SATURDAY, May 23, 2009—Barry C. Silk

THEME: The Saturday puzzle is themeless—the game is decoding tougher clues and figuring out a slew of longer words and phrases.

Today's crossword fill has gone all Hollywood! Here's a gallery of the retro stars in the grid:

48A: Actor whose '70s–'80s sitcom character was a cross-dresser is Jamie FARR from M*A*S*H. As cross-dressers go, he was a horribly unsuccessful one. He didn't look remotely attractive in a dress, nor did his transvestism earn him a discharge from the Army. Farr remains one of the most successful Lebanese-Americans in show business. Wait! Salma Hayek's dad was of Lebanese descent. I believe Jamie Farr has been eclipsed.

GOLDIE HAWN won Best Supporting Actress in the '60s (12D: "Cactus Flower" Oscar winner). Have any of you see that movie? No? I know her best from Laugh-In and Private Benjamin. Her current relevance in Hollywood seems to relate mainly to her daughter, Kate Hudson, who has carved out a solid career in terrible movies.

In Midnight Cowboy, the 28D: Dustin Hoffman role is RATSO RIZZO. "I'm walkin' here!" Who among us does not relish the chance to wield that line when we're working our pedestrian mojo and a car interferes? RATSO shows up by itself in crosswords far more often than the full name, and it took me years to figure out if it was spelled RATSO or RATZO. Here we follow the TSAR rule: If there's a spelling variant without a Z, it becomes a crossword staple. Barry Silk's inordinately fond of peppering his puzzles with Scrabbly letters, though, so he dressed up his RATSO with a two-Z RIZZO.

Henry FONDA was 48D:"The Grapes of Wrath" star, 1940. Truthfully, I don't think I've seen a single Henry Fonda movie other than On Golden Pond from the '80s. I, uh, hear good things about his earlier decades of work. Can I get partial credit for a handful of Jane, Peter, and Bridget Fonda movies?

Crosswordese 101: We're going to speak French for today's lesson: 27D: Pierre's possessive clues the two-word À TOI, which means "yours" or basically "of you." Three vowels plus a T? That's crossword gold, my friends. Somewhat more common in crosswords is À MOI ("mine"). Considerably less common is À LUI ("his/to him")—U being the least common vowel, it's not as helpful to the constructor in filling out a section of the grid. Other French possessives to know are SES ("his" or "her"), MES ("mine"—but also "month" in Spanish), and NOTRE ("our").

Look! Clues! And answers! Here are some of 'em:
  • 23A: Pelvic bone (SACRUM). I just learned from Visual Thesaurus's "word of the day" e-mail this interesting tidbit: "The resemblance to sacred in this word for the bone that connects the spine to the pelvis is not accidental: it was believed by certain Greeks with naming rights that the soul resided in this spot: they called the bone hieron osteon. It became os sacrum in Latin, a compound from which we've dropped the first part." Go ahead. Reach around and see if you can't touch your soul.
  • HUMOR ME is one of those colloquial-language entries I'm fond of. 30A: "I beg your indulgence" is just a tad less folksy.
  • 37A: For the full time (TO TERM). I don't know that this phrase has any utility outside of gestation, but it's 100% "in the language" for that setting.
  • 38A: Lizard with a dewlap (IGUANA). Iguanas have dewlaps? So do a lot of old people, but my dictionary applies the word only to animals. The wattle is pretty much the same thing and again, the dictionary lists only animal references. Who knew?
  • 47A: New Wave band __ Boingo (OINGO). I am really not familiar with their oeuvre, but a clue like this demands an '80s music video:

  • 52A: Sch. in Athens (OHIO U.). That's Athens, Ohio, not Athens, Georgia (home of the University of Georgia and the rock scene that birthed R.E.M.), nor the capital of Greece.
  • When I read 59A: Hose part, I thought of feet, legs, seams, and control panties—not a garden hose and its NOZZLE.
  • 61A: Bit of steamy prose is a MASH NOTE, a.k.a. a letter you send to the person you're infatuated with. You know how fatuous means foolish, silly, pointless? That's (etymologically speaking) how infatuation makes you.
  • 13D: St. __ Mountains: Alaska/Canada range (ELIAS). Say what? That one's not ringing a bell for me. Far more often, ELIAS is clued with Elias Howe, inventor of the sewing machine, or Walter Elias Disney, whose middle name we really have no reason to know.
Everything Else — 1A: Has a gift for (EXCELS AT); 9A: Not impromptu (STAGED); 15A: Sci-fi portal (STARGATE); 16A: Brightly colored bird (ORIOLE); 17A: Gladiator weapons (TRIDENTS); 18A: Loved 'un (DARLIN'); 19A: Jutland native (DANE); 20A: Woman in an insect name (KATY); 22A: Hardly pleased with (MAD AT); 25A: Originate, as a river (RISE); 26A: Mother of Isaac (SARAH); 32A: Capitol group (STATE SENATE); 34A: Only pres. born in Missouri (HST); 40A: Family nickname (SIS); 41A: Candlemaker's supply (PARAFFIN WAX); 45A: More or less (OF A SORT); 50A: Offer? (HITMAN); 54A: Does, perhaps (DEER); 55A: Plagiarize (CRIB); 63A: Egg buys (DOZENS); 64A: "Wanna bet?" (I DOUBT IT); 65A: Lacking a key (ATONAL); 66A: Message sent home from a shy freshman? (SEND CASH); 1D: Cornerstone abbr. (ESTD.); 2D: More, commercially (XTRA); 3D: Number one son? (CAIN); 4D: German earth (ERDE); 5D: Shirt designation: Abbr. (LGE.); 6D: Onetime "Drink it and sleep!" sloganeer (SANKA); 7D: Case at the embassy (ATTACHE); 8D: Trial (TEST RUN); 9D: Grass rolls (SOD); 10D: Disney World transport (TRAM); 11D: Military aviators, collectively (AIR ARM); 14D: Torino tooth (DENTE); 21D: Arizona county or its seat (YUMA); 23D: Elite Asian mountaineer (SHERPA); 24D: Recurring theme (MOTIF); 26D: Former fast fliers (SSTS); 29D: Did lunch (ATE); 31D: Zone (REGION); 33D: Wreck (SMASH); 35D: Complication (SNAG); 36D: Classification prefix (TAXO); 39D: Aussie's school (UNI); 42D: Cause of rage, briefly (ROID); 43D: Greek goddess of the hunt (ARTEMIS); 44D: Site of NSA headquarters (FT. MEADE); 46D: Ready to skate on (FROZEN); 49D: What caring people give (A HOOT); 51D: Bad lighting? (ARSON); 53D: Humerus neighbor (ULNA); 55D: "Closing Bell" network (CNBC); 56D: Membership list (ROTA); 57D: "How sweet __!" (IT IS); 58D: "Little Women" woman (BETH); 60D: Immigrant's subj. (ESL); 62D: Cabinet dept. involved with community planning (HUD).


