WEDNESDAY, July 8, 2009—Don Gagliardo

THEME: "Don't Make a Sound"—Intersecting words meet at silent letters

All right, let me get the crankiness out of the way right off the bat. I paid little mind to the full clue for 41-Across, so I didn't know the significance of the circled squares until the whole puzzle was filled in and I set to work understanding it. So basically I completed this puppy as if it were an unsatisfying themeless puzzle. Lots of "meh" answers and the clues, well, I don't see a single question-marked clue to liven things up. The solving process was just...annoying.

The theme involves a 15-letter answer across the middle, plus seven criss-crossing word pairs that share a silent letter. Unless I counted wrong, that's an astounding 81 squares of thematic material, which is certainly enough to force any number of compromises in the fill. I tend to get cranky at compromises in the fill, alas.

Where do you fall on the spectrum here? Let's say 10 is "Wow! Incredible puzzle!" and i is "I wish I had those minutes back." I'm feeling 5-ish at best.

Theme answers:
  • 41A: Secret get-together, or what occurs literally in each of this puzzle's circled squares (HUSH-HUSH MEETING). The circled letters are hush-hush meetings of two words.
  • 5A, 8D: Clever move (COUP)/Prefix with science (PSEUDO-). Silent P from French and Greek.
  • 9A, 9D: Bad-mouth (KNOCK)/Hillock (KNOLL). Two words from Old English with now-silent Ks.
  • 4D, 28A: Newspaper feature (COLUMN)/Organ numbers (HYMNS). Classical roots for both of these M+silent N words.
  • 48A, 48D: Like Letterman lines (WRY)/Eerie apparition (WRAITH). Silent W before an R; one Old English root, one Scots/unknown.
  • 40D, 54A: Oppose (REPUGN)/Omen (SIGN). Silent G in a GN combo. Both words are from Middle English by way of Old French taken from Latin. Begging your pardon: REPUGN? I know an awful lot of words, but I haven't run across this one before. Repugnant, sure. Impugn, of course. But not this word.
  • 57D, 64A: Prefix with stat (RHEO-)/Like a question that isn't a question (RHETORICAL). Silent H after an R, presumably a Greek rho being transliterated as RH rather than R. It's a bit of a cheat to throw in a prefix here, but RHYME is too long for this spot and havign 81 theme squares gives little flexibility.
  • 63D, 73A: Blockbuster, e.g. (BOMB)/Oversimplify, with "down" (DUMB). BOMB has a promiscuous etymology—English from French via Italian, probably from Latin, before that from Greek, "of imitative origin." In other words, everyone agrees it bomb/bombe/bomba/bombus/bombos sounds like "boom." DUMB's a good Old English word of Germanic origin.
I had more fun looking these words up in the dictionary than doing the crossword, honestly.

Crosswordese 101: LEHAR—clued as 32D: "The Merry Widow" operettist—is today's selection. Franz LEHAR is sometimes clued along the lines of Hungarian composer Franz, but mostly it's "The Merry Widow" composer. Do not get him confused with Joy Behar of The View. Has anyone heard this LEHAR work, The Merry Widow, or is it the sort of thing that's kept alive primarily by crosswords?

What made me so cranky? All sorts of stuff. Abbreviations (STAC, ILO, AARP, NCAA). Foreign words (NUL, CINE, PESO, AMI). Bony references (ULNA, OSTEAL). Prefixes/suffixes (RHEO-, -CYTE). Blah names (ELAM, YUL, SELA, KETT, LEHAR, AUEL). Old-school crosswordese (AXIL). An ILLER IDLER.

The nonexistent (except in jest) singular KUDO!

The awkward abbreviation in the clue for 20A: Peak in Jap. (MT. FUJI)—please, let's go with Peak in Japan: Abbr. next time.

Favorite answers and clues:

  • 21D: Violinist Heifetz (JASCHA). I love the sound of the name "Jascha Heifetz." Have a listen:

  • 34D: Fang output, at times (VENOM) is echoed by the snake in 50D: Unclogged, as a pipe (SNAKED).
  • 29D: Brooklyn pronoun (YOUSE). One could ARGUE (35D: Get contentious) that YOUSE isn't a word, but it's the kind of word I like to encounter in a crossword. It's got panache.

