Monday, May 5, 2008

Tuesday, May 5, 2008

Title: Sports Trades
Author: Mike Nothnagel

Theme: Take non-sports-related phrase that begins with the name of a sports team (in singular) and swap that name to the end to make a new phrase that seemingly relates to a player on that team. So, for example:

  • Celtic cross => CROSS CELTIC (20a: Betray a basketball player?);

  • Maple Leaf Rag => RAG MAPLE LEAF (27a: Tease a hockey player?);

  • Cardinal rule => RULE CARDINAL (48a: Exercise power over a baseball player?)

  • Bear witness => WITNESS BEAR (58a: Observe a football player?)

I like this theme idea, and the fact that it covers the four major U.S. professional sports (sorry, soccer, you still don't make the cut around here). I wish the phrases didn't sound so awkward due to the removal of
the indefinite article (i.e. CROSS CELTIC instead of CROSS A CELTIC, but that's just inherent in the way the theme plays out.

I also love that one of the base phrases is Maple Leaf Rag, one of my favorite non-classical piano pieces, by Scott Joplin. Here's a guitar version that you really have to see (and hear) to believe. I wouldn't have thought it was possible.

Kudos, also, for having the Celtics clue sitting right below PATS (17a: Back stroke?). Go New England sports!

Sunny Spots:

  • 5a: Danica Patrick, for one (RACER). Now, trust me, I'm no NASCAR fan, -- idle thought: I wonder how big a set the intersection of crossword fans and NASCAR fans would be... I'm guessing not very -- but Danica Patrick deserves major props for being a successful woman in a virtually completely male-dominated "sport" (quotation marks intentional).

  • 24a: Where to go to go to Togo (AFRICA). Very nice.

  • 18a: Prepare for baking, as challah dough (BRAID). Hey, we love food clues here.

  • 42a: Transportation for some seniors (LIMO). A shout-out to prom season.

  • 13d: Roulette number that loses on bets of both even and odd (ZERO). Zero is an even number, but not in Vegas!

  • Fats, e.g. (POOL SHARK). Referring, of course, to Minnesota Fats, one of the most famous pool players of all time. I got this right away (and then erased it a couple of times during my struggle in the SW -- more on this later), but I'm wondering if people thought this was a tough clue for a Tuesday?

  • 14a: Brake shoe replacement part (SHOE).

  • 40a: Excalibur, e.g. (SWORD). "Sting, e.g." would be a great late-week clue, wouldn't it?

  • 43a: Paparazzi's lenses (ZOOMS). Topical and evocative.

  • The London Eye
  • 45a: Tony winner John (ELTON). I always think of John as a first name first, before realizing that it is (again) Elton John. My first-ever vinyl album purchase was Elton John. Then Aerosmith.

  • 52a: View from the London Eye (THAMES).

  • 59d: Make fun of (TWIT). I was not familiar with the verb form of this word, but I still love that it reminds of this Monty Python sketch.

  • 33d: Slim Motorola phone (RAZR). Nice, current fill.


This puzzle had a noticable number of crosswordy-vowelly clues:

  • AUEL (25a: Author of "The Mammoth Hunters"). And more famously, author of "The Clan of the Cave Bear"

  • EIEIO (67a: Refrain from a pre-school song)

  • EASY A (54d: Class that's a cakewalk)

  • ELIE (61d: French mathematician ___ Cartan). Have I mentioned I was a math major? No clue on this one.

  • ALOU (34d: Bochy replaced him as manager of the San Francisco Giants). If all you knew about baseball was from crossword puzzles, you'd think half the league was named ALOU or SOSA.

  • IKEA (12d: Its first store opened in 1958 in Älmhult, Sweden)
  • Blah blah store blah blah Sweden = IKEA.

And, for good measure, let's throw in:

  • EL AL (26d: Company with a Magen David in its logo)

  • ENYA (68a: Best New Age Album Grammy winner for "Amarantine"). If someone paid me $1000 dollars for every New Age artist I could name, I'd be $1000 dollars richer. Is ENYA the only one out there, or is she just the ALOU of New Age music?
You know, that gets me thinking... I bet someone out there who is way more artistic than I am could do a parody of that classic New Yorker cover to show the world as viewed by crossword solvers. It would have to be dominated by places like ERIE and EIRE and STLO, with the YSER, AARE, and OISE rivers figuring prominently. Definite bonus points for someone who could come up with something like that... :)
  • ETAS (71a: Greek vowels)

  • YAO (23a: Runner-up to Stoudemire for 2002-03 Rookie of the Year ). And shouldn't this be "Runner-up to Amare..."? Runner-up to Stoudemire should be MING. Not that I didn't get the answer, but still... just doesn't seem quite right to me.

