TUESDAY, Aug. 28, 2007 - Linda Schechet Tucker

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: HERB GARDEN (62A: Where the first words of 17-, 26- and 47-Across may be found)

The theme is pretty straightforward, but the overall grid is pretty impressive. Lots of unusual or colorful phrases, with only a minimum of crosswordese. Well, maybe a little more than a minimum, now that I look at it. Still, an enjoyable puzzle.

Your HERB answers:

  • 17A: It's worth listening to (SAGE advice)
  • 26A: Sherlock Holmes portrayer (BASIL Rathbone)
  • 47A: Perfect shape (MINT condition)

All of the HERB names here are used in non-HERB contexts, of course.

The theme answers are fine, but fairly predictable. I'm a bigger fan of today's longer non-theme answers, like the swell BOY OH BOY (10D: Cry of glee), the regal OCEAN TIDES (30D: They're controlled by the moon), the curious OUTER EAR (38D: Catcher of sound waves), and the dainty HYBRID TEA (54A: Variety of rose) - the last one totally unknown to me. Not sure how I feel about 21A: Conduct a survey (ask around). I like the phrase, but the clue seems a lot more formal than the answer.

Noteworthy features of today's puzzle include a new ELSA (32D: Actress Lanchester, who married Charles Laughton), a variant that's one letter away from a breath mint brand (45D: Haberdashery items: Var. (tie tacs)), a porcine philosopher (3D: English philosopher called "Doctor Mirabilis" (Roger Bacon)), a surprisingly persistent defunct automobile (52D: Old Oldsmobile (Alero)), and the answer to the mystery of what Chester A. Arthur's middle initial stands for (12D: Chester Arthur's middle name (Alan)). Not sure why I know Fort ORD (5D: Fort _____, former Army post on Monterey Bay). Didn't know 6D: Source of basalt (lava). I'm not even sure what "basalt" is, frankly. Had HILT for HAFT in the SW (54D: Knife handle), which made the Swiss river AARE hard to pick up (61A: River of Switzerland). This may be the least Scrabbly puzzle I've seen all year, but it was inventive enough that I didn't mind.

See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

15 comments:

ayoung 8:38 AM  

I'm first to post only because I'm experiencing a bout of insomnia; it's 5:34 PDT. Today's puzzle was really easy; I'm waiting to be dumped on by Friday.

Orange 9:23 AM  

Basalt does some cool things depending on how and where the lava cools: alien-looking columns, big pillow rocks under water, hardened lava flows in Hawaii, and those lightweight, bubbly "lava rocks" they sell at gardening centers.

Pete M 10:16 AM  

I agree with you on ASK AROUND. "Conduct an informal survey" works better for me.

Robert 11:41 AM  

Rex,
I enjoyed your use of the "porcine" Roger Bacon (...but I thought you hated puns). Also, if you were more of a yuppie, you would have traded away your perfectly good kitchen knives and gone to Williams-Sonoma to buy "cutlery". There, an arrogant salesclerk would educate you on the importance of HAFT, TANG, and other useful words.

Jim in Chicago 12:00 PM  

The mystery word of the day for me was RIANT, which I've never heard of before. According to the OED, its first use was in 1567, although my favo(u)rite usage is as an adverb "1897 GUNTER Susan Turnbull xxiii. 303 ‘Then you will all have to keep me company,’ says Miss Naughty, riantly." Try using that in casual conversation!

PuzzleGirl 2:24 PM  

Yes, I would have preferred something like "searched for a referral" for ASK AROUND.

This is the second time I've seen OLD HAT clued like this ("dated")and I've never heard it used in that context. I always thought it just meant common, comfortable, or even second nature. I guess you learn something new evrey day.

jae 3:13 PM  

RIANT was also a mystery for me. I got slowed down trying to make HYBRID an herb. That happens to me when I solve online and can't easily see all the clues.

Sue 3:37 PM  

I liked HYBRID TEA and TOILE resting above HERB GARDEN. Such a domestic corner!

Penny 4:20 PM  

These three ant-words appeared often in the ETM era.

riant - cheerful , mirthful

orant - a posture of prayer, praying figure

natant - swimming or floating

I suppose one could be all three at the same time, maybe, without going under. The orant position is one with arms raised which would be helpful in case a lifeguard were needed when the laughing stopped and the drowning began.

Whatever floats your boat.

Fergus 4:40 PM  

The verb 'to laugh' in French is 'rire' -- the standard gerund ending is 'ant' and hence RIANT, which must have slipped into English at some point, but never in any conversation I've heard. The French rarely use the gerund in the most commmon English mode, however, as in 'I am laughing.' They would just stick with 'je ris.' But for 'while laughing, ...' they would say 'en riant, ...'. A bit didactic, but I just felt like spelling it out.

I thought the AARE was condemned to hell from overuse in the 1980s.

Favorite answer was KNELL for Toll.

This Mon-Tue combo was really good. Good assortment of infomation clues to go along with vocabulary benders.

Speaking of the influence of the moon, I enjoyed the colorful display in the middle of the night. Not quite as good as when the full moon is closer to the horizon, though. Did any of you Easterners happen to catch it before dawn, when it would have still been eclipsed close to the western horizon?

Anonymous 9:14 PM  

Aare is often answered as Aar if I'm not mistaken. I kept trying to fit Aar into a four letter space to no avail.

One too many obscure words for a Tuesday I thought.

Kristen F 9:15 PM  

Riant was new to me as well. Thanks for the etymology.

I did see the eclipse this morning, thanks to an early rising toddler. My view was through the trees, but here are some nice shots from not far away in Woods Hole (where I once lived). I'd say it was a bit more orange here.

Anonymous 1:52 AM  

hey! what about riant? who ever heard of that word?
and also tiole...anyhow,
thanks for being a consistent part of an otherwise rather chaotic and inconsistent planet mr rex

Anonymous 2:41 AM  

Back from vacation, trying to catch up. I liked the two palindrome references, one explicit (33D "Madam, I'm ___), the other not (18D ELBA, which always makes me think "Able was I, ere I saw . . .")

Anonymous 6:48 PM  

From the future:

Miriam-Webster dictionary defines "riant" as gay or mirthful. OK, was only planning to use it in a conversation when sporting a tie tac at the La Brea Tar Pits anyhow.

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