TUESDAY, Feb. 3, 2009 - K. Yaeger (Musical question posed by Alanis Morissette / Knee-high, bearded figure / Clear Scandinavian liquor)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "ISN'T IT IRONIC?" (55A: Musical question posed by Alanis Morissette, as suggested by 20-, 33- and 40-Across) - three theme answers are all misleadingly named, which in some books counts as a form of irony

Word of the Day: AQUAVIT - A strong clear Scandinavian liquor distilled from potato or grain mash and flavored with caraway seed (answers.com)

Is it ironic that I like irony and yet didn't like this puzzle?

I would have made VELO my word of the day (37D: Rider-propelled vehicle, for short), but I'm currently refusing to accept that it's a word. I spent at least half an hour last night writing VELO out of the puzzle, over and over and over. I think I got several different versions without changing O'LEARY (45A: Catherine whose cow is said to have started the Great Chicago Fire), and then I went to DREARY, then CANARY. My current version has DENALI in there, which means I had to get rid of ORISONS (41D: Prayers), which, believe me, is not a bad idea. Sadly, the one part of that section of the puzzle that does Not want to budge is ... ENYA (34D: "Orinoco Flow" singer). What did I tell you? WHAT DID I TELL YOU!? If you are alone in the house and you hear the following, Get Out Of The House!:

[The sound of zombies feeding]

Theme answers:

  • 20A: Coin composed of copper, nickel, zinc and manganese (silver dollar)
  • 33A: Hair treatment that generally lasts three to six months (permanent wave)
  • 40A: Pro football team based in New Jersey (New York Giants)

42 black squares = a lot of black squares. Should make the grid easy as Pie (relatively speaking) to fill in, which makes fill like VELO and a lot of the other simply dull stuff less excusable. I'm thinking of sending DOER (64A: Go-getter) an ECARD (54D: Modern birthday greeting) that says "you and the card you are reading must go on a special mission ... to kill ENYA. Do not return until your mission is completed. Godspeed."

Even the anchor words here (the long Downs that hold the theme answers in place ... or so the metaphor works in my head) are kind of lousy. AQUAVIT looks cool (9D: Clear Scandinavian liquor), but it's an oddly crosswordy word (one I learned from crosswords, in fact), and does nothing for me. ORISONS is worse. Both are uncommon, but not in cool ways. Just blah. No zip. No sass. Just OK. These are the answers you put in Very early on, before your small fill, and they're a chance to give your puzzle some non-theme sizzle. ALGIERS (43D: Capital on the Mediterranean) and BEDROOM (5D: Bureau locale) are a little better, but considering almost all the other fill is bland 3- and 4-letter stuff, it would have been nice to see some spark in the anchors. I did like GIGGLE (50A: Girlish laugh) and ZIPPO (58A: Lighter brand). WITHER (31A: Shrivel) and TWIT (32D: Pipsqueak) aren't bad either.


  • 16A: Kind of mark (quote) - the phrase is "quotation mark"; QUOTE is not the mark - it's barely the stuff inside the marks.
  • 2D: Anagrammatic cousin of Alice or Lacie (Celia) - O boy, Jumble!
  • 6D: Speakeasy's worry (raid) - great clue
  • 10D: Victor in a duel with Hamilton (Burr) - I get Raymond Burr confused, in my mind's eye, with ... who's the actor who played Perry Mason ... he was in "Rear Window" ... "Ironside" ... Wait a minute! The duel guy is AARON, and the guy I want is Raymond. Well, I told you I got them confused. (note: that was not staged confusion - that was actual, real-time confusion)
  • 25D: "_____ what you think!" ("That's")
  • 26D: "_____ Only Just Begun" ("We've") - what did I say yesterday about excessive apostrophication?! Must listen to Carpenters to soothe my troubled mind:

  • 42D: TV host Seacrest (Ryan) - seeing / listening to him is the price I pay for watching "American Idol"; actually, he's a fine host
  • 52D: Knee-high, bearded figure (former US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich ... I mean GNOME) (Please, no angry letters, I mean no harm - he seems like he has a sense of humor)
  • 58D: Second in a series of sharp turns (zag) - what's the third? ZUG?

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

Create a playlist at MixPod.com


Kurisu 8:29 AM  

What annoyed me is that ENGR showed up for the third time in six puzzles.

I knew ORISONS from Dungeons and Dragons, but I didn't even notice VELO until I read your post -- I'm familiar with the term "velodrome" from bicycle racing, but I've never seen it abbreviated as "velo" or used as a general term for bikes.

Parshutr 8:45 AM  

No, not medium. Easy.
O nymph in thy ORISONS would have been a better clue...I'd say more but I hav to go to the LAV.

allan 8:48 AM  

Rex you really crack me up. I did the puzzle last night, and couldn't wait for your comments about Enya being in the puzzle 2 days in a row. Definitely worth waiting for.

Thought the puzzle was a bit bland. And Shin is right; enough with engr. already. But is it only 3 times in six? Seems more like six in three.

No real bumps with this one, until 55a. Now here is a tale real irony.

In 1995, I was going through my divorce. I bought Jagged Little Pill, and promptly fell in love with the album. For a full 6 months it was the only music I listened to. Maybe even 8 months. Yet when it came time to fill in that answer, I entered Isn't it EROTIC. Must have been the eighth time that bra has appeared in the last nine puzzles (GE) that had me thinking that way.

I love Abbey Road, both that it was in the puzzle, and the music.

Finally, I've decided that I'd rather listen to Enya than the Carpenters. But that's just me.

And Rex, in answer to your question: Yes.

bye for now

allan 8:51 AM  

Parshutr reminds me that I thought 18a would have been better clued with Knopfler's _____ Straits. I think that this is an acceptable Tuesday clue, with more zip. Also love Knopfler BTW.

