TUESDAY, Mar. 13, 2007 - Holden Baker

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Solving time: untimed, but pretty fast - probably 5 or so (on paper)
THEME: IRISH COUNTIES (49A: What the answers to the seven starred clues all are or contain)

I tore this puzzle up - every instinct I had was right, and I was guessing answers at times without even looking at the clue. The best example of this latter phenomenon was with TYRONE POWER (*31A: Ava Gardner's co-star in "The Sun Also Rises") - although I think I had the TYR- in place at that point, and possibly the -PO-, so really there wasn't much else it could be. His name was in my brain because it was an answer in a very recent puzzle, I think ... yes, the one where the theme was "Electricity" and all the theme answers ended in synonyms like JUICE or POWER. Anyhoo, this is all to say that I flew through the puzzle with almost no resistance (see 37A: Resistance unit (Ohm)). I also did this thing that I've heard some top solvers (maybe Trip Payne - why do I think that? Was that in Wordplay?) do, where I would read three consecutive Down clues in a row and then keep them in my head when my eyes went back to the grid - you know, to cut down on the time you spend darting your eyes back and forth from grid to clues. This worked like a charm for

34D: Buddy (pal)
35D: Bygone (old)
36D: Puns and such (wit)

Admittedly, the level of difficulty is not high there, but it was nice to experiment with a new solving technique and have it pay off right away.

The thorniest part of the puzzle for me was, strangely, if not ironically, the clue that revealed the theme. I had IRISH CO-, then COU-, then COUN-, and I swear to you that I had to do the Downs in that far SE corner before COUNTIES came to me. "What the hell is an IRISH COUNTESS?," I thought at one point. I am not a huge fan of Things Irish, despite having a good amount of Irish blood in me (I freckle and my skin is white, bordering on translucent). Generally, I think of most things Irish today as White People's Desperate Bid For Ethnicity. You can't be proud of being white (well, you can, in parts of Idaho and Alabama), but you can crow all day long about your Irishness, no matter how thinly it flows in your veins. I've spent a lot of time in Scotland and love it there, so if I'm going to align myself with any pasty group of England-bashers, it's going to be the Scottish. While it's true that Ireland gave us Guinness and early U2 (great), they also gave us the leprechaun and late U2 (horrible). In the end, any culture responsible for both "Riverdance" and "Celtic Women" has some explaining to do.

24A: *1960's Richard Chamberlain TV role (Doctor Kildare)

Richard Chamberlain graduated from my little college. Chirp chirp! PS, he is gay.

46A: Nursery rhyme opening ("Baa, baa...")

Wow, you often see BAA, but so rarely do you see BAA BAA. I had the two A's at the end of this answer and thought "ugh, wrong!" - then I read the clue, saw that I was right, and continued to slice my way through the grid.

14A: *Angler's float (cork)

This one took me Forever (relatively speaking). I think the last person to use a CORK as part of his fishing tackle was Opie.

44D: Erich Weiss, on stage (Houdini)

First, Erich who? Oh, wait, was Erich Weiss HOUDINI's real name? Because until this very second, I thought this clue was telling me that some actor named Erich Weiss played HOUDINI on Broadway. Yes, Weiss is HOUDINI's given name. O my god, HOUDINI grew up in Appleton, Wisconsin, just like "Co'sin Larry" on "Perfect Strangers." What, no Mark Linn-Baker fans in the house? OK, your loss. Oh, wait, Larry didn't grow up there - his name was actually Larry Appleton. Nevermind. We hope you've enjoyed this brief foray into 80's sitcom arcana.

56A: Persian sprite (peri)
68A: Actress Garr of "Mr. Mom" (Teri)

I'll take the latter, thanks. And I'll add that too many -ERIs spoil the grid.

I'm always happy to see future Pantheon member OATER in the grid (52D: Western flick). Great word no one uses any more. Also like OAST (43D: Malt-drying kiln), another word you rarely see outside the grid. Will we ever see the end of [Schoolyard retort] as a clue? It was fresh to me, once, and I still like the idea of using stuff kids might shout at each other in the puzzle - but I feel like this clue, or a slight variation on it, shows up in the puzzle at least once a week. It can get you lots of letter combinations, e.g. AM NOT, ARE SO, ARE TOO, etc. Today it gets you AM SO (30D). I would like a moratorium on this playground-chatter-oriented cluing, but I'm not going to get one. BRIERS (47D: Prickly plants) is an icky-looking word - why doesn't it have an "A" instead of an unholy-looking "E"??? Lastly, if anyone asks you "What is the ugliest-looking abbreviation in the history of humankind?," you can confidently answer EXPWY (54D: Multilane rte.).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


C zar 10:25 AM  

Today's playground retorts would be more like: "Yeah, well your cell phone sucks" or "My Dad says your Mom is a lousy lay." Maybe there's a puzzle theme here, Playground retorts of today!

Rex Parker 10:31 AM  

Too bad THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID is 16 letters - though that would work in a Sunday puzzle (though that's more Office than playground). SO'S YOUR MOM is a nice 10 letters. EAT MY SHORTS is 11 letters, a good theme length ... but probably not said n earnest by anyone since 1991.

Campesite 2:29 PM  

EAT ME, oft clued as the cake Alice finds, could nicely be clued as schoolkid retort.

Eric Selje 3:54 PM  

Cork is also something Irish...city perhaps?

Rex Parker 4:16 PM  

It's a county. That's why it's in this puzzle.


