Monday, August 18, 2008

Monday, August 18, 2008

Title: embodiment of nature
Author: alan arbesfeld
Theme: phrases that combine a body part and a terrain type.

  • 3d: Delta locale (RIVER MOUTH)
  • 8d: Landing spot for naval forces (BEACHHEAD)
  • 15d: Neighborhood (NECK OF THE WOODS). great expression. does anybody know where it comes from?
  • 35d: Cayuga or Seneca, e.g. (FINGER LAKE). aptly named, as you can see from the picture.
  • 39d: Region at the base of a mountain range (FOOTHILLS)

really nice, tight theme--the kind we've come to expect from a monday new york sun puzzle. if i wanted to quibble, i could gripe about the OF THE in the middle of the central theme entry, and the fact that the ordering of the body part and terrain isn't quite consistent, but i think it's impressive enough to find five totally in-the-language answers that all fit the theme. by the way, the fact that the central entry NECKOFTHEWOODS is fourteen letters necessitates the 15x16 grid of this puzzle. sure, alan and peter could have left out NECKOFTHEWOODS and had a normal 15x15 grid with four symmetric theme answers (and no extraneous OF THE), but if you ask me, NECKOFTHEWOODS was the highlight of this puzzle, so i'm glad they chose to do it the way they did.

i read somewhere that body parts are the basis of the most overused (and hence stalest) theme attempts by beginning constructors. i think this is why you see clever doubled-up themes like this (and the recent "anatomy of poker") theme in the sun. there are just so many expressions or compound words which include body parts that you can always do more than just the body parts themselves.

by the way, in case you haven't guessed it already, this is joon filling in for pete. as such, you'll get a slightly more discursive blog post than usual.

Sunny Spots:

  • 4a: In a blue state (SAD). i've seen clues like this before, but it's still great.
  • 55a: Hush-hush (TOP SECRET). this wasn't how it was clued, but i just wanted to point out that top secret! is my favorite movie of all time. seriously.
  • 65a: Fit together well (DOVETAIL). i just love this word.
  • 69a: Actor Penn of the "Harold & Kumar" films (KAL). i haven't seen the second one, but the first one was pretty funny. i admit i only went to see it because i thought it was cool that two asian-americans were starring in a mainstream motion picture, and i was actually a little disappointed that the korean guy (john cho) was the "straight man," but KAL penn was really funny. he can also be seen as one of lex luthor's henchmen in superman returns, and a random terrorist type in season six of 24.

  • 1a: Passover's mo., usually (APR). ever wonder why passover and easter are usually at around the same time, but sometimes (including this year), they're off by a month? after all, the events of the easter triduum commemorate jesus eating the passover meal for the last time with his disciples. as it turns out, the (roman-rite) christians wanted to have them match up, but they didn't actually bother to ask the jews how they calculate their months. so they made their best guess: easter falls on the sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. (hey, it's vaguely lunar, and so is the hebrew calendar. close enough, right?) most of the time, it works, but when there's a "second adar," as there was this year, then passover ends up a month after easter. i'm not sure how orthodox christians calculate the date of their easter; maybe they're smarter than us.
  • 13a: 40% of MCCLV (DII). our weekly dose of crazy roman numeral math, courtesy of peter gordon. this one works out to 40% of 1255 = 2/5 of 1255 = 2 x 251 = 502 = DII. for goodness's sake, peter, it's monday! can't we get a [Half of MIV] or something? is there a method to the madness? actually, i have a new theory, based on this clue only, that he tries to write the clues so that they contain no common "numerals" with the answer. anybody want to look up a counterexample?
  • 14a: "Let's get going!" (C'MON). i sort of wish the clue were a little more colloquial, to match the answer. maybe ["Let's roll!"]? or ["Pleeeeease?"]?
  • 17a: Influence (LEVERAGE). i'm just glad this wasn't clued as a transitive verb. those of you who have worked for tech companies can commiserate.
  • 19a: Really annoys (EATS AT).
  • 20a: Traps at a ski lodge, maybe (ICES IN). two short phrases that are very common crossword fodder, but can be tricky for beginners to parse.
  • 21a: Prereq for differential equations (CALC). i guess "prereq" is the tipoff that the answer is in its short form, but when i was in high school i called it "diff e q." i guess nobody cares what i called it in high school.