Everything Else — 1A: Like a dotted note, in mus. (STAC.); 14A: Cancún green (PESO); 15A: Browser drop-down list, briefly (URLS); 16A: Film that involves a lot of taking off (NUDIE); 17A: Stem-to-branch angle (AXIL); 18A: Good (BENEVOLENT); 22A: "The Clan of the Cave Bear" writer (AUEL); 23A: 7-5, e.g., in tennis (SET); 24A: Truck name (MACK); 26A: Where to find heros (DELIS); 31A: UN workers' group (ILO); 33A: Vena __: heart vessel (CAVA); 36A: Pencil game winner (OOO); 37A: Cell: Suffix (-CYTE); 39A: Favor (PREFER); 44A: Bony (OSTEAL); 45A: Srs.' lobbying gp. (AARP); 46A: Gehrig of baseball (LOU); 47A: Actress Ward (SELA); 49A: 1972 Bill Withers hit (USE ME); 51A: Not as healthy (ILLER); 56A: Tablets holder (ARK); 58A: Country where Baha'i was founded (IRAN); 60A: "CSI" workplace (DNA LAB); 67A: Accolade (KUDO); 68A: Fruit in balls (MELON); 69A: Like pets (TAME); 70A: Jack of "Rio Lobo" (ELAM); 71A: Toys on strings (YO-YOS); 72A: '60s musical (HAIR); 1D: User's in-box junk (SPAM); 2D: Send a high-tech message to (TEXT); 3D: "Don't you wish!" ("AS IF!"); 5D: Part of cc (CUBIC); 6D: Tram contents (ORE); 7D: Forearm bone (ULNA); 10D: Nada, to Noël (NUL); 11D: With "The," 1972 Frederick Forsyth novel (ODESSA FILE); 12D: Film (CINE); 13D: Etta of old comics (KETT); 19D: Sign from Churchill (VEE); 25D: First-aid aids (KITS); 27D: Gangsta rap pioneer (ICE-T); 28D: Hostess snack cakes (HO-HOS); 30D: Probable (MOST LIKELY); 38D: Brynner who played a king (YUL); 39D: For each (PER); 42D: Get well (HEAL); 43D: Giant Willie (MAYS); 52D: Motor City team (LIONS); 53D: Go awry (ERR); 55D: Lazy type (IDLER); 56D: It "marches on its stomach": Napoleon (ARMY); 59D: Sweet Sixteen initials (NCAA); 61D: Blockbuster (LULU); 62D: Cain raiser (ADAM); 65D: Excessively (TOO); 66D: French friend (AMI).


Sandy said...

My newspaper version didn't have the circles, so I had no idea what the heck was going on.

Gareth Bain said...

"Kudo" is a pet hate of mine: mostly because people think it's correct and say things like "she got many kudos," which is painful.

Clever theme idea, but not that exciting as a complete puzzle...

Anonymous said...

Lighten up! We do this for fun, don't we? I enjoyed it very much, so thank you to the constructor! Keep them coming, please!

Carol said...

ILLER? As in "I'm iller today than I was yesterday." Ugh! Has anyone ever used that word?

An OK puzzle, but I'm happy to have Google for some of the more obscure stuff. Never heard of Bill Withers.

Gary Lowe said...

I thought the theme was pretty good, and would have been great with symmetry (probably because that's next to impossible).

Cluing does seem clumsy, e.g. "Fang output, at times" for VENOM. Words like VENOM are opportunities to look around for something racier for cluing, IMOO, and with interweb at your fingertips, how hard can that be?

Rex Parker said...


And I had LOHAN for LEHAR because I couldn't remember / just didn't care.


Rex Parker said...

Oh yeah, and Orange: lighten up. Why do you even bother to put your informed ideas into coherent form so that others might learn / have a basis for civil disagreement? Get with the times.


REPUGNingly yours,

John said...

This was harder than the NYT for no particular reason on a wednesday. Go Figure.

gjelizabeth said...

