04.01 Fri

April 1, 2011
Dan Naddor

Theme: Backwords — It's a quote theme with a twist, only it's not a quote and it's more backwards than twisty.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Start of an aptly expressed linguistic observation (CIBARA DNA WERBEH). [HEBREW AND ARABIC]
  • 31A: Observation, part 2 (DAER ERA). [ARE READ]
  • 45A: End of the observation (TFEL OT THGIR MORF). [FROM RIGHT TO LEFT]
Before we get to the puzzle, I just want to remind everyone that Patrick Blindauer publishes a new free puzzle on his website every month. His April puzzle is available today and it's a doozy. Head on over and check it out if you have the time and the inclination.

I have to admit that even though it's April Fool's Day, I wasn't expecting a tricky puzzle like this from the L.A. Times. The N.Y. Times runs unconventional puzzles like this from time to time. In fact, if you do the puzzle regularly, you know to look out for the trickiness on Thursdays in particular. But the L.A. Times, as far as I know, has always been a more straitlaced puzzle. So, this theme is a little out of the ordinary and I'm sure newspaper editors around the country are receiving whiny letters today.

I had trouble all over the grid until I figured out the trick. Like a lot of you, I'm sure, my confidence was shaken when I entered downs I was sure of but then saw the odd line-up of across letters they created. Let's just say there was lots of erasing until the lightbulb came on.

Stuff I just flat-out didn't know:
  • 37A: Like Cologne and vicinity (RHENISH). It's like the Rhine River only an adjective. Who knew?
  • 22D: Early Chinese dynasty (HSIA). Someday I'm going to learn all the Chinese dynasties. And the Greek alphabet. And the names of all the baseball stadiums.
  • 25D: Canadian young adult fiction author McClintock (NORAH). If you say so!
  • 37D: Hall of Fame defensive back Mel (RENFRO). RENFRO played for the University of Oregon before joining the Dallas Cowboys. In 1962, Rice University officials allowed RENFRO's parents to attend the Rice-Oregon game even though the stadium was a "whites-only" facility.
  • 11A: XXXV years after the creation of the original Magna Carta (MCCL). That L was the last letter to fall for me. I knew [14D: "The Merry Widow" operettist] was someone we'd covered in CW101 in the past, but I couldn't quite remember the name (it's LEHAR).
  • 15A: Apple consumers? (ADAM AND EVE). Ha!
  • 23A: Hand (SAILOR). As in "All hands on deck."
  • 35A: It's about 325 miles east of Texas's H-Town, with "the" (BIG EASY). Do people really call Houston "H-Town"? I assume that's a reference to Houston anyway. That's a pretty lame city nickname if you ask me.
  • 43A: "Bewitched" witch (ENDORA). I'm all, "Samantha, Tabitha, Serena … oh what was her nervous aunt's name? … Clara! …." Totally forgetting about the fabulous ENDORA. D'oh!
  • 49A: Abbr. on folk song sheet music (TRAD.). Ooh, I like this one. Most sheet music lists the piece's composer and/or lyricist, but with a lot of folk songs that information is unknown so it just says TRAD. (for TRADitional).
  • 4D: Inviting words before "Want to come over?" (I'M ALONE). With the I and the L in place my first thought was IT'S LATE. Don't judge.
  • 12D: Plots (CABALS). Interesting. I thought the CABAL was just the group of people plotting, but I guess CABAL can also mean the plotting itself.
  • 28D: Numbers in a corner, often (PAGINATES). "Numbers" is a verb here.
  • 29D: Texters' amused syllables (HEES). Even though the clue clearly says "syllables," the first thing I thought of when I saw I needed a four-letter answer was LMAO. Pretty sure we're not going to see that in the L.A. Times though.
  • 31D: Mexican bread (DINERO). Tried PESETA first. On the right track at least.
  • 34D: City WSW of Sacramento (NAPA). I know that even though we think of California as west of Nevada, parts of California are actually east of Nevada, and I thought this clue was trying to be tricky in that way. But it wasn't.
  • 39D: "Edda" author __ Sturluson (SNORRI). Love this name! Probably because in my head I always say it as SNORRI McSnorilson which you've gotta admit is pretty funny.
  • 40D: Coat opening? (PETTI-). At the junction! Petticoat Junction!
Crosswordese 101 Round-up:
  • 16A: River through Lake Brienz (AARE).
  • 9D: Mendes of "Hitch" (EVA).
  • 14D: "The Merry Widow" operettist (LEHAR).
  • 26D: Nice summers (ÉTÉS).
  • 47D: __ judicata: decided case (RES).
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Everything Else 1A: Lexington and Concord fighters (MILITIAMEN); 19A: Duplicated (CLONED); 20A: Roma road (STRADA); 21A: Word with sharp or trouble (SHOOTER); 24A: Leagues: Abbr. (ASSNS.); 25A: Like performances by the Wallendas (NETLESS); 27A: Place to build (SITE); 28A: Flying need (PHOTO I.D.); 30A: Is down with (HAS); 32A: Source of support (FAN); 36A: "Return of the Jedi" dancer (OOLA); 39A: Condescend (STOOP); 40A: Fowl with a showy mate (PEAHEN); 41A: Herbal drink (MINT TEA); 44A: Place with swinging doors (SALOON); 50A: Listed (ENUMERATED); 51A: They have their pluses and minuses (IONS); 52A: Fabled tortoise's trait (STEADINESS); 1D: Bud (MAC); 2D: First name in tyranny (IDI); 3D: Checkup charges (LAB COSTS); 5D: Mystical decks (TAROTS); 6D: Vacant (INANE); 7D: Dangerous snake (ADDER); 8D: Darn (MEND); 10D: It may be a scoop (NEWS STORY); 11D: Hitched (MARRIED); 13D: Words to live by (CREDOS); 18D: Latin term usually abbreviated (ET ALIA); 21D: Window part (SASH); 32D: What an asterisk may indicate (FOOTNOTE); 33D: Lotion additive (ALOE); 35D: Lays eyes on (BEHOLDS); 36D: Armchair partner (OTTOMAN); 38D: Like hell (HADEAN); 41D: Volcanic fluid (MAGMA); 42D: Perjurer's admission (I LIED); 44D: "Melrose Place" actor (SHUE); 46D: Explosive initials (TNT); 48D: Some alarm respondents: Abbr. (FD'S).


