THURSDAY, Nov. 16, 2006 - Kevin Donovan

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Solving time: 8:18 (on the applet)

THEME: 26D: Cry spelled out by the first syllables of 16-, 18-, 32-, 50- and 53-Across (B-I-N-G-O!) (not sure "spelled" is right here, but the meaning's transparent enough)

I torched this puzzle, especially considering that I did it on the applet, which usually @#$#s up my time because my fingers are fast but not sufficiently precise. I was within shouting distance of a 2-x-Orange time (Orange = champion solver, posts here sometimes), when normally I'm happy just to break 3-x-Orange. So, like Ice Cube, I have to say it was a good day. I'm going to have to speed through today's entry because it's not just a good day - it's a full day. Sahra's school is hosting a Feast @ noon, then I have to grade a mountain of papers and meet with students to talk about their miserable li... - I mean, bright futures - all afternoon. Sahra has karate practice this afternoon - she's testing for her Yellow Belt tomorrow! If she fails, it's cool - she's got a brand new Krypto comic at home to console her (plus parents who don't really care if she fails).

4A: Dominican-born baseball star (Sosa)
8A: Newspaper section, with "The" (Arts)

After blowing 1A: Collided, say (met) (I had HIT), it was nice to get two gimmes right away at the top of the puzzle; or rather, one gimme (Sosa making a strong bid for Pantheon status with at least his third NYT appearance in the last month) and one guess-me, which turned out to be right. I got a little bolder with my entries this time around, and it paid off. All around the puzzle I was entering my initial, gut-level response, and that seemed to work (this time): here, and in the SE with 38A: U.S. swimming star Janet (Evans) and 41D: Vegas attraction (slots), and finally in the SW with 46D: Napoleonic force (armée) and 53A (THEME): Gold seekers (Olympians). In each case I had one or zero letters and I entered what came to mind first, only to have it be right. Go with your gut! Until you're wrong, then go fish!

13A: Class of birds (aves)

This is odd to me. Aves means birds in Latin, so ... how could there be a "class" of bird that wasn't within aves? The most famous of aves - in an American context - is almost certainly the rara avis, the Maltese Falcon. There is a list-serv dedicated to the discussion of hard-boiled writing and film that calls itself "Rara-Avis," after Hammett's infamous bird. I've been a member of said list-serv for ... yikes, nine years? Has the internet even been around that long? Yes. Yes it has. By the way (sort of), Latin for "bees" is apes, a word that makes me think very fondly of trying to do my Latin homework (back in the 20th century) with my friend Shaun. Those damned apes were everywhere - a common topic of epic similes and a mainstay of Virgilian and Ovidian poetry. [addendum: I just realized that AVES is sitting right atop BEEKEEPER in this puzzle, which may have something to do with why I wanted to talk about (L.) APES. That's my excuse, anyway.]

26A: Flock sounds (baas)

Sheep and their sounds are quite common puzzle fare, probably for the luscious double-A their bleating gives a constructor. EWE is another very common answer. I like this otherwise forgettable answer today because it seems theme-appropriate: "And on that farm there was a sheep ..." wait ... that's Old MacDonald. What the hell is the difference? "There was a farmer had a dog and BINGO was his name-O."
Was the farmer Old MacDonald? Seriously, I can't tell these songs apart right now. OK, I found the BINGO song on a boyscouts webpage, and it appears to be a much less challenging version of "Old MacDonald Had A Farm" - BINGO does not change at all from verse to verse except for the substitution of a clap for one of the letters in BINGO's name in each successive verse, until by the sixth verse all you're doing is clapping five times instead of saying any letters. [OK maybe that's slightly challenging] Hmmm, to confuse matters, dog-wise, here is the very first recorded version "Old MacDonald Had a Farm":

Old Macdougal had a farm in Ohio-i-o,
And on that farm he had some dogs in Ohio-i-o,
With a bow-wow here, and a bow-wow there,
Here a bow, there a wow, everywhere a bow-wow.

