WEDNESDAY, April 15, 2009 — Dan Naddor

THEME: The Insanity That Is Spelling in the English Language — There's nothing like having a child in elementary school learning how to spell to drive home the lesson that English spelling and pronunciation are riddled with a ridiculous amount of inconsistency. The theme entries all end with OUGH, but there are six distinct pronunciations. Crazy language, cool theme.

There's some extracurricular puzzle action happening this Thursday, April 16. Eric Berlin, a crossword constructor and kids' mystery author, is marking the release of his second novel, The Potato Chip Puzzles, with an online "puzzle party" for kids. (Details here.) My son enjoyed Eric's first book, The Puzzling World of Winston Breen. Good for roughly the 8 to 13 age group.

Constructor Justin Smith is running a new five-week crossword contest starting on the 16th, but this one's not for kids. You can check out the "Metacross Five Aprils" details here.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled L.A. Times crossword puzzle.

Crosswordese 101: Today's topic is the A- words that thrive in crosswords but not so much in our everyday language. 6D: Like Niagara Falls clues the word AROAR. Have you ever described a crowd or a raging waterfall as being AROAR? Me neither. But having a vowel before a consonant is handy for our crossword constructors, so the A- formations live on.

Regular A- parts of our vocabulary, like "aboard" or "aloud," don't qualify as crosswordese because we all know exactly what they mean. But the kooky ones in crosswords are less familiar. APACE, meaning quickly, is my personal favorite. I have been doing crosswords long enough that I now use this word in speech. (You may think I'm kidding, but I assure you I am not.) ABEAM means perpendicular to the length of a ship. ABAFT means in the back or stern of a ship, or ASTERN. AMAIN means with full strength or speed. Getting out of the nautical arena, ABOIL means boiling. [Oh, look, that's in this puzzle, too: 45D: Full of excitement (ABOIL).] If you stand arms AKIMBO, your hands are on your hips. (I love this word.) ABED means...in bed. AGAPE and AGASP mean gaping or gasping in surprise. There's even ATIPTOE, meaning eagerly expectant.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Loaf pan filler (BREAD DOUGH). D'oh!
  • 29A: Mistletoe branch that was Aeneas' pass to the underworld (GOLDEN BOUGH). Bow-wow!
  • 39A: Something to lead a horse to (WATER TROUGH). Set it off!
  • 52A: "The Thorn Birds" author (MCCULLOUGH). That's Colleen McCullough, rhymes with...well, here's the pronunciation.
  • 11D: "Cut it out!" (THAT'S ENOUGH). Pretty buff.
  • 24D: Make a dramatic recovery (PULL THROUGH). Good for you.

Dan Naddor is one of the finest L.A. Times crossword constructors these days. He cooks up a lot of interesting ideas and pulls 'em off with aplomb. (APLOMB! Another A- word I adore.) Today's theme involves no trickery, no wordplay—just marveling at the insanity that gives us so many pronunciations for the same chunk of letters. The six theme answers take up a good-sized swath of real estate in the grid—62 squares. Packing in more than three or four theme entries makes it harder to wrangle good fill in the rest of the puzzle, but Naddor gives us plenty of goodies. Here's my favorite fill—

  • 4D: Amazon predator (ANACONDA). It's a crazy-big snake! It's a cheesy-bad movie! And it's a lovely crossword answer.
  • 20A: Fruity rum drink (COLADA). Do you like piña coladas? Getting caught in the rain? Let us not speak of what one is wont to do at midnight:

  • 44A: Use Scope, say (GARGLE). When I was in college, there was this one computer nerd who wore his glasses on a string around the back of his neck. He was apparently once spotted spitting out his mouthwash all over his dangling glasses, as the string was henceforth called his "Scope rope." The word GARGLE is innately fun. Then there's 46A: Dogs (POOCHES). POOCHES? Also an entertaining word.
    5D: Move furtively (SIDLE). I sidle every chance I get.
    10D: A hero might hold it (SALAMI). Terrific clue—it completely befuddled me.
An Olio of Other Answers:

