SUNDAY, Aug. 5, 2007 - Caroline Leong

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Winging It" - all theme answers are composed entirely of bird names

Dear person who gave away the theme to today's puzzle in Yesterday's Comments section,

Don't ever do that again. Why would you do that? Most of you will not have seen this person's post, as I deleted it as soon as I saw it. Those of you privileged enough to get Sunday's paper on Saturday morning somehow - I don't want to hear about it 'til I've posted my commentary. Please, I know you mean well, but think before you type.

That said, this theme was pretty easy to get, so no major damage done. It's all very cute and clever. Nothing mind-blowing. Pleasant. And I learned a few new bird names, including MERLIN, RAILS, COOTS, and BOOBIES.

Theme answers:

  • 23A: Nurse Florence sells adventures? (Nightingale hawks larks)
  • 31A: Actor Steve repeats what geezers say? (Martin parrots coots)
  • 57A: Lawyer Atticus avoids crazies? (Finch ducks cuckoos)
  • 69A: Architect Christopher gobbles banisters? (Wren swallows rails)
  • 93A: Famed magician cheats chumps? (Merlin rooks boobies)
  • 106A: Disney's Captain Jack dupes church leaders? (Sparrow gulls cardinals)

Three minor trouble spots: "Oregon," "N. Carolina," and "Florida"

In the west, I couldn't figure out what type of "croak" was meant at 41A: Croak, and sense I had TAG instead of TAP for 32D: Select, I had the wrong last letter (a "G" instead of the actual "P"), so I didn't see RASP for a while. Also, my American History is bad (sorry, honey, but it's true - don't be too ashamed), so ROLFE (41D: Jamestown colonist) was kind of a guess, and one I made only after a bit of flailing around.

Back east, I didn't know RAILS were birds, but even with that guess, there were many crosses that were a bit obscure to me, including ones I'd had before like 67D: _____ Janis, star of Broadway's "Puzzles of 1925" (Elsie) and 83A: 1970s-'80s supermodel Carangi (Gia). ASSAM was a great, helpful guess on my part (68D: Tea-growing area of the Himalayas).

Then down into the deep southeast, I had SIS for SIB (87D: Household member, for short), which hid the mysterious BOOBIES from me for a while. Also never heard of CORDED tires (91D: Like some tires). I would say that we witnessed the return of EULER today (98D: Mathematician who introduced the function symbol f(x)), but that's not exactly right, since he Never Went Anywhere. He just hung around after the rest of yesterday's answers went home. Other odd but familiar names include EULA (73D: Faulkner femme fatale _____ Varner) and IOLA (47A: Kansas county seat on the Neosho River). Oh, and the ubiquitous ANKA (17D: "Lonely Boy" singer/writer).

Here's a bunch of stuff I did not know, or barely knew, and am apt to (re)forget:

  • 11A: Kohada, on a sushi menu (shad) - SHAD is one of the ugliest short words, and one of the most unattractive food names imaginable
  • 22A: Actress Wood of "Diamonds Are Forever" (Lana) - I'd have preferred Turner or Lang here
  • 28A: French silk (soie) - nice triple vowel run
  • 45A: Smutch (grime) - "how much do you want?" "Oh, I don't know ... how about [holds hands one foot apart] ... 'smuch?
  • 64A: Word game popularized by James Thurber (Ghost) - define "popularized"...
  • 6D: Particles in electrolysis (anions) - I love this answer; it's all-purpose, I see it all the time, and I honestly don't know what it means
  • 78A: Some military helicopters, familiarly (Hueys) - I think I know only APACHES
  • 46D: Food writer Ruth (Reichl) - her name is semi-familiar, though I don't know why
  • 80D: Norse deity of mischief (Loki) - guessing / knowing this helped me change FREES to FLEES (79A: Cuts out). I feel as if some TV show I watch recently made a LOKI joke, but I can't recall it, which is too bad, as you never know when you'll need a good LOKI joke.
  • 102D: Mideast capital (Sana) - always forget this one. Unlike in yesterday's [New Zealand capital], today's "capital" actually means a capital city, not a form of currency.
'Slate, and I'm off to bed.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 11:14 PM  

boobies are amazing. check out the blue-footed variety in these pix:

boobie flap



Anonymous 11:45 PM  

What's with all these Eulers? Maybe part of the 300th birthday celebration.

sonofdad 11:57 PM  

My parents subscribe to the paper Times, and in order to lessen the Sunday delivery load, non-time-sensitive Sunday sections (like the Magazine and some of the fluff sections) are delivered along with the otherwise thin Saturday edition. Whenever I come home for the weekend I do the Sunday on Saturday morning, but then I have no puzzle to do until Sunday night. Oh well.