SethG said...

TFEL OT THGIR MORF was one of my first answers, and I still found this tricky to complete. That TRAD corner was hard, and misreading the clue for BEHOLDS certainly didn't help. And I stared at xHOTOID for way too long.

I have an oven mitt named Snorri hanging in my doorway. Don't judge!

RAC'em said...

I don't often find April Fool tricks very funny. This was no exception. Better than Mother Nature's on the Northeast! G'day.

Rex Parker said...

NYT FTW (today, anyway).

Gareth Bain said...

Also caught out by the tougher than usual theme! If I'd remembered Rich Norris did run that awesome Alex Boisvert puzzle with IFYOURENOTLIVINGONTHEEDGEYOURETAKINGUPTOOMUCHSPACE on the edges I might have been in better stead. As it was the rest of the puzzle was pretty dern tough too, esp. the PETTI/RENFRO/HADEAN area. Also PHOTOID which is hard to see when you assume that "-OID" is a suffix. PAGINATES as a noun is pretty sneaky too!

Anonymous said...

reve elzzup tsrow


StudioCitySteve said...

Guess I didn't help my cause when I didn't realize it was April Fool's Day today until I came here.

Didn't see the theme at all, big DNF for me, too much stuff I didn't know.


Avg Joe said...

It kicked my butt. HTG and DNF. I had everything but Renfro, Hadean and Rhenish. Goog supplied Renfro, but it was from this blog, so that hardly counts.

I actually liked the theme and the twist in thinking it forced, but the rest was just a little too off the chart to really call fun. It's got a good beat, but you can't dance to it.

Avg Joe said...

Just to clarify my point above about "counting". It sounds snide the way it reads. I'm in the camp that considers googling an acceptable means of looking things up if you have the resources. Not as good as finishing without help, but still not outright cheating. But when the answer provided by Google is the same as just giving up and coming here for the answers, that's no better and is cheating.

CarolC said...


Started Googling early on, then decided there wasn't enough time in my day to finish. Tough, tough puzzle for me. Didn't know RHENISH, SNORRI, SHUE but should have known or been able to get the others.

Liked pluses and minuses for IONS, ENUMERATED, PAGINATES. Thought FAN as a source of support was clever.