OLIO is crosswordese for a miscellaneous assortment of whatnot. If you don't think of this word instantaneously when there's a four-letter space and clue mentions "miscellaneous," you might want to start. Not to be confused with OLEO, which is margarine.
  • 19A: Mane man of film? (LAHR). I went with SCAR from The Lion King first. Whoops!
  • 48A: WWII torpedo vessel (E-BOAT). I wanted U-BOAT. E-BOAT??
  • 49A: Poe's "The Murders in the Rue __" (MORGUE). Who doesn't love creepy Poe stories?
  • 59A: Pre-coll. catchall (ELHI). People who work in education grumble every time they see this answer and explain impatiently that nobody in the field uses "el-hi" to refer to elementary and high school education. The crossword does not care. The crossword will use ELHI if it makes an otherwise nice corner possible.
  • 2D: It can precede plop or plunk (KER). Did you have that Kerplunk game with the marbles and sticks when you were a kid? Does your kid have it now?
  • 13D: Razzie Award word (WORST). The Razzie Awards are always entertaining.
  • 22D: Georgia of "Coach" (ENGEL). Georgia Engel's been on some long-running classic sitcoms, dating back to The Mary Tyler Moore Show in the '70s and going right up to the current decade's Everybody Loves Raymond.
Everything Else — 1A: St. with a panhandle (OKLA); 5A: Polio vaccine developer (SABIN); 10A: Stash (STOW); 14A: Jockey strap (REIN); 15A: Native of Tehran (IRANI); 16A: "Now I get it!" (AHSO); 21A: Fills (SATES); 22A: Give authority to (EMPOWER); 25A: Gets in the crosshairs (AIMSAT); 26A: English subjects? (NOUNS); 27A: One may be proffered at a wedding (HANKIE); 32A: Eavesdropping org. (NSA); 35A: First name in jazz (ELLA); 36A: Lets up (EASES); 37A: Adversaries (FOES); 38A: It's 0 at the equator: Abbr. (LAT); 41A: Rained hard? (HAILED); 43A: Lock horns (ARGUE); 51A: We, to Henri (NOUS); 56A: Fixes, in a way (RIGS); 57A: Two-dimensional surface (PLANE); 58A: Puts to work (USES); 60A: Located (SITED); 61A: Horn sound (TOOT); 1D: Heavenly body (ORB); 3D: Make stuff up (LIE); 7D: Data transmission rate (BAUD); 8D: Swenson of "Benson" (INGA); 9D: Disease research org. (NIH); 12D: Dublin-born actor Milo (OSHEA); 18D: Use a divining rod (DOWSE); 21D: One of about 19 million Indians (SIKH); 23D: Dinero (MOOLA); 25D: Inner turmoil (ANGST); 27D: Rinsed, as a driveway (HOSED); 28D: Violin virtuoso Leopold (AUER); 30D: Author Zora __ Hurston (NEALE); 31D: Diminish (BATE); 33D: Smooth transition (SEGUE); 34D: "... __, dust to dust" (ASHES); 37D: Expel (FORCEOUT); 39D: Droop (WILT); 40D: "High Sierra" director Walsh (RAOUL); 42D: Two-time U.S. Open champ Andre (AGASSI); 44D: Pop or bop (GENRE); 46D: Cut back, as a branch (PRUNE); 47D: Gave the eye (OGLED); 49D: Mid-12th century date (MCLI); 50D: One __: kids' ball game (OCAT); 52D: AWOL chasers (MPS); 53D: Troupe for troops: Abbr. (USO); 54D: Prizm maker of yore (GEO); 55D: FDR successor (HST).


PuzzleGirl said...

@Orange: I can't tell you how much I appreciate knowing that you don't always come up with the right answer right away. Seriously.

Great puzzle from Mr. Naddor (as usual). GARGLE and POOCHES are, indeed, entertaining words. I share your surprise at E-BOAT. WTF? I had no idea Georgia Engel was still out there. She must be ... old now. (And what does that say about me??) I am going to try to SIDLE at least once today.

Orange said...

Actually, PG, Georgia Engel, playing Ray's tall brother's mother-in-law (and mother to a Chris Elliott doofball character) on "Raymond," looked pretty much the same as always. She hasn't gone all Estelle Getty on us.

Gareth Bain said...