Glitch 9:00 AM  

@Shin (and others who will complain)

What's the difference between recent repeats (ENGR, ENYA, APRON), perennial repeats (IDEE, EMIR, NOVA) and personal "gimmies"?

IMHO they're all the same, speeding up my solving in order to get to the "good stuff" (if any).


jubjub 9:19 AM  

Aaron BURR is easy for me to remember because of the original "Got Milk" commercial, which seems to have had a huge impression on me. You can learn all about Aaron Burr in the YouTube sensation, Drunk History, Volume 1.

I got VELO because it means bike in French -- I didn't know it was short for anything.

I'm fairly confused about the "real" meaning of IRONIC. I was in high school when the Alanis Morissette song was on the radio, and I remember my English teachers complaining that ironic was being used incorrectly. Can someone explain the controversy?

Kurisu 9:20 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kurisu 9:22 AM  

@Glitch: I guess you're right, perhaps "annoyed" was too strong of a word but 3 times in 6 days is a bit much for the same thing. Of course the puzzle authors don't have control over when their puzzle will appear, though.

@jubjub: Here's the usage note from the American Heritage Dictionary:
"The words ironic, irony, and ironically are sometimes used of events and circumstances that might better be described as simply "coincidental" or "improbable," in that they suggest no particular lessons about human vanity or folly. Thus 78 percent of the Usage Panel rejects the use of ironically in the sentence In 1969 Susie moved from Ithaca to California where she met her husband-to-be, who, ironically, also came from upstate New York. Some Panelists noted that this particular usage might be acceptable if Susie had in fact moved to California in order to find a husband, in which case the story could be taken as exemplifying the folly of supposing that we can know what fate has in store for us. By contrast, 73 percent accepted the sentence Ironically, even as the government was fulminating against American policy, American jeans and videocassettes were the hottest items in the stalls of the market, where the incongruity can be seen as an example of human inconsistency."

Orange 9:28 AM  

@JubJub, at my blog I linked to an article elaborating on which of Alanis's lyrics are examples of irony and which are nothing of the kind. Here's the link.

HudsonHawk 9:36 AM  

I would take the Carpenters over Enya, but Knopfler over almost anyone else. @allan, I agree. He's due for some NYT puzzle recognition.

@jubjub, I was going to post that your English teacher's complaint was that most of Morissette's examples would be better described as "bummers", but Orange's link does a wonderful job. Thanks for the link, Orange.

joho 9:45 AM  

No matter what the definition of ironic these answers weren't ironic enough for me.

My word of the day was definitely VELO. AQUAVIT is really strong stuff!

A singer friend of mine once told me that Karen Carpenter had the perfect singing voice ... one that singers wanted to sound like. I really have no idea if that's true, but I will take her over Enya any day.

Oh, Knopfler is fantastic!

PuzzleGirl 10:04 AM  

I pretty much giggled my way through this puzzle knowing that Rex would have a good time with it. And I wasn't disappointed! I, too, always picture Raymond Burr when Aaron BURR is called for. I get confused even more because the mistake eventually leads me to two-time National Champion, four-time All-American former Iowa wrestler Mark Ironside and then I'm stuck on that tangent for the rest of the day. (Go Hawks!)

I LOVE the theme. Never heard of ORISONS. Quickly becoming a fan of RYAN Seacrest. My favorite clue/answer combo is [One who's toast] = GONER.

chefbea 10:08 AM  

Great write up Rex!!

Apron again and didn't we have alms yesterday?

Had a good friend from Norway. He always served aquavite when we went to his house. Don't think I have had any since he passed away.

Love Rex's word apostrophication!!!

Anonymous 10:11 AM  

Was the irony the fact that none of the examples are ironic, just simply inapt? Kind of like the song?

I shall take 32D to be a personal shout out.

DJG 10:14 AM  

I agree with Rex that the long downs (AQUAVIT and ORISON) are unnecessarily crossword-ese-y, but I liked the theme a lot on this one, so overall my verdict: great Tuesday puzzle.

elitza 10:20 AM  

Yeah, I wasn't impressed. Sailed through, dealt with the Seacrest/anorexic Karen/Enya. And I truly hate Alanis. Found it fun that the theme answers were actually better examples of irony than anything in the song.

However, ABBEY Road and Aaron BURR made me giggle--that Got Milk commercial is the only way I'd ever have known that historical snippet and the commercial itself is still pure gold.

As to re-using words--NOVA's been in a fair bit of late, has it not?

Anonymous 10:24 AM  

I'd like to think humorlesstwit is right... I thoroughly enjoyed the irony of having a puzzle about irony where none of the answers are ironic.

I thought the them wasn't 'irony', it was 'skewering alanis morissette'

hazel 10:26 AM  

I liked this puzzle - definitely liked the idea for the theme, thought it was very clever. I also really liked Rex's rant, though, I didn't happen to agree with parts of it.

I didn't give that much thought to the definition of irony until I came here. Maybe the actual examples aren't great, but I get the point - and I think its clever. Overthinking the whole thing gets me exactly nowhere. I just think its a good puzzle. period.

VELO - get various VELO-named catalogues, being a cyclist. The catalogues generally have a retro feel to them, so maybe that says something about the word, which I happen to like.

GONER, GNOME, GIGGLE, ZIPPO - good words all. AQUAVIT = Crosswordese? Is that true? The last time it showed up in NYT was 2006. Unlike my dear friend ASTA.

Great debut, constructor! Sharpen that pencil and get rid of ENYA for your next puzzle.

Unknown 10:26 AM  

I wanted to post the SNL clip led by Jason Alexander with the Irony Theater, but need your research skills to find it.

I think this is Ms. Yeager's first puzzle and I enjoyed the theme, but is the misnomer involving the football team the state or the name?

dsf 10:39 AM  

Maybe the whole thing is meant to be a satire of Alanis Morissette. Theme answers are about as ironic as a black fly in chardonnay.

xyz 10:47 AM  

Mostly very easy, but I was interrupted 80% done and struggled a couple minutes.

