THURSDAY, Feb. 1, 2007 - Michael S. Maurer

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Solving time: 14:34

THEME: OXYMORONS (36A: What the answers to this puzzle's starred clues all are)

This took me longer than it should have for various reasons, most notably because theme answers are in two parts, and those parts are, in every case, in completely different parts of the grid. So there was a lot of eye-scanning, and clicking and re-clicking of clues, moving of cursor, etc. I'm not the biggest fan of "See X"-type cluing, but that's a personal preference, not a knock on puzzles that choose to go that way. It's OK in small doses, actually, and here, maybe there's some thematic point to having them far apart from one another, as the whole point of oxymorons is that they yoke words whose meanings are normally far away from one another.

1A: Baron von Richtohofen, e.g. (war ace)
5D: Michael of "The Mod Squad" (Cole)

These intersect at the "C," which was the last letter I filled in in the NW (we'll call it the "St. Maries, ID" portion of the grid, in honor of my grandma who lives there). The NW has some amazing fill (see OCELOT - 15A: Endangered cat - and RC COLA - Drink once pitched by Nancy Sinatra), but it took me way too long to piece together, even with the gimme RECEIVE (3D: Choice after a football coin toss) and the whole lower portion of the quadrant filled in: 22A: Romeo's last words ("I die"), 29A: State on P.S.T. (Nev.), and 33A: College sr.'s test (GRE). The "Baron von blabbadyblah" clue wouldn't come together. No idea what the name meant, but I figured, from reading a lot of "Peanuts" growing up, that it was something to do with Snoopy's alter ego "The Red Baron" - some kind of German war hero. FLYING ACE seems a more apt term than WAR ACE, which seems a stretch, but it's all a good enough fit, I suppose. You'd think, given the pop-culture-heavy content of my blog, that I'd have drooled all over a "Mod Squad" clue, but it was before my time and I had to piece COLE together Entirely from crosses. Now if you'd give me a "Maude" clue, [me kissing the tips of my fingers].

Didn't Know / Barely Knew

34A: Solar disk (aten) - I think this answer should have been clued by way of the game "Battleship"! (wink) - would that have worked? Did "Battleship" have an "A" column? If not, then ATEN should have been clued [Gymastics judge's score, perhaps] or [What Bo Derek was to Dudley Moore, once]. [Where you are when you stop after em]? Moving on...
36D: River in the D-Day invasion (Orne) - pieced it together. Not sure I've heard of it much, if at all. I know, I know, if I want to be a "real" crossword solver, I should really brush up on all things W.W. II, especially things related to battles. True. So far, all I know is ST LO. And maybe OMAHA. See also 25D: Alliance (Axis)
41A: Pulitzer-winning science author Dubos (René) - of all the RENEs in the world, this is the route you take? At least it's a common man's name and thus inferrable. Isn't this Celine Dion's husband's name? Can we clue it that way next time? Please?
37D: Candy man (Reese) - OK, I get it, REESE's Peanut Butter Cups, yes, "candy man" - I will say that in all my years of loving and inhaling said peanut butter cups, it never, ever, occurred to me that REESE was actually a person, any more than it occurred to me that HERSHEY or MARS or SNICKERS were people. SNICKERS was the name of my cat when I was growing up, by the way.
60A: Lyrical musical passages (ariosi) - in addition to W.W. II lore, I should be trying to pick up musical terminology a lot faster than I am, because it's everywhere, in every puzzle (or so it seems). Must be related to ARIA.

So nice to see SARS (53D: Modern epidemic) back in the puzzle. Doesn't that answer fail the breakfast table test? How long before SARS makes people go "?????"? "Hey, remember 2003?" "No, not really." Hmmm, maybe shouldn't be joking around about epidemics. Have a feeling bird flu will make SARS look like the common cold. "Boy I wish I could get a disease with a mortality rate of only 9.1%. Those were the days." RIATA (49D: Lasso) is one of those annoying words that won't sit still. I mean, I learned it, I know it, but I never know if it's going to be RIATA or REATA (I've seen the latter multiple times recently, despite how wrong it looks). I also get it confused with LIANA, which is a vine such as Tarzan might swing on. LIANA is also the name of a student whose Independent Study I am currently directing. A clue like 42A: Cable film channel inits. is always mildly annoying because so many letters could go in those three spaces! TCM (the actual answer), IFC, AMC, and possibly HBO. Maybe more. I would have spelled EFS (38D: Bad grades) with two F's. I was happy to see TUN (40D: Large cask) because it's super medievally, and it's nice when my Ph.D. actually comes in handy with the puzzle (not nearly often enough). Lastly, I ask myself, what is the difference between TERNS and ERNES (32D: Sea birds)? Never would have heard of either of them were it not for the NYT puzzle. That's the TERN there on the right (the "fairy TERN," actually, tehee). It too is a "Sea bird." Hmmm, ERNE, let's see... WHOA, the ERNE is a way badder looking sonofagun:

