Mexican-style fast food chain —SUNDAY, Aug 2 2009— Semiterrestrial organism / Group formed at CCNY in 1910 / Roof of World natives / C&W singer Wooley
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Constructor: Patrick Berry
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: "Group Formation" — four FRATERNITIES (108A: Four groups found in this puzzle) are located throughout the grid, with their GREEK LETTERS (23A: Contents of four answers found in this puzzle) entered into squares rebus-style (i.e. the whole greek letter, spelled out (or drawn in, if you like), goes into a single square).
[NOTE: applet won't let me write five-letter words in a single square, so some of the GREEK LETTERS are represented below by only their first letters]
Word of the Day: M.I.R.V. [M(ultiple) I(ndependently-targeted) R(eentry) V(ehicles).] (36A: Weapon with many warheads) — n.
- An offensive ballistic missile system having warheads aimed at independent targets that can be launched by a single booster rocket.
- One of these warheads.
I have this strange feeling that people are going to be divided on this one. I really liked it, but I can people getting frustrated as hell with the GREEK LETTERS, mainly because 99% of the world (maybe more) is not going to be able to get any of the FRATERNITIES except through crosses. This means those GREEK LETTERS are essentially unchecked, i.e. you've got one shot at them — the cross. If you don't know the cross, or can't make something non-nonsensical out of the cross, you're screwed. You're also semi-screwed if you don't have a pretty thorough knowledge of the Greek Alphabet. Most people out there are probably something like me: you know all the GREEK LETTERS, but after Epsilon, you don't know them in order any more. PSI? I know it's out there, maybe near the end. OMEGA's at the end, I know that. Everything else ... well, let's just say I'm glad I do crosswords regularly, as I've seen nearly ever GREEK LETTER as an answer at some time or another.
The FRATERNITIES (and their crosses):
- 34A: Group formed at C.C.N.Y. in 1910 [Tau][Delta][Phi]
- 14D: Social reformer Margaret Fuller, to Buckminster Fuller (grea TAU nt) — where I first discovered the theme. Knew it had to be AUNT and so started looked at what letters could be rebused. Saw TAU and put it in. Noticed the cross was a college organization, and knew what I was in for. Didn't think it would be such a struggle.
- 35D: Mexican-style fast food chain (DELTA co) — this is brutal. DEL TACO is very regional, isn't it? I haven't seen once since I left California (never saw one in southern Michigan or central NY or ... really anywhere since I left CA). Only way I got it was by running through the Greek alphabet (thankfully, DELTA is in the one part of the Greek alphabet I can actually run through).
- 26D: Meryl Streep title role (So PHI e) — as in "SOPHIE's Choice"
- 39D: Group formed at Miami University in 1839 [Beta][Theta][Pi]
- 37A: Roof of the World natives (Ti BETA ns) — another toughie wherein I was rescued by knowing the first five letters of the Greek alphabet in order.
- 47A: Accepting bribes (on THETA ke)
- 50A: 1971 album dedicated to Buddy Holly ("American PI e")
- 79D: Group formed at Trinity College in 1895 [Alpha][Chi][Rho]
- 78A: Co-organizer of the Montgomery bus boycott, 1955 (R ALPHA bernathy)
- 87A: Bavaria and others, once (du CHI es)
- 91A: Engine attachment (ai RHO se)
- 93A: Group formed at Howard University in 1911 [Omega][Psi][Phi]
- 90D: Match played at the local arena (h OMEGA me) — this and TIBETANS are probably my favorite of the rebus answers.
- 85D: Product with a circular red, white and blue logo (Pe PSI) — seemed like a near-gimme to me, but wife couldn't figure it out easily, so maybe it will trip some people.
- 86D: Semiterrestrial organism (am PHI bian) — clue threw me for a loop. I went looking for an organism that lived sometimes on earth, sometimes in outer space. I was probably influenced in my thinking by nearby ROMULAN (58D: Pointy-eared "Star Trek" character).
