SUNDAY, July 5, 2009 — Richard Silvestri

Theme: "A" to "I" — Theme answers are familiar phrases where the long "A" sound has been changed to the long "I" sound, creating new wacky phrases which are clued "?"-style

Theme answers:
  • 23A: Cookie made with Chianti instead of figs? (WINE NEWTON). With the N and the O in place I kept thinking "necco wafer"? Is that a thing?
  • 25A: Wood for sashes? (WINDOW PINE).
  • 34A: Blue Danube relative? (PURPLE RHINE).
  • 50A: Discovery of the mother lode? (MINE EVENT).
  • 76A: Put an "X" where you want to cut the cord? (MARK TWINE). Anyone else have a visual here that included a midwife with a Sharpie?
  • 90A: Female chiropractor? (LADY OF SPINE).
  • 105A: Squall at sea? (BRINESTORM).
  • 107A: "I never forget a face," e.g.? (MEMORY LINE).
Crosswordese 101: If you only have enough room in your brain to remember one "Islamic title" (2D), it should be EMIR. Unfortunately, there are four ways to spell this particular word. From most common in crosswords to least common, the various spellings are: EMIR, emeer, ameer, and amir. Keep in mind, though, if it's a four-letter word you're looking for, it's about 16 times more likely to be EMIR than amir. But you should probably double-check the cross anyway. How does a constructor come up with a clue for EMIR? Why, they pick one word from Group A and one word from Group B. Can't get much easier than that!

Group A: Mideast, Abu Dhabi, Kuwaiti, Foreign, Eastern, Bahrain, Middle Eastern, Qatar, Dubai, Islamic, Persian Gulf

Group B: Bigwig, VIP, honcho, pooh-bah, prince, ruler, dignitary, chieftain, leader, head of state

I got a workout from this puzzle today. Once I understood the theme it helped a lot, but there were still some gnarly places. I absolutely knew that 55A: Yankees' captain was Derek JETER, but I had two bad crosses in already: I had leis for UKES (44D: Strings of islands?) and only for MERE (45D: Nothing more than). So it took me a while to straighten all that out. Speaking of straightening out — 100A: Create financial trouble for = STRAITEN? I assume that has something to do with "dire straits" but I'm too lazy to look it up right now. In any event, I have certainly never seen that word before!

Other things I just flat out didn't know include Aaron Copland's "RODEO" (99A: Ballet with a hoedown) and the 114A: German seaport EMDEN. I did not know that carmine was a color, much less that it's in the family of REDS (116A: Carmine's family?). I've learned a thing or two about some Gods through crossword puzzles, but don't recall ever seeing WODEN (26D: God for whom Wednesday was named). According to the Cruciverb.com data base, WODEN has only been used one other time in a major puzzle — a Sunday Boston Globe puzzle back in 1999 — so I don't feel so bad. I also didn't know PALMA, the 34D: Balearic Islands capital. And there are very few words I even understand in this clue/answer pair — 51D: Tertiary Period epoch (EOCENE). And finally — I know! Seems like I was just going to keep going with this, didn't it? — Cesare who? (71D: Basso Cesare (SIEPI)). Okay, if you say so.

  • 21A: Girl George? (ELIOT). I could not figure out what this clue was going for. George Eliot is, of course, the pen name of Mary Anne Evans.

  • 30A: Snack maker's gizmo (POPPER). I was thinking of snack more generally, and not specifically popcorn. But okay.
  • 46A: Vientiane native (LAO). Vientiane is the capital of Laos and a person who lives in Laos is called a Lao.
  • 47A: Highest in order (UPMOST). Ooh, this one is a little painful. Raise your hand if you had utmost. And keep it up if you are more likely to use the word uppermost than UPMOST.
  • 48A: Ray or Jay (AL'ER). The Rays and Jays are two baseball teams (in Tampa Bay and Toronto, respectively) in the American League of Major League Baseball.

