FRIDAY, June 12, 2009 — Robin Stears

THEME: Try Try Try ... Try Again — familiar words and phrases have "TRY" tacked on to the end, creating new, wacky phrases, which are clued "?"-style

Cute idea for a puzzle. Very common theme idea (add-a-letter, or in this case, letters) yields amusing results. Love that the addition of "TRY" results (in most cases) in vowel sound changes in all the original phrases. TAPES to TAPESTRY and PAS to PASTRY are particularly lovely. There's nothing showy or mind-blowing here, but I was entertained nonetheless.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Where Jerry Garcia kept food for the band? (DEAD PANTRY) — At this point I thought the answers were going to be spoonerisms of some kind, i.e. I thought this was some kind of play on the word PEDANTRY.
  • 28A: Minimalist wall hanging? (BLANK TAPESTRY)
  • 47A: Small clergy group? (MICRO MINISTRY) — MICRO MINIS are skirts, I assume.
  • 64A: Wedding cake mock-up? (FAUX PASTRY)
Crosswordese 101: Christine LAHTI (29D: Actress Christine) and SELA Ward (70A: Ward of "The Fugitive") — these are two of the most common acting names in crosswords (SELA moreso than LAHTI, for obvious reasons — shorter, with more common letters). They are very similar kinds of actresses in my mind. "You know, that woman, she was on that TV show in the 90s ... hour-long drama ... she's won an Emmy, I think, or a Golden Globe or something ..." They look quite different from one another, actually, and I think SELA Ward tends to play somewhat sexier roles than LAHTI does, but seeing them both in the puzzle today made me realize that they both occupy the same quadrant of my brain. I think that quadrant is labeled "Actresses Whose Names You Know Well But Whose Shows You Never Watched" (tags: 80s, 90s, Award-winning).

Weird experience last night while doing research for this book I'm writing. I had just finished today's puzzle and had two answers circled in red and labeled "WTF?!" Two answers I'd never seen before: KOSS (23A: 1990s speed skating gold medalist) and GORT (8D: "The Day the Earth Stood Still" robot). I'd finished marking up the puzzle (which I always do in preparation for blogging) and had turned my attention to my research, specifically a book about words that are common in crossword puzzles (tedious, dated, and poorly organized book, but that's another story). So I'm skimming through paragraph after paragraph of what are essentially word lists in paragraph form (perhaps one or two explanatory sentences per word, on average), when my eye alights on GORT! Now I've been doing puzzles for a long time, and while I'm sure I've had GORT in some puzzle I've done at some time, it hasn't registered enough for me to remember it. I certainly wouldn't call it common. But apparently it once was — in fact, apparently it had an even more (to my mind) esoteric clue: some viscount who defended Malta against Nazi invasion. To the credit of the book I was reading, it does mention that GORT's star has faded in recent years. Poor GORT. GORT reminds me of BORT — in an episode of "The Simpsons," Bart can't find a miniature personalized license plate at Itchy & Scratchy Land with his name on it, and scoffs when he finds a BORT plate, wondering aloud what kind of name that is. At that moment, a boy asks for his own personalized plate, and his mom says, "no, Bort..." and then a guy (apparently named BORT) asks the lady if she's talking to him ... here it is in Spanish:

What else?
  • 1A: Schooner features (JIBS) — I was thinking of a "schooner" that holds ALE.
  • 5A: Kingdom called the Friendly Islands (TONGA) — One of my favorite crossword countries. They crowned a new king last summer (their winter) when we were down in NZ. Big News. Many, many pigs gave their lives for the coronation feast.
  • 22A: Tar Heel State university (ELON) — On my short list of possible Crosswordese 101 answers for the day. ELON is a must-know N.C. university. Other CW101 contenders included ERLE, ARA, YSER, and EMO (though one or more of those may already have been covered — I haven't checked).
  • 4D: "Bad Blood" singer (SEDAKA) — You didn't ask for it, so here it is:

  • 10D: Beverage brewed in a gaiwan (GREEN TEA) — Not sure why this was so easy to get but it was. Just having the "T" in the right placed pretty much sealed it.
  • 13D: Many a "One Tree Hill" character (TEEN) — omg is this even on the air any more? Most of those TEENS are probably ... not, any more, if they ever were.
  • 27D: Plug-and-play PC port (USB) — Went with UBS (?).
  • 37D: Eponymous Chinese general (TSO) — He gave his name to chicken.
  • 44D: Palindromic altar (ARA) — In the pantheon of crossword constellations, for sure, up there with URSA.
  • 57D: 1973 defendant (WADE) — As in "Roe v."
  • 62D: Batik worker (DYER) — A word that only a crossword could love. I learned what "batik" meant from doing crosswords.