So all in all I guess I kind of like the puzzle now that it's been solved for and explained to me.
@PG, hadn't heard of LMAO as i am not much of a texter, but the picture you posted was intriguing so I Googled it and learned something new today. The picture really is illustrative!

Anonymous said...

The gimmic was pretty clear to me from a recent experience, so it just became typing in words backwards. I don't even really like typing words forwards, so I just quit.

CoffeeLvr said...

I did this puzzle in the middle of the night, and almost gave up. Left the computer, went upstairs, but kept at it mentally. Just as I poured my bedtime glass of water I realized what CIBARA was. And the rest fell quickly; I had been entering and erasing the F in MORF in 45A, so it was easy to infer all of the statement.

Still a DNF, though. I did not know SNORRI at all, and had left STEADy in place from my earlier entry of STEADY PACE for the tortoise. Wanted to go sleep, so cheated to find out why all the squares were full, but no window shade and sound effects had appeared.

I didn't remember April Fool's, but think this is a very fair Friday puzzle. Of course, I am used to NYT tricks.

C said...

I thought I was so close to my dreamed about random letter puzzle, at least in the theme, when my dyslexia kicked in. I am mad HADEAN?

First, sparkling week of write-ups, @PG. Thanks for your effort.

Learned some new ones today, RHENISH: does this mean the area around Koln is kidney like?

Mokus said...

Being a left handed, right-eyed contrarian I enjoyed this puzzle immensely. With HA in place I really wanted HArd as Hell but Hadean is a cool word. Liked MEND and EVA next to each other. Looking forward to another lovely EVA in Camelot. Funny write up.

CrazyCatLady said...

I was able to decipher HEBREW AND ARABIC when I had that line filled in. It looked liked gibberish, so I thought hmm, maybe it spells something backwards or it's an anagram. Tried backwards first and sure enough it worked. But like PG there was a lot of stuff I just didn't know - RENFRO, PHOTOID, RHENISH, HSIA, SNORRI, OOLA yada, yada. Had BRA before FAN. Thanks for explaining TRAD. Had no idea what that was. DNF for me.

I liked it though and, as usual, PG's write up was excellent. Joy BEHAR cracks me up. LMAO at that LMAO pic.

Anonymous said...

I started this morning a relatively sane man, but after this agonizing bit of torture, I'm now in a straitjacket on the way to the nut house. !tol a sknahT

Avg Joe said...

@Anon 10:22, Relax. It's not so bad. Listen to THIS.

Anonymous said...

A really gnarly puzzle by the late, great Mr. Naddor. Unusually difficult for him.

The seemingly nonsensical theme answers (read from left to right) eventually made sense to me when I got the Arabic and Hebrew line, so I finished correctly, even with the other obscure fill. SNORRI? OOLA? HSAI?

And who remembers the date of the Magna Carta and feels like doing the addition problem to get the RRN?

All in all, I have to give this one a FAIL.

PurpleGuy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PurpleGuy said...

Dear God, can we PLEASE let Dan Naddor rest in peace?
If I never see another of his god-awful puzzles I'll be very happy.
This one was just plain lousy.

Anonymous said...

I can appreciate a tough puzzle. But you shouldn't have to anticipate a clue to be spelled backwards. That is just wrong.

Count me as DNF and Do Not Care To Do Another Puzzle Like This One!

*David* said...

I capitulated and didnt get the theme, kept on putting different fill in since things looked off. Once I saw the theme I could complete, still plenty tough.

Steve Lewis said...

Different tastes, I guess. I found this to be the one of the most fun puzzles I've solved this year. Dan, we miss you!

Tuttle said...

Did. Not. Like.

Besides the scads of trivia; RHENISH usually refers to a different part of the Rheinland than the one Cologne is in, HSIA is an archaic romanticization*, HADEAN refers to a geological period and MAGMA is, by definition, non-volcanic.

* If you want to learn the Chinese dynasties for X-words you'll have to learn'em twice. Once in Pinyin (Xia) and once in Wade-Guiles (HSIA) transliteration.

Anonymous said...

No one in Houston calls it H-town!

Anonymous said...

Fastest 4/1 solve ever! 0:49... NOT. And yes we do call it H-Town. See page B-4 in today's Chron.

Side note... this was Nadder's last 4/1 on us. DNF, but RIP.....