THURSDAY, Aug. 30, 2007 - Victor Fleming and Bruce Venzke

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Who, What, Where, When
(but no Why? ... Why?) - four long theme answers begin with each of those interrogative words

Managed to work this out in decent time despite not knowing many of the answers. I actually had one square wrong, at what I consider to be an unfair crossing:

  • 21A: Debussy's "Air de _____" ("Lia")
  • 4D: _____ acid (old name for hydrochloric acid) (muriatic)

These intersect at the "A," and I've never heard of either of them. That parenthetical remark in the MURIATIC clue is useless. Did that actually clarify things for anyone who is not a chemist? Hmmmph. Annoying. But otherwise, this was a fairly enjoyable puzzle, with four colorful fifteen-letter theme answers:

  • 17A: 1961 Connie Francis hit ("Where the Boys Are") - My dad once had a celebrity crush on either Connie Francis or Connie Stevens. One of the Connies. Not Connie Chung. That I know.
  • 3D: 1952 Doris Day hit that was an even bigger hit for the Lettermen in 1961 ("When I Fall in Love")
  • 12D: "Huh?!" ("What in tarnation!") - awesome old-timey hick-speak.
  • 61A: End of a line about friends ("... who needs enemies") - got this with just two letters in place, at a time when most of the grid was just empty space

Despite my not really liking "Seinfeld," 1A: Seinfeld's "sworn enemy" (Newman) was a gimme. Didn't help me much, as the only cross it provided was NEWS (1D: Google heading). Finally found an easy answer - 62D: Part of una semana (dia) - followed by another - 55D: Belt-hole makers (awls); those gave me WHO NEEDS ENEMIES, and I was pretty good from there on out.

Some stuff I didn't know:

  • 9D: Suffix with beta (tron) - means nothing to me
  • 46D: Mortgagor, e.g. (lienee) - ack, that's one ugly clue / answer pairing.
  • 55A: Children's author/photographer Alda (Arlene)
  • 44A: _____ Beach, Fla. (Del Ray) - I've heard of it, maybe, but needed many crosses (side note: doesn't it seem like this puzzle has an excess of fill-in-the-blank clues?)
  • 25D: Passover month (Nisan) - add an "S," and you get the make of vehicle that I drive
  • 18D: Mr. Wickfield's clerk, in literature (Heep) - Uriah HEEP? The only reason I know the name "Uriah HEEP" is because I believe it was the name of a rock band of some sort in the early 80s or possibly earlier. Its literariness is lost on me (and my Ph.D. in literature).
  • 5D: Bob _____, young man in Dreiser's "Sister Carrie" (Ames) was another literary failure of mine. Bob AMES is a funny name - reminds me of "Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration" ("The Office").

More literary ignorance: I thought 42A: Tennyson woman called "the Fair" (Enid) was MAUD (!?). And I actually teaching Tennyson's Arthurian poetry, so this mistake was particularly galling. Further, I did not know 40D: One of the men waiting in "Waiting for Godot" (Vladimir). Writing clues that I knew included 45A: _____ Jordan, who wrote "The Crying Game" (Neil) and 47A: A writer may work on it (spec).

It's a fairly cold-hearted puzzle, with nasty entries like PIRANHAS (16A: Vicious sorts), and SINISTER (19A: Up to no good - too tepid a clue for SINISTER, IMOO), and SNEERS AT (65A: Derides).

NET TV (6D: Web-based service) sounds weird / wrong - like the real answer should be WEB TV. Also weird is 20A: Sterile, in a way (neuter), in that NEUTER is always a verb to me, unless it's describing grammatical gender, I guess. Not too fond of ATL. as an answer for 41A: View from Long Is. Wanted the answer to be STRIP MALLS. Never have any idea how to spell SALCHOW (37A: Eponymous rink jump). Growing up ... in fact, until I was in my mid-30's (which is to say, a couple years ago), I thought it was SOWCOW. Lastly, I call a serious European river foul in the far NE, where I was made to endure the proximity of two of my bitterest foes, 13D: It rises in the Bernese Alps (Aare) and 14D: Battle of the _____, 1914 (Yser). AARE is the sound I make when confronted with yet another European river in four letters with improbable letter combinations.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

38 comments:

Anonymous 3:46 AM  

A BETATRON is an electron accelerator, electrons also being known as BETA PARTICLES.

