THURSDAY, April 16, 2009 — Don Gagliardo

Theme: Rated G — Each of the 21 Gs in the grid is pronounced two ways (across answer words contain "soft" Gs only; down answer words contain only "hard" Gs).

Crosswordese 101: Three closely related words that show up in crossword puzzles a lot and can be confusing are YENTL, YENTA, and YENTE. Here's how you can tell them apart (if you don't already, ya know, know them). (**Disclaimer: I'm sure some of you have a much greater understanding of what these words mean and even though I might say all of the following in a knowledgeable manner, I'm really only explaining to you what I've learned from crosswords and not claiming to know anything about how these words may or may not be used in the real world.) YENTA is most often clued with the word gossip or any number of other words having to do with gossip or meddling: busybody, rumormonger, blabbermouth. YENTE, on the other hand, is the specific gossip / busybody / oh yeah, matchmaker! in "Fiddler on the Roof." The musical takes place in a place called Anatevka, which might also appear in the clue, especially later in the week. Finally, YENTL is almost always clued as it is today — with regard to the Barbra Streisand movie of that title. YENTL is also the name of Streisand's character in the movie. Every once in a while, in a late-week puzzle, the clue for YENTL will refer instead to the Broadway musical, in which the title role was played by Tovah Feldshuh. And now you know everything you need to know about YENTL, YENTA, and YENTE. At least when you're solving crossword puzzles.

Hey, everyone, PuzzleGirl here with your Thursday puzzle and it's a doozy. I Totally Love this theme. I don't recall seeing it before and I just think it's clever and snappy and brilliant. Love love love it. Can't say enough about it. It's so good, in fact, that I'm willing to let some of the crappy fill slide. And I mean that in the nicest possible way. I mean, really, there are way too many three-letter words for this grid to be considered elegant but, with this theme? Who cares!? Throw some more three-letter words in there! Won't bother me a bit! (Okay, maybe I'm getting carried away, but you get the idea.)

Took me a while to catch onto theme. After I got the first two long across answers — AGENT ORANGE (17A: Toxic defoliant used in Vietnam) and GINGER ROGERS (27A: 1930s Fred Astaire partner) — I assumed the theme had something to do with flavors. The next long across, therefore — STAGE MANAGER (45A: Show runner) — had me scratching my head. So I just kept zipping along, trying not to over-think it, and noticing the overabundance of Gs, until I finally made it to the reveal — [67A: Letter appearing only in down answers; its opposite appears only in across answers] (HARD G). Reviewing the grid, I saw it: [50A: Golden __] (AGERS — notice the soft G) crosses [44D: Logician's connector] (ERGO — with a hard G). [14A: Taunts] (GIBES — soft g) crosses [4D: Tennis great who retired in 2006] (AGASSI — hard G). And, and, and ... every single G in the whole damn grid is like that! Awesome! Did I mention that I love this theme?!?

With all the Gs in the grid, it was inevitable that we would see these four troublemakers:
  • 5D: Prefix with hertz (GIGA).
  • 11D: Satanic nation in Revelation (GOG). (My only true WTF? moment of the puzzle. Did you guys know this one?)
  • 39D: Club appearance (GIG).
  • 58D: Comical bit (GAG).
And I enjoyed the near symmetrical placement of NO WAY JOSÉ (34D: "When pigs fly!") and MI AMIGO (9D: Address to a pal, in Pamplona). I also enjoy that this entry gives me the opportunity to tell a funny story that I'm quite sure I've told at least once before but, hey, it's still funny. One time PuzzleHusband was on a business trip and he was holding the elevator at the hotel for his friend/co-worker Dan who was still negotiating the suitcase out of his room. PuzzleHusband, who, although Anglo, lived a significant portion of his life in New Mexico, barked at him, "Venga, amigo." Dan, who apparently doesn't speak Spanish, asked, "What the heck does that mean?" PH said, "It means 'Hurry up, idiot,'" to which Dan replied with a quizzical expression on his face, "Amigo means idiot?" Learn something new every day, Dan.

Okay, a few more things and we'll wrap this Thursday up.

  • 13A: Prop extension? (ANE). -ANE is a suffix that might be added to the word prop to result in propane.
  • 22A: Sings, so to speak (TELLS). Sing as in "rat someone out."
  • 35A: Place for a stud (LOBE). Stud earring.
  • 36A: Tribute with a wink (ROAST). Here's a blast from the past for you.

  • 41A: 2005 horror sequel (SAW II). This was a gimme for me and I have no idea why. I haven't seen a horror movie since, probably, 1983.
  • 43A: Artist who worked on Hitchcock's "Spellbound" (DALI). I did not know that.
  • 48A: Certain, for sure: Abbr. (SYN). Certain and for sure are synonyms.
  • 62A: Red-and-white supermarket logo (IGA). Where do they have these stores? Oh, they're based in Chicago. Orange probably knows all about them.
  • 66A: Yegg's thousands (GEES). A yegg is a ... safecracker? Yeah, a safecracker. And "Gs" means thousands, as in dollars.
  • 7D: Sportscaster Berman (LEN). Isn't there a Chris Berman too? Yep. Len is the sports anchor on NBC's New York City affiliate. Chris is (mostly) on ESPN.
  • 10D: "Archie Bunker's Place" costar (ANNE MEARA). Love her! She's Ben Stiller's mom, ya know.
  • 20D: '70s Olympics name (OLGA). I spent many hours glued to the television watching both Korbut and Nadia Comaneci in the 1970s.
  • 23D: Matt of "Joey" (LEBLANC).

