01.20 Thu

January 20, 2011
Mark Bickham

[This is the one week out of the year where I'm going to just mention that there is a donation button over in the sidebar. Please read my pitch for donations at the beginning of Monday's write-up here. And thanks so much for being here.]

Theme: OK, OK! — The letter K is added to the beginning of familiar phrases that start with N, creating new wacky phrases clued "?"-style.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Tough handicap to overcome in a joust? (KNIGHT BLINDNESS).
  • 22A: Hoopster featured in a news magazine? (KNICK OF TIME).
  • 39A: What "purls of wisdom" is an example of? (KNIT WIT).
  • 51A: Was familiar with Britain? (KNEW ENGLAND).
  • 59A: Bow tied by mortal hands? (KNOT OF THIS WORLD).
It sure has been a big week here at LACC! Yesterday was very very cool for me and I'm so grateful to all of you for making it a really nice day. (For those of you who missed it, Michael Sharp (Rex Parker) and I constructed yesterday's puzzle.) I've gotten a ton of private messages over the last couple days and haven't been able to respond to them all, but I will! In the meantime, please just know that every one of them is meaningful to me and I thank you. But enough dwelling in the past! Let's talk about today's puzzle!

I was completely delighted by this theme. Remember the other day when the theme was "drop a K"? Well, here they all are! The way I solved this one seemed interesting to me. First I went for the downs 1–13. I knew quite a few of them off the bat, so the first theme answer looked like this:
K N * * * * B L I N * * E S S

Well, even I'm smart enough to figure that out without any more crosses. So I popped in KNIGHT BLINDNESS and thought to myself, "Hmmm … can you come up with the rest of the theme answers without any crosses?" Well, when someone says something like that to me (even if it's my own self), I take that as a challenge, so off I went. And sure enough, all three of the long theme answers fell without any trouble.

In some situations, I might be tempted to think "Well, that was too easy!" but in this case, I thought the theme answers were pretty clever so I just enjoyed the experience without any complaints. I had a little more trouble with the theme answer in the middle. I don't know if it's because it didn't come to me immediately and I figured I could just get it through crosses, or if I was eager to actually start using clues, but for whatever reason I decided to move on.

The rest of the fill wasn't too terribly exciting, except that there was a definite degree of Scrabbliness that's always welcome. Word of the Day for me is definitely AINU (43A: Hokkaido native). I'm pretty sure I've seen that in a puzzle before but I needed every cross to get it today.

  • 6A: Stare (GAWK). My first guess was GAPE, so when the G and the A both worked, I thought I was in good shape. Which I was. But not because I actually had the answer right.
  • 15A: "Would __?" (I LIE).
  • 26A: Leo, for one (SIGN). So WTF is going on with the zodiac. For 45 years I've been a Taurus and now all of a sudden I'm supposed to be an Aries? Sorry, but no.
  • 27A: Manhattan neighborhood acronym (NOHO). NOrth of HOuston (Houston Street, not Houston, Texas, although I suppose you could argue that NOHO is north of Houston, Texas, as well).
  • 35A: Gave a buzz (RANG).
  • 55A: Unlikely lint-gatherer (OUTIE). This is a cute clue, but I'm not sure I want to be thinking about belly-button lint just now. Or ever for that matter.
  • 1D: LaGuardia alternative, familiarly (JFK). Did you all know the big crossword puzzle tournament is coming up in March? Some people will be flying into LGA and some will use JFK. I, on the other hand, will be on the Bolt Bus.
  • 3D: Like jibs (TRIANGULAR). And when you're adjusting your jibs, you should always wear a PEA COAT (45D: Naval attire). For some reason, that all sounds kinda dirty.
  • 7D: Pledge of Allegiance ender (ALL). How far back in the Pledge did you go in order to get this one? I had to start at "one nation, under God …."
  • 12D: __ Cuervo tequila (JOSÉ).

  • 23D: Cookie information, perhaps (FORTUNE). Have I mentioned that PuzzleDaughter is a Girl Scout and waaay back before I had a full-time job I volunteered to be the Cookie Mom? Big mistake! I mean, it's fun and everything but it sure does take a lot of time! Of course, the end result is cookies, so I'm not sure what the heck I'm complaining about.
  • 53D: Modern dash-mounted device: Abbr. (GPS). One of our GPS's got stolen out of our vehicle (my own fault, forgot to lock it) and the other one is on the fritz. Needless to say, I drive around lost most of the time.
  • 61D: "I didn't need to know that!" ("TMI!"). "Too Much Information!" But you knew that.
Crosswordese 101 Round-up:
  • 16A: Baseball's Moises (ALOU).
  • 46A: Old Italian bread (LIRA).
  • 33D: Calypso offshoot (SKA).
[Follow PuzzleGirl on Twitter.]

