02.11 Fri

F R I D A Y February 11, 2011
James Sajdak

Theme: Hide the Report Card — Familiar phrases have the letter D added to the front of the first word. Wackiness ensues.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Soundly defeat by cheating? (DRUB THE WRONG WAY).
  • 25A: Gloomy Cuban? (DOUR MAN IN HAVANA).
  • 46A: Discerning pub competitor? (DART CONNOISSEUR).
  • 59A: What loving couples exchange? (DEAR-TO-DEAR GRINS).
  • 37A: Grade that describes this puzzle's theme (D PLUS).

[I have no idea what this photo means, but it came up in my image search for D+ and I just had to share it with you.]

I had a good overall solving experience with this one. [Cue broken record] I still wish we were offered more of a challenge on Fridays, and I wonder when I'll get used to Friday puzzles having themes.

All of the original phrases are well-known and the resulting phrases, together with their clues, are for the most part clever. For some reason I'm not feeling DEAR-TO-DEAR GRINS. Is it because it's the only one with two Ds added? Or maybe because the visual I got in my head was a couple just standing there smiling at each other (for some reason kinda creepily)? In any case, this one feels off but maybe that's just because the others are so good.

My favorite entries include:
  • 15A: "Amazing!" ("OH WOW!").
  • 55A: Notable early student of Bela (NADIA). I wouldn't have remembered that NADIA Comaneci's coach was named Bela, but once I had a few letters in place, it came to me. I remember watching NADIA get all those 10s like it was yesterday.
  • 9D: Sports logo since 1972 (SWOOSH). When I was in 8th grade, everybody wore white Nike tennis shoes with a red swoosh. Everybody. Then all of a sudden one day Mary Fercho came prancing into class wearing white Nike tennis shoes with a blue swoosh. And the world was never the same.
  • 49D: Canine mascot of the National Fire Protection Association (SPARKY). Looks great in the grid and I guess it was a piece of information hanging out in my brain way back there in the cobwebs, because once I got a few crosses in place it jumped out at me.
There's a little bit more French than SethG is comfortable with in today's puzzle. I think of myself as someone who's very comfortable with the French words we see a lot in puzzles. But I didn't know any of these. Had to have a few crosses before I could reason out the rest.
  • 20A: Henri's health (SANTE).
  • 52A: Martyred first bishop of Paris (ST. DENIS).
  • 63A: __ à feu: French gun (ARME).
More stuff to talk about:
  • 1A: Part of the deal (HAND). Even after I got this answer through crosses, I was still thinking it had something to do with shaking hands at the end of a business deal or other agreement. But no, it's about dealing cards.
  • 24A: Maker of the LX 150 scooter (VESPA). I hope whoever came up with the name VESPA was extremely well-compensated. That's a great name.
  • 33A: Birthplace of seven presidents (OHIO). Four letters and it's probably not Utah. (Not that there's anything wrong with Utah. It's just in the wrong part of the country to be considered.)
  • 50A: Cheerios (TA-TAS). Were you looking for today's clunker? Here it is. "Cheerio" and "ta-ta" are both ways of saying "good-bye." In the singular, I would have no problem with this clue/answer pair. In the plural … ugh.
  • 6D: Scoreboard initials (RHE). Runs Hits Errors.
  • 24D: Talking Heads song "Sax and __" (VIOLINS). Does anyone else have trouble piecing together the down answers because it's hard to read them vertically? I swear, I had **OLINS in place and couldn't see the answer. On really hard puzzles, when I have a situation like that, I'll write the answer out horizontally so I can see it better. Today, I just let the crosses take care of it for me, but it was a big D'OH moment when the answer became clear (5D: Head-slapper's cry).
  • 56D: Wine partner (DINE). Couldn't get "roses" out of my head, so this took a while.
  • 62D: __ Tafari (RAS). Well I definitely learned something today. I knew that Rastafarians worship Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia. But I didn't know that Haile Selassie was once known as RAS Tafari. So there ya go.
Crosswordese 101 Round-up:
  • 14A: Great Plains tribe (OTOE).
  • 41A: Iroquois enemies (ERIES).
  • 68A: Sherpa's sighting (YETI).
  • 2D: Handle for a little shaver? (ATRA).
  • 13D: Eyelid malady (STYE).
  • 58D: Piedmont wine region (ASTI).
[Follow PuzzleGirl on Twitter.]