I watch enough Craig Ferguson that ISNTITIRONIC should just screamed at me, but I can blame that on my interruption? NO! just dense.

Again, who you are/ where yeee done been makes the difference:
AQUAVIT was a slam dunk, I bought a bottle at age 25 in Chicago, Mrs OLEARY, because I wanted to know what it tasted like (carraway flavoured wodka, it is it is) and near Allentown we have the Lehigh Valley VELOdrome. Lived in SF (Those born and raised can call it FRISCO, BTW, from my born-there wife) and know the Hamilton-BURR duel took place near the eighth green of the SF Golf Club (shout out trivia @PARASHUTR) - the hole is known as the DUEL hole. Raymond BURR played Ironsides in SF, but that's coincidental, not ironic.

But, if I had known ORISONS, then it would have been TWO days in a row record time. Dammit!

Nearly became ill at ENYA.
Awful stuff, that.

ISN(')TITIRONIC is yet another apostriphicationizmoverkill (now that's again merely coincidental, not ironic, as well) :-)

Fun puzzle, cheers.


ArtLvr 10:48 AM  

Hamlet to Ophelia --
"Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember'd ."

By which, according to google, someone hypothesized that he'd caused her to be with child!!


Anonymous 10:58 AM  

Good writeup, Rex. Very funny. And I agree with most everything. Never heard of aquavit. Don't believe velo is a word. I fear we must get used to Enya. I don't believe she is going anywhere soon.

Love the word twit - it just seems so right.

As for gimmes - Ipod - I mean what else? Recent repeat (and destined to be perenial repeat) Enya. Perennnial repeat - anon.

Years ago I read Burr by Gore Vidal in which he presents an alternative view of that historial period. It was a good read.

Edie Brickell put out one song that I liked but don't remember, married Paul Simon and has appeared in crosswords since (as I remember it).

I thought the puzzle was really easy and I didn't like the ironic examples, but strangely, I enjoyed filling it in. Is that ironic?

Ulrich 11:09 AM  

As far as I know, "velo" is not short for "velodrome", but for "velociped(e)", the bicycle before there were any bicycles. The velodrome is the place where they run.

Like yesterday, I find myself in the position of speaking up for a puzzle many of you dislike. Echoing what has been said before by some soul mates, I'd say that the theme answers were ironic enough for me to make the puzzle work--and I liked some of the longer fills, like ORISONS, AQUAVIT and ALGIERS.

santafefran 11:12 AM  


I am endlessly entertained by your free associations. ZUG, indeed.

Preparing to duck as I admit to finding Enya soothing when I am stressed out.

BTW--posted a new avatar of one of my two new kittens. This is Sophie who is hell on wheels and then a real snuggler when she wears out.

SethG 11:13 AM  


The Alanis song (I always remember my friend complaining "They're not ironic, it's just a list of things that suck") replaced a horrible Rick Astley song (no, the other one) in my head the last time I climbed a mountain. Philly, don't see the skit anywhere. Details are here or here, but no full transcript or video.

I don't watch Idol. On the Oscar pre-show last year Ryan Seacrest gave Katherine Heigl a bologna sandwich on a Ryan Seacrest plate. Here’s a picture of her wearing her PETA shirt.

I'm not sure why the New York Giants playing in NJ (in the same stadium as the NY Jets) is any different than the Dallas Cowboys playing in Arlington. I know New York is a state name, but Giants Stadium is closer to New York City than the new Cowboys' stadium is to Dallas. But really, all these teams are ironic. Er, suck. Go Steelers!

I have AQUAVIT at home, and I thought the puzzle was fun (had VELO and ORISONS filled in before I saw the clues) and easier than yesterday's.

jeff in chicago 11:23 AM  

A nice Tuesday. No big complaints. I'm not one to notice grids much, but those big chunks of black on the east and west coasts jumped out a little today. No sparkly fill, but nothing I groaned at, either. Did not know AQUAVIT, but crosses revealed it. Nice debut for Katie.

@PG: Aaron -> Raymond -> Ironsides -> Hawks wrestling. Funny. I challenge you to make a chain from a puzzle answer to Hawks wrestling every day. The longer the chain the better.

Gotta say I liked the Morisette album when it first came out. Not musical genius, but tightly-written, well-hooked pop. More recently, her take on "My Humps" does, in my opinion, border on genius.

@theredanman: I absolutely LOVE Craig Ferguson. Funny, funny man.

HudsonHawk 11:24 AM  

@theredanman, what were Hamilton and BURR doing in San Francisco in 1804? Or were you thinking of Weehawken, New Jersey?

archaeoprof 11:29 AM  

Karen Carpenter also sang, "Rainy days and Mondays always get me down."

But here in crossworld, it's Tuesdays.

fikink 11:29 AM  

I still think irony is Marilyn Chambers on an Ivory Snow box and I'll take Rodgers&Hart's "Isn't It Romantic?" over "Isn't It Ironic?" anytime.

Daryl 11:44 AM  

I got the Alanis song early but so wanted a series of answers in which IRONIC things included filings, maidens, bannisters and other ferrous products. I hate faux-irony so the puzzle was already a bad one in my head; weak fill just sealed it. I did have ABSOLUT for AQUAVIT though.

hazel 11:48 AM  

So I think irony should have been the word of the day. The first definition of irony at dictionary.com is "the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning." All of these clues do that - a silver dollar with no silver in it, a new york sports team with its home stadium in new jersey, a permanent hairdo that has to be redone every so often or it looks like crap.

The theme is irony, not sarcasm, irony's harsh and bitter cousin!

Doug 12:15 PM  

The things you learn from crosswords and this great blog. Karen Carpenter saw herself first as a drummer then a singer, and won the Playboy 1975 reader poll for best rock drummer. Now, ISNT THAT IRONIC? Or is it just unexpected?