Everything Else 1A: Volkswagen model since 1979 (JETTA); 10A: Charm (MOJO); 14A: Unit of capacitance (FARAD); 20A: Words after post or suffer (A LOSS); 21A: Beginning (ONSET); 28A: Ready to serve (DONE); 32A: Uncertain concurrence (I GUESS); 37A: Snaps (PIX); 38A: Mineo of "Rebel Without a Cause" (SAL); 41A: HBO competitor (TMC); 42A: __ king (ALA); 44A: Shoot for, with "to" (ASPIRE); 48A: Puts on (DONS); 50A: Biol. branch (ECOL.); 58A: Without delay (APACE); 65A: Pinup Hayworth (RITA); 66A: Pianist Gilels (EMIL); 67A: Church parts (NAVES); 68A: They have heads and handles (AXES); 69A: Mug imperfections (ZITS); 70A: Symbol of strength (STEEL); 2D: Suffix with Caesar (-EAN); 4D: Movie poster words (TAGLINE); 5D: For a specific purpose (AD HOC); 6D: Big name in guitars (GIBSON); 8D: November 2006 Nintendo release (WII); 9D: Barbie's beau (KEN); 10D: Took one's place at, as a post (MANNED); 11D: Cries following charges (OLÉS); 13D: Remove from office (OUST); 18D: Sound of reproach (TSK); 19D: End for free (-DOM); 22D: Capital of Rwanda (KIGALI); 24D: Relax, as tense relations (THAW); 25D: Ancient Aegean region (IONIA); 26D: Cordage fiber (SISAL); 29D: Retina-brain link (OPTIC NERVE); 30D: Jerk (NIMROD); 31D: Stand out (EXCEL); 34D: Like ugly remarks (SNIDE); 36D: Fast sports cars (GT'S); 40D: "__ pronounce you ..." (I NOW); 47D: Loyal Japanese dogs (AKITAS); 49D: Sluggards (SNAILS); 52D: "The Matrix" hero (NEO); 54D: Croquet venues (LAWNS); 55D: Creole vegetable (OKRA); 56D: Windows alternative (UNIX); 57D: Handy bag (TOTE); 60D: Casbah headgear (FEZ); 62D: Best seller (HIT); 63D: General at Antietam (LEE); 64D: Step up from dial-up (DSL).



Far too easy for me for a Thursday, but (I GUESS) I'm getting a KNack for these type of homophonic puzzles. It was KNOW stumper.

Lots to like in this puzzle... great words like FARAD, JETTA, MOJO, PEACOAT, and NIMROD.

Funniest clue: "Unlikely lint-gatherer" (OUTIE).

Words-of-the-day: AINU and KIGALI.

I've never heard EMIL Gilels play before, but I'm glad I did today... marvelous pianist!

Overall I liked everything about this puzzle.

Then to top it off, we had another hugely entertaining writeup by Puzzlegirl.

Congratulations Angela for yesterday's puzzle and for allyou do!!!!

~ John

imsdave said...

Another alternative to GAPE was GAZE (which I happily dropped in). Also tried KNOTOFTHISEARTH with no crosses just on a lark - close, but no cigar. Those were my only erasures. I found this to be entertaining and quite nicely put together.

@PG - Oh, the girl scout thing. I once sold 330 boxes at work for my daughter - great for her (using the inspiration for her name as my avatar today), pain in the you know what for me (took me three days to deliver!).

Orange said...

AINU is one of those words that used to appear in crosswords a lot more. The Ainu are an indigenous people in Japan, with their own (dying) language and interesting culture. Check out the Wikipedia article on the Ainu. Not mentioned there is that some Ainu had blue eyes to go along with their lighter skin.

LGA! I like it. Last week I read a hilarious blog post talking trash about JFK airport and how horrible it is compared with LGA. Never been to JFK and now I think I will stick to LGA.

Orange said...

@imsdave: Wait, you named your child after imported beer??

imsdave said...

@Orange - I did indeed. Kirin Elise just came to me - I think it's a beautiful name (for a beautiful girl). Somehow, I got it into my mind that ?EE would be good initials for my spawn. Fortunately, my second child was a boy. If he had been a she, she would have been Logan Erin (after the Boston airport). He turned out to be Robert Edward (after his grandfathers). But (this is not a gag), his nickname is Bud.

Here they are in this avatar.

SethG said...

I had what you had on the first theme answer without the ESS, still had no problem dropping it in. A little suffix-happy up top, but fine puzzle.

caila said...

@imsdave - So, you went after an Irish sounding name by choosing a Japanese beer named after a region in China, and a passe spelling of the region at that?

Tuttle said...

I thought the beer was named for the mythical creature (or giraffe, one in the same back in the day) not the city of Jilin in Manchuria. The Japanese beer named after a city is Sapporo, named from the capital of Hokkaido.