  • 26D: "Mr. Triple Axel" Brian (ORSER). Gimme gimme gimme! Ha! Love this blog!
  • 28D: Marlins' div. (NLE). That's National League East. I got it from crosses.
  • 38D: Donate, in Dundee (GIE). I'm sure it couldn't be helped.
  • 52D: Antisocial elephant (ROGUE). I always forget this definition of the word. Until I remember it.
  • 57D: Tegucigalpa's country: Abbr. (HOND). Honduras? Yes, Honduras.
  • 59D: Summer in the cité (ÉTÉ). French in the clue = French in the answer.
  • 60D: Ordinal suffix (ETH). You might add the suffix -eth to a number to indicate its rank (e.g., twenty ——> twentiETH).
Orange will take care of you here for the next few days. If you do the New York Times puzzle, please join me over at Rex's for the Friday and Saturday puzzles. I'll be back here Sunday. Or Monday. Whenever the calendar puzzle is available online....

Everything Else — 1A: Late-night name (JAY); 4A: Sharp-witted (AGILE); 9A: O. Henry's "The Gift of the __" (MAGI); 14A: Taunts (GIBES); 15A: Key that often sounds gloomy (MINOR); 16A: Windy City superstation (WGN); 19A: Charlie Parker's instrument (ALTOSAX); 21A: Novel type (DIME); 23A: Philosopher __-tzu (LAO); 25A: "As I see it," in e-mail (IMO); 32A: Rowlands of "Another Woman" (GENA); 37A: Siouan speaker (OTO); 38A: Study of rock groups? (GEOLOGY); 40A: Old touring car (REO); 44A: O.K. Corral name (EARP); 49A: LAX tower gp. (ATC); 50A: Golden __ (AGERS); 54A: Actress Cusack (JOAN); 56A: Don hastily (THROWON); 58A: "Adam Bede" novelist (GEORGEELIOT); 63A: Perplexed (ATSEA); 64A: "Lovergirl" vocalist __ Marie (TEENA); 65A: Rapa __: Easter Island (NUI); 68A: Glue is one (GEL); 1D: Scold (JAWAT); 2D: Billiards player's consideration (ANGLE); 4D: Tennis great who retired in 2006 (AGASSI); 6D: Alpine goat (IBEX); 7D: Sportscaster Berman (LEN); 8D: More than -er? (EST); 12D: Anger (IRE); 15D: Hosp. scanner (MRI); 18D: Skunk's defense (ODOR); 24D: Anatomical ring (AREOLA); 29D: Skilled in (GOODAT); 30D: Access ending (ORY); 31D: End (STOP); 32D: Tenet's CIA successor (GOSS); 33D: French states (ETATS); 42D: Overlooks (IGNORES); 46D: Nape growth (MANE); 47D: Livestock identifier (EARTAG); 51D: "Dallas" name (EWING); 53D: Slow mollusk (SNAIL); 55D: __ Khan (AGA); 56D: Level (TIER); 61D: Meadow (LEA).


SaminMiam said...

PG said,
48A: Certain, for sure: Abbr. (SYN). Certain and for sure are synonyms.

Not quite, IMO. "Certain" and "sure" are the synonyms. The way to read it is Certain, (with respect to) sure.

Terrific puzzle, I agree! Thanks for your write-up.

Jeffrey said...

I don't know GOG. Strange theme. It is impressive but doesn't help with solving. Well I guess it could. but it didn't. I don't know. Strange.

ArtLvr said...

SYN was my last Whah? Gads. Yes, you can put in "certain" for "sure" if you want a synonym, but it would have been a better clue without the comma!

Never mind, I loved this original puzzle... great concept and full of pertinent fill in every nook and cranny. Canny!

Joon said...

it takes guts to defy convention, and themes that have nothing in particular to do with the longest answers are unconventional. i liked this one, though i didn't love it as much as PG did. and i did find that the whole grid being constrained by the theme led to some pretty bad fill, like a whole boatload of suffixes (-ETH, -ORY, -ANE, -EST) and other awkward stuff like HOND., IGA, and GIE. so overall, it was a good puzzle, but not one of my absolute favorites.

(i knew GOG.)

question for don gagliardo: is the second G in your name hard or silent? i notice we didn't see anything like ALIGN or GNAT in the puzzle, probably because there wasn't a third dimension for those.

xyz said...

God, I loved this puzzle, way cool theme once I got that answer. Awesome. I needed a little help to finish as the bottom 1/3 or so was hard and/or dense for me. A48 was really questionable to me, but I am not a super-serious puzzler don't know if that degree of obliquity is OK or not.

