WEDNESDAY, Feb. 21, 2007 - Elizabeth C. Gorski

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Solving time: 8:33 (on paper)

THEME: -[vowel]DDY??? - 3 long theme answers have word(s) that end -DDY in them:

  • 20A: Slangy question from a benefactor, maybe ("Who's your daddy?")
  • 36A: 1964 party song by Manfred Mann ("Do Wah Diddy Diddy")
  • 50A: Stuffy sort (old fuddy duddy)
A pretty uninspired theme, but a much better puzzle overall than yesterday's. If a theme is very hard (or awkward) to explain, as this one was, then that's a good indication it's not that strong. We don't get -DDY with all the vowels, just three of them, and one of the theme answers has just One -[vowel]DDY part, where the other two have two. Lastly, the spelling of that Manfred Mann song is very counterintuitive (which is nobody's fault but Manfred Mann's, but it needed saying).

14A: El Cid, to Spaniards (hero)

If this had been [El Cid, e.g.], I would have liked it better. "To Spaniards" implies that the answer is a Spanish word, and while HERO may in fact be a Spanish word, it's also an English word, so the "to Spaniards" really does nothing but muddy the waters. I was expecting something much more Spain-specific.

16A: Title girl in a 1986 Starship hit (Sara)
Storms are brewing in your eyes
Yes, it's terrible, but it beats hell out of "We Built This City on Rock 'n' Roll." PS if you really really want to make me happy, you will construct a puzzle crammed with 1986 pop culture. All of it somehow stuck to me like glue - or some worse substance, as the case may be.

23A: Prosperity (weal)

Ew. Gross word. Sounds like what little pig does when you grab it by its hind legs and take it off to become bacon. I don't believe the word WEAL is Ever used these days except perhaps in the (archaic, but still somehow in-the-language) Common WEAL. Must be related to WEALTH, right? In fact, WEALTH seems the better answer for a clue like [Prosperity]. It's like someone got lazy and couldn't be bothered to write that final "TH," and then WEAL just took on a life of its own. And so now we're stuck with a stupid, useless word that sounds like a frightened animal sound. Stupid lazy scribes.

24A: Style of shorthand, informally (Gregg's)

I feel as if we've had this before, but I didn't know it then, and I don't know it now.

42A: Cancellation (No Go)

I GO, YOU GO, We all GO for NO GO. GIGO! For a full list of NOGO-rhyming and NOGO-affiliated words, see one of the reader comments on yesterday's commentary. Oh, and we can add to that list a gigantic variant, GOO GOO (28D: Baby talk).

49A: Author Sholem (Asch)

This marks one of the first times that blogging some obscure (to me) answer has benefited me in the future. I blogged about Mr. ASCH several months back, and today I stared at A-C- and knew that I knew the answer ... and then it came to me, bam! So awesome. I mean, it's just two letters there, but I was happy to recall an answer I'd previously missed. This happened previously with AURIGA, a ridiculously obscure astronomical answer that I've seen Twice now in puzzles.

58A: Kind of artery (iliac)

A pretty specific kind of artery for a Wednesday. I somewhat resent that both ILIAL and ILIAC appear to be accepted adjectival forms. There was a Saturday puzzle a while back where the answer was ILIAL (I had originally written ILIAC), and today the answer is ILIAC (I had originally written ILIAL). Make up your minds!

41A: "Gosh" ("Aw, gee")
56A: Suffix with stink (-eroo)
60A: Highly distasteful (icky)

What are: things Dennis the Menace might say!? "AW, GEE, you StinkEROO, that's ICKY!" "Oh, don't be an OLD FUDDY DUDDY (50A)." EROO and ICKY are in the deep SW, or "San Diego" portion of the puzzle, one of two places I got a little bogged down. EROO and ICKY weren't the problem. Rather, I thought 63A: Brokerage initialism was NYSE, not NASD. Is NASD short of NASDAQ? And if so ... well, it's not that short. Did not help that I also didn't know one of the Down crosses, 48D: Earl _____, first African-American to play in the N.B.A. (Lloyd), although I feel I should have. It's Black History Month, so this clue is somewhat timely, I guess.

9D: Education (pedagogy)
31D: Ancient dweller of modern Iran (Mede)

PEDAGOGY is one of those academic buzzwords that I have to live with every day of my life, so that was easy. No one can just say "teaching" any more. Ugh. Anyway, I first learned about MEDEs not as a student, but as a teacher, i.e. through my PEDAGOGY - as a T.A. in a very very massive Great Books course, which all Honors freshmen were required to take at Michigan. I think there are MEDEs in Herodotus. Yes, there are.

