SUNDAY, Mar. 18, 2007 - Craig Kasper

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Solving time - mid 20's, on paper
THEME: "Initial Substitutions" - X + Y phrases are crossed at an ampersand (&) by the initials of X and Y, e.g.

18A: Tenant's desire (room & board)
4D: Music category (R & B) - "R" for "room," "B" for "board"

I was quite stunned to see that many people apparently did not grasp the theme, even once they'd finished the puzzle. Few themes have made themselves known to me more clearly than this one. First thought: rebus (ampersand where a letter should go). Check the ampersand cross, and there it is. My first reaction to discovering the theme was: "wow ... cool." Usually in rebus puzzles the answers that intersect at the rebus don't have anything to do with each other, but here they are intimately connected. Plus the ampersands have rotational symmetry, so ... sweet! Theme was very easy. All the phrases are well within the language and once you know the theme, all the ampersand crosses are gimmes. To make up for this easiness, the non-theme fill was harder than your average Sunday - I genuinely struggled in three different regions of the puzzle. But, while architectural feats like this one often involve compromises in the elegance of the non-theme parts of the grid, all things considered, the trade-off here was worth it. A truly clever Sunday puzzle idea. The Ampersand Pairings:

20A: Really rough (down & dirty)
13D: Game with orcs and half-elves (D&D) - the nerds also get 90A: 1999 "Star Wars" release ("Episode I") today

9D: First two (Adam & Eve)
32A: "American Justice" network (A&E)

48D: Sign at a store clothing bin (mix & match)
66A: Candy treat (M&M)

67A: Basic infirmities (aches & pains)
62D: Store chain since 1859 (A&P)

41D: Equal alternative (Sweet & Low)
70A: Cousin of a credit union (S&L)

86D: Fishing gear (rod & reel)
102A: It's typically off base (R&R) - rest & relaxation

119A: Bruised (black & blue)
114D: Offerer of cozy accommodations (B&B) - bed & breakfast

120A: Nursery rhyme dish (curds & whey)
118D: Musical genre (C&W) - Country & Western

The hard parts

The "ARIZONA" portion:

BERET (109A: Round top) was at the epicenter of problems I was having ... down there. Had the -ERE- part and still couldn't see it. Had to guess (correctly) at 110D: "The ability to describe others as they see themselves": Lincoln (tact) in order to get the final "T" which then allowed me to see the initial "B" - which led me to my next big problem ... down there. With the "B" in place, I figured that 109D: Shy must be BALK (where "Shy" is a verb), but that gave me the odd-looking BIKEL for 122A: Theodore of "The Defiant Ones." BIKEL ended up being correct, thank god. BIKEL's career in film spans 50 years. Neeeeeeeeeever heard of him.

The "COLORADO" portion:

Teeny answers screwed me up royally over here. First, the requisite arbitrary Latin date, in this case 68D: Year in the reign of Antoninus Pius (CLV) was unknown to me in its last latter for a long time because I could not see 79A: Major player in the movie biz? (VCR) [a clue I do Not like, for reasons not least of which is the VCR's near obsolescence]. I just had -C- for a while, because of the aforementioned Latin and because 80D: Hi-_____ (Res) wanted only to be Hi-FIS. I really really hate the phrase Hi-RES, for irrational reasons. It just rubs me wrong. RES crossed the word that baffled me for far too many seconds, a word I was forced to write out at the puzzle margins just get a better view of it: H-RAL-S. My brain couldn't put it together. Even without the clue, you can see that only one word (I think), and it's common, can go there. But even with the clue - 85A: Proclaims - I drew blanks. Once I wrote it out in big letters on paper, the answer came quickly. Sometimes the cramped feel of the Sunday puzzle (printed out in Across Lite) can do bad things to my puzzle vision.

The "INDIANA" portion:

The trouble here stems from one particular intersection: 44A: Noisy celebration (shivaree) crossed with random German answer 34D: German port (Kiel). If I've ever seen the first word, it was while studying for the SAT. Never ever ever heard it used. KIEL could be anywhere, Germany. They intersect at the last "E" in SHIVAREE. All along I wanted SHIVAREE to be something like SHIVARI or SHIVARTI or something ending in "I." I think I was thinking of the cheese called HAVARTI. Anyway, I guessed the "E" there, just as I'd guessed the "K" in BIKEL, and it all worked out.

Freak trivia

92D: English royal known as the Empress Maud (Matilda)
98A: Fairy queen, in Shakespeare (Mab)

Way way too much English royalty beginning with "M."

113A: Building support (cross brace)

Unknown to me, but inferrable. See also ENARM (104D: Gird for battle)

61A: Locale for a vision of the Apostle Paul (Troas)

This falls under the "crap I'm willing to tolerate in exchange for a fantastic theme" category.

69D: Like Longfellow's Evangeline (Acadian)

This word always looks to me like it's missing an "R." I have never read Longfellow. I believe I have said that before. And so I iterate it here. First medieval royalty, then the Bible, then poetry ... I feel my credibility as a Ph.D. in medieval English literature slowly eroding...