Somehow "Ohio-i-o" becomes "E-I-E-I-O," proving that OHIO is this country's second silliest state name (winner = IOWA; buy a consonant!). Speaking of E-I-E-I-O (and sheep! and maybe sheepdogs!), if you are looking for a home in the beautiful Taranaki region of NZ, you can go to to start your search. Oh, I almost forgot - back when I thought sheep had something to do with BINGO, I liked that BAAS and BINGO shared a "B." Mmm, anti-climactic.

49A: Pageant prize (tiara)

Now that's what I'm talking about. That's a good clue for TIARA. None of this papal nonsense (see yesterday's puzzle). Give me good old-fashioned American shallowness and superficiality as a frame of reference any day of the week. Is your allegiance to Rome, or to your country? By jingo, I am not above papist-baiting when it comes to advocating for a better puzzle way of life for me and my kin here on the banks of the Susquehanna River in the good ol' U.S. of A.

56A: What a Frenchman thinks? (idée)

This just makes me laugh because Sahra, who is sort of learning French in school, occasionally wanders the house while repeating the rhyme "Monsieur X [pronounced 'eeks'] a une idée fixe!" - for no clear reason except that it sounds good.

17D: Poetic storytelling (epos)

I got this right away, and yet I'm not sure that I have ever, or would ever, use it in a sentence, or have ever seen or heard it used. According to the OED, what distinguishes EPOS from EPIC seems to be the storytelling - which is to say, its presumed original orality. EPOS appears to be the stuff out of which (written) epics are made, though over time EPOS had come to be understood as virtually synonymous with EPIC. Here are the definitions:
1. a. A collective term for early unwritten narrative poems celebrating incidents of heroic tradition; the rudimentary form of epic poetry. b. An epic poem: = EPIC B., EPOPEE. c. Epic poetry.
2. transf. A series of striking events worthy of epic treatment.
EPOS seems like it would make a good name for a make of car or a new gaming system.

7D: Search engine (Ask)

This is odd - I just saw my first ever TV ad for a search engine (unless you count Yahoo! ads). OK, my first ever TV ad for a non-Yahoo! search engine, and it was an ad for, which was being touted as an "interesting" or "viable" (or other tepid adjective) alternative to Google. I had never used it, still haven't used it, and am not likely to use it. Nearly everyone who hits this blog through a web search does so using Google. Google is a verb. It is like Xerox. People are going to stop distinguishing between the company and the act with which it is associated. You can Google something. You cannot Ask something. Or rather, you can ask something, namely, a question, which is why ASK sucks as a brand name. "I Googled 'Rex Parker'" makes sense. "I Asked 'Rex Parker" leaves one wondering "... asked him what?" So is doomed, doomed, doomed, as are all other search engines whose names cannot be used effectively as (previously non-existent) verbs. That's my bit of business wisdom for the day (er, year).

35D: Title girl in a Roald Dahl novel (Matilda)

First, Roald Dahl is a great children's author the likes of which hardly exist any more, primarily because he took kids' intelligence and imagination seriously. Oh, and he could tell a good story. Love those Charlie stories (the ones with chocolate and glass elevators and such). Second, Sahra is reading a Roald Dahl story right now, for school. Something about Mr. Fox. Hang on ... ah, here it is: Fantastic Mr. Fox. Sahra's homework for today was to come up with "how" and "why" questions for class discussion. We have been reading The Phantom Tollbooth at bedtime recently, which is one of the greatest kids' books ever, one that I have very powerful memories of from childhood, but one which, given its dizzying, twisted wordplay and tendency toward fairly sophisticated allegory, is probably not ideal bedtime reading. Which may be why we have stalled out in the past week and reverted to reliable stand-bys like If I Ran the Zoo, Eloise, and that mind-numbing book about loser Franklin and his stupid giant pumpkin.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


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