TUESDAY, Dec. 19, 2006 - Sarah Keller

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Solving time: 7:46

THEME: N=>KN = very punny - familiar phrases starting with "N" have a "K" tacked on to the beginning and are then clued, e.g. 21A: Sweater selection? (knit-picking)

Further, every new "KN" word has a different vowel sound: KNIT, KNIGHT, KNOT, KNEW. Did you know that in medieval England, the "K" had not yet gone silent and was still pronounced in words like "knight?" It's true. Or so my training taught me. Perhaps my teachers were just making @#$ up. Anyway, one of the joys of reading Chaucer aloud (as I'll do in my classes from time to time) is hitting that hard "K" before the "N." Freaks kids out.

This was a pretty innocuous theme. Clever clues, I suppose, in the theme entries. I got totally flustered / floored / flummoxed by 50A: Was familiar with a summertime allergen? (Knew mown hay), in part because I had the middle and later parts of the answer first and the letter combinations looked insane, and in part because I was looking for POLLEN or RAGWEED or something like that (had just done a puzzle in one of my little Shortz books where the theme was "nothing to sneeze at" or something like that and theme answers involved puns on words like POLLEN and PEPPER and SNUFF and other things that make you sneeze - cute). Who mows hay!?!?! People who do these puzzles don't live on farms or in the 19th century. Hay? Really? OK. Now if the answer had been KNEW MOWN LAWN (1D: Homeowner's pride) - well it wouldn't have fit and I still would have struggled to see it, but at least the end result would have applied to my universe.


ANGER for WRATH (17A: Rage)
CLUB for ODDS (6A: What a tout may tout)
TBAR for LBAR (61A: Beam with a 90 degree bend)
NOSTICK for NONOILY (41D: Greaseless)

29D: Singer Lenya (Lotte)
38D: Polish-born author Sholem (Asch)

Blogged 'em before, so I'll blog 'em again. These two both return to the puzzle for the second time this month. I'd never heard of either of them before they showed up in my puzzle, though Ms. Lenya is apparently a puzzle stalwart. Can we get some new blood in the puzzle? Yes - there's Heidi KLUM ("As you know, in fashion, one moment you're in, and the next ... you're out!") (40D: Supermodel Heidi), Carrie Chapman CATT (23D: Women's suffrage leader Carrie Chapman _____) - honey, little help with that one... - Jim BACKUS (10D: Jim of "Gilligan's Island" fame), and ERLE Stanley Gardner (34D: Writer _____ Stanley Gardner), among others. Do constructors know that ERLE wrote a ton of books under the pen name A.A. FAIR? If so, why haven't I seen that answer lately (if ever)? Surely the opening double-A must come in handy sometimes, and when you're tired of A.A. MILNE and AARDVARK, why not try [E.S. Gardner pen name]?

25A: Mal de mer symptom (nausea)
62A: Bacteria in an outbreak (e-coli)

Thanks a lot for the morning (or bedtime) imagery, puzzle. Just what I want to be faced with as I'm winding down my day - disorders of the digestive tract. Breakfast table test! Actually, if these answers hadn't appeared on the same day, I'm sure I wouldn't have stopped to notice the pathology.

5D: Wisconsin city on Lake Winnebago (Oshkosh)

Little shout-out to my cheese-head friends Michelle and Jeff up in Oshkosh, even though they (like many of my friends) don't know of this blog's existence. Go ... UW-Oshkosh mascots! My mom used to love to dress me in OSHKOSH B'gosh overalls, but whose didn't? Every two-year-old looks adorable in those things.

55D: Comics dog (Odie)
42D: Old-fashioned music halls (Odea)

Surely there is some crazy theme entry crying out for construction here. Let's see... [Technological bird?] => A.V. AVIAN. ["Cuban kid off the port bow!"?] => ALEE ELIAN! ["Who wants to see my belly button?"?] => INNIE ANYONE? And [Garfield's least favorite theaters?] => ODIE ODEA. I have no idea what you call that theme, but there it is.