14D: Like the labyrinth of Knossos (Minoan)

Whatever you say! Actually, if the answer had been CRETAN, I would have got it. MINOAN civilization originated on Crete. Theseus, Ariadne, and the Minotaur (so THAT's where he gets his name!), I know them well. Did you know Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly was in Labyrinth (1986), with David Bowie! It's true. Lots of ancient stuff in the grid, actually. TROAS, MINOAN ... also MEDE (92A: Subject of Cyrus the Great).

123A: Subject of una sinfonia (tema)

Not sure whom to thank here, but somehow I knew this, where even one year ago I don't think I would have. By default, I will thank Andrew (as cellist, as opposed to Andrew as mathematician or Andrew as TiVo whore).

76D: Photographer Richard (Avedon)

His name is familiar, but I can't picture his, uh, pictures. He did a lot of stunning, sexy-ish portraits of celebrities in the 60s and 70s (as well as a lot of cool non-celebrity-oriented work, pictures of ordinary / odd-looking people, etc.) Here is a picture I like:

2D: Cream-filled pastry (cornet)

I know this as a musical instrument, and only as a musical instrument

23A: Acquirers of lost property (abandonees)

A legal term that makes No sense. Dumpster babies are ABANDONEES. Ariadne (see above) was an ABANDONEE. She did not acquire lost property.

39A: Desert attribute (aridness)

Easy enough, but Google say: ARIDNESS (ca. 26K hits), ARIDITY (725K)

Wrong Fill

TALLY UP for TOTAL UP (5D: Calculate, as the bill)
RANGES for RENEWS (88A: Extends)
AT ANY COSTS for AT ALL COSTS (116A: No matter what)
ANY MOMENT for ANY MINUTE (49D: Imminently)

Stuff I liked

1A: Home of the Natl. Hollerin' Contest (N. Car.) - excellent 1A clue! Didn't know it, but I could eventually guess it. HOLLERIN'! That should be a rap anthem.
1D: "You're doing it all wrong!" ("No, no, no!") - hotly colloquial. Always appreciated.
10D: Old "Romper Room" character (Do-Bee) - before my time, but HOT (35A: Stolen) answer nonetheless. Actually, maybe "Romper Room" was in my time, but I hardly remember the show. If I ever watched it, I didn't watch it much.
6D: Kind of yoga (Hatha) - Know it. Love it. Would be a knotty, angry mess without it. Moreso.
38D: E Street Band's leader, informally (The Boss) - Always like to see phrases with definite articles in them. Scratches my brain in a pleasing way.

Lastly, there is a mini-wordladder with MAB, NAB (60D: Snare) and NIB (55A: Tip for a calligrapher)!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS the finished grid today was provided by Orange (Crossword Fiend, link in sidebar), so if there are any errors, she is to blame. I mean, thanks Orange!


Alex S. 11:23 AM  

I was doing pretty well with the puzzle (only the Mid-Atlantic states left to grind through) when I did the dreaded misclick.

I do the puzzle in the online applet and for the life of me I hate the fact that the "The New York Times Premium Crosswords" banner at the top of the page is a link. At least once a week I accidentally click it because it is adjacent to my Firefox tabs.

And once clicked all data entered is lost. With 90% of the puzzle done I just wasn't willing to put it all back in.

I liked the theme and I hadn't even noticed the that the crosses used a different expansion of the X&Y fill. I was just pleased by the rotational symmetry. The only one that caused problems were R&B and C&W. I don't know if there is a distinction that makes one a musical genre and the other a musical category.

Linda G 12:20 PM  

This puzzle reigns supreme. I loved everything about it.

You forgot to mention that our friend PIE was back today in 40D. In his/her honor, I will bake one today.

DONALD 12:26 PM  

To substitute & cross the initials for
Rhythm & Blues
Dungeons & Dragons
Arts & Entertainment
Mars & Murrie
Atlantic & Pacific
Savings & Loan
Rest & Relaxation
Bed & Breakfast
Country & Western
in a symmetrical pattern is no mean feat!

…uh, not to beat ADEAD horse!

Anonymous 12:49 PM  


Oh, uh, Star Wars EPISODEI: The "Phantom Menace"...

Mars and Murrie, 2 blokes names -- so that's what M&M is!

Anonymous 12:51 PM  

Did I glean the elegant sub-construction? NO, of course not. Yes, it's quite beautiful.

Heard Will Shortz on NPR earlier; he said this is the last year for the tourney to be at Stamford due to the huge growth in attendance. (Where will it go next?) 700 people this year, including, he said, Phil Donahue. I'm hoping the year I attend Jon Stewart decides to put it on his calendar. Or Bill Clinton.

Romper Room ran for decades, so yes, Rex, a man of your youthful years could have been dimly aware of it. RR trivia per wikipedia - In 1962, the hostess of the Phoenix show, Miss Sherri, sought an abortion because she believed her child would be born deformed from the effects of thalidomide. Because she was so famous, the hospital she approached refused and she went abroad, only to find that the the fetus had no legs and only one arm. This became the topic of a M-O-W in 1992, A Private Matter, starring Sissy Spacek. I did not know that.