Maybe you know Ruth Reichl from the Times. She was the restaurant critic some years ago.

Anions are negatively charged ions. Cations are positively charged ions.

I love Ghost. It's an excellent game and a great way to kill time when waiting around with (nerdy) friends.

I complained on Orange's blog the other day that math answers like the Fibonacci sequence and Euler were always clued in relation to some piece of pop culture, like the Da Vinci Code or su doku. I guess I can stop complaining now that Euler has been clued in relation to math two days in a row.

Anonymous 12:14 AM  

Since leaving the Times, Ruth REICHL is the editor of Gourmet magazine. She's written a bunch of food-related memoirs as well that you might have heard of. But she will always be dear to me as one of two cookbook authors who taught me to cook during college. Her "Mmmmm: A Festiary," now out of print, is probably responsible for my love of food to this day. My copy is falling apart at the seams and is covered with food stains on almost every page. I will never get rid of it.

Orange 12:27 AM  

Let us not overlook the red-footed boobies or the brown booby with yellow feet.

I love LOKI the trickster.

Anonymous 7:53 AM  

One ER physician I know would always refer to a chest X-ray with some infection or fluid as 'smutchy'. Note that this is not a medical term.

I was happy to see SHAH instead of TSAR for a change.

Anonymous 9:23 AM  

add 'bewilderingly boney' 'PCB enhanced' and 'mud-flavored' to the list of shad's charming attributes, says this Hudson River dweller.

I read 'smutch' as 'schmutz',the Yiddish word for an unidentified substance of suspicious origin as in:

grandma: "my dear, you have some schmutz on your kepele" [spits on hankie and proceeds to scour grandson's darling little forehead]

Mark 10:10 AM  

I was stuck trying to figure out whether there was a bird called a book, because I thought the Faith: abbr. was BEL for belief rather than REL for religion...

I also get my Sunday NYT magazine on Saturday, which is good since I'm pretty slow on the Sunday puzzle...

Howard B 10:27 AM  

Watch out for SAN'A... if a constructor is feeling especially nasty (or stuck) you might bump into SANA'A as well.
The names in this puzzle seemed to be the trickiest part; the ones Rex mentioned served as roadblocks. I'm only a little ashamed to say that the 12-year-old in me chuckled at the "Merlin rooks boobies" answer. It just looks so odd - try to say it aloud with a poker face. Next meeting at work, I want to randomly throw that phrase in somewhere.

Anonymous 10:36 AM  

Well it took me some time to complete the southwest section because I had forgerer instead of follower for copyist. (Also wait instead of whoa for "hold your horses." Brain not working well this am.)

And even though I have kept a list of birds I've seen in my lifetime, I did not come up with merlin for a long while, and I did so only because it logically fit.

Ah, the sycamores! Those beautiful, graceful trees lining Memorial Drive in Cambridge.

Rex Parker 11:12 AM  


RE: Boobies

If only TITS had been in the grid... though MERLIN SWALLOWS TITS might have been a little ... blue ... for the Sunday puzzle. It would, however, have fit perfectly at 93A.


Anonymous 11:46 AM  

I missed REICHL because I got BEENE wrong (beAne), and the "ray" sounded triggered some incorrect association, probably based on TV "chefs" Rachel Ray and Steve Reichlin.

I guessed TAP right, and had SIGNS, but still wasn't sure about ROLFE. Bad US History day (OK, life).

I had WOOSIES instead of BOOBIES (until my augmentation); it worked with SIS, but WAR exam kept me digging.

Howard b -- I tried saying "Merlin rooks boobies" with a poker face, but of course with a poker face I couldn't move any mouth muscles, so I didn't get the desired effect.

JC66 11:55 AM  

I've never heard of MERLINs, either.

Also, I can't get my mind around SEEM for sound, Is it sound/seem like? Then, why not talk/seem like or act/seem like. etc?

Anonymous 12:42 PM  


Didn't know Merlin either.I also had trouble with SEEM even after I decided it was right, didn't know why for a while.

I think it works though, e.g., "It may sound like I'm not planning on going to school today" substitute "seem" for "sounds and it still works. Your other choices however don't work.

Anonymous 1:23 PM  

"Shad" sounds bad, but "Scrod", oh gawd..

Anonymous 1:39 PM  

Anions seek the anode (positive pole) and cations seek the cathode (negative pole).

Anonymous 1:57 PM  


Thank You! ... for the fabulous photos of boobies. In the Galapagos Islands, it is not unusual to see them in the mating dance because they have no fear of humans who might be near by. These great pictures capture them perfectly.


