1980s street artist Keith - SUNDAY, Jul. 5 2009 — Mustachioed TV muckraker / Perennial N.L. leader of old / 1977 thriller co-starring Bo Derek
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Constructors: Tony Orbach and Amy Reynaldo
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: M? No, P! — familiar phrases have their "M"s turned to "P"s, creating wacky phrases, which are then clued "?"-style
Word of the Day: ETIOLATE (90D: Bleach) — v.tr.
- Botany. To cause (a plant) to develop without chlorophyll by preventing exposure to sunlight.
- To cause to appear pale and sickly: a face that was etiolated from years in prison.
- To make weak by stunting the growth or development of.
To become blanched or whitened, as when grown without sunlight.
[French étioler, from Norman French étieuler, to grow into haulm, from éteule, stalk, from Old French esteule, from Vulgar Latin *stupula, from Latin stipula.] (answers.com)
A simple theme (change-a-letter) that yields some nice results. Switch-a-letters are interesting in that, in general, they are dependent on the involved letters relating in some interesting way to one another, through some clever phrase word play like today's title letter string, MNOP, or an answer somewhere in the puzzle that tips the theme (I've seen "SPIN" used to indicate that "SP" goes "IN" to ordinary phrases to create wacky phrases, for instance). My favorite among today's phrases were STUD PUFFIN and THE POD SQUAD. Some nice non-theme fill here too. I especially like the inclusion of both GOUACHE (13A: Watercolor technique) and GOULASH (76A: This-and-that preparation ... went looking for OLIO or GALLIMAUFRY or similar word here at first). Overall I found the puzzle very easy — my fastest Sunday time in a dog's age (is that an expression or am I just inventing L'il Abnerisms now?). From a difficulty standpoint, the puzzle was basically a ton of very gettable words and ... ETIOLATE, which is a word I want to mean "lessen" or "fade away" or "thin out" or something like that ... there must be a like-sounding word that means something akin to what my brain wants. ATTENUATE? Nah, that doesn't feel right. Anyway, aside from some names I had to fish for, everything else in the grid was very familiar.
- 23A: Give Axl and Pete a break? (spell the Roses) — clearly, it is the year of Pete Rose in NYT puzzle world. This phrase threw me at first because I kept thinking the base phrase was SPILL THE BEANS.
- 33A: Tripping over a threshold, perhaps? (portal danger)
- 45A: Pea farmers? ("The Pod Squad")
- 51A: Summer apartment with no air-conditioning? (boiling pad)
- 69A: Floral Technicolor dreamcoat? (Full Petal Jacket)
- 91A: Strutting bird on an ice floe? (stud puffin)
- 94A: Residents at a Manhattan A.S.P.C.A.? (New York pets)
- 105A: Move a movie camera around a community? (pan about town)
- 122A: Explanation for an interception? (pass confusion)
Lots of old-timey women's names in the puzzle today. DOREEN (92D: One of the original Mouseketeers) seemed only vaguely familiar, and I didn't know LAVERNE at all (though getting it from crosses was simple) (125A: One of the Andrews Sisters). Joining those ladies in the mid-20th century are LOLA (41D: "Damn Yankees" vamp), ERIN (73D: A Walton), ENID (57A: English author Blyton), and MYRA (8D: Hess who was a dame). Even the ladies from comics go way back: ISIS (101A: DC Comics superheroine) goes back to 1976 and LOIS (70D: Lane in Metropolis) to 1938. Men's names were, in general, slightly more modern. SAKS is pretty old-timey (61D: "The Odd Couple" director), but Philip Seymour (not Dustin) Hoffman won the Oscar for "CAPOTE" (brilliant) just a few years ago (82D: 2005 Hoffman title role), and MILO Ventimiglia currently stars on "Heroes" and is responsible for a comic I read that appears to have died or gone on hiatus but was pretty good while it lasted — "Rest." Also, before he was famous, he made a guest appearance on "Sabrina: The Teenage Witch," Season 1. I learned this from first-hand experience, thanks to my daughter's current DVD-renting proclivities.