45D: Excites, with "up" (psychs)

Man that's a hard word to see with only partial fill in place. The "C" is from ILIAC, so you can see why I was wondering which version of that adjective was right - I couldn't think of any words that ended -YCHS. Trust me, if PSYCHS is not in your head, as it is now, -YCHS just looks nuts, and if you're not entirely sure of the letters, then you start second-guessing yourself. Sholem ASCH gave me the "S," which made the answer obvious, but only after much time-wasting struggle.

51D: 1997 Peter Fonda title role (Ulee)
52D: Naturalist Fossey (Dian)

Crossword constructors everywhere should pay annual homage to Ms. Fossey and Mr. ULEE, as they represent some of the crutchiest, get-you-out-of-a-jam, what-can-I-fit-here four-word fill around. Very Pantheonic. ULEE is just an ugly (UGLEE) word, though, so I won't let it in the Pantheon. As for DIAN ... we'll see.

3D: Bowed, in music (arco)

ARCO is the first word I ever learned from my daughter. The first puzzle-worthy word, anyway. Needless to say, she is taking violin lessons. Since learning ARCO, I have used it at least twice in crosswords. Lesson: pay attention to 6-yr-olds! There's wisdom in between the crazy stories about monkeys and princesses.

65A: Cries during a bikini waxing? (yows)

Um ... why is there a question mark in this clue? It's pretty literal.

And lastly:

11D: "The Company of Women" author, 1980 (Mary Gordon)

Nope. Never heard of her. Sounds like a title that I would have seen on my mom's (massive) bookshelves back in the day, like Nora Ephron's Scribble Scribble and Gail Sheehy's Passages - why those are the very first books that leap to mind, I have no idea.

Have a nice day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Orange 10:06 AM  

I tried to read up on MARY GORDON last night. What little I saw shouted, "These books are not of interest to me."

There are few enough world-famous female scientists who are household names—don't go knocking DIAN. And have you seen Ulee's Gold? Also notable for giving the actress who played Tim's eye-rolling wife on Home Improvement a chance to do non-eye-rolling dramatic work.

Apparently Nasdaq was spun off from NASD.

I kinda like those entries that have a wild-card spot, like ILIA(C/L), ALI(I/A), and IR(E/K). Keep you on your toes.

My mom used to write Gregg shorthand in her STENO pad.

I think Wang Chung's "Dance Hall Days" can rival "We Built This City" for sheer unrelenting awfulness.

Also, the theme entries all end with D(vowel)DDY, with those end words in alphabetical order.

Rex Parker 10:29 AM  

Oh, right, D-vowel-DDY. The FUDDY threw me, making me think the theme was just vowel-DDY. The alphabetical order thing ... well, as you yourself have stated, that's pretty standard. I didn't think it worth noting.

Gorski Gives Good Grid.

I know that sounds profane, but I think it apt. APT!

Yes, ILIA(L/C) does have a curveball, devil-may-care, anything-could-happen air about it. It's such a high-end word, that I accept its spelling variants. My consternation was somewhat mock.


Alex S. 10:54 AM  

I still have no idea what a BMOC is (I'm sure I could look it up, but it frustrated me so since that O was the one thing keeping me from finishing the puzzle with no assistance.

But eventually I completed the puzzle by just putting in vowels until the server told me I was right.

Still don't even know if "University class pres." is a "class president" or a "class presenter."

I had all the D's in Old Fuddy Duddy before any other letter so for a moment I was wondering if somehow it would be 13 consecutives D's (maybe 13 D's is an aural pun I was missing or something). The theme may ont have been inspired but had the benefit that once you got one it rendered the others pretty obvious.

Taking typing in high school has long been one of the most useful things I did in my public school years and now it helps in another way. I no longer remember a lick of Gregg's Shorthand but I remembered its name.

I've been price shopping LCD TVs recently and haven't yet run into a Sanyo in any of the local stores, but I suppose they must make them.

I really liked the misdirection of 20-20, e.g. being DRAW. One of those where even after I had all the letters from the accrosses it still took me a moment to get it (without feeling it was unfair).

Anonymous 11:01 AM  

Alex: Tsk, tsk! BMOC is Big Man On Campus, Webster's lists it -- never doubt her, Gorski's hot!

Rex Parker 11:15 AM  

I don't think Alex was "doubting" Gorski. Just frustrated at his own ignorance (as I am, at my own ignorance, nearly every day). Do today's NY Sun puzzle and then I can discuss my painful ignorance(s) with you further. Today's winners: Burmese writers and Beck songs.