Generally I enjoyed my struggle on this a lot even though I didn't quite "finish it" since I Googled - and yes, a plethora of 3-letter words. Love LAT.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to agree with Joon here. I liked it and thought it was different, but not one of my favorites. I had to fill it online as I didn't believe what I was putting down was correct. Too many suffixes.


Don G. said...

@Joon: The simplest way to describe pronunctiation of my last name is that the second G is silent, but not really. It is part of the diphthong, GLIA, which has a drawn-out kind of lilting sound, as in Pagliacci. I guess I would have to have been really creative to put silent Gs in the puzzle somewhere.

This puzzle was inspired by Ginger Rogers after watching one of those wonderful Rogers-Astaire movies. I thought, how cool that all her Gs sounded like Js. Notice the hint in 1-across- JAY. I tried first to just get as many J-sounding Gs in the puzzle, and then thought, what the heck, make the across Gs soft, the down Gs hard. Easier said than done, as you can see with some of the struggles that this presents when trying for as many Gs as possible. It seemed like a fun idea at the time, and I wasn't sure how the solver would react. I am glad to get feedback, because when approaching themes such as this one, it's nice to know how much bad fill I can stick in the puzzle without really spoiling the fun. I am glad people are enjoying it.

Denise said...

I am a pretty good puzzler but a terrible speller -- one word that always gets me is "MAGI" -- isn't it supposed to be a "J"? Anyway, when the themes of a puzzle include an extra dose of one letter, this puzzler is happy for the boost.

Don't even ask me about "suger" "sugor" "sugar"which has haunted me since the third grade. And those darn "ance" and "ence" words. I sure do love the CROSS in crossword.

SethG said...

SethG can either be pronounced (sɛθ dʒi') or (sɛθ' gə).

What's to make of Doc Brown?

Pretty good puzzle with a fantastic reveal!

chefbea said...

what a great puzzle!!! Lot of things I didn't know but I did remember Orser from the other day. was that this puzzle or the ny times.

Love Bob Newhart. Thanks for the Don Rickles roast

Crockett1947 said...

@Don g I really enjoyed this puzzle as well. Getting ORANGE and GINGER in the first two long theme clue positions made me posit that we had a color theme going here. Then there were all of those Gs! Bravo, sir!

Vega said...

*Swoon* Loved the theme. Love the fact that the constructor's last name has two Gs in it. Hate how people in Seattle pronounce Pagliacci as "PaG-liacci." UGH. Philistines.

So much I learn from crosswords and blogs, Brian Orser and Doc Brown's mispronunciation of GIGAwatt being only the latest.


Dan said...

I knew Gog, sadly (I never hear much of it by itself, though - it is usually paired with Magog).

And a big grrrr at 48A.

~LA Dan

Doug P said...

Very creative theme. I loved it!

Don G. said...

@Puzzle Girl: I enjoyed the YENTL, etc. analysis, which still confuses me at times. Thanks for the thorough analysis and generous comments. The puzzle apparently came off in a way that I had hoped, with the ORANGE and GINGER being red herrings.
@Orange: Too bad I couldn't have clued 17-across, "Secret host for L.A. Crossword Confidential". Thanks for your comments in your regular blog. In answer to your speculation about whether the puzzle was handcrafted, I construct all of my puzzles with paper and pencil and eraser. You should see the erasures! I don't use any computer programs, but I will check word lists on the computer.
Everyone else, I thank you for your comments and appreciation. I am glad solvers had enough of an open mind to realize the interesting nature of this puzzle.

fergus said...

Almost done with an enjoyable solve and then seeing 67A. GEE (well of course), that's cool. Wow, that really cool.

Just today I again complained about heavy-handed theme-revealing clues on Rex NYT blog, but this one didn't bother me in the least. Maybe because that Clue had no effect, nor would have, on solving the puzzle. And yet it had a great positive effect on its appreciation. Usually, you get pointless give-aways, with the look-at-me cleverness detracting from the whole effort.

I realize that I'm not being absolutely consistent concerning this issue, but so what -- my aesthetic sense has some defensible reason to back it up, and that's good enough.

Badir said...

As a mathematician, I loved the theme--very logical. And, yes, today ORSER was a gimme. Yay blogs for me, too! :)

Greene said...

Add my name to the chorus of praise for this extremely clever and enjoyable puzzle. I was not concerned about the quality of some of the fill because I was having too much fun trying to elucidate the theme. I've worked on many more elegant constructions, but I tend to admire those puzzles instead of enjoying them. This one was just pure pleasure from start to finish and much more satisfying than the NYT puzzle today. What a chore that was.

Another great write up from you PG. I'm really starting to look forward to your posts as a regular part of my day instead of the occasional morsel. I hope you're not getting exhausted by all this blogging.

Great explanation for YENTA, YENTE, and YENTL. This is extremely picky of me to point out, but the Broadway production of YENTL (from 1975) was a straight play and not a musical, but it did star Tovah Felshuh. I blogged a bit about Fiddler over at Rex the other day. That same production I mentioned also featured Bea Arthur as YENTE of all people. She was pretty funny in the part, but quite the tallest YENTE you're ever likely to see.