  • 23a: ___-armed bandit (ONE). slang for a slot machine.
  • 29a: Minors (YOUTHS).
  • 31a: Obits, basically (BIOS). yeah, pretty much.
  • 33a: "The Few" of the U.K. (RAF). royal air force. not sure what this "the few" is about. maybe they're like our marines, except not proud.
  • 34a: Cow that hasn't had a cow (HEIFER). i guess that's exactly what HEIFER means.
  • 39a: Helvetica, for one (FONT). not one of my faves, though do sometimes get tired of times new roman.
  • 41a: Body work? (TATTOO). i'd like this clue more if i hadn't just seen it earlier today (sunday) in another puzzle. not the fault of peter or alan--it's a good clue.

  • 45a: Never, to Nietzsche (NIE). this isn't the first time i've seen this in a crossword, but i'm wondering why a typical educated american should know this particular foreign word. i've certainly never seen the french word JAMAIS in a puzzle, and more people here know french than german.
  • 46a: Blessed sounds? (ACHOOS). this seems like a really tired ? clue. also, the answer is a pretty yucky plural.
  • 47a: Suffix with Brooklyn (ESE). i guess you have to clue it as a suffix if the grid also contains SSE (51a: About-face from NNW).
  • 49a: Canada's capital (OTTAWA). this seems like a pretty important city to know, right? and yet, i'm only about 50% to spell it correctly on any given attempt. sometimes i want that middle vowel to be an O, and sometimes i get the doubled letters wrong--only one T, or even (when i'm particularly insane) two Ws. or should that be one quadruple-U?
  • 60a: Dope (INFO). no, this does not qualify as the daily drug reference in the NYS crossword.
  • 63a: Basic food item (STAPLE). but eating actual staples probably isn't healthy.
  • 70a: Most underhanded (SLYEST). yep, that's how i want to spell it--not SLIEST. and yet, blogger has the pernicious red underline under SLYEST, but not SLIEST. damn you, blogger! it's right the way it is!

  • 1d: Wing it (AD LIB).
  • 5d: Whirlpool subsidiary (AMANA), and 7d: German make owned by GM (OPEL). a few months ago, i knew neither of these brands. now it seems like i see them in crosswords at least once a week. i'm not sure what this says about anything, other than the obvious: i do too many crosswords every week.
  • 6d: Labradoodle, e.g. (DOG). that's a very silly name for a dog. my parents-in-law have a cockapoo, which is, if anything, an even sillier name for a dog.
  • 10d: Brand of printer (EPSON). now this one i knew. we have a crappy EPSON inkjet. i believe we "won" a class-action suit against EPSON because their printers are insidiously designed to tell you they are out of ink long before they actually are.

  • 12d: French beans? (TÊTES). "beans" = "heads" here. didn't fool me for a picosecond.
  • 18d: Senator Kefauver who was Adlai Stevenson's running mate in 1956 (ESTES). both of these guys (ESTES and adlai) get a lot of first-name crossword play. who won that election, anyway? not these guys... oh yeah, it was DDE, aka IKE. yeah, he gets a lot of play, too.
  • 22d: Sch. whose football team plays at Sun Devil Stadium (ASU). arizona state.

  • 25d: "American Idol" host Seacrest (RYAN). i've never watched this show, but i knew this.
  • 30d: "Halt! Who goes ___?" (THERE). i'm tempted to actually use this expression sometime today. who's with me?
  • 31d: Early software version (BETA). goes nicely with IMAC (32d: Apple product) and INTEL (53d: Chip maker based in Santa Clara) to round out the silicon valley portion of the grid.
  • 36d: Novelist Wiesel (ELIE). when will 1990s houston rockets guard mario ELIE get any love?
  • 37d: Bakery purchases (RYES). another semi-ugly plural.
  • 42d: Drunken spree (TOOT). i don't think i've ever encountered this usage.
  • 48d: Dandy's tie (ASCOT).