Personally, I don't mind it when the names of European rivers are included, because I know some European geography and history. World War I is the source of so many battles named for rivers, including the Marne in France and the Yser in Belgium (Flanders - recall the old song: "In Flanders Field"). World War II had the Battle of the Rhine and of the Elbe. These rivers are always showing up in crosswords.

Whitey's mom 6:13 AM  

Never heard of Salchow no matter how you pronounce it.

liebestraum 7:28 AM  

Adding to the "I never heard ofs..."

veal Oscar and veal Orloff

Things took me way too long to figure out:

gore TEX, and Uriah HEEP - I know those, but for some reason they did not pop right out. I spent too much time staring at empty squares there.

And, I kept looking for a clue that started with WHY.

Finally, I liked Rex's comment about the European rivers. It may just be my imagination, but AARE and YSER seem to have shown up quite a bit lately.

lieb

Stephen 7:37 AM  

URIAH Heep was in yesterday's puzzle.

Rockonchris 7:46 AM  

Eero? Really? Can't wait for the clue, "Last name in architecture" to be Saarinen. Yuck.

Jerome 10:18 AM  

Rex,

Just wondereing. How can a puzzle where you "Managed to work this out in decent time despite not knowing many of the answers and actually had one square wrong" be rated mediam diffdiculty? Is it all about speed?

Isabella di Pesto 10:33 AM  

Dreiser's novel "Sister Carrie" broke new ground and scandalized the American public in 1900 by not having the title character killed off for her "immoral" life.

Uriah Heep is often used as an example of smarmy, ingratiating, scheming, and clammy hypocrisy. Makes ones skin crawl.

Didn't know Uriah Heep was a rock band.

Good puzzle.

Orange 10:41 AM  

Uriah HEEP's from David Copperfield, one of those Dickensian creeps.

Rex, duuude, you haven't read or seen Waiting for Godot? It's short and kinda funny.

I haven't read much Tennyson. I keyed in ENID, then might've erased it and switched to MAUD before ending up with ENID after all.

Howard B 10:58 AM  

This sucker definitely had a Friday vibe to it. Open, tricky, and tough. Good stuff except for that one stinging, nasty, acidic crossing with MURIATIC. Got it on the second or third guess, but at least another three letters would have seemed just as plausible to try.

Robert 11:44 AM  

Last night, while I was doing the puzzle on line for the first time (I guess I'm a dinosaur), a friend called for advice: she had spilled MURIATIC ACID on the carpet of the floor of her car, and was worried about inhaling the fumes. (I resisted the temptation to put her on hold while I filled in the puzzle). In Florida, this is commonly used to lower the pH of your swimming pool, after adding chlorine.

Anonymous 11:56 AM  

Surprised that a literature PhD didn't know Vladimir and Estragon from "Waiting for Godot." Seminal 20th-century work. A few of my students (admittedly, it was only high school, but still...) used to write the latter's name as "Estrogen." Dyslexia combined with medical ignorance?

karmasartre 12:14 PM  

First mistake: Mies insted of EERO.

Second mistake: Doing a puzzle in which NISAN and SALCHOW cross. Couldn't get the S. If they had spelled Sowcow correctly (according to me), maybe doable.

Anonymous 12:21 PM  

Had april for 25d...two jewish calendars showed me double s for nissan ?

jae 12:46 PM  

I agree with howard b, this seemed more Friday than Thursday as there were an awful lot of unknowns. That said, the two song titles were gimmies as were DELRAY, MURIATIC,EERO, AARE (from lots of recent exposure) and YSER (same reason). NEUTER seemed a bit off to me also. I knew SALCHOW but not how to spell it, so I needed the crosses. Speaking of which, the clue for ASHE was definitely more Fri/Sat than Thurs.