Anonymous 11:46 AM  

Maybe having "20-20" as "draw" was clever, but of course in some contests (volleyball, table tennis, etc.), a 20-20 score is not a draw but is, as would be said in tennis, "deuce," because while these games normally end at 21, you have to win by two, etc.

Colonel Kustard 12:30 PM  

good to see another michigan honors survivor, yet my great books experience provided little help on this puzzle. for good reason, i abandoned the books to pursue business. keep up the good work.

Linda G 1:08 PM  

I do enjoy Wednesday puzzles, especially when I finish them without Googling. Actually, I use Dogpile, but making it into a verb sounds disgusting.

Had SIDEB instead of BSIDE for a while, so none of the NE crosses were making sense. Finally remembered SARA which straightened me out.

I also questioned the question mark in 65A. Maybe Elizabeth has a high pain threshhold. Anyway, ? usually means something funny, and there's nothing funy about bikini waxings. Yow!

Campesite 1:20 PM  

I like this puzzle for "Who's your daddy" alone. I too liked Ulee's Gold but it seems that Peter Fonda's performance is making it into at least one puzzle a week. I'd like to see it retired for awhile.

Anonymous 3:02 PM  


Nice subtle Simpson's reference. Reminds me of "You've been usurped. That's right, I said usurped."


Anonymous 5:27 PM  

Had to limit myself to one a day, had become a crossword addict with gaunt eyes and trembling fingers deep into the night, oblivious during the day and absolutely unbearable, put on an adult diaper, shaved my head and stalked Will Weng -- one day I woke up surrounded by LMOC (Little Men on Campus) nipping and gnawing like something out of Jonathan Swift -- so the New York Sun, I really don't care!

Anonymous 7:51 PM  

Another sequence of letters that was hard to crack was the DWARFING answer. Because I couldn't fathom AW GEE, nothing occurred to me and it seemed a wrong letter combo even though I felt confident of the crosses. PSYCHS was easier somehow.

On another topic, many of you reference what you expect of the puzzle on certain days of the week, and grouse a bit when those expectations are dashed. May I ask what exactly the expectations are? Other than that they get progressively harder, I'm not sure I have this figured out yet. Like, do rebuses happen only on certain days, generally? Themeless is only at the end of the week? What are others?

Anonymous 11:22 PM  


Quote from

Margaret Farrar, the first crossword editor of The Times (from 1942 to 1969), instituted the idea of having the puzzles become more difficult as the week went on. Monday's was the easiest, and Saturday's was, as she said, "a two-cups-of-coffee puzzle." Mr. Shortz believes he has "increased the slope of difficulty further, with Monday's puzzle now perhaps a bit easier than before, and the Friday and Saturday puzzles more difficult than they used to be. The goal is to have something for everyone, both beginners and veterans."

Suggest searching the mind of Mr. Shortz for other information in regard to your questions.

Anonymous 11:24 PM  

Arg. After today's puzzle, I am sure that I will be the last one sitting at the ACPT, scratching my head over what should be obvious. I am spending way too much time playing arco instead of practicing crosswords if I am going to enter...

Orange 12:30 AM  

Thursday is known as "gimmick day"—most (but not all) of the NYT crosswords with rebuses, backwards or upside-down entries, etc., appear on Thursdays.

Monday and Tuesday are about equally easy, while Saturdays are generally tougher than Fridays.

Anonymous 4:05 AM  

Mary Gordon was 2 years ahead of me at Barnard (and Liz Gorski was 3 classes behind me), so that was a gimme. I think Gordon is famous enough outside the Barnard alumnae universe to be in a Thursday NYT.

I took Gregg notehand in 8th grade, got a 100 average, and now can't read the gobbledygook I wrote at the time.

I agree with the above commenter that typing was the most useful skill I ever learned.

Anonymous 9:19 AM  

I didn't realize "Neon Deion" was a crossword staple. I think he's better know as "Prime Time", which fits and threw me off for a bit.

Anonymous 12:53 PM  

I also had SIDEB instead of BSIDE, which cost me the northeast section (it led to SOPH instead of BMOC, HEW instead of CAN, etc).

This one took me 12 minutes (my Wednesday average is just under 11.

As to the difficulty increasing as the week goes on, here are my daily averages in minutes:
M 4.8
T 6.8
W 10.8
T 16.6
F 21.3

I haven't timed enough Saturday and Sunday puzzles to get a good measure for those days.

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