  • 53A: Malt drier (OAST). Runner-up for your Crosswordese 101 lesson today. We will no doubt have another crack at it soon.
  • 92A: Thanksgiving activity (BASTING). This reminds me of a hilarious story I heard from a friend last year at book club. She said the toilet had backed up at her house and there was yucky stuff all over the bathroom floor so her husband got their turkey baster out of the kitchen and used it to clean up. When he was done he asked innocently "So, should I just put this in the dishwasher?" She gave him a look of complete disbelief and replied, "NO! YOU THROW IT AWAY!"
  • 6D: Ketch kin (YAWL). Boating!
  • 11D: Gopher's home?: Abbr. (MINN). This is the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers of the Big Ten conference. They had a pretty decent wrestling team a couple years ago. Now? Not so much.
  • 29D: 2001 U.S. Open champ Hewitt (LLEYTON). I knew this guy's name and knew that it had an odd spelling, but it took a while for it to come into focus.
  • 58D: Hack's question (WHERE TO?). Hack is a slang term for cab driver.
  • 77D: Forever partner? (A DAY). As in the phrase "forever and a day."
  • 82D: Colts' home before Lucas Oil Stadium (RCA DOME). Have I mentioned how much I hate how stadiums have corporate names now? I haven't? Well, remind me to tell you about that someday.
  • 89D: Is frugal (STINTS). Wanted skimps here. Don't recall ever hearing the word STINT used in this way.
  • 95D: "What hath God wrought?" sender (MORSE). This was the message sent in American Morse code by Samuel F. B. Morse to officially open the Baltimore-Washington telegraph line on May 24, 1844.
  • 101D: It's a drag (TOKE). I have to say I was a little surprised to see this clue/answer pair but it turns out it's shown up a few times before.
  • 108D: Costar of Teri, Felicity, et al. (EVA). "Desperate Housewives": Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman, and EVA Longoria. Never seen it. A person can only have so many shows.
Today's New York Times puzzle is a fun romp created by Tony Orbach and our very own Orange. You might check it out if you have a chance.