Orange 2:00 PM  

The scrod screwed the shad and shat all over piscine genetics. What would their offspring be called—scrad or shrod?

Anonymous 2:23 PM  

Shite! Sounds like some sort of scourge. Give me a scollop any day.

DONALD 2:36 PM  

O.K., the bottom of the barrel is now bare!

JC66 2:50 PM  


Thanks for clearing thay up.

Still, imho, sound=seems=sucks.

Anonymous 3:04 PM  

I was at the Galapagos and snapped a wonderful one of the blue-footed booby. Actually changed bathroom decor to match the photo which is hanging on the wall.

Thank goodness for an easier puzzle today because I'm still "gnawing" at Saturday's.

fergus 3:37 PM  

Bird-weary I was amused the topic switched to fish. Pretty funny.

My only problem today was in Northern California (where it's foggy and not even 60 degrees yet) because I chose SUSSES instead of SENSES for 72A Picks up. This time a British inclination didn't work in my favor. We have lots of SYCAMORES here in Northern California but they don't seem very graceful since they look so sickly for months after their week of fresh green leaves. And just now is already their autumn, and then they'll just seem stark until late March.

Smutch? Can anyone elaborate on Rex's satirical inquiry? And a Musical credit is a BOOK? Whaddya know

Anonymous 3:57 PM  

Fergus, in a musical, that portion of the production that is spoken (not sung) is called the BOOK - aka a libretto. BOOK can also refer to the overall narrative structure that a musical is given. Last year's Tony for best book went to Bob Martin and Don McKellar for Drowsy Chaperone, this year it went to Steven Sater for Spring Awakening. Musicals that are 'revues' (typically no spoken parts at all) don't qualify for this category. Your theatrical lesson of the day ... one of my abiding interests in life.

PS I misspelled scallop earlier. I hate when I do that.

fergus 4:09 PM  

... yet the way you spelled it is more in keeping with how the proper people pronouce this mollusk

grouchonyy 4:11 PM  

I didn't like 45A "Smutch" although it wasn't a solving problem. The clue should have been schmutz

From Wikipedia
Schmutz (also shmuts, (shmÅ­tz or shmootz) is a Yiddish word of direct German derivation. It can be a noun, a verb, or an adjective.
As in the original German, its use in Yiddish as a noun can designate a range of types of unpleasant substances from any kind of soil such as mud or dust to thick or ground-in dirt such as soot or grass stains. More strongly, and less accurately, it's used to indicate a particularly foul or repulsive matter such as animal waste or the fuzzy stuff found growing in the jar way at the back of the fridge. A Jewish comic once raised schmutz to the exalted status of “dirt that moves.”

My son, when he was little couldn't say schmutz. He said "smutch" instead. I wonder if Leong and Shortz had similar problems.

Anonymous 4:51 PM  

hey, sue -- yer welcome! hope you also checked out orange's links. that brown booby with yellow feet is quite wonderful, too!



Michael 8:11 PM  

I thought perhaps the military helicopter was hawks (as in Black Hawk Down), in keeping with the bird theme.

btw, I participated in Merv Griffin's "Let's Play Crosswords" last week. I signed a form saying I wouldn't talk about it, so as soon as my episode airs, I'll post about it and let y'all know about it here.

Anonymous 1:11 AM  

I wish "SPARROW" had been clued w/ something like "Fictional pirate captain" or "Movie pirate captain" rather than "Disney"... that made it too easy...

Isn't "WHOA" what one says to the horses when one is told to "hold" them? I guess in casual conversation they mean the same though...

Enjoyed the theme...

Lilly 10:34 PM  

thought 99D wuss--- was pussy (after the scumbag dust-up earlier in the week) since I already had the ssy..but alas..

marlonbrando_ 7:01 PM  

I thought Sunday was one of the easier ones in a long time. Got the theme early and generally breezed through (even if I didnt get to it until Tuesday - it was a long weekend in Canada, eh?). Agree that shah was a welcome respite from tsar or csar

Anonymous 8:52 PM  

I do the Sundays a bit late sometimes--just finished this one. The boobies reminded me, one time a couple of friends and I had a picture of some birds we wanted to identify for a puzzle. We showed the picture to a coworker, and he took it home to look up in his birding books with his wife. He came in the next day and told us the name of the bird. I excitedly logged on to a work computer and, to confirm his answer, did a Google image search for "boobie". Oops!

Anonymous 4:43 PM  

I'm a bit late this week, having just returned from a family reunion in Nova Scotia. This puzzle was an enjoyable romp for me. I agree with all the comments. I never heard of a MERLIN, but it is a small bird of prey, according to Wiki.

Well, that seems to be the Leong and Shortz of it.........(sorry, couldn't resist)

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