Ha for once I'm here late enough to be early and not late!
Cool theme and 6 answers too... lovely jubbly. Fought with bottom-left 2X3 squares for about 3 min at end. I wanted ABOIL to be ABUZZ and the idea wouldn't go away! Who else also had POODLES for POOCHES, or was it just me being dopey? Hoped 4D "Amazon Predator" might be CAYMAN but there were a few too many letters, though ANACONDA's are cool too, in a "I hope I never meet one" way. Also JAIN for SIKH, can't believe there aren't more of them, the Indian cricket eleven has two! I think I used up my commenter's word quota now... Oh, not sure COLADA was my one of my favourites, though looks odd without its PINA. But EBOAT's are a firm part of my crosswordese vocab, the U's go under...


Scott Atkinson said...

Dan Naddor's stuff is always top-notch. I don't think HOSED means the same as rinsed (HOSED DOWN maybe) Much more interesting to use the colloquial [Out of luck] IMHO. Thanks for this great blog BTW.

Orange said...

Gareth, I was just thinking about reptilian caimans when I was looking for a good ANACONDA photo and came across this anaconda squeezing a caiman. I have decided that the anaconda is way scarier.

And you're welcome, Scott!

humorlesstwit said...

@Orange - Thanks. However, you missed the ultimate ANACONDA link. Except it's probably not an ANACONDA, which is irrelevant to this clip.

Eric Berlin said...

Just so we're clear, the Puzzle Party is more for grown-ups, though kids are more than welcome to join in.

Thanks for the mention.

Denise said...

McCullough rhymes with Abdullah.

I think publishing companies, not educators, use "elhi."

That's my contribution for today.

Wade said...

I always had you picked for a sidler.

Anonymous said...

Anything that can squeeze me to death is more than a little frightening.

I thought the theme was excellent as well, once I caught on. Don't know why GEO was clued as prizm of yore though. Seems like there should be a better clue.


Orange said...

Am I the only one who has no idea where "puzzled_in_pdx" is puzzled? What or where is pdx?? Sign me


Crockett1947 said...

PDX is Portland, OR -- our airport designator.

Don G. said...

Awesome puzzle from Dan! Somehow he get's six theme answers for a rare pronunciation situation. I had a feeling the two long down answers were going to be theme answers, and I wouldn't have expected it if it hadn't been Dan's puzzle.

I like AROAR for "Like Niagara Falls" because it kept me guessing. HANKIE for "One may be proffered at a wedding" was precious. For some reason, I was expecting an answers like TAILS for the clue "Dogs", and was amused at POOCHES. Lots of other great clues that would take up too much time and space.

Great commentary, Orange! Enjoy your tangential meanderings, as usual.

SethG said...

For me,

Anaconda: Sir Mix-A-LotOUGH: SeussCOLADA: a bar called O'Malley'sAnd the chicken is in the bread pan picking out dough.

Anonymous said...

Pooches, or even poodles ! How about canines for 46A. Messed me up good, as did "Paper" instead of "Plane" for 57A. And I thought someone would fill me in here on "E boat." Guess I'll look it up myself. Ker...

- - Robert

Anonymous said...

Sorry Orange didn't mean to confuse you! I'm at work and I don't have a blog I want to link to, thus I must be anonymous for now. I tried to think up a cute name so I'm not just "Anonoymous" As I'm still slow on the puzzles (especially Friday!) they generally leave me feeling puzzled. And as Crockett1947 stated I'm in Portland, OR. Abject apologies :).


Eric said...

Agree, a great puzzle on the English language. One of my favorite "A" word is "afoot" as in Sherlock's: "The game's afoot".
Thanks for this blog. It's great to have on for the LAT as well as the NYT.

Dan said...

This one pushed my time back a bit. Thank you for explaining "ELHI."

I had a feeling you were going to link to "The Piña Colada Song!"

~LA Dan

SethG said...

I'll be writing about this elsewhere, but I just came across an old article by a former NYT crossword editor, explaining why the clue [British W.W. II craft] turned out to not be correct for...

E-boat: ''British W.W. II craft.'' Not so. It's a German version of the PT boat. The only dictionary where I can find the word is the Ran-dom House Dictionary of the English Language, which is misleading because it starts its definition with ''Brit.'' in italics, which tends to throw one off at the start. No mention of Germany at all.

edith b said...

I had no idea what an E-Boat was but I went with it anyway because it fit. Emboldened, I went with McCullough even though I thought it was spelled wrong because PRUNE just had to be right.

So, I took a flier on this one and turned out to be right. Oh joy.

Dan said...

Hey, if anyone missed this great interview with Dan Naddor, check it out. (Sorry for linking to the "competition"!)