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Everything Else — 1A: Titanic obstacle (BERG); 5A: Day care denizen (TYKE); 9A: Opening frames (JAMBS); 14A: Try (STAB); 18A: 19th century tale of South Seas travel (OMOO); 19A: Reach via radio (RAISE); 22A: Lobby for (URGE); 27A: Like some pens (ERASABLE); 28A: Collect little by little (GLEAN); 31A: Need a doctor (AIL); 32A: Samples from a doctor (PILLS); 33A: Atheistic (GODLESS); 39A: Lovey-__ (DOVEY); 40A: Symbol of penance (ASHES); 41A: Dismayed cry (OY VEY); 42A: Carpenter who sang (KAREN); 43A: Mooch (BUM); 49A: Scout outing (HIKE); 56A: Small biological cavities (AREOLES); 57A: "I'll say!" ("AND HOW!"); 59A: More than just big (OBESE); 60A: Had rights to (CLAIMED); 63A: Unit of work (MAN HOUR); 65A: "My Cousin Vinny" Oscar winner (TOMEI); 68A: To boot (NO LESS); 70A: Abates (EASES UP); 74A: Hot spots (OVENS); 75A: Money maker (MINT); 78A: Buck, for one (MALE); 79A: Only just managed, with "out" (EKED); 81A: Eats into (ERODES); 83A: UV index monitor (EPA); 84A: Letters on a lunch menu (BLT); 85A: Woolly, perhaps (OVINE); 86A: Brilliance (ECLAT); 87A: Jellied garnish (ASPIC); 89A: Incline (SLANT); 95A: Inn group (MAIDS); 97A: Troop troupe sponsor, briefly (USO); 98A: Frequently traded, in the stock market (ACTIVE); 109A: Tartan wraparound (KILT); 110A: Discontinue (CEASE); 111A: Conjure up (EVOKE); 112A: Work in the cutting room (EDIT); 113A: Citrus refreshers (ADES); 115A: On in years (AGED); 1D: He beat Holyfield twice (BOWE); 3D: Columnist Barrett (RONA); 4D: Completely loses it (GOES APE); 5D: High range (TREBLE); 7D: Toy with a tail (KITE); 8D: Paul Anka's "__ Beso (That Kiss!)" (ESO); 9D: Lapidary's product (JEWEL); 10D: Item on a forged document, perhaps (ALIAS); 12D: Physique (BOD); 13D: Brief visit (STOP OVER); 14D: Price factor (SUPPLY); 15D: Hooey (TRIPE); 16D: David Copperfield's second wife (AGNES); 17D: Round at the bar (BEERS); 20D: Fire trucks (ENGINES); 24D: They're at your fingertips (NAILS); 32D: Turn on one foot (PIVOT); 33D: "Earth in the Balance" author (GORE); 35D: Carrier that merged with Piedmont in 1989 (USAIR); 36D: River through the Lake of Geneva (RHONE); 37D: Entices (ROPES IN); 38D: Choir offering (HYMN); 39D: '80s Bond portrayer (DALTON); 42D: Buckwheat dish (KASHA); 43D: Sharp quality (BITE); 47D: Optic layer (UVEA); 49D: Talmud tongue (HEBREW); 52D: "American Psycho" author (ELLIS); 54D: USN VIPs (ADMS); 55D: Knight game (JOUST); 57D: Arabian Sea's Gulf of __ (ADEN); 61D: Point in time (MOMENT); 62D: Slur over (ELIDE); 64D: Symbols of might (OAKS); 65D: Crypt (TOMB); 66D: Kind of round (OVAL); 67D: Get all gooey (MELT); 69D: Metal playing marble (STEELIE); 72D: Remove, as a brooch (UNPIN); 73D: Word spoken with a two-fingered sign (PEACE); 76D: Gets into shape (MOLDS); 79D: Fade away (EVANESCE); 80D: Double checker? (KING); 85D: Oil source (OLIVE); 87D: Ore analysis (ASSAY); 88D: Third-party candidate, perhaps (SPOILER); 91D: Like many mammals (FURRED); 92D: Spongy cake (BABKA); 93D: Bitter (ACRID); 94D: Underground gate (STILE); 96D: Commercial developers (ADMEN); 99D: Route for Bob and Bing (ROAD); 100D: Industrial haze (SMOG); 102D: Phenomenon measured by a marigraph (TIDE); 103D: Oklahoma city (ENID); 104D: Trawling gear (NETS); 106D: President pro __ (TEM).


Anonymous said...

I found the theme far fetched.

Words like "straita"(100A), siepi(71D and "AL'er" (18A) are too way out and never used. Puzzles like this are just too dificult and are not fun.

Geek said...

Took me longer today to finish than the NYT - very unusual. Many missteps, including the already-mention UPMOST (who says that??); Kashi for KASHA, creating the "minhour", which seemed perfectly probable to me; lens for UVEA; leis for UKES. MARK TWINE definitely had an "ick" factor. Looking back though, it seemed harder than it was. A good outing!

Denise said...

I had to switch to "regular level" and get some feedback in red letters in order to finish this one -- definitely harder, for me, but quicker, because of the NYT "timed" grid.

I liked the theme, but aren't there more changes between "fig" and "wine"???

Gareth Bain said...

Hey, where is everyone? Fun punning Sunday in the LAT went down great (followed by an even funner punning NYT). The premise of the theme was a beaut. Get a lot of exposure to Aussies around here (we just beat them at cricket this summer, f'r instance). I couple of great encyclopedia-based base phrases topped it off...

I'd say crossing of Aspic and Siepi was a roughie, but I know ASPIC only too well though. Was in the NYT too, BTW. But yes UPMOST???

Anonymous said...

The title of this puzzle is "Heard Down Under" so each theme phrase is an Aussie pronunciation of an English phrase e.g., purple rhine for purple rain.

Gary Lowe said...

Good point anon. My daughter noted after 6 weeks in Syndey that, in aussie-ese, you also need to follow this rule: if it ends in "A", pronouce it "ER", and vice-versa, as in "Hanner and hah sistahs".