Sue 1:10 PM  

If you're publicizing an event or writing it up afterwards, you have to be really careful to be accurate about WHO, WHAT, WHERE, and WHEN, but not necessarily WHY, which may provide more subjective information. So I like the four W choices here.

It qualifies for Thursday because it fell into place once the theme emerged, but getting to the theme was tough. I was in a doctor's waiting room without the crutch of even a dictionary, but at least I was absorbed for the long wait.

I came home with MURI-TIC and LI-. Never heard of either.

Spencer 1:11 PM  

Muriatic acid is what you're likely to find in the hardware store. It's used for many purposes including cleaning/etching concrete. I expect that if you ask the hardware clerk for "hydrochloric acid" you'd likely get a blank stare. (Of course, that's what you'll always get at a big box store. ;-)

Tadpod 1:11 PM  

I remember Mary Tyler Moore preparing Veal Orlof for a dinner party and the guests kept multiplying, so she had to ration the servings. Hilarity ensued. Great puzzle.

Anonymous 1:25 PM  

Looked up both Veal Orloff and Veal Oscar in OLD cookbooks. Orloff is roast veal, sliced, each slice slathered with a sauce, and reassembled to look like the whole roast. I guess there's a TADA moment when it is served. Oscar is sauteed veal cutlets topped with asparagus, crab meat and bearnaise sauce. UGH.

Anonymous 1:34 PM  

I remember that Mary Tyler Moore episode, but I think they called it Veal PRINCE Orloff.

Speaking of crosswords, Rex Parker, how could you not like Seinfeld?!

Anonymous 1:35 PM  

Whoops, I meant "speaking of sitcoms"...

Wendy 1:53 PM  

Ah yes, "The Dinner Party," which according to imdb aired Nov. 17, 1973. Those were the days, weren't they? I, like all of Mary's hapless guests, always dreaded the times when she entertained because the goings on always descended into ludicrousness.
Yes, it was *Prince* Orloff. Didn't Sue Ann Nivens (the inimitable Betty White) help her make it?

jae 2:01 PM  

Mary was a terrible cook. Sue Ann made the dish and let Mary pretend it was hers.

Anonymous 2:26 PM  

Fairly enjoyable until had to work out 46 down for which the answer in the puzzle is WRONG. A MORTGAGOR is a LIENOR not a LIENEE. A LIENEE would be a MORTGAGEE. Definitely slowed up that quadrant until I worked out the mistake - thought I had to be wrong not the puzzle.

Fergus 2:47 PM  

Uriah Heep will get his comeuppance once again if he keeps showing up so ingratiatingly. I recall him being described as having damp, oily fingers. The band by the same name was around before 1970 -- there was also a contemporaneous band called Humble Pie, which must have borne some relation, Master Heep being ever so 'umble'... . They (both) were already past their prime as I became a teenager that year, when I had a preference for the wild hard rock of Deep Purple.

Beckett gave Vladimir and Estragon the same number of letters for the express purpose of confounding crossword solvers. Saw Godot when I was thirteen, too, and just starting to get comfortable with an indifferent cosmos.

This was a demanding and difficult puzzle, I thought, since I took the bait on some of the misdirection. Secure for ENSURE, e.g. Crossing EXHUME with EXHILARATE suggests something much creepier than unctuous Uriah. And the Sterile NEUTER combination will not sit well until anyone can show how these words can be used interchangeably.

johnson 3:15 PM  

The procedure to sterilize a male dog is a neutering (females get spayed). I think the tenses may be off in neuter/sterile (neutered/sterile seems correct to me), but my degrees are in biochem (thought muriatic was a gimme) and medicine. I have trouble following the "gerund" discussions on this blog.

flailer 3:18 PM  

1. Had ESTRAGON for a long time and couldn't remember the other one forever. TERRAGON? I feel like ESTRAGON is the name of an herb so I wanted the other to be an herb, too. Oh-- and people who teach english romantic poetry are not required to also know Beckett, or modernism, or plays. Different century, aesthetic, and form.

2. I didn't know ANY of the pop songs and so it took a long time to get them via crosses. Which is why my Nana still beats the pants off me doing the NYT xword.

