS, OVA (var.!), NOONDAYS, CURDS, HAS A MEAL, UTTERS (wait a minute, that would be udders), and more, but...um, we won't go there.

I love David ORTIZ. He is my hero, and who could resist that smile?

A favor of all you erudite commenters: My son seems to prefer Sarah Lawrence College but is concerned about the female to male ratio (3:1). If anyone has any SLC input or anecdotes, would you please let me know? If this is too off-crossword topic, e-mail me at yahoo, screenname bluevi442.

Many thanks.

u. v. 9:13 AM  

Oh, and Rex!

Congrats on your (former) student's award. You must be damn proud.

Evad 10:02 AM  

It's funny I remember this puzzle as being pretty easy (normal Tuesday fare), but seeing that it had DRUZE, TZAR and MONTEZ in it (all relatively in the same area of the puzzle) makes me even more impressed that the crossing entries were put in place to give us a leg up on these obscurities.

Alex 10:19 AM  

For some reason I finished the puzzle thinking the theme was not only -ZZY first names but alliterative names as well. And didn't realize I was wrong (Fuzzy Zoeller) until rereading your list.

DJ Jazzy Jeff is probably one of only about 5 rappers I could name and with him it is pretty much solely because of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I may not listen to music but I certainly watched a lot of TV as a kid.

Did the ibuprofen category of analgesics demand equal time if Tylenol was going to be mentioned?

Orange 10:19 AM  

Oro y plata is Montana's state motto. Gotta love the accessibility of a motto that's in Spanish rather than Latin (here's a list of all 50). Who knew that Maryland's motto is in Italian? Fatti maschi, parole femmine, meaning "Manly deeds, womanly words." Huh?

Rex Parker 10:33 AM  

JAZZY JEFF is a DJ, not a rapper. It's all explained in the title of the 1988 DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince album "He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper." Seriously, that's the album's name.

rp

mmpo 10:56 AM  

Had a good long chuckle at that "Huh?" I guess the founding fathers of Maryland wanted people to know they weren't a bunch of Marys.
Did anyone else want to write FALANA for "Exotic dancer Lola?" That lasted about two seconds, but I was glad to remember for a moment that firecracker from my youth.
I have always had a particular fondness for the name DIZZY DEAN. Don't ask me why.
MOUE. Common in French. Didn't know it was used in English, but it seemed to fit.
Seeya,
mmpo

M. Murphy 12:17 PM  

3:1 female to male ratio? Why didn't I go to Sarah Lawrence???

Rex Parker 1:02 PM  

Ditto Sarah Lawrence. Why wouldn't you want to be around that many smart women? If that's the school that appeals to him most, he should Go.

rp

Ultra Vi 2:03 PM  

Too bad he doesn't know now what you now know! Ah, youth...

Anonymous 3:28 PM  

Two oxymorons from a semi-confident solver:
1) the Perfect Compromise 2) ERasable Pen!

Trish in OP

Orange 6:59 PM  

Remember PFUI? Ben and I just came across it in this hardcover book kiddie comix, Strange Stories for Strange Kids.

Peter Pan heroine 8:02 PM  

Laughed at the "confident solver" characterization since I solve IN PEN but would never describe myself as confident. I just can't bear the feel of a pencil in my hand and on the page, and love pens, especially the gel pens that I'm currently using.

Inexplicably, I had FOR instead of FWD initially for 27A, until I was pleasantly knocked upside the head with the cross of my own name. Fun puzzle. Why do we love X Y & Z so much?

cara 9:27 PM  

Druze was the first thing I filled after scanning the clues and seeing there would be a lot of Zs. The clue was still a little off, as it made it sound as if the Druze are limited to Syria and Lebanon. Definitely a hard clue I wouldn't know if I wasn't studying middle east stuff.

I didn't know the Montez/Zoeller cross and didn't expect to see another Z. It was the last letter you think to punk down!

profphil 10:54 PM  

Oddly, I had problems with all the theme answers as I know beans about sports and don't recognize any of the names. I did know Ozzie Osborne and figured out Dizzy Dean but do not know who he is although I vaguely recognize the name.

Rex,
I saw the NY Post left on the seat next to me and A-Rod was splashed all over the front and back page. It's the first time I looked at a sports page because his name keeps coming up on the puzzles.

Ironically, Druze was the only answer I got immediately. religions are one of my interests and i teach a course on World Religions in the Workplace. Considering I did not know the theme answers it's a miracle that I was able to complete the puzzle without Googling although I did get one letter wrong-- I had Lola Montel insread of Montez, then Googled it and got the correct letter. Tough puzzle for a tuesday.

Ultra Vi, can't go wrong with a 3 to 1 Ratio. Mmore girls to go around, less competition with the other men and therefore also more male friendships too. He will be appreciated all around.

Anonymous 11:51 AM  

hey Rex,
What's with TOAT clued by "exactly"?
Thanks,
E&C

Rex Parker 11:59 AM  

Parse it!

To a 'T'

rp

Anonymous 11:32 AM  

yowsa! Thanks Rex! E&C

Karmasartre 2:49 PM  

Pretty easy.

Fuzzy Z gained infamy for a comment made re. Tiger Woods when Woods first won the Masters. Something about fried chicken or watermelon (food suggestions for TW to bring to the next year's banquet).

Waxy in Montreal 9:08 PM  

Six weeks on -

If you grew up as I did in the 1950's and were a baseball fan, then Hall of Famer Dizzy Dean is best recalled as the "Game of the Week" (Sat. pm's) host. With a broad southern drawl, he sang, recounted outrageous baseball stories (some of which were possibly true) and occasionally remembered to do play-by-play. Compared to the buttoned-down types who do baseball on TV today, I'd take "Ole Diz" any time.

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