The puzzle is odd both because of the theme answers that are virtually ungettable without the crosses, and because of the small amount of real estate the theme squares take up — just 36 squares! That's below the minimum for weekday puzzles. This opens the grid way up and allows for some really playful and interesting non-theme fill. Probably a bit more popculturey than some people might like, but I'm not some people. Loved the vintage rock and roll of "THE RIVER" (4D: 1980 double album by Springsteen) and Roger DALTREY (87D: The Who's lead singer).
Lots of entertaining TV/movie clues today, with the aforementioned ROMULAN, as well as MO MONEY (64A: 1992 Damon Wayans comedy), EMMA (31D: Novel on which "Clueless" is based), AMNESIAC (106A: Jason Bourne, in the Bourne series), LONI (13D: Actress Anderson), and TONTO (115A: Jay Silverheels role). What's most impressive to me, though, are the long Downs that cascade down this puzzle. The kooky-sounding BAILIWICKS (69D: Areas of expertise) and RIPPLIEST (29D: Most corrugated) offset by the more common but no less lovely YOUR HONOR (61D: Term for a judge) and ASKS AROUND (12D: Gets several views). The whole puzzle is expertly and smoothly filled throughout. But it's Patrick Berry at work here, so no big surprise.
- 31A: Fictional Plaza Hotel resident (Eloise) — I remember "ELOISE" from my childhood. The illustrations were wonderful, especially the ones with the giant cutaways of the building where you could see the paths she took running around the hotel. I also remember that her nanny had a huge rear end (can't find a decent pic, but see p. 19 if you've got the book; nice profile view). Kind of like Mrs. Pigglewiggle (another literary figure from my childhood ... what is it with my childhood and big-assed fictional women? I'll ask my mom when she gets back from Iceland).
- 45A: Given an eyeful, you might say (maced) — that's just a great clue.
- 67A: Womanizers, slangily (tom cats) — Mmm, "slangily." Feels like this word's been in hiding for a while.
- 72A: Subjects of pneumography (lungs) — it's "know your Greek" day today at the puzzle.
- 114A: Retro headgear (fedora) — I was looking for some kind of beanie with a propeller on it. I never see anyone wearing a FEDORA (except on the covers of my old paperbacks), so I don't think of them as "retro."
- 6D: C&W singer Wooley (Sheb) — yikes. Unknown, despite a vague feeling I've seen him before.
- 16D: Skin So Soft seller (Avon) — wanted ALMAY or OLAY.
- 18D: Asian bovines (yaks) — wow, Asian? Really? I guess so. Never stopped to think about it.
- 64D: Nyasaland, nowadays (Malawi) — long, thin, landlocked country in SE Africa on the western side of Lake ... MALAWI.
- 67D: New Journalism pioneer Gay (Talese) — keep meaning to read him, but bookstore keeps meaning not to stock anything he's ever written. Someday: the library.
- 80D: Wisconsin home of Lawrence University (Appleton) — also the home town of Cousin Larry on "Perfect Strangers." I think.
- 96D: Dean's 1960s singing partner (Jan) — here's some more rock-and-roll for you.
- 100D: Red's pal in "The Shawshank Redemption" (Andy) — and some more movie trivia.
And now, the Puzzle Tweets of the Week (crossword chatter culled from Twitter ... actually, a few of these are left over from last week):
- linajk I could totally do the crossword without his help. But I don't want him to know that...
- avi_dan Except for David Brooks and the crossword puzzle the NYT is completely irrelevant. What a useless bore!
- BHBADDEST serial killers like jigsaw hella think shit out you gotta know crosswords word search be able to understand pictures to damn much work
- doctorshaw 14 bucks to get wireless for 24 hrs on vacation solely to DL the week's #crossword collection. Not able to do gaffney on the iPhone = sucks! ["gaffney" = Matt Gaffney's Weekly Crossword Contest]
- kevin_nealon: Very proud of myself...just completed my first NY Times crossword puzzle! Now all the squares are black.
- ecdahl watching the Corpse Bride, doing the BUST crossword, and eating PB & J. i love saturdays! [that one's for Deb Amlen]
- JulieGomoll Doing my first vowel-less crossword puzzle. ts btch [Get Frank Longo's allegedly excellent "Vowelless Crosswords" here]
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]