Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Title: Cogito Ergo Sum
Author: Patrick Blindauer

Theme: Numbers that add up to 23, clued for their sum (23). Or, "I think, therefore I add numbers together".

When you see Patrick Blindauer's name, brace yourself for something different. Patrick is certainly one of the most innovative puzzle constructors these days, and there is very often some kind of unique twist. Today's puzzle includes three clues to which the answer is "twenty-three", but in each case there are two consecutive fills that add up to twenty-three. If there is any significance to which addends were chosen (other than that they had the appropriate number of letters in them), I haven't deduced it. Let's see what we've got:
  • 24a: Number before "skiddoo" (SIX + SEVENTEEN). Thank God we had the other two theme answers, because I had no idea what this was. Turns out it's slang from the 1920s meaning, basically, "skedaddle". There are many interesting hypotheses regarding the origin of the phrase, which you can read about here.

  • 36a: Ninth prime number (ELEVEN + TWELVE). 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, ...

  • 51a: Number of human chromosome pairs (TWENTY-TWO + ONE). Also, Michael Jordan's retired (and LeBron James' current) jersey number, the famous psalm ("The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want..."),...

I'll give this one points for originality, but I can't honestly say that I find the finished product to be all that compelling, themewise. Unless I'm missing some extra dimension I haven't discovered (which is very possible).

Update: Reader "evad" points out what should have been obvious to me -- that there were plus signs built into the black squares of the grid. I gotta pay more attention to the big picture. :) Thanks, evad; and sorry, Patrick, for missing it the first time around.

Trivia: How many people do you have to have in a room before the odds of any two having the same birthday are better than 50%? Answer at end.

Sunny Spots:
  • 21a: Nice way to say "Yes"? (OUI). Call me a sap, but I never get tired of this mechanism of using the city of Nice to indicate that the answer is French. It makes for such great surface reading.

  • 35a: Finch's creator. (LEE). Referring, of course, to Atticus Finch from Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird". Very nice.

  • 1d: Courier contemporary (AGASSI). TIMES NEW ROMAN wouldn't fit. :)

  • 3d: Neil Simon's "___ Blues" (BILOXI). Great to have a fill that ends in "XI" and isn't a Roman numeral.

  • 11d: Al Bundy portrayer on "Married... With Children" (ED O'NEILL). This show was FOX TV's first sitcom, and really pushed the envelope compared to standard netword fare, setting the stage for years of edgy television.

  • 28d: Thing that helps you choose sides? (MENU). Good misdirection, plus it's about food. I shouldn't blog hungry.

  • 31d: Beer bust dispenser (KEG). I always give a shout-out to the beer clues.

  • 36d: Self-gratifying acts (EGO TRIPS).

  • 38d: Some Olympians (EPÉEISTS). Nice twist to the ubiquitous EPÉE fill.

  • 43d: Betty of Talkartoons (BOOP).

  • 60d: Leaves in a bag (TEA). I've definitely seen this clue before, but I still enjoy the surface imagery.

  • 7a: ___ Championship Series (BOWL). This one didn't jump right out at me; seemed like there many vague possibilities, and college football is not in the forefront of my sports consciousness.

  • 15a: Cosmetic emollient (ALOE). Man, this shows up a lot.

  • 17a: In the arms of Morpheus, so to speak (ASLEEP). Morpheus, besides being a main character in the Matrix movies, is the Greek god of dreams.

  • 20a: Flavor of the Spanish liqueur patxaran (SLOE). I've heard of sloe gin, so it wasn't a great leap.

  • 26a: Still contending (IN IT). I like that the puzzle eschewed the abbreviation (Init.) and went for the more colorful phrase.

  • 32a: Command to a boxer. (SIT)

  • 41a: Orbit, e.g. (GUM)

  • 45a: Schrödinger subject (ATOM). Erwin Schrödinger was a Nobel prize-winning physicist specializing in quantum mechanics. I'm not getting any deeper than that here.

  • 47a: "___ Call the Wind Maria" ("Paint Your Wagon" song) (THEY). Seems like a long way to go just for "they".

  • 56a: DDT banner (EPA). Banner in the sense of those who ban something.

  • 58a: "Collateral" actress ___ Pinkett Smith (JADA). I saw "Collateral" and didn't remember she was in it. But she's another tie-in to the Matrix trilogy, where she played Niobe.

  • 64a: Tinted (DYED). I had HUED to start.

  • 68a: Obstinate (ORNERY). I think ornery is a great word. Right up there with aloof; maybe it will show up again tomorrow... :)

  • 2d: Cotton fabric (MUSLIN)

  • 4d: Beekeeper played by Peter Fonda (ULEE). If "Ulee's Gold" did nothing else, it immortalized Peter Fonda in Crosswordland.

  • 5d: Véronique, e.g.: Abbr. (STE). I didn't notice the "Abbr" part at first and wanted to put NOM (French for "name") there.

  • 7d: "Muppet ___" (animated '80s TV show set in a nursery) (BABIES).

  • 9d: "A Man in Full" author Tom (WOLFE)

  • 10d: Get smart? (LEARN). I don't know if the question mark is warranted here, but I like the reference to the old Don Adams TV show.

  • 13d: Kind of ballot (ABSENTEE). This was a really easy clue, especially during an election year. 'Kind of father?' would be tougher.

  • 19d: Champed thing (BIT). Cute, but easy.

  • 25d: Beta's rival in a format war (VHS). Gee, I wonder who won?

  • 34d: "Find out how good we really are" sloganeer (TWA). Not so good that they didn't go bankrupt and get bought out by American.

  • 42d: Pinning surface (MAT). Pinning, not pinning down. Happy, puzzlegirl? :)

  • 48d: Grinder (HOAGIE). Mmmmm... food.