I saw an old picture of two young Ainu men once. If it had been captioned "University of Nebraska running backs, 1910" I wouldn't have been surprised. Big, beefy, fair-skinned dirty blondes.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of JFK, he was inaugurated 50 years ago today.

caila said...

@imsdave - You named your daughter after <a href='http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:MingQilinDragonFish.jpg">this?</a>

Anonymous said...

@JNH where were you yesterday?

C said...

Hands up for dropping KNOTOFTHISEARTH in without thinking then getting the eraser out when hSL and tEE wouldn't work. Damn reality, doesn't stop politicians, why does it have to stop good, honest crossworders just trying to solve an enjoyable puzzle?

@imsdave, I like the kid's names, they have a great ring to them.

SethG said...

Dave, in case you're gonna have another, in Kigali they drink banana beer. It's pretty foul.

Anonymous said...

My son, now 18, we named Miller Alexander. He used to lament that he wished it were the other way around. Then when he got to high school he enjoyed the uniqueness of it, telling people that he got the name because his dad "couldn't spell budweiser".

Sfingi said...

@Orange - And full beards.

It was easy, and I didn't have to Google on a Thurs. But, too many 3-letter initials: DSL JFK GPS GTS TMC TMI WII, even if some are computerese.
Otherwise, I liked it, especially the theme.

I filled in FORTUNE from two letters, then looked at the clue - cute.

Bell-bottom trousers
Coat of navy blue
She loves her sailor
and he loves her, too.

Bell bottom trousers

Captcha - horgide - talk about homophones - I know some people who would order that book.

John Wolfenden said...

Dug this puzzle, despite getting caught in the very middle with CALL for RANG and not being able to fight my way out.

Liked seeing UNIX...I think I've seen LINUX once before. NIMROD is a great word, and "Mug imperfections" for ZITS is awesome, especially since it was in another puzzle this week clued literally.

Is NOHO still an acronym even if each letter doesn't stand for something? Seems like more of an abbreviation.

I must be slow today since KNITWIT makes no sense to me. Help me out, someone.

Anonymous said...

@John It's so tempting to call you a nit-wit for not getting KNITWIT that I just can't help myself :)

Anonymous said...

1. purls is a knitting reference (knit one purl two)
2. "purls of wisdom" is a pun on "pearls of wisdom"
3. Puns are a form of wit.

CrazyCatLady said...

I thought this was a fun breezy puzzle. Thought the theme answers were cute and laughed at a lot of the clues, especially 55A Unlikely lint gatherer/OUTIE and 49 D Sluggards/SNAILS.

JFK is a vile pit. Makes LAX look like paradise (sort of).

Larry S said...

Keep living in the glow, PG. This one was a tad dull after the brilliance of yesterday. This was also a slightly faster solve than yesterday, so I agree that it was not Thursday level.

I might have titled it "KNyuk, KNyuk." But no one asked me.

I was tickled when I finally got I GUESS. The clever "Uncertain concurrence" clue had me expecting some latinate astronomy or logic term.

Avg Joe said...

Enjoyable solve. WsOTD: Kigali and Ainu. For some reason I really wanted Kinali and I didn't yet have the last s of guess.

Still, loved the PUNishment.

@Sfingi, would your friends also order horticulture? :-)

*David* said...

Purty easy puzzle almost all of the more esoteric stuff I knew. I guess all the crossword puzzles I do are finally starting to pay back dividends. I threw in AINU with no letters. So if today is add a letter Thursday then what will that make Friday, hmmm

Rube said...

This puppy went quickly. Got the theme early on, so put down a bunch of KNs to speed things up. Was not particularly excited about the them... okay, I GUESS.

Great to see MOJO again, don't think of ECOLogy as a branch of biology, NIMROD is great, and must remember AINU next time.

Good, pleasant solve even if there was nothing new.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, NIMROD = jerk? Nimrod was a Biblical hunter.

Gray said...

Nimrod has been slang since the 30s, popularized by Bugs Bunny in the 40s. Slang info here, Nimrods info here.

Stan said...

In the abstract, add-a-silent-letter doesn't seem like much of a theme, but this one really worked, I thought. KNEW ENGLAND and KNOT OF THIS WORLD were the funniest.

Other high points for me: TRIANGULAR, TAGLINE, TIME and FORTUNE together, OUTIE (as clued), OPTIC NERVE, NIMROD, and PEA COAT.

Sfingi said...

@Anon422 - for some unknown reason NIMROD, late of the Bible, has picked up this unfortunate attribute among the unlearnt. As @Gray said, it started with Bugs, famous for the tune, "I dream of Jeannie, she's a light brown hare."

@Avg Joe - "You can take a horticulture, but you can't make her think." Dorothy Parker

mac said...

Very nice puzzle, but really superior write-up and comments today!