Everything Else 5A: Little pieces, idiomatically (DRABS); 10A: Benevolent group (ELKS); 16A: House leader during Bill's presidency (NEWT); 21A: Critical (DO-OR-DIE); 22A: Lummox (OAF); 32A: Photo finish? (OPS); 34A: Drive off (REPEL); 35A: Ardor (ZEAL); 40A: "James and the Giant Peach" writer (DAHL); 43A: Start of a Durante refrain (INKA); 45A: Olympics participant since 1992, to the IOC (CRO); 51A: Music store section (POP); 64A: Carnival dance (SAMBA); 65A: Unite after a break, in a way (KNIT); 66A: Caring (KIND); 67A: Magazine for horse owners (EQUUS); 1D: Mortar carriers (HODS); 3D: Animal, vegetable or mineral (NOUN); 4D: Unsettled one? (DEBTOR); (D'OH); 7D: "How adorable!" ("AWW!"); 8D: Big name in dairy (BORDEN); 10D: Like cameos (ENGRAVED); 11D: Lascivious (LEWD); 12D: Title river in a 1957 film that won seven Oscars (KWAI); 18D: Latin lover's declaration (TE AMO); 19D: Stock term (NO PAR); 23D: Saudi royal name (FAHD); 25D: Missed out, maybe (DOZED); 26D: Met tragedy, perhaps? (OPERA); 27D: It merged with Piedmont in 1989 (USAIR); 28D: Playful bite (NIP); 29D: Swiftly (APACE); 30D: Jacket style popular with '60s rockers (NEHRU); 31D: Words that lead to nothing? (ALL OR); 36D: Educated (LETTERED); 38D: Game based on crazy eights (UNO); 39D: Card in 38-Down (SKIP); 42D: Meager (SCANT); 44D: Words after play or for (A SONG); 47D: Idle (OTIOSE); 48D: Where GOOG is traded (NASDAQ); 52D: Badlands Natl. Park site (S. DAK.); 53D: Dustin's "Tootsie" costar (TERI); 54D: Denounce (DAMN); 57D: Down but not out (IN IT); 60D: Bird in the bush? (EMU); 61D: __ Dhabi (ABU).


I'm not Uta said...

This puzzle was a little more difficult than necessary if you were 100% sure that Bela Lugosi was the acting coace for Nora NALDI. 100% friggin sure, & I know nothing about either.

Cathy said...

This was the worst puzzle yet. My brain must not be functioning at a 100% this morning. Who in the world would have gotten RHE for "scoreboard intitials?" I knew I was in trouble when I got the "dplus" answer.

Anonymous said...

@Cathy - In baseball they list the [R]uns, [H]its and [E]rrors (just by the initials) for each team on the scoreboard. It's an ugly answer but one that appears from time to time.

SethG said...

Surprised you didn't use the full video!

I want a Vespa.

*David* said...

I found this a stiff enough challenge for a Friday albiet knowing we would (play the music) add a letter to get our theme. Similar experience to yesterday's puzzle but even more of a slog to complete. Had AT EASE for OTIOSE as I started from the bottom with YETI. I also put in DRUBBED at the top, oh well, sucks to be me. I love how DO OR DIE looks.

imsdave said...

Well, you're all about to find out how weird your blogmate is. Firstly, pardon my lack of diacritical marks in the following commentary.

I solved 55A this way:

"Notably early student of Bela" with the N and D in place - NADIA. Thought process: Bela Bartok and Nadia Boulanger were contemporaries. Of course history proclaims my conclusion is totally fabricated, but I did get the right answer for the wrong reason. For those of you unfamiliar with Nadia Boulanger, she was the teacher of:

Aaron Copland
Ned Rorem
Quincy Jones
Roy Harris (seek him out!)
Virgil Thomson
Michel Legrand
Philip Glass

Tuttle said...

DOH, OHWOW and AWW all crossing? Please.

Had fINE instead of DINE for a while... was wondering how the Mafia could be a student.

Automatically filled in Italy for 27D. Nope, Piedmont merged with Italy in 1859 not 1989. What's 140 years here and there?

Rube said...

For 60 plus years I've thought it was spelled duh. I'm wondering how anyone knows how Homer spells his head slapping remark. Is there an online script for "The Simpsons" episodes? Are there English subtitles for dubbed foreign versions? Does Matt Groening pass out transcripts to crossword constructors who ask? Anyone?

Anyway, this one went down like a Wednesday. My only hesitations were on TERI and VIOLINS, the two, (obscure to me), pop culture answers, and NADIA. My take on Bela is Bela Abzug, a controversial, hat wearing, feminist Congresswoman from NY of the 70's. (I just checked and her name is spelled Bella... another memory failure.)

Got the DPLUS reveal very early on making the theme answers easy to get. Loved to see OTIOSE, one of the few crosswordese words which have snuck into my everyday vocabulary, unlike APACE which should be clued as "archaic".

Fun puzzle.

MPPuzzler said...

I also was sure that ATEASE was right instead of OTIOSE, until the crosses proved otherwise. Its my WOTD. It took a while to figure out what a DOORDIE was, until I corrctly parsed it. Like @PG, I was a little distressed about the 2Ds in DEARTODEARGRIN, but thought I was just being a little anal.