  • 50d: Justice Dept. raiders (ATF). bureau of alcohol, tobacco, and firearms. i love that these three are lumped together by the federal government. alcohol and tobacco weren't fun enough by themselves, so they had to add guns into the mix.
  • 51d: Winning come-out rolls in craps (SEVENS). if i knew how to play craps, i might have an idea what "come-out" means in this clue. another awkward plural.
  • 52d: Velvet ants, e.g. (WASPS). no idea what this is about. are we talking about insects here, or white guys?
  • 57d: Spa in France's Haute-Savoie department (ÉVIAN). easily guessable with a few crosses, but ... whoa. that's not a monday clue, is it?
  • 61d: Catbird seat? (NEST). i don't think i saw this clue while solving. not bad, though. not bad at all.
  • 66d: Multivolume lex. (OED). oxford english dictionary. i have to say, i've only once ever seen a print edition of this, and it was a single volume. (admittedly, a freaking huge single volume with super-micro print and a magnifying glass.) i only ever use the online version.

Suns of Bitches:
  • 24a: Longtime host of the Miss America Pageant (BERT PARKS). if you say so. of course, the crossings were all super-easy, it being monday and all.

overall, a nice monday puzzle. as i said, the theme was great, and it ended up being a very smooth solve for me. the fill wasn't as spectacular, but it was pretty inoffensive other than some forced-sounding plurals, and there were definitely a bunch of sparkly clues/answers in there.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

hey, wait, that's not me. thanks for reading.



Anonymous said...

I believe "The Few" clue for RAF refers to a Churchill quote: "Never was so much owed by so many to so few", although the capitalization seems strange.

avgotts said...

I'm pretty sure a "come-out" is just the initial roll (you win on 7 or 11 for that roll).

Dan said...

I think you're right about the Roman numeral math clues, and how Peter tries to avoid clue/answer duplication. But that can't always be possible, can it, with only those few letters to deal with? There was some discussion here a while ago.

Wasn't ELIE clued as Mario in one of the ACPT puzzles this year? I don't have them handy to confirm. He got more love when he was active, according to cruciverb...

Anonymous said...

It's amazing how much poodle is used in these cross-breeds; I assume the poodle influence mellows the dogs out or something (and perhaps reduces shedding). My sister has a Yorkiepoo (Yorkiedoodle?), and I like that dog far more than any pure Yorkie.

While I got EATS AT right away, I don't think the phrase's connotation is annoyance. More like worry.

Joon said...

thanks for the heads-up, dan.

i'm 100% positive that you can clue every roman numeral this way except in the pathological case that it already includes all seven "numerals." (the lowest such number is 1444, MCDXLIV.) this is because you can use peter's trick of "40% of" without having to express the 40 (or the %) in roman numerals; even the ridiculously unwieldy CDXLIV could be clued as [22.2% of MM], for instance. and i don't expect to see a seven-letter roman numeral answer any time soon.

having said that, research now reveals that DII has been clued in the sun as [Two ninths of MMCCLIX], [Half of MIV] (hey! sound familiar?), and [One-eighth of MMMMXVI]. there goes my evil plan to automatically rule out any numeral appearing in the clue. oh well--on a monday it's always fastest to wait for the crosses anyway.

i was definitely joking about mario ELIE, but i guess ELIE has come up so many damn times they're bound to generate some different clues. other than wiesel and mario, we've had:

old news commentator abel
composer siegmaster
medicine nobelist metchnikoff
sculptor nadelman
peace nobelist ducommun
fashion designer saab
fashion designer tahari
movie producer samaha

and the only one i've heard of:

french mathematician cartan.

well then. of course, wiesel gets almost 90% of the clues anyway.