My only area of struggle in this puzzle (and it was brief) was in the SE, where RHONE for RHINE (111D: River straddled by Basel, Switzerland) and DREGS for DROSS (110D: Chaff) gave me PASSCENFUSOON on my first pass at 122A. Also stumbled very briefly near the middle of the grid, where I initially stuck SÉNATS (!?) where JUNTAS belonged (71D: Postrevolutionary councils). Else, aces. Not to be confused with ACERS (7D: Deliverers of the unreturnable), a variation of which has been in about half the damned puzzles I solved this weekend.
- 1A: Wind source (gas bag) — that's a great 1A.
- 13D: Mustachioed TV muckraker (Geraldo) — See 1A. (Love the word "mustachioed" btw)
- 72D: Language akin to Yupik (Aleut) — also the name of the people who speak it. Alaska and Hawaii have been good to crosswords.
- 84A: Fourier series function (sine) — thankfully, no real math knowledge was required to get this.
- 115A: Interlaken's river (Aare) — crosswordesey flower that helped me sort out the whole PASSCENFUSOON mess.
- 3D: Extended operatic solo (scena) — forgot this word. Like ARIOSO, it's an opera term that's useful to know for crosswords.
- 16D: Perennial N.L. leader of old (Aaron) — yuck. Leader of What? I need a stat. He's not a team, so he's not literally leading the N.L. Home run leader? R.B.I. leader. You can't use "leader" this ridiculously generic way in baseball. Is it that he was captain of his team? If so, that's still pretty weak.
- 24D: 1980s street artist Keith (Haring) — if you don't know his name, you've probably at least seen his very recognizable and iconic work.
- 34D: Dobbin's nibble (oat) — Dobbin is a special hobbit-sized horse. Not true, but should be.
- 48D: "Superman II" villainess (Ursa) — when you're sick and tired of constellation clues, you can always turn to "Superman II."
- 60D: 1977 thriller co-starring Bo Derek ("Orca") — this clue makes me laugh. I never saw this movie, but I'm guessing hilariously bad.
[How high was Dino De Laurentiis in the 70s?]
- 68D: Co-founder of the Nonaligned Movement (Nehru) — identical clue used for TITO a while back.
- 118D: Cuzco inhabitant (Inca) — "Cuzco" sounds like liquor. Or a Mexican "Costco."
- kanedaniel Dear New York Times crossword, I hate you SO much right now.
- timinhouston At brunch. 2 couples @ bar (jointly) working on crossword puzls. The salvation of printed newspapers?
- accordingtonina Me: Who's Foghat? Mom: He was doing a crossword too so half way thru flight we exchanged. Me: What? Mom: Yea, he's so cool.
- Liz_Whittemore I thought the guy was drunk. I was mistaken. He was just doing xword puzzles while driving. My mistake. Carry on sir.
- arjunbasu He says, I'd like to eat you. She says, You smell like lobster but in a bad way. And so they go back to doing their crossword puzzles alone.
- BillyDoc Soon I found myself hunched over a crossword with her. Our faces were inches apart. It was magical.
- BenJimenez This crossword must be broken. I'm not getting most of the clues
- illogicalvulcan Once again baffled by the Times crossword due to the fact that my program doesn't print circles. Also, I cannot spell.
- jkru finishing a crossword in a bed that is not inflatable = WIN.
- aiela The Scrabble documentary is nearly as good as the Crossword one but not as good as the Donkey Kong one because nothing is.
- rndrum 5 adults vs. 1 TV Guide crossword puzzle book. This might go better with booze...
- JenniferGarza I did the crossword puzzle in back of the Frosted Mini Wheats box in less than 2 minutes! hehe It was SO easy! http://twitpic.com/98n3m
- kenjamin23 Is paying 80 cents a day just to do the Crossword puzzle. lmao
- carolermp Coffee and crossword time then off later to nursing home to see elderly gentleman and make his day.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]