And, while we're quibbling, 4d: Possible reply to a general question? (YES, SIR): Does the question mark excuse the lack of capitalization in "General"? Just asking.

Other miscellaneous clues of note:
  • 6d: "Hell's Half ___" (1954 Elsa Lanchester film) (ACRE). I've never seen this film, but the name is at least familiar.

  • 62a: Name on the big screen (IMAX)

  • 56a: Castellaneta cry upon seeing "(annoyed grunt)" in scripts If I'd recognized the name on the first pass, I wouldn't have had so much trouble in the SW... D'OH!

  • 5d: Organs can be found in them (RIB CAGES). I can't decide whether this clue is cute or gross. Maybe a little of each, like -- nah, I'll spare you the analogy.

  • 11d: "Hip to Be Square" singer (HUEY LEWIS).

  • 28d: Hungry kitten, often (MEWER). Hmph. Yeah, that about sums it up: I'm a Hmpher upon encountering this clue.

  • 50d: Tuition add-on (LAB FEE). Come September, I will have two kids in college. Any clue that mentions tuition is a bit more painful than it otherwise might be.

Suns of Bitches:

There were a few tough clues here for a Tuesday, but it was the SW corner that really threw me, starting with 56d: Brazilian midfielder on back-to-back World Cup winners in '56 and '62. Like many Americans, I can only name one soccer player, and that's PELÉ (Well, no that's not entirely true. I know of David Beckham, and also Zinedine Zidane, but only because it's such a cool name). And it crossed perfectly with 66a: Impetus for some foolish behavior, for which I had LOVE (which I loved because it reminded me of one my all-time favorite Motown songs, from Martha Reeves and the Vandellas). Needless to say, this resulted in a major clusterf$^# in that corner until I figured out the answers were DIDI and DARE, respectively. It didn't help that in our area we play candlepin bowling, where an 'X' denotes a ten, not a strike (63d: Perfect game dozen = XES).

Besides that (and ELIE, above), then only one I had to totally resort to crossings on (and I've seen the movie) was: 36a: Brandon ___ (Hilary Swank's "Boys Don't Cry" role) (TEENA). And even if I had remembered it, I wouldn't have known it was spelled that way.

Well, that turned out to be quite a lot to talk about for a Tuesday.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.


Anonymous said...

You mentioned that you're "no NASCAR fan" which is great, because Danica Patrick doesn't race in NASCAR. She races in the IndyCar Series (with much faster cars). Check it out sometime... the Indy 500 is coming up on May 25th.

Pete M said...

@anonymous: So, do they drive around in a bigger circle? I can see how that would be much more exciting.


Anonymous said...

Hi Pete.

Thanks for the nice write-up of my (debut Sun) puzzle.

I agree with you (and Amy) about the lack of articles in my theme entries, but, as you alluded to, them's the breaks...I'll make sure my next puzzle is chock full of articles, both definite and indefinite!


Pete M said...

@nothnagel: I didn't realize this was your first Sun puzzle. Welcome to the dark side... :)

Pete M said...

I've been thinking about my comments regarding Yao Ming. Are Chinese names listed in backward order? In other words, is Yao his family name and Ming his given name? If so, then that would make sense and I retract the quibble.

janie said...

so happy to see the nothnagel byline -- and even happier (though it took me a while to suss out how the theme worked) to be able to solve it without any headbanging!

god bless tuesdays.....



Joon said...

yup, YAO is his family name. it goes first. not every asian-american does this (se ri pak, for instance, puts pak at the end like an american), but some do.

i loved loved LOVED this puzzle. it had some nothnagely goodness, but a theme (!) and a very elegant one at that. i didn't so much mind the lack of articles. i guess you could start with CROSSCELTIC, clue it as [Angry basketball player?] and try to go from there by using adjectives, but then you wouldn't be able to use the delightful RAGMAPLELEAF. by the way, pete, that youtube guitar guy is absolutely incredible. thanks for the link!

i don't think "general" needs to be capitalized unless it is used as the title for a particular general, e.g. "General Patton." "The general inspected the troops" is okay. either way, cool clue and fresh answer.

i had no idea this was nothnagel's NYS debut. mike, i love your NYT themeless puzzles!

Anonymous said...

@joon: I started off on the adjectival route, but you hit the nail on the head: RAG MAPLE LEAF changed my direction. (And, thanks!)