No circles in the LA Times website puzzle (which I'm doing online this morning "cause I'm up in Marin helping with the baby). Therefore did this as a themeless puzzle and, like Sandy, had no idea what was going on. Happy to find the explanation here so that I can enjoy the constructor's cleverness in review. Don't like ILLER.
THE MERRY WIDOW is quite alive and kicking. It's squarely in the category of "light opera", filled with flirtation, laughter, and scheming. Happy, happy soprano arias. I saw a delightful production by Opera San Jose a few years back.
Really liked the parallel and opposite BOMB clues.

Denise said...

NO CIRCLES -- no idea what the HUSH HUSH was all about -- oh well. I give it a 6 though.

Lots of fun words, except for ILLER.

Confused by "bomb" -- how was I to know it was opposite?

Jeffrey said...

Another typical rant from Rex who is always cranky. Don't you like any puzzles?!

What? Orange wrote this? The nice one? I'm crushed


Anonymous said...

Besides not really liking the puzzle, 1A is just wrong. A dotted note in musical notation is by definition 1 1/2 times as long as the undotted note. A dotted half note is a 3/4 note. Staccato notes do have dots, but they are not dotted notes.

I thought PG was the nice one!

*David* said...

I didn't have the circles either in my puzzle so spent a couple of minutes trying to figure out what the theme was.

In the end I had a themeless Wednesday which was more difficult then usual, which is all that I ask for from a puzzle. I'll let the perfessers discuss the merits of the puzzle but unless it is overflowing with crud, I'm happy.

Hardest section for me was the North Central where BENE as in VOLENT wasn't coming to me.

gjelizabeth said...

@Denise: Sorry, I should have typed "Blockbuster" (the clue) instead of BOMB (one of the answers). There were two "Blockbuster" clues: one WITHOUT a ?, which was LULU, as in something good (That was a blockbuster show!) and one WITH a ?, which indicated some kind of literal pun. A BOMB can blow up a block of buildings, therefore can literally be a "Blockbuster" but one wouldn't ordinarily use the terms interchangeably. I liked that the constructor tangled up the opposite theater meanings of blockbuster and bomb.

Orange said...

@David-with-asterisks: You're the Twitter guy I'm following, aren't you? I had the BENE part just fine but went with BENEFICIAL and BENEFICENT before the right answer emerged. Molto bene!

*David* said...

@Orange I'm the one, you've found me out! Sorry about the chin! :)

Joon said...

i didn't like the STAC clue either. as anonymous pointed out, "dotted note" is a specific musical term that means something different from just a note with a dot near it.

and yeah, the fill was Not Good. and my puzzle had no circles. i couldn't even begin to guess what the theme meant. when's the last time there were circles in the LAT? i think of that as being a NYT phenomenon.

i'm hardly impartial on this issue, as i was torn to shreds on the blogs four months ago for using KUDO (singular) in a sunday puzzle. but "nonexistent except in jest" is still existent. jocular back-formation though it may be, KUDO has its own dictionary entry in respectable dictionaries. it has humor value, although i concede it also has peeve value. quite a polarizing little entry there.

don gagliardo is also the same constructor who did the recent hard G/soft G puzzle. he seems to have quite a (k)nack for phonetic themes.

Anonymous said...

No circles on my puzzle grid either, so the theme was lost on me. Even with Orange's explanation, it still did nothing for me. I liked it a bit better than Orange, but the theme was the biggest obstacle because it led to a lot of forced fill.

eileen said...

Instead of circles my paper had shaded boxes but I still was "puzzled" about the theme until I read Orange's blog. DOH!
Oh, I also hated ILLER and CELLCYTE (what the heck is a cellcyte anyway?).
Thanks orange for the writeup.

shrub5 said...

I give this a 6. Would have been higher except that I also worked the version without circles so didn't get the most out of it. I notified the LAT about the problem.
I was slowed down in the northeast by entering beneficial at 18A rather than benevolent. This goof gave Churchill giving the "fee" sign!

I read suffix but thought prefix at 37A so put cyto- rather than cyte. This didn't help with the Merry Widow composer; not knowing the "L" in the UN workers' group left a blank in the name as well.