And lastly, I don't think I really knew 48D: Prefix with fluoride (tetra). The end.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS In keeping with yesterday's theme of CHRISTMAS / HANUKKAH / KWANZAA, I'd like to call your attention to this fantastic holiday music video treat (one of the best musical parodies I've ever seen - thanks, Steve). Andrew says I should warn you, though: it's a little ... blue. No nudity, one "swear" bleeped out (repeatedly), but ... adult content is fairly high.


Orange 7:15 PM  

Did Chaucer's peeps steal the KN pronunciation from the Germans or the Norse? (My favorite English class in college was Medieval English Lit, complete with the professor's reading of Old and Middle English verse.)

I don't know if constructors know about A.A. Fair, but I'll bet very few solvers do. Maybe the name could find its way into a Saturday puzzle's clues—ERLE being such a regular denizen of the grid.

mellocat 9:28 PM  

I've seen AAFAIR in three puzzles, most recently the Oct. 24th, 2006 CrosSynergy puzzle by Mel Rosen, clued "E. S. Gardner pseudonym". The other two I have are from the LAT, in 2003 and 2004, once on Saturday, once on Sunday. The Saturday clue was "Cool & Lam detective series author". Normally the Saturday LAT is themeless, but this one had a theme (ran on the theme subject's birthday), but from that clue I'd say the difficulty was kept up at a Saturday level.

Rex Parker 9:35 PM  

The fact that "Cool & Lam" are being kept alive in public memory, anywhere, gives me Great comfort and joy, comfort and joy.

Thanks for that very specific and detailed info, Karen.


Anonymous 9:56 PM  

What amused me about today's puzzle is that I'd gone out to get lunch, sat down to a bowl of chicken gumbo containing the obligatory okra and the puzzle, and there was okra as one of the answers. It's not even that much in the mainstream for there to be such a harmonic convergence of it!

Anonymous 1:54 AM  

Greetings from flyover country. Apparently my local papers are a month or two behind in the NYT crossword dept, so when I found your blog it took awhile to figure out how to get to your blog entry for my particular puzzle. One of the papers is kind enough to publish the creator of said puzzle....insert name into search at top of blog....wa-lah!
Let's hope the rest of the papers are not quite so dated.
The reason I'm writing is in response to one of your comments in the solution to the Monday, Nov 6, 2006 puzzle. That puzzle was reprinted in my paper yesterday 12/19, so it's new to me.
You commented that it was a joyless experience filling in a blank crossword thats already been completed. I beg to differ and offer you a challenge.
It's extremely gratifying to fill in the empty spaces when you've completed the puzzle in your head before picking up any writing utensil.
I submit that early week puzzles might be more interesting if you tried them this way. Your "06:36" times may suffer a little but you may enjoy it more.
I furthermore challenge you to someday do the Saturday puzzle in this method, You would truly be the King of Crosswords if you accomplished this.
Thanks for the blog and Merry..... oh,whatever you heathens celebrate there in the Big City.

Anonymous 3:03 AM  

You moved to the Big City?

Rex Parker 9:18 AM  

Uh ... bigger than Elmira, that's for sure.

I have done puzzles in my head before when I had no writing implement and was too lazy to go seek one out. I also used to make early-week puzzles a little harder by forcing myself to solve the entire puzzle by building off of whatever word I initially wrote in - thus if I got stuck, I couldn't skip to another part of the puzzle and start anew.

Anonymous 5:25 PM  

I can't believe I've been doing the NYT crossword for many years and have never come across your site--today I got stuck on 32A (key-signature preceder), searched it, and not only did I get the answer, but I found the entire puzzle already solved! I live in Southern CA, PST, and this was @ 9:00 a.m.--you guys are fast! I bookmarked you, but consider you extremely dangerous and will only use in dire emergency. Good work!

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