Everything Else — 1A: Schooner features (JIBS); 5A: Kingdom called the Friendly Islands (TONGA); 10A: Biblical plague insect (GNAT); 14A: Realty unit (ACRE); 15A: Faint (SWOON); 16A: Wear the crown (RULE); 17A: Where Jerry Garcia kept food for the band? (DEAD PANTRY); 19A: "Anything __?" (ELSE); 20A: Fertilizer source (ALGAE); 21A: "Who am __ argue?" (I TO); 22A: Tar Heel State university (ELON); 23A: 1990s speed skating gold medalist (KOSS); 26A: One with a habit (NUN); 28A: Minimalist wall hanging? (BLANK TAPESTRY); 34A: Feathery stole (BOA); 35A: Chichi (ARTY); 36A: Doozy (BEAUT); 38A: North Carolina county (ASHE); 40A: Blue shades (TEALS); 42A: __ race (ARMS); 43A: "__ go!" (GOTTA); 45A: "East of Eden" brother (ARON); 46A: Expressive rock genre (EMO); 47A: Small clergy group? (MICROMINISTRY); 51A: __-de-vie: brandy (EAU); 52A: Trade barbs (SPAR); 53A: Burlesque bit (SKIT); 56A: Bygone carrier (TWA); 59A: Stared stupidly (GAPED); 63A: Pay (up) (ANTE); 64A: Wedding cake mock-up? (FAUX PASTRY); 67A: Blacken (SEAR); 68A: Slacker (IDLER); 69A: Fit (HALE); 70A: Ward of "The Fugitive" (SELA); 71A: Bear named for a president (TEDDY); 72A: Strategic WWI river (YSER); 1D: Actress Pinkett Smith (JADA); 2D: Country on the Denmark Str. (ICEL.); 3D: Crow (BRAG); 4D: "Bad Blood" singer (SEDAKA); 5D: Luggage-screening gp. (TSA); 6D: Part of BYO (OWN); 7D: Words of innocence (NOT I); 8D: "The Day the Earth Stood Still" robot (GORT); 9D: "__ home?" (ANYONE); 10D: Beverage brewed in a gaiwan (GREEN TEA); 11D: Having no effect (NULL); 12D: As well (ALSO); 13D: Many a "One Tree Hill" character (TEEN); 18D: Drudge (PEON); 24D: 32-card game (SKAT); 25D: Flow (STREAM); 27D: Plug-and-play PC port (USB); 28D: Like a close buddy (BOSOM); 29D: Actress Christine (LAHTI); 30D: __ 2600: early game console (ATARI); 31D: Road cones (PYLONS); 32D: More valued, in a way (RARER); 33D: Scrumptious (YUMMY); 34D: Capture (BAG); 37D: Eponymous Chinese general (TSO); 39D: Substitute for dropped items (ET CETERA); 41D: Cut (SNIP); 44D: Palindromic altar (ARA); 48D: Equip (OUTFIT); 49D: Something to keep a teller busy? (SAGA); 50D: Inferior (TRASHY); 53D: Fresh approach? (SASS); 54D: Pants part (KNEE); 55D: Bold alternative: Abbr. (ITAL.); 57D: 1973 defendant (WADE); 58D: "Should __ acquaintance ..." (AULD); 60D: Educ. support groups (PTAS); 61D: Della's creator (ERLE); 62D: Batik worker (DYER); 65D: Crossed (out) (XED); 66D: Meddle (PRY).


Gary Lowe said...

Something to keep a teller busy?

Bwahaha! Most excellent misdirect, I was just about to ask, here, what the acronym SAGA weas for.

Crockett1947 said...

Here's one of those micro mini skirts Rex.

*David* said...

I found this an easier then ususal Friday puzzle. Both of the words Rex did not know were my unknowns as well. A lot of quotes in this puzzle to complete.

A nice shout out to my distant relative, Neil SEDAKA. I had not heard of that song of course.


Starting with JIBS, I was able to sail through this puzzle quickly.
But then, I have no palTRY excuse for not getting the themes right... all the great hints from this blog are paying off for me.
Not sure I like all the _____ clues. ARMS race, GOTTA go, ANYONE home, Anything ELSE, who am ITO argue ... I find these to be cheap tricks for constructors to use.
Does anyone know why they named the Teddy Bear for Teddy Roosevelt?

Orange said...

I always get Christine LAHTI and Alison Janney mixed up. They're the same person, aren't they?

@Crockett, that micro mini looks a little long. Daryl Hannah wore a shorter skirt recently.

And Rex? You know the rules. Only one Crosswordese 101 answer per day! (See? Sometimes you can't choose just one when there are two members of a crosswordese category in the same puzzle.)


Rex, I loved your BORT/GORT thing.

Charlie said...

Despite the fact that he didn't compete in the 90's, OHNO was my knee-jerk reaction for the speedskater. It wasn't until I got STREAM that I remembered the "KOSS is the boss!" chants from Lillehammer.

PuzzleGirl said...

I must have been tired when I did this puzzle because I couldn't get the theme and gave up trying. Like Rex said, it's actually very cute though! I couldn't pick Sela Ward out of a line-up (isn't she the same person as Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek?). Okay, I looked her up. Not even close. Whatever. I know Christine Lahti. She's in one of my favorite movies of all time: "Running on Empty," with River Phoenix. "Leaving Normal" is a pretty cool movie too.

Joon said...

SELA ward occupied that same sector of my brain until i started watching house, and i can't tell you how excited i was to realize that the actress who played stacy was the SELA ward. i'd always assumed she was, like, way before my time, but now i know who she is. she has some superficial resemblance to salma hayek, but not all that much.

great puzzle today. super-fun theme.