  • 53d: Undergarment for women (TEDDY). I know some of you were expecting a slinky lingerie shot here, but we're erring on the side of decency. For a real cheesecake shot (you have been warned), try this one!

    Happy now? :)

  • 62d: Ballad ending? (-EER). These suffix clues are gimmes after a while. Is anyone out there still getting fooled by these?

Suns of Bitches:
  • 12d: "Fathers and Sons" novelist Ivan (TURGENEV). Didn't know this one. Won't know it next time either. Got it completely from crossings.

  • 27d: Yom ___ (holiday, in Hebrew) (TOV). Made sense once I saw it, but it wasn't something I knew.

  • 54d: Belgian violinist Eugène (YSAŸE). I know a fair number of classical musicians, but not this one. Of course, he died over 30 years before I was born. I have no doubt he was very talented.

  • 58d: Rolling Stone honcho Wenner (JANN). That's the magazine, not the rock group. Luckily I knew JADA at 58a, or else this would have been a total guess-the-letter.

All in all, not a bad puzzle, but not in the same league as some of the gems that Patrick has produced in the past year. Is that a fair standard for a puzzle? Probably not. Still, as gimmicks go, this one fell a little short for me.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Trivia answer: 23


janie said...

one man's meat...

"turgenev" was a gimme for me.

and while i, too, thought "gee, what a long way to go for # 47a: '___ Call the Wind Maria' ("Paint Your Wagon" song) (THEY)," i like the song... so ultimately this made me smile.

clever title, clever grid. loooooved this puzzle!



p.s. yes, more don martin. worth following the wikipedia link within for more tasty bits!)

Anonymous said...

Hi Jim!

This may have been obvious to you (tho I don't see where you mention it), but having the plus sign between the two integers as represented by the black squares in the puzzle seems to me to be the brilliance of this idea. (A minus sign (3 black squares in a row) could also be represented this way--would've been cool to have one of those too.)

Though I should know the wife of Will Smith, I didn't, so the crossing of JADA and JANN seemed to me to be unfair to the celebrity-challenged (such as myself!)

Anonymous said...

Sorry, you're Pete (confusing you with JimH, who also started a blog recently...lots of xword bloggers now!)

Pete M said...

Doh! How could I miss the plus signs? Thanks for pointing it out. 50 bonus points!

Bill D said...

Great puzzle and a lot of fun. Could have been made better if the plus signs had worked down, as well, but that may be too much to ask for a Wednesday. Nice misdirection in some of the cluing, as Pete notes.

I knew 23-skidoo, so I puzzled over the "__X" I had for a while until I discovered the unnumbered square opposite, and the plus sign. Then the answer and the theme came to me in one flash. I had a little trouble with the section 36D-38D, until I finally got EGO TRIPS.

I'm usually not big on classical music and pop culture but I knew JADA and JANN, never heard of YSAYE, and recognized TURGENEV after the fact. I saw Schrödinger mentioned in another blog yesterday, so ATOM dropped right away.

One clue reminded me of a street scene pan in The Simpsons with a store marquee that says "The VHS HUT - Formerly The Beta Barn". It gave me a chuckle!

Anonymous said...

believe me bill d: I tried to get the Downs into the action. If only someone had thought to name another number with three letters!

Thanks for all the nice comments.


Torbach said...

Hey Pete,

I didn't know that today's puzzle was Patrick's until a crossword enthusiast-friend of mine (who is also an umpire in his spare time) e-mailed me with a bit of a spoiler, saying the puzzle could have had the alternate title "Donnie Baseball", as in Don Mattingly of the Yankees - another #23.

In spite of having been shown this as a work in progress by Patrick, I recognized the plus signs but totally spaced on 23, so it wasn't a huge solving advantage. It was a neat looking puzzle, and I especially liked the big corners - yes, I knew TURGENEV, and enjoyed filling it in! The YSAYE/TEDDY/ITSADATE spot was the last to fall.

One peculiar thing for me - as it worked out, I had 51A TWENTYTWO and 44A OWE as the first bits in the SW, which left the mighty wrong-looking --WW---- next to --EE----: WW? It made me doubt OWE for a second, re-read the clue, start picking daisies and thinking about the weather...which put a crimp in my solving time!

ehicks77 said...

well, if plus is imbedded in the black blanks between the theme answers its just too cute for words. I guess the "cogito ergo sum" should have given it away but it "belabors" the answers and is very much on the "fringe" of trying too hard to be clever.

Bill D said...

PB2 - I'm always excited and embarassed when the constructor comments on these blogs. Sometimes we've been very critical and nit-picky, as if we could do better (or even do!) and the talent will weigh in and thank us, no matter how picayune we've been. Believe me, I was just waxing poetic about the downs. Even though I picked up on the very unusual theme I didn't realize the sums were all 23s until I had finished, although, in my defense, I must say that I'm particularly bad at simple math.

I thoroughly enjoyed your puzzle, Patrick, and I'll be looking for your name from now on. Thank YOU!

Joon said...

i knew something had to be gimmicky about this one based on the fact that it couldn't be across-lite-ified. so i wasn't surprised to see the unclued acrosses, although to be fair, i've seen "empty" clues in across lite before (usually just with a dash).

i loved the long downs in the NE and SW! TURGENEV, yay! great book, although i'm a sucker for 19th-c russian lit. and EGOTRIPS! fantastic stuff.

i had a bone to pick with the schrodinger clue. yes, he studied the atom, but i was thrown because i immediately filled in WAVE, which is the subject of schrodinger's famous equation. the equation itself (and the wave formulation of quantum mechanics that it represents) is a thing of beauty; the fact that it can be applied to the hydrogen atom is perhaps important, but incidental in the context of schrodinger's contribution to science. bohr or dalton (or even democritus) would have been a nicer clue for ATOM.