Is Nia Long in the Pantheon? She is more famous for her appearances in this puzzle than she is in real life. Speaking of actresses, I was ruined for a while because I had BROWN for Actress Blair instead of BETSY. Betsy Blair was Gene Kelly's first wife; she was interviewed in a neat TCM documentary on his life recently.

Anonymous 1:02 PM  

Confidence restored! after finding Sunday's puzzle very doable. Sadly, though, I completely Did Not Get the theme until reading this here blog. Now I am doubly impressed, but least of all with my solving - thanks to Craig Kasper for a morning of Fun & Games with this one!

My one troublespot was around BIKEL, which I first guessed as BAKER. That and CROSSBEAMS instead of CROSSBRACE conspired to create IDEE REMUE, which made as much sense to me as IDEE RECUE. Figured it out once I admitted that EBA was no kind of a baseball stat.

Anonymous 1:37 PM  

Urk. I too totally missed the theme until I read it here. Thought that "initial" substitution mean to use "N" for the "and/&" as in "rhythm 'n blues" and completely overlooked the parallel. And such symmetry. It is a perfect 180ยบ rotation, yes?

Anonymous 10:07 PM  

Interesting that you figured out to use the "&". I used "n" throughout (like "room n' board"). It would have been easier if I had used "&" so then I would know I was looking for another one instead of just a word with an "n" in it. I also got stumped by Actress Blair. The only actress I had ever heard of was Selma Blair, and I didn't even consider anyone else until I just got completely stumped.
I thought "Abandonees" was ridiculous.

Anonymous 4:04 PM  

Thought this one was a very easy puzzle. And I needed one after my exhausting trip from Orlando Sat night to JFK...hate snow with a passion. Florida was lovely and warm...but I digress.

Got the theme right away. At first I thought the initials would be at the beginning of each answer (eg HMS Pinafore or some such, but once I got Curds & whey, the rest fell into place. Knew Theodore Bikel as Tevye in Fiddler. Think my mother had a cast recording with him as lead.

Loved the Do-bee - actually saw a taping of Romper Room in 1968/69 when I was about 4/5 yrs old.

WOuldn't abandonees be ones who abandon things/people? Hate legalese terms. Estop, especially.

And what the heck is a shivaree? Never heard of it.

My last fill was the V of VCR. Big clunk "on the chin" for that one.

Mary Rose

Anonymous 6:03 PM  

I thought this was a very cool puzzle... totally agree w/ Rex about cornet being an instrument
(I thought the cream filled pastry was canoli - var. spelling - soon found out how wrong I was!)... & I wasn't too happy w/ "aridness" either... I remember Empress Maud / Matilda from the Ellis Peters' Cadfael mysteries...

A.G. Argent 7:23 PM  

Rex, old man, perhaps a word to the wise, literally. When there is a clue/answer that references actors etc. that have/had long careers, or just plain been around a while, NEVER EVER admit that you ain't never heard of 'em. Obviously it leaves you wide open to being referred to as "... a man of youthful years." Sorry pal, if that was me, I would find that more than a bit condescending. A barely couched insult. You don't always gotta be so damned honest. Lie to us once in a while. It's cool.

Rex Parker 8:46 PM  

I literally have absolutely no idea what you're talking about.


Anonymous 4:40 PM  

Today was a two cup of tea puzzle. I missed the elegant sub theme. No googling today, though.

Like others, I have issues with ABANDONEES & ARIDNESS.

Fair enough, but my real beef is with clues (9A, Beat horse, 16d, suit to, and 65d, Enterprise) Isn't it protocol to insert an underscore in the clues in cases like this?

BTW, Shivaree was a gimme for me. I used to go to them when I was a kid growing up in Nova Scotia.

Anonymous 1:42 AM  

I too had problems with 9a,beat horse, 16d,suit to, 28a, plain, 65d, enterprise, and 121d Hi ___t (I had hi-test for a while). After I realized that the beat horse answer was "a dead" I just assumed my newpaper (San Diego Union-Tribune) had run out of "____s " and had inadvertanly put a t at the end of 121d. I eventually got the puzzle (but not the clever theme, thanks Rex) and only had to google the romper room clue do bee. Is it safe to assume that there were appropriate ____s for the above clues in the orignial Times puzzle??

Anonymous 5:45 AM  

Wendy, In regards to 100D, don't forget Linda Blair and Selma Blair.

Anonymous 12:01 AM  

Another side note...
44A "shivaree" - my dictionary lists it as an alternative spelling of "charivari." I also felt I wanted the word to end with an "i" so struggled quite a while with it. Until that point, I was so pleased that I had managed the whole thing without recourse to Google or a dictionary. That last square got me!

Anonymous 12:10 AM  

Oh, one more thing...
Wasn't Do-Bee part of some shtick which included a song aimed at teaching kids good manners, "Do be a good bee, don't be a bad bee"???

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