Tell me, how is a SILVER DOLLAR ironic? Or is that all the various metals combine to make something so "pure"? I get the the irony in a WAVE being PERMANENT (but sounds more like an oxymoron) and the NYGIANTS being in NJ.

Bill Butler 12:35 PM  

There's a funny stand-up skit by Eb Byrne, the Irish comedian, pointing out that Alanis Morissette's song isn't really about irony at all, as pointed out by others above. If you don't mind a little strong language, you can see the skit on my blog page for today.

Ulrich 12:54 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ulrich 12:57 PM  

@doug: It's much simpler: The silver dollar contains no silver.

When I said that the theme answers are ironic enough for me, I meant what Hazel spelled out explicitly.

Shamik 1:01 PM  

So here i am in sunny Arizona and solving the puzzle. And there she is. Again. I sat. I trembled. What denouncements would Rex proclaim today? Ooohhhhh... "The sound of zombies feeding." That was a surprise if its muse was not.

I had this conversation on Sunday with my 32 year old metal band drummer nephew: It's ok to like what others call "bad" music. It may, in fact, be a virtue and sign of maturity. (wink wink) It certainly stops what I did for half my life which was to disdain with snobbery anything below my standards.

I like Enya, but am too cheap to buy her music.

Karen Carpenter has a beautiful voice, but I don't care for her musical choices.

I like the "Hubba Hubba" song.

I still do the Electric Slide.

I can always recognize a Philip Glass piece.

"I just adore Mahler...don't you?" (Can anyone remind me what movie that line is from?)


fikink 1:01 PM  

@Bill Butler
Thanks for the Ed Byrne. Great fare! (metaphor)

Anonymous 1:06 PM  

Unfortunately Enya ('nut'--literally) is not in the top 1000 names for the past ten years. So no one is coming to supplant her in the pantheon. Unless Prince wants to change his name again.

I thought it was a nice puzzle, just enough challenge to not blow through it. And I like the word VELO. Isn't it a velocipede on 'The Prisoner' buttons and such? The bike with the tall wheel in front.

Parshutr 1:12 PM  

SPOILER ALERT: If you want to know why I cannot stand to listen to Karen Carpenter, just listen closely to any of her recordings and hear her GASP for breath at the end of every phrase.
Enya, at least, is a technically perfect singer. Spot on rhythmically, tonally...surely electronically enhanced, but hypnotic.
I'm surprised that Rex et al. didn't object to the quintessential verbER...DOER. Which I still associate with COPSPEAK - DOER = PERP = SKEL.
Don't ask how I know.

xyz 1:23 PM  

my greivous error; SF was the site of the last US Duel, and it did take place at the SF city limits where I described, but I had to check: it was the Broderick-Terry duel. Free associations or flashback? You decide.

Gettin' old's still better than the alternatives ...

Anonymous 1:25 PM  

You're missing Alanis' whole point: a song purportedly about irony contains no actual examples of irony. Isn't THAT ironic?

This puzzle does the exact same thing, which I think is brilliant, and much better than if the theme answers had actually been ironic.

Anonymous 1:32 PM  

A pipsqueak is not a twit:

Pipsqueak: Insignificant... principally because they are young and/or small in size.

Twit: A silly or foolish person.

DONALD 1:32 PM  

ISNT IT IRONIC (55A. Musical question posed by Alanis Morissette, as suggested by 20-, 33- and 40-Across), SILVER DOLLAR (20A. Coin composed of copper, nickel, zinc and manganese), PERMANENT WAVE (33A. Hair treatment that generally lasts three to six months) and NEW YORK GIANTS (40A. Pro football team based in New Jersey) are the interrelated entries of this Tuesday crossword. The metal iron, along with the other alloys mentioned in the clue, is used in the silver dollar, a curling iron is or has been involved in the permanent wave, and the field of play for football is called the gridiron (because it resembles a cooking device). The irony is that the silver dollar is not silver, the permanent wave is temporary and the New York Giants are in New Jersey. Iron and irony!

Anonymous 1:38 PM  

I'd rate as easy although I did go awry with female giggle by entering in titter initially. Must have been the bra answer that did it. Love Rex's comments as always although I can't imagine spending time trying to fix another persons construction on a Tuesday puzzle.

HudsonHawk 1:49 PM  

@theredanman, no worries. I'm right there with you on getting older. I'll go with free association!

I like DONALD's explanation.

Doug 1:55 PM  

@ulrich and Donald: Thanks very much. I was thinking silver was an alloy like bronze, so the 4 metals made up silver. Doh--Of course it's an element not an alloy. Hey, I have a journalism degree, and am not some "tester" in a science lab. :-)

PlantieBea 2:01 PM  

This was an easy puzzle for me. I knew velo because we used to live close to a velodrome. We had a blast, much to our surprise, watching bike races. I've never had AQUAVIT, but I imagine it tastes something like grappa: firewater.

Orison is a new word for me.

I was rolling with laughter over the ENYA/zombie association. Very funny write-up today, Rex.

Now, I must go play Abbey Road (I did the touristy thing and walked at the designated crosswalk last year)to erase the zombie music.

Bob Kerfuffle 2:09 PM  

Re Rex's comment, ZUG is, among other things, a small skiing village in Austria. In the past, while staying in the nearby and larger town of Lech am Arlberg, we went for dinner to a very old wooden restaurant in Zug which specialized in fondues. I believe it has since burned down . . . ironically?

Orange 2:13 PM  

I did have to GIGGLE when I saw the [Knee-high, bearded figure] Robert REICH.

Ross G-Whiz 2:20 PM  

Rex, is it possible that the constructors are now purposefully inserting Enya just to mess with you?

Someone once gave me an Enya CD because I was a fan of the movie LA Story. Up until the unfortunate gift I hadn't realized that it containted her music. Sadness.