It looks like UPMOST was unavoidable, but SIEPI stretches pretty far. IF you had the theme by then, the 2 I's should have been gettable, and the crosses were fairly straight-forward. "UV Monitor" for EPA is a little stingy, I guess.

OT Never understood the popularity of the "You can call me Ray" guy, even back in the day, but he's a real cringe-inducer today, fer sher.

embien said...

Took me a bit over 50 minutes, my longest-ever LA Times solve. I hated the theme. Puns are OK, but Aussie puns (several of which were more than a little "iffy")? Bah.

Does the EPA really monitor the UV index? I thought they were strictly for smog/particulate type stuff. I'm not an opera fan, but SIEPI? Really? Crossing EPA?

Joon said...

denise, the base phrase is WAYNE NEWTON (the singer), not FIG NEWTON.

gary lowe, the "you can call me ray" guy (ray jay johnson) is absolutely hilarious to me. not because of his own schtick, which sucks, but because of his mentions on the simpsons. here's the funnier one, from "mom and pop art," perhaps my 2nd-favorite episode ever:

Homer: Why don't people like my art anymore?
Marge: Homer, I know you worked hard, but all of your ... things were kind of the same.
Homer: Hey, Ray Jay Johnson never changed his act, and he's more popular than he's ever been.
Lisa: Who?
Homer: "You can call him Ray, or you can call him Jay, or you can call him Ray Jay, but you doesn't have to call him"--
Lisa: I'm sick of him already.

i confess i've seen so many ALER clues along the lines of today's that i didn't even think of ray jay johnson.

shrub5 said...

I thought this puzzle was lots of fun (and the theme was funny). Thank you, Mr. Silvestri! Learned a few new words: elide, straiten and babka, names: Woden and Siepi, and places: Palma and Emden. As did @Geek, I put kashi for kasha, resulting in the unit of work minhour which seemed odd but manhour never came to me so it was left as is. I got stile through the crosses but couldn't picture an underground gate - finally thought of turnstile in a subway (d'oh). I knew Lleyton Hewitt of tennis (29D), but he was also mentioned today during Wimbledon -- watched a very exciting "Gentlemen's" Singles Finals. It was so hard in the constantly tied fifth set knowing that someone was going to be heartbroken.

Denise said...

Thank you, Joon. My daughter's Aussie boy friend is here, and I have been listening to his accent for days.

Sometimes I just can't "see it."

JaJaJoe said...

Like some of you, today's LAT seemed > a stretch.

Now finding STRAITEN defined ala 100A Create financial troubles for, I'm retired from accounting and do NOT recall that word/term; nor do I understand "10D: Item on a forged document, perhaps (ALIAS)".

Its theme-play tickles me, especially LADY OF SPINE for 90A Female chiropractor? as I also bellow accordion.-/

And as a BAPKA boy, I know "KASHA" as generic for a porridge of groats, and a fav'e brand name as Kashi.

'Love the video with Mr. Malaprop, Norm Crosby.

'Always appreciate the "éCLAT" of YAWLs blog hosts.

mac said...

I was very happy with this LAT Sunday puzzle, it had a little more bite than it usually has, and lots of wonderful words, including "straiten", oldfashioned but I somehow knew it. Had a hard time figuring the theme, but most of the stuff around it was good and enjoyable, so no problem. Especially liked "no less" and "and how". Never had one, but the popper popped into my head immediately. My favorite clue may be Girl George, with visions of Boy George sweeping the streets in Manhattan....

Gary Lowe said...

Lisa's the smart one, no doubt. The clip said 'Norm Crosby", I read "Norm MacDonald", probably would have never clicked thru otherwise.
Who(m)ever said "there's no accounting for taste" hit the nail on the head. I love the 3 Stooges, and hate Lucille Ball, e.g. Dunno why.

Anonymous said...

your sunday puzzle answers are no longer the LA times puzzle

Anonymous said...

Gary, it's WHOever...subject of said; therefore in the nominative case.

I got this puzzle, but didn't know "siepi" nor "lleyton". So I just settled on them because the crosses made them inevitable. "stint" and "straiten" are often found in 19th century novels, which I read all the time.