TUESDAY, Feb. 13, 2007 - Nancy Salomon and Harvey Estes

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Solving time: 6:13

THEME: Adjective-name phrases, some of which rhyme, some of which alliterate... - e.g. 38A: Hardly a beauty queen (Plain Jane)

This theme is a bit clunky for a number of reasons. The first being ... well, you can tell from the description of the theme, above. GLOOMY GUS (67A: Sourpuss), DAPPER DAN (61A: Natty dresser), and NICE NELLY (21A: Prude) alliterate, while HANDY ANDY (17A: Do-it-yourselfer) and PLAIN JANE rhyme. I see that they are all names that have become generalized expressions for a particular type of person, but I'm not a fan of the non-uniformity. The second reason this theme is off: actually, it's just one answer that is off: NICE NELLY. If I had asked you, before this puzzle, to think of an expression for a kind of person that involved the name NELLY, what would you have said? That's right, you would have said NERVOUS NELLY, which gets four times as many hits when Googled as a complete phrase than NICE NELLY does. My mediocre time today is almost entirely attributable to trouble in the NICE NELLY answer, specifically the "Chicago" portion of the answer (or maybe it's "Evanston," and NICE NELLY attends COLLEGE (11D: Hall locale) at NORTHWESTERN). Even with Pantheon stalwart Brian ENO (22D: Brian of early Roxy Music) in there supporting my efforts, I really really stumbled trying to get NICE into place. The Downs didn't help. I thought that in 7D: Nostalgic number (oldie), "number" actually meant a numeral. Then I thought "nostalgia" must be for a vague time in the past, like the OLDEN days. Ugh. Further, nobody has bought anything COD since the 1970's, so I had PAY NOW for 8D: What you may have to do for goods bought by mail order (pay COD). Again, I don't mind scratching for answers, but when the payoff is the dubious NICE NELLY... I say PFUI.

12D: Lake on the edge of Kazakhstan (Aral Sea)
30A: Wealthy widow (dowager)

These are two of the very few legitimately interesting pieces of fill. I can't believe I'm ... however old I am, and I don't know the technical difference between a "sea" and a "lake." Is the former just a big latter? I love DOWAGER because it makes me think of Marx Brothers movies and Strangers on a Train (the movie, where there is a great scene with Bruno charming a couple of guileless dowagers ... the scene ends with his going off into a kind of trance and nearly strangling one of them right in the middle of a crowded party; it's funny, I swear). I feel as if a "wealthy dowager" has been used to comedic effect on "The Simpsons" too, but I can't remember the scene (and I think whatever it was, it was a reference to a Marx Bros. film).

Pop Culture
  • 16A: Bond before Dalton (Moore) - took me forever because I was thinking of a much more recent era. MOORE was the Bond of my childhood, so it pains me to miss this. He was suave. People dis him in relation to Connery, but I always loved Roger MOORE. Watch Octopussy and see why.
  • 28A: Ja Rule's genre (rap) - now if JA RULE were the fill, that would be awesome...
  • 66A: "The Tempest" spirit (Ariel) - [yawn]
  • 69A: Fan mags ('zines) [yawn]
  • 70A: Rick's love in "Casablanca" (Ilsa) [zzzzzzz...]
I'm doing a lot of SNIPING (44D: Taking potshots) today - that's some good fill, by the way - but I can't find much to get excited about. There's a lot of tepid, tired fill and not a lot of sizzling bacon action. Even SOLARIA (43D: Sunrooms) is feeling old hat to me today. I guess it beats ATRIA. DAMASK (59A: Reversible fabric) is nice and Shakespearean (to go with ARIEL, I guess). And APEAK (37A: Vertical, at sea) is a word I've never heard of, so that's fresh. But otherwise ... just look around. Lots of familiar faces doing familiar things. Ho + hum. And why is it that ORANGE(S) (47D: Juicy fruits) is getting more action than REX lately!? REX is so much smaller and handier, and yet I feel as if I've seen ORANGE several times since I've last seen REX. Here Rex! Here boy! Where are ya .... boy!? ORANGES intersects BEET (71A: Borscht need), which would be a nasty combination. A nicer combination = ORANGES and PEEL (62D: Banana discard). As for 49D: Learns easily (takes to) - well, it's fair, but do I like it? NYET (73A: Nikita's "no")! I think of TAKES TO as meaning "has an affinity for" or "likes" more than simply "learns." But whatever. I'm done. Off to prep my classes and brace for an impending gigantic NEW YORK (13D: Buffalo's home) snow storm.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS DAPPER DAN has fond memories associated with it for me, as it was the name of a doll that my sister and I played with when we were very small. He was very smiley and soft and dressed in garish 70's colors, as I remember. DAPPER for his day.


Anonymous 3:35 PM  

Maybe NICE NANCY (as in Solomon) has a better ring? Is she on the endangered list or what...

I take a lake is fresh water and a sea is salt water -- but Webster's hedges on the definition of sea while being more exact in relation to a lake, although that publication takes a decided stance on ARAL SEA. Other than that it appears some lakes are called seas that are not, but few or no seas are called lakes. What?!?!!

Nice picture of dowager being strangled here:


Anonymous 4:49 PM  

From the "quick definitions" of OneLook.com (a very handy reference):

A sea is a "division of an ocean or a large body of salt water partially enclosed by land". And usually named for a color, e.g. Red, Yellow, White, Black. A lake is a "body of (usually fresh) water surrounded by land". And usually named for an animal, e.g. Beaver, Eagle, Goose, Bear.

But seriously, a sea is just a part of an ocean, and a lake is an inland (surrounded on all sides by land) body of water. The Dead Sea and the Aral Sea (among others) were simply misnamed because they appeared so vast to the human eye. And, the Great Lakes may rightfully be called inland seas. Hope this helps.

Yours in mapping the world (and I use "azimuth" nearly every day in my work).

Anonymous 4:57 PM  

Hope you know that color/animal reference was supposed to be humorous (though accurate by NYT clueing standards). Hard to tell sometimes in print, and I don't know from emoticons.


Anonymous 6:03 PM  

For kratsman:

Here's a simple wink emoticon ;) to use to signify intended humor and goodwill, should you care to. Somewhat more manly-looking wink emoticons are ;-) and ;+)
Hope this helps. Feel free to copy and paste as appropriate.

Anonymous 6:39 PM  

Nice Nelly was also an answer (clued with "prudish" I believe) in the free nytimes.com crossword this week. I was sort of amazed to see it repeated here. Not too odd I suppose as the free puzzle was from years ago, just a strange coincidence.

Also I particularly enjoyed LANCE(65A: It may be at a tilt). Totally not what I was originally thinking when I saw the clue.

Anonymous 10:11 PM  

no offense, but I think I'd rather risk being misunderstood than use goofy looking stuff like that.

Chance 5:35 PM  



Anonymous 5:17 AM  

I was anticipating seeing a mugshot of George Clooney over yonder. I thought of him as soon as I filled in DAPPER DAN. In "O Brother, Where Art Thou" it was the brand of hair gel he *had* to have.

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