3. Never heard of either VEAL dish.

4. My only gimme besides DIA, NEWMAN and EXHUME was HEEP, because he showed up yesterday and I knew the name from the rock band (only learned from the puzzle that he was some sort of Dickensian Bartleby).

5. Have indeed seen Nisan as Nissan. But try googling Hannukah, for example, and you'll see the thorniness of transliteration at work.

trish in OP 3:48 PM  

I ended up with "Hepp" as the clerk because I figured "Opal" came before "Oscar" and "Orloff", and Netto seemsed like it could be some web service--sorta like lotto maybe? Twisted logic........also if you live in a very hard water area and your dishwasher gets calcium crusty, run it with some muriatic acid and you'll be good to go. (worked on stainless interior, maybe not a good idea for plastic?)

Anonymous 5:29 PM  

Muriatic (hydrochloric) acid can be EXTREMELY CAUSTIC AND TOXIC in nondilute solutions. It should be handled WITH EXTREME CARE. In high school chemistry, I splashed some on my lab apron and it ate right through the apron and my pants and burned my leg.

oxfdblue 9:03 PM  

Doing these things for over 20 years... I felt like an idiot with this one.

I just kept staring at it and nothing came to me.

This felt much more like a Saturday puzzle then Thursday.

SALCHOW? Why does it always sound like "SOW COW" on TV?

And "tarnation" does anyone actually use that word anymore other then Yosemite Sam?

Cea 9:30 PM  

Agreed. Definitely not medium. I got a total of four clues on the first runthrough, and one of them turned out to be wrong (test seemed a perfectly logical follow on for beta). Hard, very hard. And I've still never heard of What in tarnation.

Orange 11:04 PM  

Watch TV with the closed captioning turned on and you learn how to spell all those eponymous sports terms. Me, I knew how to spell it but didn't really know it was pronounced "sowcow."

Nobody says "what in tarnation" any more unless it's in jest, but try saying it in jest every now and then to keep it alive. Next time you're about to type "WTF" online, opt for "What in tarnation?"

Kristen F 11:39 PM  

Just looked up why people pronounce SALCHOW as SOW-COW. Wikipedia says it's just bad pronunciation on our part. The originator of the jump was a Swede, Ulrich Salchow. "Ulrich Salchow's surname was reportedly pronounced "sal-kov", but the name of the jump is invariably pronounced as either "sal-kow" (in North America) or "sal-koh" (in Europe).

Skaters sometimes abbreviate the name of the salchow to either sal or sow."

Badir 11:39 PM  

Just as yesterday's puzzle was like a Thursday, in that it had a rebus, but still took me a Wednesdayish time, today's puzzle looked very Friday, with the wide-open space, but still took me an average Thursday time. On the other hand, I've been improving lately, so my current average may be better than I think. :) I, too, had only one muri-tic square I couldn't figure out.

profphil 12:38 AM  

Anonymous,

A Mortgagor is a lienee. Although most people think it is the other way around. It took me years to get it straight. For example, if you own a home and borrow money from the bank and give your home as collatarol then you are mortgaging your home and therefore are the mortgagor. However, the lin is against your home and you are thus a lienee. The bank is the Mortgagee and the lienor.

profphil 12:48 AM  

Fergus,

In zoology and botany a neuter can be an animal which is sterile because of undeveloped sexual organs. For example worker bees are neuters and sterile. Plants with neither stamens nor pistils are neuters. Also it can be used for an animal that is castrated: The neutered dog is a neuter.

Fergus 1:17 AM  

Yes, but sterile is seemingly always an adjective and I can't see the case for when neuter ever is. True, I'm operating on the assumption that the parts of speech ought to match, but I do think this is a broadly assumed convention. So I guess I'm still not buyin' it.

Anonymous 1:44 PM  

Indeed, if you took more than introductory chemistry in college, muriatic should have been a gimme.

Anonymous 2:02 PM  

Six weeks later, and I whole-heartedly agree that this was much more Saturday-ish than Thursday. Dia was about the only answer I got right away, never watched Seinfeld and am not a big Connie or Doris fan...more CSNY, Doors and the Dead.

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