Anonymous 4:43 PM  

Either bri?r is acceptable. Seem to sense seeing briar more often than brier although brier is preferred in Websters over briar.

Anonymous 5:07 PM  

Long day of rehearsing, teaching, meeting... finally to the puzzle.

Ah, now this was more like the Monday we missed yesterday. Nice and quick!

The answer that made me laugh was 63A: Cry of fright - YIPE. I have never said YIPE! I have never even said YIPES! Maybe Yikes! (once, maybe). My cry of fright would more likely be HELP or OH SHIT!!! Very funny, YIPE.

Whose photo is that in your blog, Rex? You know, the handsome fellow with the dripping ooze (YIPE).

Anonymous 5:16 PM  

Oh! Forgot to remark on the reappearance of the ERNE! YIPE again!

Anonymous 11:47 PM  

"Generally, I think of most things Irish today as White People's Desperate Bid For Ethnicity. "

As a New York City Irish Guitar playing, Tin Whistle playing, Bodhran playing, Guinness drinking, Irish Arts Center going, late U2 loving, person with an Irish last name... I would like to know what kind of desperate bid it would be to blog how fast one can do the NY Times crossword puzzle.


Rex Parker 8:42 AM  

An angry Irishman! Awesome! Are you drunk right now?

Dude, actual Irish folk are not my problem. It's the rest of white America's obsession with Things "Irish." Ever since the damn ... what was it, the movie with the Irish "soul" band ... I want to say "The Replacements," but they're an actual, non-Irish band ... THE COMMITMENTS! Ugh. If you are Actually Irish, more power to you. But so many white people romanticize Irishness (which seems demeaning to me - you're not all a bunch of wee fiddling leprechauns), and any mass white hysteria (see also NASCAR) makes me nervous.

I'm a Red Sox and (was) a Celtic fan, if that means anything.

And my crossword times are hardly bragging. The best solvers destroy me every day.

Anonymous 8:45 AM  

Rex, can I make a special request for an image to illustrate one of Wednesday's answers? PLEASE???

Rex Parker 8:50 AM  


Request away - I'm writing the entry right now. If you are requesting OKA[PI], that is already taken care of.


Anonymous 8:56 AM  

No, it's my favorite artist Odilon Redon. Never thought I'd see that in a crossword. Haunting macabre imagery (as well as beauteous floral stuff) but it's the macabre that I want to depict. Google The Cyclops and Redon and you'll see my special request. I was so moved by it as a college student that I wrote a short story about it. THANKS!!!!!!

Anonymous 10:09 AM  

Not drunk or angry, but I did notice your blog bashes Irish culture, as well as American's who think they are Irish. And I did notice your mind is like a magnet for negative stereotypes... why not a James Joyce reference, which would be a little more crossword like.

P.S. All the band members in the movie "The Commitments" were born in Ireland... just wondering how that makes them non-Irish. Why would I care about the Red Sox or Celtics? I like Irish culture, I'm not from Boston... and I did like the movie The Commitments... and I cringe at any analogy that correlates Nascar to Ireland.

Orange 11:57 AM  

I'm part Irish myself and identify with that heritage more than with my other five ancestral nationalities. That said, America's Irish fetishization is in full swing: Irish bars (probably owned by non-Irish who see a profitable gimmick when it hits them in the face like a shillelagh), hordes of roving drunken young adults who aren't Irish but wear Kelly green as they guzzle green beer on St. Patrick's Day, Irish memorabilia stores in the mall.

More Americans are part-German than part-Irish, but where are the "Kiss Me, I'm German" t-shirts? The mall stores selling Bavarian crafts and clothing featuring the colors of the German flag? The boisterous parades?

Orange 11:58 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 2:22 PM  

Hey Orange,

I am full on for bashing American's fetishization with everything Irish...

What I didn't appreciate was King Rex's comments that basically stated he didn't understand American's fascination with Ireland since Irish culture kind of sucks.

It's the Irish culture sucks part that bugs me... Irish culture sucks so why would I as an American embrace it... now Scottish on the hand, that's a grand culture.

Anonymous 2:26 PM  

More Americans are part-German than part-Irish, but where are the "Kiss Me, I'm German" t-shirts? The mall stores selling Bavarian crafts and clothing featuring the colors of the German flag? The boisterous parades?

I guess you have never been to Wisconsin...

Anonymous 6:15 AM  


I'm sorry about all this. After re-reading the blog, I realize I miss-read the intent...

Anonymous 12:09 PM  

I'm not sorry, and I'm the original anonymous who noticed the demeaning attitude towards Irish culture...

I think Rex should just apologize, and say he still does't like Americans pretending to be Irish ( a fair opinion ), but he's sorry for putting down Irish culture to help validate that opinion.

It is one thing to say, I don't like American's pretending to be Irish, and it's quite another to say I don't like American's pretending to be Irish, and if I was going to pretend to be something, it wouldn't be Irish, because Irish culture sucks.

I'm sure Rex was just trying to be entertaining, but it still deserves an apology.

mc anonymous

Orange 10:50 PM  

Maybe Rex was blinded by his fondness for Groundskeeper Willie, the Scotsman on "The Simpsons." According to Wikipedia, Willie's archenemy is Seamus, an Irish groundskeeper.

Anonymous 3:58 PM  

No, I really am sorry, and I am the original poster, and that other Anonymous is an imposter trying to stir up trouble. I also misread Rex's reply on the Commitments. I now see it was the Replacements he was saying were non-Irish.

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