Love the duel thread in today's comments. This past weekend hubby and I went on a hunt to find the site of the Broderick-Terry duel. It's out in the Sunset district near lake Merced which in the 1850s was about as far from civilization in San Francisco as you could get. There are three golf courses over there now, a skeet shooting range and an awesome area to hike with your dog.

jeff in chicago 2:23 PM  

@Parshutr: I went searching for some Carpenters songs after your post and I must say I am not hearing the gasps that you are hearing.

When I saw 48-Across today my mind instantly went to Linda Eder singing the song of that name from "Jekyll & Hyde." (Man...there are a LOT of songs called "Take Me As I Am"!) But Eder doesn't sing that song! Emma sings that one; Lucy (Eder) sings "No One Knows Who I Am," which also could have been used for the clue! Which is my intro to say that I think Eder has a more pure voice than either Carpenter or Enya.

Again to Parshutr: I just popped in the "J&H" soundtrack and you hear Eder suck in every breath! I might say though that I believe hearing the breaths is more of a recording issue, not a technique issue. I believe (though certainly cannot prove) that Enya's breathing is just edited out.

@Greene: Any thoughts on Mr. Wildhorn's music? He is often maligned, but "J&H" is one of my favorites. I actually have two recordings of it, the Original Broadway Cast mentioned above, and The Complete Work, released in 1994 and with guest John Raitt in the cast. The earlier version is great. It has a great (later dropped) song called "Bitch, Bitch, Bitch."

Anonymous 2:36 PM  

Easiest puzzle in recent memory.

Anonymous 2:37 PM  

You tell'em PuzzleMensch

dk 2:55 PM  


AQUAVIT (water of life) tastes like death.

ENYA (new age conduit of life) does sound like Zombies feeding.

Morman Karen Carpenter's greatest song was Guitar Man about a women who has sex outside of marriage.

This is why I like the puzzles all these hidden and ironic themes.

Back to crying over 401k balances and contemplating the compound loss rate. Retirement savings now that is irony.

chefbea 3:00 PM  

@ DONALD great comment!!

Since I am snowed in again today (I really think Connecticut has had enough snow) I made those brownies that I wasnt able to make this weekend. Perhaps I will bring some to Westport

Kelly 3:11 PM  

It's nice to know I'm not the only one who knows Burr from the "Got Milk?" commercial! Hooray, TV!

And yeah, I'm also getting sick of ENGR. But is it worse than Enya? Probably not.

Doc John 3:13 PM  

@ Donald- I also agree that your comment was very well done.

As for the puzzle, I kept trying to figure out how to fit a P in New York, as "prisons" just looked better. Finally just shrugged my shoulders and went with ORISONS.

I was always +/- on Alanis but she did play God in a movie (Dogma) so that's a + for her.

When I was in high school, one of the vocabulary words was "inchoate", meaning "just begun". The only way I could remember it was to hum to myself, "...we've only inchoate..."

Chip Hilton 3:27 PM  

With or without walnuts....bring 'em.

ORISONS the only snag for me, but all the crossing words were solids.

There really is something about K. Carpenter's voice. Is it her diction or swirly vowel pronunciations that makes it distinctive? Dunno, but find myself staying with her when she's on the radio, even though the material is often trite.

chefwen 3:29 PM  

I liked the puzzle and I like Enya.
Agree with puzzlemensch re. pipsqueek and twit as I know a lot of big people who are twits. Had a friend sing "We've only just begun" at our wedding, but who the hell didn't in the 70's.
@santafefran, your new kitty is adorable

MarkTrevorSmith 3:39 PM  

Those who mistakenly assert that Morissette's song is not ironic should consult the Oxford English Dictionary: "A condition of affairs or events of a character opposite to what was, or might naturally be, expected; a contradictory outcome of events as if in mockery of the promise and fitness of things." All of the song's examples fit that definition perfectly.

Anonymous 3:40 PM  

Re Donald's comments: What's really ironic is that the ending -ic is supposed to make an adjectival form out of a noun, and yet adding -ic to iron gives you a word that has absolutely nothing to do with iron at all, and the word ferric, which does mean related to iron, is formed from a different root entirely, one that does not generally exist in English. And the simple meaning of IRONIC, as far as Norma Loquendi tells me (see William Safire's NYT Language column if you don't know who she is) is that if it is natural to expect one outcome, and a different, preferably opposite one, occurs, that's IRONIC. You expect a team called the NEW YORK GIANTS to play in New York, but they don't. They play somewhere else.

edith b 4:20 PM  

I am reminded of Potter Stewart on pornography: I can't define it, but I know it when I see it.

When it comes to meaning, Hazel cuts thru everything - she is absolutely correct about irony.

When I did the puzzle last night, I cringed at what to expect on this blog - educated people arguing over tiny slivers of meaning and, no, no irony in sight.
Alanis Morrisette is not sophicticated enough to recognize it.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar -no Silver in a silver dollar?


By the way, Jeff in Chicago, I just love your avatar - I've been meaning to tell you that.

Doug 4:38 PM  

@chip hilton: I think what's distinctive about her voice is that she tended to sing in a low register without being throaty. She also never used any "diva" techniques like you hear from Mariah and Whitney (speaking of RYAN and Idol...) And I think the thing about her voice overall is that she had amazing vocal projection without having to force the song out, like a good crooner (Sinatra, Michael Buble, Harry Connick Jr. come to mind.) If you saw Aretha Franklin sing at the inauguration, take everything about her and reverse them!

Anonymous 4:45 PM  

@Defenders of Ms Morisette:
Dictionaries are compendiums of common usage, and as such provide definitions which, while in common use, not strictly accurate. It would be (strictly) ironic to call a team of midgets playing in New York the New York Giants, calling a team of very large men playing in New Jersey the New York Giants is not ironic, it's simply inaccurate.