Jeffrey said...

I was trying to go with Tom Hanks as the cross-dresser. remember Bosom Buddies? Whatever happened to Tom Hanks, anyway?

RIZZO to me means Grease.

Why is KATY a woman in an insect name?

Al said...

Big, Forrest Gump, The Green Mile, The DaVinci Code, Angels and Demons, two Toy Story voice roles, Cast Away, Catch Me if You Can, etc, etc. I think he's done all right for himself.

Katydids are noisy insects. I think I'll just leave it at that.

Anonymous said...


Al said...

Take your pick: Steroid, Hemorrhoid. Either one will really "set you on edge".

Orange said...

Anonymous, choose a name for yourself, please, if you're going to stick around (and we hope you do!). It doesn't have to be your real name. To answer your question: steROID. I started with ROAD for that one and thought it was an iffy clue, but "roid rage" works better.

john farmer said...

Why is KATY a woman in an insect name?My question was: Why is KATZ a woman in an insect name? But it looks like I have a wrong letter.

Other than that crossing, a pretty quick, breezy solve.

"Cactus Flower." Yes, I've seen it. Quite some time ago. Not too many years back, Goldie Hawn was the biggest female star in Hollywood. Much, much bigger than her daughter is today. She had a number of very good performances, and one of my favorite movies of hers is "Shampoo." There is something about movies of the '70s. They don't make 'em like that anymore.

Mikey said...

(formerly Anonymous). I did the same thing (ROAD->ROID), and after my hasty post I Googled "roid rage" and found that, once again, I'm out of touch with contemporary culture.

eileen said...

Has anyone ever heard the phrase MASH NOTE used?

Orange: nice blogging today

chefbea said...

easy Saturday puzzle. Off to a cookout today. See you tomorrow with the puzzle I did last week!!!

gjekizabeth said...

Worked my way through this with many backtracks but wrestled everything to the ground except HITMAN. Why does the clue "offer?" lead to HITMAN. Oh, groan. The shoe dropped as I typed it: a HITMAN is one who "offs" (kills), and is, therefore, an "Offer". Groan again. However, I've never met a pun, including this one, that didn't bring me some bit of pleasure.

Greene said...

@Eileen: MASH NOTE is a slangy expression for a love letter that dates back to the 1930's, I think. I'm not sure of the derivation, but the phrase crops up in movies and plays from that era through about the late 1950s. I don't hear it much anymore, but every time I see the clue "Billet-doux" in a crossword puzzle I think, "Oh yeah, that's French for a mash note."

@John Farmer: Cactus Flower (1965) was also a highly successful Broadway comedy by Abe Burrows which ran for years before the movies picked it up in 1969. Agree that Goldie Hawn was a hoot in the film. Brenda Vaccaro did the role on Broadway and was pretty darn funny too, but Lauren Bacall, playing the dentist's spinster assistant, absolutely stole every scene she was in. Not as classy as Ingrid Bergman perhaps, but far funnier.

mac said...

I like Barry Silk puzzles, clever and funny clueing and some interesting words. I had to think hard to get Ratso's last name, I haven't seen it in print for a long time. I didn't know mash note, had "mush" for a while, seemed just fine to me.
What a strange word "dewlap" is!

Have to look up a recipe for chimichurri for tomorrow's skirt steak.

Unknown said...

this was a nice antidote to today's NYT- which stymied me. I worked steadily through this. loved the 'nozzle-rizzo' cross. Mash note I remembered from movies or old TV shows. Ohio U was in a puzzle earlier this week, so that helped. I had a fair number of longish answers on my first go, but rarely trusted it.


Orange, I really enjoy your blogging...today's research was outstanding. Thank you for your dedication and work in making crosswording even more entertaining.
SE was a booger ! I guess MASHNOTE even predates me.
But, I did get SENDCASH. I guess that familiar ring has stuck with me all too well.

Orange said...

Eileen and JOHN, thanks for the kind words!

And JOHN, I think that's the first time I've seen a knotty section of a crossword called a booger. I like that. I might start using that.

Unknown said...

This one was a toughie. I had lady as "woman in an insect" for ladybug. It is Katy because there is an insect named Katydid.

Anonymous said...

I had a hard time with 'hitman', but decided it was 'hit man?' meaning offering a toke. I never thought until I read these comments that it as 'hitman' as in an offer - or someone who offs...grrr