WEDNESDAY, July 7, 2010 — Gareth Bain

Theme: If at first you don't succeed …. — Theme answers all begin with words that are synonyms for try.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: *Prepare to drink, as a can of beer (CRACK OPEN).
  • 21A: *Say goodbye, quaintly (BID ADIEU).
  • 26A: *Betrayal (STAB IN THE BACK).
  • 44A: *Do what others prefer (GO WITH THE FLOW).
  • 49A: *Nixed (SHOT DOWN).
  • 59A: *It involves a lot of writing (ESSAY TEST).
  • 61D: Synonym for the starts of the answers to starred clues (TRY).
Before we get started, I just want to mention that I created a FAQ for this blog. There are only a few questions there now, but I'll add to it as more come up. The link is up there on top of the page. I also added some links over on the sidebar to help you find other crossword puzzles if you're interested. One other thing I was thinking about. Would you all be interested in knowing which clues people are Googling for? I probably wouldn't be able to update you on that daily, but maybe weekly. The most Googled clues of the week? Let me know what you think about that. Now, the puzzle ....

I flew through this puzzle like a hot knife through butter. I didn't even see a lot of the clues because I got all the crosses before I needed them. The only thing that slowed me down at all was STRAIT (24D: The Dardanelles, e.g.). All you intelligent people probably know that The Dardanelles is a STRAIT in northwest Turkey. I, on the other hand, thought it might be the name of a Girl Group from the 1960s and wanted the answer to be quartet or quintet or … something like that. But no. I wouldn't have had any problem if STRAIT had only been clued a little more like this:

Since I was solving so quickly, I didn't catch the theme until I was done. I'm pretty sure I didn't know ESSAY was another way of saying TRY. So that's two big D'oh Moments™ for me today. And it's only Wednesday! Yikes!

Let's talk about …
  • 9A: Hekzebiah Hawkins's daughter (SADIE). This is one of the clues I didn't see. I would have gotten it, though, even though I didn't know the guy's first name was … whatever the Hekzebiah that is.
  • 23A: Affirmative answer (YES). Can't really ask for a clue that's more straightforward than that!
  • 35A: GP's soc. (AMA). The American Medical Association is a society for General Practitioners.
  • 41A: When doubled, a number puzzle (KEN). If you were at the ACPT in 2009, you can't help laughing when you see a reference to Ken-Ken.
  • 42A: "__ Swear": 1959 Skyliners hit (THIS I). Part of the reason I slowed down on STRAIT is because I don't know this song. I'm sure it's lovely.
  • 48A: "__-haw!" (YEE). Thankfully, I already the Y in place here so I didn't have to wait for it (never know if it's going to be YEE or HEE).
  • 65A: Ziti cousin (PENNE). I had some wonderful Penne Amatriciana the other night at a local restaurant. Thank goodness you don't have to be able to pronounce a dish to enjoy it.
  • 1D: Start of a learning song (ABC).

[If you can listen to this without dancing even a little bit, there's something wrong with you!]

  • 5D: Two-time U.S. Open winner Retief (GOOSEN). I even knew this! Occasionally, PuzzleHusband's golf obsession helps me out.
  • 11D: Spanish surrealist (DALI). Weren't we just talking about him yesterday in CW101?
  • 26D: Billet-doux letters (SWAK). A billet-doux is a love letter, which might be Sealed With A Kiss.
  • 29D: 1972 Michael Jackson hit (BEN). I'm glad I already picked a Michael Jackson clip for this post because I am so not a fan of this song.
  • 43D: Touchy-__ (FEELY). Awesome colloquial phrase. I don't even mind that it's a partial.
  • 50D: __ to: halted, nautically (HOVE). I do not know what this means.
Crosswordese 101 Round-Up:
  • 15A: Melville novel (OMOO).
  • 13D: Birthright-for-pottage trader (ESAU).
  • 51D: Asian sultanate (OMAN).
  • 57D: Ivan IV, for one (TSAR).
[Follow PuzzleGirl on Twitter.]