Is it overly pedantic to make the distiction? Possibly. Is it correct? Sure.

Unknown 4:47 PM  

Doug, that Aretha reverse thing would make for a white man who can't sing and has no fashion sense, which would be Karen's brother Richard.;)

foodie 4:50 PM  

I really liked this puzzle and look at the discussion it has generated! Directly related to the puzzle itself. Way to go, Katie!

I realized as I was reading the various definitions of "irony" that I carry a somewhat different nuance in my mind-- that it has to be intentional, that it has to be used as a device to communicate a meta-message. Whenever I find myself a little out of sync on connotations, I suspect that it has to do with French, the first European language I learned. So, I checked the French Wikip├ędia for "Ironie". Translation:"A form of expression consisting of saying the opposite of what one is thinking, while letting it be known that there is a difference between what one is saying and what one is thinking". It goes on to say that, in literature, it's a means of criticism, and invites the reader or listener to be active, to think and choose a position.

That seems different from the English meaning, non?

davidb 5:18 PM  

I’m a frequent reader of but first time commenter to this blog. I’m also a long-time friend of sethg’s. Thought that dropping that name might get me some instantaneous cred with this group. (Isn’t that ironic?!)

I was a little thrown by this theme. In all the recent examples of this class of themes where an answer in the puzzle is “suggested by” the theme answers, the suggestions were all self-contained in the answers themselves, whereas in this case the suggestions involve the pairing of the answers with the clues. It took me just a few crossings and Alanis in the clue to get the answer to 55A. But, when I looked back at the three previous theme answers I was quite baffled for a while until I finally looked at the clues. Perhaps this is more common than I’m aware.

It’s nice to be a DOER on this blog after being just a spectator for so long.

Ulrich 5:42 PM  

@foodie: I don't see the difference in meaning. The standard dictionary definition is shorter than the one you provide, i.e. leaves some aspects out. But if one pursues them, one reaches a similar conclusion: Irony is a conscious rhetorical device--a writer makes the decision so say something by pretending to say the opposite. It's obvious to me that he/she has to have a purpose for doing this; and the purpose can be to stir the reader up w.r.t. some issue or to provide a jolt of insight that a straight-forward telling would not provide. And this works, of course, only if the reader recognizes the irony, and the author has to make sure that that will happen, i.e. there has to be some rhetorical "wink". All of this is, to me, implied in the dictionary definition.

The classical example of literary irony in English is Swift's "Modest Proposal". To my utter amazement, I learned only recently that he was criticized at the time by people who took his piece at face value, i.e. didn't see the irony. Clearly, there existed people who could not recognize irony even if it hit them in the face, and these people apparently exist to the present day.

ArtLvr 6:05 PM  

@ Donald -- I very much enjoyed your exaggerations to get three iron-y examples from the theme answers, but as far as I remember the permanent wave did not involve a curling iron, just a chemical treatment of the hair...

@ steve I -- I agree that we don't generally use the Latin form "ferric" in English except in chemical compounds, but we do use the other form as in "non-ferrous" meaning that something doesn't contain any iron... of either valence.

@ Rex -- Loved your wry comments, even the poke at Robert Reich. And Reich would probably get a kick out of it if you'd classed him with the Gnomes of Zurich, the fabled bankers who knew what they were doing... as opposed to today's bankers who obviously didn't. That would indeed be ironic, as Reich was seemingly no more prescient than any one else.

treedweller 6:06 PM  

This morning, I read the essay in Orange's link above (regarding irony in the song referenced by the puzzle), then spent the day in a large live oak. Your mind tends to wander when pruning a tree for hours on end, and I thought a lot about this guy's take on things.

I got back to the office prepared to launch a tirade about the pedantic snobbery of assuming a 21-year-old doesn't know the meaning of irony--maybe she had a good English teacher, or maybe she's just really bright, or maybe she has a deep love of O. Henry. Maybe she knew they were not ironic, but just wanted to mess with people like the author of the essay. Maybe she is herself a pedant about it all and deliberately poked fun at those who would think it was irony. Maybe she wrote it as a test for future English teachers to use in class (the phrase is "isn't it ironic,", not "it is ironic") Then I read the wiki entry on the song and, well, never mind.

But I still think she deserves at least a partial on the old-man-wins-lottery-and-dies example. If he was playing the lottery at 98, it's likely he spent his whole life throwing away money to try and get rich quick (his folly). If he had simply saved the cash over the years, he might have retired in style, but he kept playing the long odds. Then he hit it right before he bit it, even though we could reasonably expect he'd never win at all. That seems ironic, even based on the definition provided in the link. But, then, I definitely did not have a good English teacher when we studied irony, so I've always felt a little iffy on the precise definition.

Also, I mixed Morisette up with Sheryl Crow, and as a result the song "All I wanna Do" was running through my head all day, much to my dismay. So I'm glad to read the comments here, as she's been supplanted by the Carpenters.

Oh, the puzzle. Pretty standard Tuesday fare. I made a mistake by reflexively entering loo for LAV. I never checked the crosses (again) and so I failed to earn a gold star.

Greene 6:11 PM  

@Shamik: I believe the movie you are referring to is Educating Rita with the line "Don't you just ADORE Mahler?" Personally, I kind of do adore Mahler.

@Jeff in Chicago: Mr. Wildhorn is, to my knowledge, the greatest living theatre composer (hint, I'm being ironic).

If I might say a word for poor Catherine O'LEARY. The legend that her cow kicked a kerosene lamp into the hay of her barn and destroyed a city of 340,000 people is just that: a legend. Though the press hounded Mrs. O'Leary till her death, a reporter revealed that he and two other journalists had invented the story, based on the finding of an overturned oil lamp in the O'Leary barn. Irony or gonzo journalism? You decide.

edith b 6:16 PM  


What is consciously ironic about the expression "Silver Dollar"? It is ironic because there is no silver in it not for some rhetorical point.