I'm surprised ERNES don't eat TERNS, as well as fish. So, to remember the difference, TERNS will "turn" away from ERNES because if they don't the ERNES will take their lunch money. Or worse.

[addendum: ERNES do not @#$# around!]

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Orange 11:40 AM  

Thank you for that illumination detour into ornithology. Now I see why ERN/ERNS/ERNE/ERNES clues often mention a "sea eagle," because that guy looks mighty aquiline.

REATA is also the ranch it Giant? Check out the etymology of lariat—comes from Sp. "la reata." So RIATA should just be wrong, and yet, it isn't.

Orange 11:48 AM  


sonofdad 12:05 PM  

Man, SARS was almost four years ago? It doesn't feel like it's been that long, but it was completely off my radar screen on that clue (I was thinking AIDS until something tipped me off that it couldn't possibly be right), so go figure.

C zar 12:05 PM  

The difference between TERNS and ERNS? As far as I can tell, a TERN a seabird that I can go see at the seashore, and an ERN is a mythical beast found only in crosswords.

I was grooving on the fact that I got ATEN. I recollect we had AMARNA in a recent puzzle a well. Turns out that history minor was useful after all! (Amarna is the ancient capital of Pharaoh AkhetATEN).

I'm not sure WAR ACE is a term one is likely to actually see used anywhere unless preceeded by the name of the war (i.e. Korean War Ace). And in those cases, WAR goes with the preceeding word rather than the word ACE.

Home sick today (bad cold), and catching up on Season One of BattleStar Galactica.

Orange 12:36 PM  

Amarna gets a shout-out in the Wikipedia article on Tripoli, Lebanon.

Anonymous 2:53 PM  

Yes, indeedy, Mars and Hershey are real people.
JOhn and Forrest Mars are (or were) legendary candy company eccentrics.
Hershey (don't remember his first name) is equally renowned in his own way. Ever hear of Hershey Pennsylvania?

Snickers belongs to Mars (as does M&M).

Anonymous 3:05 PM  

Reata Ranch, Giant, Edna Ferber, 1952.

Rex Parker 3:13 PM  

I'm less than an hour away (I think) from Hershey, PA. I'm close-ish, at any rate. So yes, I've "heard" of it. Which is why it is a Place to me, not a Person.

I have never actually had a MARS bar, but I believe I would like it far better than a SARS bar.


Orange 3:28 PM  

Milton S. Hershey, of course. (The med school at Penn State is named after him.)

Anonymous 6:47 PM  

“Oxymoron” is a single-word oxymora composed of a dependent and independent morpheme -- is there a word for that?

Rex Parker 7:00 PM  

Please to be repeating for el presidente ... i.e. I need ANANI to elaborate. ASAP. I feel as if you are speaking a language I should understand but don't.


Anonymous 7:28 PM  

Tuesday, Jan 30, is amazing. Some of that day's comments apparently were posted the next morning and afternoon in real time. And, then some of the Wednesday blog's comments harked back to Tuesday's blog. And, now I can't let it go. I have put Tuesday's blog in my favorites so I can re-read it when Rex is slow in getting the current day's blog put up.

Anonymous Fan

Anonymous 8:14 PM  

Riata, Reata, not to be confused with Raita, a delectable yogurt side dish in Indian cuisine. I wish I had some right now.

Anonymous 8:52 PM  

Sorry, el presidente --I err, “oxymora” plural -- “oxymoron” is an oxymoron” .

Query: oxy (sharp), moron (dull) combine to become a dependent-independent oxymoron -- is there a single word for a “dependent-independent single-word oxymoron”?

Or any single-word oxymoron?