Everything Else — 1A: Perching on (ATOP); 5A: Coated with a precious metal (GILT); 14A: Cotton field sight (BALE); 16A: Phillips et al.: Abbr. (ACADS.); 19A: Revolutionary Pancho (VILLA); 20A: Moppets (TYKES); 25A: Priest in I Samuel (ELI); 33A: They lack Y chromosomes (WOMEN); 34A: Agitated speeches (RANTS); 38A: Like "Beowulf," e.g.: Abbr. (ANON.); 39A: Shire horses' burdens (CARTS); 40A: Israeli statesman Abba (EBAN); 43A: Lucky shot (FLUKE); 47A: Recycle receptacle (BIN); 54A: Caught a few z's (SLEPT); 58A: Itinerant (NOMAD); 62A: Be of use (AVAIL); 63A: Moore of "G.I. Jane" (DEMI); 64A: Intro for John? (DEAR); 66A: Scoot along, as clouds (SCUD); 67A: Showing no sign of slowing down (SPRY); 2D: Sharp-tasting (TART); 3D: Skin care brand (OLAY); 4D: Eat like a bird (PECK); 6D: Little devil (IMP); 7D: 1924 co-defendant (LOEB); 8D: Singer Braxton (TONI); 9D: Telly on the telly (SAVALAS); 10D: Like orange juice (ACIDIC); 12D: Just hanging, so to speak (IDLE); 18D: Enter, as data (KEY IN); 22D: Obligations (DEBTS); 27D: Work on, as abs (TONE); 28D: In the thick of (AMONG); 30D: Draconian (HARSH); 31D: Thing (ENTITY); 32D: Capital WNW of Islamabad (KABUL); 36D: Powerful shark (MAKO); 37D: Freshly (ANEW); 39D: Twilled pants material (CHINO); 40D: Little trickster (ELF); 42D: Move about absently, as one's thumbs (TWIDDLE); 45D: Get hold of (OBTAIN); 46D: One half of a tiff (HE SAID); 49D: Clicking fastener (SNAP); 52D: Gets hitched (WEDS); 53D: Infinitesimal time period: Abbr. (NSEC); 55D: Data on airport skeds (ETD'S); 56D: Bo follower? (PEEP); 60D: Dallas sch. (SMU).


backbiter said...

The puzzle as a whole is quite pleasant. I had no idea where the theme was headed. When I got to "Try" I was left disappointed. "That's it?" I mumbled. And now a quote from pg.

"If you can listen to this without dancing even a little bit, there's something wrong with you!"

Not only can I not dance to that I abhor it with every fiber in my being.

This puzzle was smooth sailing from start to finish. I'm a little partial to "Telly on the telly" only because I watch reruns of Kojak on RTV. Yes, I'm old. Cheers Everybody!

gespenst said...

Pretty good Wednesday puzzle. I even knew that clouds SKUD along, though I wasn't sure if it might be SKUt instead, so had to wait on a cross there.

I liked the theme, and didn't even realize how many theme answers there were, b/c I didn't think BIDADIEU and ESSAYTEST were part of it (ignored the stars), but of course they are.

I had a little trouble in the mid-west area, b/c I thought this was a terrible clue/answer pair: 38A: Like "Beowulf," e.g.: Abbr. (ANON.); REALLY? "Anon" is the best you can do for Beowulf? I could think of a few things for which Beowulf was an example, but anonymous was not one of them. It's what I settled on, b/c it was the best way to make things work (I figured SW-- was SWAK even though I didn't know the meaning of billet-doux) but it was just lousy. I probably would have gone w/ something related to AA ;)

Oh, and there was nothing better to clue DEMI with than GI Jane? REALLY? Ok then.

And lastly, in the clue for 55D ... does anyone else hate the term "sked"???? Yuck.

And OT: is everyone else enduring the 3 H's? Hazy Hot and Humid? It's pretty nasty here, hit 102 locally yesterday, and should be close to that today. My a/c is working overtime. It almost makes you want to go to work, just for the a/c in the office ... (that's assuming you don't work as a roofer!) GespenstsMann put in a patio this weekend in the heat. At one point he took the indoor thermometer outside and it actually registered 144* - he decided to take it back in before it melted on the brand new patio ...

Van55 said...

A tad on the easy side today. Not particularly imaginative. C+ from me.

John Wolfenden said...

