MONDAY, May 14, 2007 - Paula Gamache

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: WATER - final word of all two-word theme phrases can precede WATER to form a familiar phrase. Theme is clued by 59A: Be logical ... or what the last words of the answers to the five starred clues can do? (hold water)

Your theme answers:

  • 17A: *Mock rock band in a 1984 film (Spinal Tap) - best theme answer, by a mile.
  • 25A: *Revealer of vowels, on TV (Vanna White)
  • 35A: *Part of a Valentine's Day bouquet (red rose)
  • 37A: *Seasoned seaman (old salt) - worst-sounding clue ever. Go ahead, say it out loud, you'll see what I mean; I do like the way "Seasoned" plays off of "SALT," though. That's nice.
  • 51A: *Local place for making deposits or getting loans (bank branch) - had to look BRANCH WATER up, as it's the only kind of WATER in the grid that I hadn't heard of.

branch water
  1. Plain water, especially when mixed with a liquor such as whiskey.
  2. Chiefly Southern U.S. Water from a stream.
I really liked this puzzle, but not for its theme, which is (if I'm reading it right) kind of poorly expressed. Why "HOLD?" "WHITE" does not "HOLD" WATER. "SALT" does not "HOLD" WATER. Anyway, who cares? This is a very lively puzzle for a Monday, with great open spaces in the NE and SW, each of which features a bank of four 7-letter Downs.

The best part of the puzzle, for me, was this fabulous stack of answers in the "Oregon" portion of the puzzle:

  • 22A: "Dear" dispenser of advice (Abby)
  • 28A: Hardly trim (flabby)
  • 32A: Hearing-related (aural)

First of all, FLABBY ABBY is a great cruel nickname. I wish I knew someone I could call FLABBY ABBY right now. Second, ABBY and FLABBY rhyme, which gives them an AURAL similarity. For other nice word juxtaposition, see also the following crosses:
  • OVA (15A: Eggs) / AVA (7D: Gardner of "The Night of the Iguana")
  • SAY I DO (50A: Tie the knot) / SAYONARA (38D: Tokyo "ta-ta!")
SAYONARA and 4D: Butterfinger or 3 Musketeers (candy bar) are the puzzle's two longest Down answers, and I like them both. They seem to have a lot of letters in common, which is pleasing to me - I especially like the "Y"s.

I'm not so fond of LEEZA Gibbons (33D: Talk show host Gibbons), but I do like her "Z" cross, OZS. (49A: Parts of lbs.). I see that abbreviation all the time on food packaging and what not, and yet in the grid it looks exotic. This puzzle has a nice balance of modern and old, high tech and low tech. You've got IMACS (1A: Some Apple computers) and IMS (1D: Quick online notes, for short) and High-RES monitors (63D), but also the decidedly unelectronic CHESS (42A: The mating game?) and DARTS (69A: Pub projectiles), a LEAN-TO (12D: Crude shelter), and an ABACUS (45D: You can always count on this). There's also TRON (41D: 1982 sci-fi film) - which stands somewhere in between low- and high-tech. Electronic and futuristic ... but now hilariously dated. The only word in the grid that's maybe a little bit challenging is UVEAS (64A: Parts of eyes), though DATIVE (46D: Latin case) might be tough for people who've never studied Latin. ADROIT (11D: Skillful) is a fine-looking word for a Monday - it is also an anagram of I DO ART, which is neither here nor there, so I think it's time for me to STOP (31A: "Cut it out!")

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


DONALD 12:26 AM  

Vanna looks terrific! Ova, Ava and Flabby Abby -- I think they were cheerleaders for the Patriots, weren't they?

Have a great day Rex!

Linda G 12:28 AM  

You didn't give AVA enough press. We're hurt.

The only reason you'd find humor in FLABBY ABBY is because you're so buff ; )

Thanks for the help with the very unclear (to me) theme.

And regardless of what this says, it's only 10:30 here. I do keep fairly normal hours.

Anonymous 12:57 AM  


Hold water figuratively as in whitewater: white is holding water that is preceding and adjoining it in the same word. Although salt can hold waterliterally too by absobing it.Tap can hold water as well. So can a branch of a river or even a tree branch after it rains or through its xylem. However white only works fuguratively.