Denise said...

Teddy Roosevelt was a big game hunter who became an environmentalist -- there was a terrific article in a recent VANITY FAIR about his friendship with John Muir -- they camped out together.

He was a very loved president -- sort of a teddy bear.

Anonymous said...

@Rex - was that Willie Nelson album a shout out to THE Wade? Where HAS he been lately? Tripped on SAGA a bit but then got it and the SE flew by. My nephew played baseball for Wake Forest and they battled Elon regularly - is how I got that one. Pretty easy Friday all in all.

- - Robert

Charles Bogle said...

sorry, I'm the lone dissent--even though I'm proud of myself for finishing 100 pc correctly, a Friday rarity for me-

Thought the theme was inane. FAUXPANTRY for Wedding cake mock-up?

On the other hand, loved SAGA for keeping teller busy; as another poster noted, a case of lovely mis-direction, as I racked my brain for banking thoughts...same w ITAL for bold alternative; SASS for fresh approach?; KNEE for pants part

Still have no idea what EMO is and who WADE was and thank heavens I could cross because they are google-proof

Another way to clue the hackneyed ERLE..ugh..and PEON second time this week alone. First, s/he was a lowly worker; now, s/he's a drudge. How about retiring him/her?

Have a good weekend everybody-

Gary Lowe said...


I think "fresh approach" is a (relatively) fresh approach for SASS.

EMO is kid-talk for EMOtional. It is (maybe WAS now) a whole sub-culture including clothes, music, art (ifyawannacallithat), etc.

Roe vs Wade right here

PEON ERLE: fill is fill. Look for at least one fresh(er) word in a quadrant, or different clue, that means to me the constructor is trying.

Orange said...

Charles, there's a bakery in my neighborhood that has had the same gorgeous cakes on display in the windows for years. I thought of that when I read the wedding cake clue and FAUX PASTRY answer, and that turned into my favorite theme entry. Wade is one of Rex's pals from his other blog. He's been working on his oeuvre of songs and videos in which a nutcracker named Buck plays the lead, so he's made himself scarce around the blogs lately. EMO is short for "emotion," I think, and EMO bands are quite popular these days. They tend to have melodramatic, overwrought lyrics, and if you've ever encountered a young man in skintight jeans with long swooping bangs hiding his eyes, which may be painted with eyeliner, you've seen an emo boy.


Then would you say that Adam Lambert is EMO ?

Orange said...

I'm afraid I must defer to Rex and PuzzleGirl or the commenters at large for that topic. All I know about Lambert is that he's gay and was supposed to win Idol, but I don't know if the rest of his style skews emo.

Anonymous said...

Lynda RN said..
Loved the puzzle and only needed minimal help. Also thought it waa an easier Friday puzzle. Got the theme for the first time today Yeah! which made getting the long ? answers guick to get except for MICRO Ministry. That took awhile as I never thought of Bosom buddies, and didn't know ASHE,
Oh well,
Everyone have a great weekend and see you tomorrow.
Lynda RN

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed the "Bad Blood" clip

JaJaJoe said...

For 31D Road cones, I wonder whether anyone else wanted to 'pile-on' with ORANGE.-)


So okay, PYLONS are those orange road cones, but what the heck is the name for those orange barrel-like thingies at road construction sites? You know, the blinking cyclops things.

mac said...

No problems filling in the squares, but I only just got the teller / sage thing...

I forgot that Sela Ward played in House for a while. I remember her from another series called "Sisters". I thought of the current Tracey, who played a trans-sexual on Ally McBeal a long time ago.

@Orange: you are so right, Alice Janney and Christine Lahti are very similar. I used to like the latter on St. Elsewhere.

Orange said...

Mac, was she also on St. Elsewhere, or are you thinking of Chicago Hope?


Well look at that... today we have two more clues for Caroline du Nord---
-22A: Tar Heel State univ. (ELON)
-38A: North Carolina county (ASHE)

Dan said...

For the record, I don't think the One Tree Hill clue is accurate. A couple seasons ago the show famously skipped the characters' college years, sending them directly into their fashion and music careers. It was a good move for the show, apparently, because it's still on. Check out this ridiculous clip I saw on Best Week Ever. (Not for the squeamish; the title kinda gives it away.)

Rex, I know what tedious book you're talking about... Aside from Gridlock, there aren't any great nonfiction books about CrossWorld, so I really hope that's what you're writing!

JaJaJoe said...

Johnsneverhome (except at 9:01pm above, and this reply may fall between the cracks of June 12-13th), as for your "So okay, PYLONS are those orange road cones, but what the heck is the name for those orange barrel-like thingies at road construction sites? You know, the blinking cyclops things", since their blinkin'blooms blossom during spring til fall, at least down here in NC, they've been known as the "state flower".-)

Jan said...

The origin of "teddy bear" is so cool: see the History section of this Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teddy_bear


mac said...

@Orange: I think you are right, was she a cardiologist on Chicago Hope? You can tell, I love hospital series. My Thursday evening is not the same without ER...