The expression is inherently ironic mainly because there is no other point

RodeoToad 6:17 PM  

Long-time-commenter-first-time-listener here. The blog and the comments are en fuego today. Robert Reich ("Hearts! Moons! Clovers!"), the New York Midgets, Aretha Franklin compared to Richard Carpenter--funny stuff.

chefbea 6:23 PM  

@davidb welcome. The more the merrier

Glitch 6:25 PM  

My schedule forces me to post early (anticipate the topic of the day) and late (after it's flogged to within an inch of it's life).

Not too sucessful, in the former.

But usually have found Ulrich posted what I would have, and usually in more elequent terms. Thus I can avoid the "me too" posts.

So, today, I agree with Ulrich, and add the following:


Our '70s wedding song was "In My Life", and the toast was "May this be the unhappiest day of your life".


and somtimes "a puzzle is just a puzzle".


Glitch 6:28 PM  

btw --- there was a bit of irony in my last post

jeff in chicago 6:53 PM  

@edith b: Thanks about the avatar. From where I sit typing I can see 16 images of Groucho. I collect old movie posters and other things Marx.

@Greene: Pretty much the answer I expected!

Ulrich 7:32 PM  

@edithB: Yes, the puzzle relies on irony in its simple dictionary definition. What I was responding to was the larger literary meaning that foodie alluded to. My mistake was not to point this out--I actually realized this when I reread my comment, but let it stand--my bad.

DONALD 7:48 PM  


Not an exaggeration -- History of the Curling Iron -- for the remaining "stretch" -- New York Times Crossword in Gothic -- How Ironic!

joho 8:16 PM  

@treedweller: O. Henry! That's what I was trying to remember ... about the comb and the chain. Now that's irony.

@ulrich: this is from yesterday when I discovered that you left Germany to follow your true love to America. That is not ironic but truly romantic. I think people don't understand that about Germans. There's this stereotype of sterness I think. When in college I learned of the book, I think it was "The Sorrows of Young Werther." Not sure of the title, but many young German boys killed themselves after reading it so overcome with passion.

Never mind me, I was just struck by your sweet story.

jae 8:21 PM  

I'm at a cetain age where the only thing I know about Alanis is her role as God in the Kevin Smith movie that Doc John mentioned. I've never knowingly heard her music but its likely that I have. I am, however, a Karen Carpenter fan.

Observation: Even with all the dict. refs the meaning of irony seem to be tough to agree on/pin down. Its always been a bit fuzzy for me. I'm with edith b on invoking Potter Stewart.

Found the puzzle about right for a Tues. Nothing spectacular but nothing awful either.

Jeffrey 8:22 PM  

Alanis Morissette is Canadian but nobody mentionned that until me. And I'm not in Canada right now. Isn't That Ironic?

Saw the American Idol Experience at Disney World. Ryan only there on tape with a fake Ryan and fake judges. Sort of real singers. Real voting. Set is cool.

I'm here in the interest of crossword research. You may recall a few days ago when I said pilots only give ETAs, not ETDs. My flight confirmed this.

Crosscan, international crossword research authority.

allan 8:22 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
allan 8:31 PM  

@davidb: Welcome. It's nice to know that sethg has intelligent friends jk seth. Your point about the pairing of the clues and answers is very well taken. I did this puzzle last night, and had forgotten until your post that one of my comments about this puzzle was just that. It was my AHA moment for today (or yesterday). Hope you will keep posting.

@crosscan: you have my vote for president of the ICRA.

With all the definitions of irony that have been bandied about today I have come to realize that if you put 15 crossword bloggers together in a room, you will get 20 different opinions about a given puzzle. But if you put 25 crossword puzzle bloggers in a room, you get irony.

bye for now

Anonymous 8:39 PM  

The very fact that this puzzle led to so much puzzle-related commentary suggests that it is a better-than-average Tuesday. After all, most Tuesdays are blah...

I liked it a lot. Although I use the word, I've never been quite sure what "ironic" meant. It seems that I am not alone, though a lot of you seem sure of your (contradictory) ideas.

jubjub 8:40 PM  

@foodie, from reading the definitions given above and Orange's link, the definition you gave is my understanding of the difference between the colloquial and formal definition of irony. The difference between the two is interesting to me -- I can't think of another word that is so fuzzy in definition, relying on the inferred intent of the speaker. Weird.

Anonymous 9:43 PM  

clue me in as to why we're making fun of karen carpenter who died of anorexia?

treedweller 9:49 PM  

@anon 9:43

Who's making fun of Carpenter?

Why does one's method of death make one immune to being made fun of?

Unknown 10:08 PM  

@anon at 9:43
I'd say you are very strange and hiding behind the anonymous tag. I reread the entries and here are the comments I found (cut and pasted). Who made fun of Karen here?
I am, however, a Karen Carpenter fan.
I think the thing about her voice overall is that she had amazing vocal projection without having to force the song out
There really is something about K. Carpenter's voice
Karen Carpenter's greatest song was Guitar Man
listen closely to any of her recordings and hear her GASP for breath at the end of every phrase
I am not hearing the gasps that you are hearing
Karen Carpenter has a beautiful voice
Karen Carpenter saw herself first as a drummer then a singer, and won the Playboy 1975 reader poll for best rock drummer.
Karen Carpenter also sang, "Rainy days and Mondays
Karen Carpenter had the perfect singing voice
I would take the Carpenters over Enya
I'd rather listen to Enya than the Carpenters
and finally from Rex, "Must listen to Carpenters to soothe my troubled mind:"

liquid el lay 10:17 PM  

I kind of wanted to make a contribution here so I Googled ENYA (minus)singer, artist, music.. and came up with Enya, the singer, for pages, anyway.

The only thing that comes to mind is: East New York-A clued as (eastern bourough-er, dweller) at Harvard? to a Kennedy? abv.