C said...

I am not a fan of today's puzzle. I found the entire due north section to be random letter central. Happy to solve the puzzle but not happy about seeing what I perceive as lower quality clues/answers. Mr. Sajdak and Mr. Norris have created a lot more higher quality puzzles than this so I will call this one an outlier and throw it out of the memory banks.

John Wolfenden said...

If I had been solving this puzzle at work I would have found it too difficult, but being home sick it was the perfect diversion. OTIOSE and NADIA were diabolical. My only miss was FAHA for FAHD.

I had fun thinking about what "Horse magazine" could possibly be. STEED? RIDER? Nope.

The only reason I I knew HOD was, strangely enough, from a Roald DAHL short story called "The Hitchhiker," in which a wealthy writer picks up a man who start out claiming to be a HOD carrier but turns out to be the world's greatest pickpocket.

A good variety of clues...I liked "Words after play or for" since you rarely see that type of clue with a verb and a preposition.

Agree with PG about TATAS being lame. I had ruled that answer out, thinking of the other meaning of the word, which of course made me think of Tata Motors, best-named Indian car company ever.

mac said...

@imsdave: I thought Bela Bartok as well, just couldn't figure out who this Nadia was...

I liked most of this puzzle, but I think I've said before how I feel about hte ohwows, awws and dohs of puzzledom. That Dplus looks odd in the middle of the grid.

Larry Sittig said...

Error that almost works as well as the correct answers: For 65A KNoT is as correct as, maybe better than, KNIT. For its cross 57D INoT ("in overtime") is clearly wrong but INIT just kinda sits there (Isn't the phrase actually "Still in it"? Oh well.

Fowler said...

I had KNOT instead of KNIT. I still prefer it, as it makes INOT (in O.T.) the answer for "Down but not out."

Greg said...

Got most of the puzzle, but I stared at it awhile. Thought the grade was "A-plus" for the longest time, but then realized "D-plus" made more sense. Agree with Cheerios being a poor clue. "Cheerio", a Britishism, means, "Bye" or "Ta-ta." Making it plural (and not using quotes) was awful.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with C above.
Grade that describes this puzzle: D PLUS

Joon said...

wow, major grumpfest here today. i liked this puzzle. D'OH, OH WOW, and AWW are all things i actually say on a regular basis. how could they engender so many objections?

rube, DUH is not the same thing as D'OH, even if there are occasions when you might reasonably say either. DUH means "everybody knows that" or "i should've known that," whereas D'OH is just an annoyed grunt. you might be annoyed because you should've known something, but you could equally well be annoyed because somebody else ate the last doughnut. if you want to know how D'OH came to be spelled the way it is, you could look it up.

Rube said...

Thx @Joon. Wikipedia has once again amazed me aa well as provided a stellar example of my ignorance.

Sfingi said...

This was easier and less Googly than yesterday, for me.

I got the theme pronto, but had a harder time with the fill. Too much French. Since I didn't know whether it was to be TiAMO (It.) or TEAMO (Sp.), the French SANTE made it a personal Natick. Now, if Sajdak asked about Luc SANTE, the Belgian-American writer, then I'd have no doubts.

Had "aT reSt" before OTIOSE, and "good" as in "Good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are!" before INKA dinka doo.

Scoreboard initials are always a "whatever."

I thought Bela Lugosi, but got NADIA on crosses.

I've learned that the D'OH is what Homer Simpson says when he realizes he has erred (pronounced err, not air), whereas duh is someone else's error.

Captcha - fednation - when a nation wants to get kinky.

Hoyt said...

Hello all. I really enjoy checking out this site every night when I get home so thanks PG. Unfortunately I don't have a chance to do it earlier so I don't know if anyone will read this (or care) haha. Anyway, I agree with Fowler about KNOT and INOT. Got NADIA right..but only because I figured it was some actress that Bela Lugosi knew. Thought lots of the clues were vague. Maybe I just wasn't at the top of my game today.

CrazyCatLady said...

I liked the puzzle today even though it was one of those put down and pick up experiences. It took me a long time to finish, but I managed. I'm OK with Tatas since I once had an Brit boss who said Ta Ta or just Ta when I left for the day. After a year or so of that, I would call them TaTas. Whatever. He also called me "Old Bean" even though I was in my early twenties. Dustin's costar was really JESSICA. Was not fond of APACE. Hate those A words.

@SethG Thanks for the video. It reminds me of Zumba class.

ltinvestor said...

Wow. That was a hard one. The clues were obtuse. Otiose for idle is one. The clues were for someone with historical and pop cultural knowledge over a span of two-three generations. Thanks for solving it.

Anonymous said...

Vespa is Italian for "wasp."