Anonymous 4:30 AM  

Flabby Abby was a character on Nip/Tuck.

Anonymous 6:59 AM  

Pleasant, tidy puzzle. Love those big corners.

Quibbles with SKI CAP (seemed a bit flaky) and BRANCH (also left me out on a limb).

PG :)

Anonymous 7:14 AM  

Harry Truman's favorite drink: "Bourbon & Branch"

Anonymous 7:54 AM  

Most inelegant theme cluing today. Confusion reigned over the 'hold' part of the water association, as you noted. But it wasn't necessary to grasp all of that to finish the puzzle.

Every time this happens, I forget to ask: should be AEON a 'var.' of EON, or do people really write it that way in some part of the world? My sense is that it is never clued as a variation, as it isn't today, but for some reason it bugs me when it appears. Very archaic.

Vanna and LEEZA in one puzzle? Gah. LEEZA was appropriately sent packing from Dancing With the Stars, the only reality show I have gotten, shall we say, attached to. Why not a clue for Joey Fatone, who I've gone bananas over despite the fact that I'd never heard of him before now. I'd heard of N SYNC, but didn't know who the members were.

IMOO, Rex, in place of OLD SALT, someday I'd like to see Salty Dog clued, a far better term and the title of one of my most favorite albums ever, Procol Harum's A Salty Dog.

Rex Parker 8:17 AM  

Aha, the first mention of Joey Fatone on this blog. I guess it was only a matter of time. Alright, who had May 14 in the office pool...?

FLABBY ABBY was also a Garbage Pail Kid, somebody's grotesque answer to the Cabbage Patch Kid phenomenon of the early 80's.

Scroll down here to see FLABBY ABBY.


Anonymous 9:27 AM  

Rex, is that a bad thing? ;) (Mentioning Joey Fatone, that is.)

Anonymous 10:15 AM  

smooth puzzle today.

my only boo of the day is 'UVEAS'.

got to call on my Latin skills for 'DATIVE', which is always nice.

Anonymous 10:18 AM  

First Flabby Abby, and now Joey FatOne (I can't easily parse that name without the word break). Is this the start of a not-so-complimentary theme?
(Kidding, meant in good fun. Please don't throw rotten produce at me).

Linda G 11:12 AM  

Ick...I saw Flabby Abby. The only good thing is that I feel incredibly slim now. Thanks ; )

Anonymous 1:20 PM  

Howard, Mr. Fatone has lost (I'm told) a great deal of weight in his dancing exploits, so flabby he ain't, according to my discerning eye.

Anonymous 2:35 PM  

Sounds like a bit more fun than walking on one of those treadmills... they make me feel like a hamster on a little wheel at the gym.

Some years ago, in NYC, a couple friends and I were walking down a midtown street, and someone looked back and said, "Hey! that was Joey Fatone!" (I think he was in Rent or some other show at the time, can't remember). I didn't have much clue who he was or what he looked like, so I never noticed. So I promise I'm not making any commentary whatsoever on actual appearance - Since I couldn't pick him out of a lineup, I'll gladly take your word for it ;).

Anonymous 6:30 PM  

This one should have been a February 14 puzzle, with LOTSA RED ROSEs, SAY I DO, EAGER, and YES. However, the day after, depending, you could end up feeling BLUE and hearing SAYONARA.

I guess you could get SCREWed either way!

Anonymous 12:41 AM  

This is about my fifth NYT puzzle ever, having gotten wound up into the hobby after seeing WordPlay a few wks ago. This is the only time I've finished it almost from soup to nuts without hesitation.

I did not get the theme as it related to Vanna White except that I thought "is she saying, like 'whitewater' as in rapids?? feh."

Only sticky point for me was parts of eyes - UVEAS. Kept thinking that had something to do with ratings for sunglasses.

I think I've decided I'm a Tuesday or Wednesday type of gal, difficulty-wise. Last Friday's puzzle, the Winston Churchill one, was a big ol' brain-burner for me.

Nice website, thanks.

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