Anonymous 11:02 PM  

Single-word Oxymora Composed of Dependent Morphemes:
The more in oxymoron also gives us the more in sophomore, a "wise fool" – and there are indeed many sophomoric sophomores. Other examples: pianoforte ("soft-loud"), preposterous ("before-after"), and superette ("big-small").

Single-word Oxymora Composed of Independent Morphemes:
Two meaning-bearing elements that could each be a word in itself are welded together into a single word: spendthrift, bridegroom, bittersweet, ballpoint, speechwriting, firewater and someone.

Logological Oxymora:
If we view words as surface letter combinations and disregard meaning, we note that the word nook joins the opposing words no and OK, and the name Noyes, no and yes. I welcome additional specimens from Word Ways readers.

Natural Oxymora:
Most speakers of English who know the definition of an oxymoron would have little trouble identifying the pairs inside out, student teacher, working vacation and small fortune as oxymora. I call this major category of oxymoronology "natural" because the perception of these duos as oxymora is relatively direct and effortless and does not depend on plays on words or personal values.

Anonymous 11:09 PM  

In any event, the theme of the puzzle was "OXYMORA" (plural for oxymoron) rather than "OXYMORONS".

Anonymous 6:26 AM  

Again,I get these puzzles six weeks later, anyone reading my comments? We'll see.
Within minutes, I had Alone Together (which immediately brought the song to mind) and and, er, Weekend Vacation to go with my WWI ACE. OK, there was nothing in the clue to indicate an abbreviation, but I wrote it in anyway. So then I thought maybe Agreeable Sort was some reference to WC Fields...Well, before I had time to see that that didn't fit I had NEV and GRE, and that was enough to bring these close-but-no-cigar solutions into line, and the rest was essentially a cakewalk...and of course, as soon as I came to 36A, with no letters filled in, I knew instantly that it was oxymor--...well, I did have a moment's hesitation, thinking "isn't the plural oxymora?" but, well, that didn't fit, and off I went...
Semi-random word association inspired by oxymorons (a) and...cakewalk brought busman's holiday to mind. Doing crossword puzzles is a bit of a busman's holiday for a translator...Now can I bring up the comment "when did triste become an English word?" from a few weeks back? Though I'm fluent in French, the reason I held onto that one when it started to emerge was again a song...Jobim's Triste, so named in both English and Portuguese...
Well, that's that, then.
How about a hobson-jobson theme puzzle? That could be fun...

Rex Parker 9:17 AM  


All comments get sent to me as emails, so at the very least *I* am reading them...

I don't know who Jobim is, or what hobson-jobson means. I barely know what a busman's holiday is. Thank you for plumbing the depths of my ignorance ... :)

and now I have to write today's (3/15) commentary.


cornbread hell 4:14 PM  

i was prompted to look up hobson-jobson and found this
in which i find, as part of the definition: HUSSAN HUSSAN.

clearly not to be confused with huzzah huzzah, as it has the exact opposite meaning.

your blog is so much fun. thanks,
a dallas reader.

oh, and your friend orange should look up orange in the glossary of words included in the book linked to above.

Anonymous 7:17 AM  

You know Antonio "Tom" Jobim as the (Brazilian) songwriter who brought us La Garota de Ipanema...and many lovely songs you might know (Wave, Dindi, Agua di Beber, Chega de Saudade--translated as No More Blues--One Note Samba, Desafinado...If it's Brazilian and it's a jazz standard, there's a good chance it came from Jobim.
Hobson-Johnson has it's roots in colonial India, but I learned it from Willard Espy, author of the Almanac(s) of Words at Play. It's a rhetorical term that describes words that come in from a commonly-heard foreign language and get recast in a word that sounds more like the language that local speakers are accustomed to using. An example. I think "poontang" is probably a hobson-jobson adaptation of the French "putain," and I imagine it came into the English in New Orleans, where Cajun French was in the air.
Does that meet the breakfast table test? :)
Lol, btw, at the comments on the Feb. 3 puzzle ("a heartbeat away from a gay porn script").

Anonymous 2:39 PM  

I'm just now getting to this one, 6 weeks plus a long weekend later...

I had AIR ACE instead of WAR ACE, and had no idea what word could possibly start out ICC...

I could not think of the word oxymoron even after I figured out the theme (WORKING VACATION) came right to me. Instead, I tried to think of other oxymorons in hopes of jogigng my brain. I only got "freezer burn" before giving up though.

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