I know it's a stretch, but wouldn't it be worth it?

How about.. Celtic screetcher, bane to crossworders..

Just trying to help. What do I know, I'm from California.

fergus 10:29 PM  


Didn't Orisons come elsewhere, too? I've never heard the term outside the Danish play otherwise.

liquid el lay 10:33 PM  


I don't know what she sounds like- computer refuses to play her- I probably would like it... just trying to be helpful is all... I like a good screech.

foodie 10:51 PM  

@ulrich, edith b and jubjub, thank you for the further discussion of the nuances in the meaning of irony. I think what I am taking away from it is that in French and in literary English, the conscious INTENT of the SPEAKER appears to be a critical element of the concept. But in colloquial English usage, something need not be intended to be ironic. Rather the OBSERVER can PERCEIVE it as such because it contains a contradiction (e.g. Silver Dollar or "Permament Wave") and label it as ironic. I do think that in the process,the differentiation between irony and contradiction can become eroded. I agree, jubjub, that this is an interesting drift in meaning that seems a bit unusual.

@Donald, I'm not sure that the constructor had necessarily intended the iron/ironic connection. But yours is a wonderful idea and would have made an even better puzzle (i.e to have each answer be both ironic and related to iron).

fergus 10:51 PM  

Rex, remember when Tuesday was the dullest day? Perhaps the Aquavit was the water of life, as whiskey is, along with the old standard eau de vie. Anyone can see how these are linguistically related, but I wonder how far the chain extends?

mac 11:29 PM  

Never been so late to the party, and a party is was today! My laptop got fixed only an hour ago (which means it took me an hour to read Rex and the comments!), and I'm heavily relying on your combined accuracy because my husband started a fire with the arts section. Fortunately in the fireplace.

Velo(cipede) and Aquavit (very good restaurant in NY) were gimmes, and I really didn't have any trouble with the puzzle. Never heard of zippo before, but it was in Jeopardy this evening, as well. Enya to me is chiropractor music, I love Karen Carpenter's voice but it is just too sad, and Alanis was very helpful to me some years ago, when I had plenty of reason to be unhappy and angry. I used to sing her songs along with her in the car, loudly!

Robert Reich drives a Mini Cooper. I just like to envision that.

@PuzzleGirl: I bet you can bring almost anyone 6 degrees from wrestling!

@Bob Kerfuffle: I remember Zug, and Lech, and the Hotel Schneider, where the food was so good we never ate anywhere else....

@Doug: nice how you describe the different singing voices. I once heard Norah Jones called "the un-Mariah" and I thought that was a great expression.

How do we pronounce inchaote?

fergus 11:59 PM  

Mac, the ch takes a hard K, unless you've ironically misspelled. But then, that would choatic, wouldn't it?

mac 12:26 AM  

Thank you, Fergus, nothing ironic about my typo.....

I will read the rest of your and maybe Andrea's comments first thing in the morning. Are we going for a 100?

edith b 12:36 AM  


I have always had a problem distinguishing between contradiction and true irony. You are right about the erosion in meaning.

I think this comes up because of the difference in meaning between formal and colloquial irony which, of course, is the intent of the speaker. The confusion stems from two distinct meanings for the same basic idea.

I think.

allan 12:50 AM  

@mac: Yes

@all: We forgot that Feb. 3 is the day the music died. So bye bye Miss
American Pie. And night all.

SethG 2:20 AM  

Welcome, davidb! For those of you wondering, yes, he has great hair.


Anonymous 3:16 AM  

Orison + B = Orbison
now there's a voice!

talk about late to the party! I've only just begun...
but have arrived to find Alanis going round and round on the Victrola, crumbs on the floor, one of Seth's shoes lying alone...

If I were really mean I'd repeat the old chestnut (which, ironically, is the English word for Enya):
"If Mama Cass had shared her ham sandwich with Karen Carpenter they'd both be alive today"

Thank you and good night.

I do have to say that I liked this puzzle going for something different, even if it wasn't perfect.

@David/Sethg's pal
I too forgot to reread the clues and could not figure out for the life of me what the theme was initially. Did anyone already say that "permanent wave" was an oxymoron more than an irony? I'd reread to find out, but then I'd have to kill myself.

Anonymous 3:31 AM  

Edie Brickell did that doofus song "What I Am". Karen, even Enya, is infinitely better than Mrs. P. Simon.
Dig this: I walk into my dear friend's memorial service and Enya is playing on the sound system. How ironic; my darling man loved AC/DC. Wives, get to know your husbands.
Good for Tuesday. I almost fell asleep before I finished the puzzle; typical for Tuesday. Comments woke me up. It's ironic, music was the hot button on the Day the Music Died.

allan 8:25 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
allan 8:46 AM  

@Rex: Hope everything is alright. You've usually posted by now.

Rex Parker 9:01 AM  

Please don't post here, or anywhere, asking where the post is. I post by 9am. That is the goal, and 99.9% of the time, I make it. I made it today. I appreciate the concern, but if it's not 9 yet, then nothing is unusual. If it's after 10am and there's no new post, then yes, something is amiss, and you can start to send out the search parties.


The Cunctator 9:55 AM  

Rex -- I have to believe you're just being cranky about this puzzle. Aquavit is well-known outside crossword-puzzle land because of Marcus Samuelsson's famous restaurant.

Velo probably should have just been clued as "Nice bike" or "French two-wheeler".

It's perfectly fine for QUOTE to be a noun.

ORISONS is one of my favorite words.


Orange 10:00 AM  

@Allan at 12:50: Tuesday's Sun crossword was Peter Gordon's tribute to THE DAY THE / MUSIC DIED, so not everyone forgot.

Anonymous 6:02 PM  

I was apparently thinking differently about the theme--iron

silver is chemical element as well as iron

you use an iron for permanent wave

and football Giants Gridiron

thinking too hard on this one!!

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