I remember reading a Peanuts cartoon when I was a kid in which Snoopy's writing a love letter, closing with all the usual mash note fare. 30 years later, I still remembered "SWAK" but had never learned what it stood for. Thanks to the crossword, now I know.

I liked "Like 'Beowulf,' e.g.'" for ANON, though I could see how others might be annoyed by it. "In the thick of" for AMONG rubbed me the wrong way, I guess because I think of being in the thick of as engaged in an activity, not in a group.

Testify, PG...I'll take "ABC" over "Ben" any day. Great bass line and fun to play on Rock Band. The other Jackson brothers could play too!

Masked and Anonymous said...

Masterful writeup, PuzGirl. You're doin' just great, out on yer own.

This was my kind of puz. The theme kept me guessin' til the bitter end. Synonym of both GO and STAB? Just wouldn't add up in the ol' low capacity brain pan, til the TRY revealer was all filled in, and even then I had to sit and scratch for quite a while, before it all made sense. Good concentration aid, that scratchin'.

7 theme answers. Dang. Gareth, you animal. You Bain busy. Only countin' up 3 U's in the grid, but will let it slide, as you had lots of other fish to fry/try in this little ENTITY. And crafty clues, editor and construction guys. Thumbs up, my man.

Burner10 said...

I was so so on the theme (quantity over quality?) but I had a fun time solving through all the tricky clues. Tried come, home, and hard before I settled happily on hove - that means halted as we learn from the clue and rings a faint bell (don't know how many) from sailing lessons as a youth.


Thought this puzzle had a ho-hum theme, unimaginative clues, and a few good entries, such as SWAK, TWIDDLE, Touchy-FEELY, SADIE Hawkins, and FLUKE.
I guess at my age I'm considered SPRY, because a scooted along like clouds SCUD. Solved in my record time for a Wednesday puzzle.
I had BAD for Michael Jackson's hit song. That made WOMEN into the singular, and really messed up 38A... ANOD??? Didn't know KEN-Ken, so that didn't help either. After stalling in that west center, I finally got it, but lost some time there.
Ohhh, this is a Gareth puzzle? Well his are usually quite exciting, so now I'm disappointed with this one.

The best part of today's puzzle was Puzzlegirl's writeup. I also liked that you put in a FAQ. Here's something you may want to add to the FAQ as it answers questions about where and when and how a particular word was clued. You can even use the asterisk in your search there.

Tuttle said...

Nine proper nouns in one corner. And that's not counting the odious Phillips ACADS. The rest was quite fun though.

Margaret said...

My solving experience is typically the same as PG's, but not today.

Never heard of KENKEN -- doesn't run in our newspaper and that's not what they call it in my puzzle magazine.

I don't think of ELF as a little trickster -- maybe Santa's helper, or a mythical forest creature or Lord of the Rings character. An IMP (little devil), leprechaun or Loki is a trickster. Hmmm, maybe there are trickster elves in the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen? Please enlighten me.

I also had trouble with the noun/verb agreement. CRACK, BID, STAB, GO and SHOT all seem to match TRY as a noun, while ESSAY matches TRY as a verb. And I think "betray" rather than "betrayal" would be a better clue for STABINTHEBACK. Yes? No?

I was clearly not on the right wavelength today at all.


With regard to Google hits:

I really don't like using Google as a help to solving. Unlike the speed-solvers, I consider it a success if I can get through the puzzle WITHOUT GOOGLING and getting it totally correct, even if I have to plod through it all
day long. Sometimes I use a Crossword Dictionary to find the capital of Timbuktu or the spelling of TOMBOUCTOU, but I try like heck not to use online aids. Now I do use Google, or more oftenly Wikipedia, after I solve the puzzle just to do a little research on a subject raised by the CWP.

Zeke said...

@JNH - Listing the Google hits gives an indication of what people out there were searching for, i.e. didn't know, when solving the puzzle. One might find that interesting as verification that something that stumped us also stumped many others. As by the time we've come here we've already solved, or given up on solving without assistance, the puzzle. I have no opinion one way or the other as to including the Google hits, but that's why it may be interesting.

Tinbeni said...

PuzzleGirl: Excellent write-up.
I guess there is something wrong with me though. ABC by the Jackson 5 does not get me dancing in any way shape of form.