Bill Withers' 49A USE ME was a gimme as it is one of my favorites. I encourage @Carol and anyone else interested to check it out here:


Ya gotta laugh at a puzzle with hohos and yoyos.

Higs said...

As a full-time solver and part-time constructor, I found the theme clever, if not quite crisp. Having an obscure word such as REPUGN involved in the theme was a bit unfortunate. But at least this puzzle aimed high for a fresh theme idea. So keep 'em fresh and keep 'em comin', y'all!

Alex said...

Joon -

There was a recent LAT with circles, but you probably didn't see the circles because of where you get the puzzle. Let's see ... here it is. Totally incomprehensible without the circles.

I'm pretty sure the flash where everyone gets these puzzles doesn't support circles in the grid at all, so to get circles you really have to download the Across Lite from cruciverb. (it's free to sign up!)

mac said...

No circles here either. I got completely stuck on kits/ilo... I thought some of the clues/answers were ok, but in general not a very enjoyable puzzle.

We saw/heard the Merry Widow in the opera house in Sydney.

Wayne said...

I hope I'm not being too risque here but the clue, 'fruit in balls' (68A) cracked me up. All I could think of was the old saying that your offspring is 'the fruit of your loins'. For the great laugh alone, I give the puzzle a seven.

Ruth said...

Eileen--did you get from other comments that "cyte" is a suffix meaning cell? Not attached to "cell" itself. Lymphocyte, oocyte, hepatocyte, etc.

"The Merry Widow Waltz" in simplified form was one of my favorite "pieces" in my elementary piano book. (never got far beyond the elementary level!)

Anonymous said...

Thought this was pretty easy except for LEHAR, YUL, and JASCHA, all of which I had never heard of making the middle section much more difficult than the rest of the puzzle.

humorlesstwit said...

@Orange - you may well be the first person ever to use the words YOUSE and panache in the same sentence. Unless you intended panache to be pronounced pan-A-she.

shrub5 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
chefwen said...

Themeless puzzle for me also but I enjoyed doing in anyway, it was a little more difficult than your typical LA Times, but I managed to do it Google free.

Bob Kerfuffle said...

In my local newspaper, this puzzle appeared with 41 A referring to "each of the puzzle's shaded squares", but there were neither shaded squares nor circles.

Ultimately stopped with a couple of empty spaces, since (1) I had KNACK instead of KNOCK -- KNOCK is a clever move? (2) I had NIL instead of NUL and (3) with neither shaded squares nor circles, I had no idea of what I was missing.

Anonymous said...

This was a toughie. No circles in the SF Chron. EMTS for KITS and DRY for WRY messed me up plenty. "Nudie cine!"

- - Robert

Bob Kerfuffle said...

Lest everyone think I am a total idiot, I just discovered part of my problem: The clues in my newspaper are listed thus:

1 Across
1 Like a dotted note, in mus.
5 Clever move
9 Bad-mouth


So that when I looked at the "third across clue", I was actually looking at the second across clue! Never encountered that particular typo before! So much for my attempt at speed solving.

eileen said...

Ruth: it didn't occur to me until your comment. I wasn't familiar with the particular clue of using an ":" to signal what the puzzle is looking for.
Thank you so much for the clarification.

mac said...

I've heard "youse" as the plural of you in CT, as well. Somewhere around Bridgeport people use it, as well as swallowing the r's at the end of words, and often making a word sound like it has two syllables instead of one. I love to hear that sort of thing.
We had some friends over this afternoon who currently live in Belfast (N-Ireland). The wife was talking about a visit back to the US to "see Adel" to my ears, but apparently she went to Seattle....
I still have lot to learn.

mac said...

@sfingi: I think you posted on yesterday's blog.

Anonymous said...

So the letters in the darkened squares (no circles) were P K N W G H
I don't understand what that means?

PuzzleGirl said...

Anon: "THEME: 'Don't Make a Sound'—Intersecting words meet at silent letters"

The circled letters are the "intersecting letters" Orange referred to in her explanation of the theme.

Anonymous said...

I liked the theme a lot, but hey THANKS FOR CATCHING 'KUDO!' Gagliardo doesn't garner a kudos for that little error.