As is my ilk I searched out the theme reveal, TRY, early. Like many others wondered how it was a synonym when ESSAY TEST fell in early.
Six themes was impressive.
Good job Gareth.

Nice Wednesday offering though I had a few write-overs. Hee for YEE (What is an entith? Nothing! But an ENTITY is something.) Came to for HOVE to (Namad makes no sense, NOMAD for itinerant does).

I have never heard of KENken puzzles but SWAK, Sealed With A Kiss is familiar.

As for how I prepare to drink a can of beer, I OPEN it more than a CRACK. Then I pour it in a chilled glass and enjoy. (Life isn't always about the Avatar. I have other interests.)

Faves were HE SAID for half a tiff and TWIDDLE (my thumbs) for what I'm doing somethimes on the Saturday puzzles.
And WOMEN for They lack Y chromosomes. I've always contended that Dos Equis is a beer for the ladies.

Tinbeni said...

I think adding the Google hit list would be interesting for the reason you and Zeke stated.

There has been a long discussion over the months as to whether it is "good" or "bad" to google for an answer.
I figure google is like any other reference source.
If you need it, use it.
No judgement either way.
It is, after all, YOUR puzzle to solve.

I prefer to not google the answers.
Probably solve the way @JNH described, with the rare "look-up" in a Dictionary.
Again, it is my puzzle, my preference, no judgement either way.

syndy said...

PG for dardanells think Galipoli and movie of same name. didn't know swak or scud but all getable!Don't like to google for answers but sometimes of a saturday-well you know-if they will persist in crossing stuff I don't know with crap I don"t understand.

Sfingi said...

The theme was weakly connected, but it didn't matter, a theme wasn't needed. If one makes that weak a connection, 7 is not so awesome, eh?

This Skyliners' hit was so minor that it was obscure for me, and I'm of their time. It made it to 26 on the charts.

HOVE to, past tense of HEAVE to.

Puzzle Girl - Liked your graphics, especially Affirmed.
Also, how do you find out which things are Googled the most?

Didn't know GOOSEN (sports), wanted Bad for BEN, SWAK.

The Dardanelles, aka Hellespont, is famous for many a battle in the last few thousand years.

@Gespenst - Agree that considering Beowulf or any saga as anonymous is odd.
On the other hand, GI Jane is OK for Demi. This guy must like the movie. She got mucho dinero for it.

@Margaret - As far as elves, I wouldn't look at the most recent popular representatives, especially from the movies. On the other hand the word has taken on many identities. The oldest would be divine, beautiful, and, surprisingly, tall. But then, there's Goethe's Erlkönig (the elf king) who is a regular devil coming to finish off sick kids.

The NYT has KENken, and I guess it's a little harder than Soduko, but I've never tried.

CrazyCat said...

Second day in a row I rushed through the puzzle in order to get somewhere on time and missed the theme revealer. Didn't know ESSAY meant TRY, but TEST does so ESSAY TEST has two TRIES. I thought 16A ACADS was pretty bad. Wanted MAMAS or PAPAS for Phillips et al - Michele or John. Didn't know 26 D Billet-doux letters, but knew SWAK. Didn't know KEN KEN or BEN 29D, but thanks for the picture of BEN Harper PG. He grew up in Claremont and took over the Folk Music Center when his grandma died a couple of years ago. See him around every now and again. I also thought Dardanells was some Philly soul girls group. Liked 20A TYKES Moppets, 6D Little devil IMP and 40D Little trickster ELF although I wanted IMP for that one too. Lots of little troublemakers in this puzzle.
@PG Very entertaining write up. I like the FAQ section. I would be interested in the Google info too.

CrazyCat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Wolfenden said...

Just looked up the Wiki entry for Kenken and, much like Sudoku, I wonder how people could enjoy playing it. I guess it's a left-brain/right-brain thing. I'd bet that crossword puzzlers have a buffer-looking left hemisphere.

Ratty said...

Kinda hard for a Wednesday. In fact I had to leave one square - 41 - blank so I technically didn't finish. Never heard of SWAK, never heard of KENKEN either.

Had CAME for the longest time. After figuring out it couldn't be right I finally pulled HOVE from way back in the recesses of mind where it had been lurking, unused, for years.

Agree with @Margaret, "betray" seems a much better clue and I also don't really think of an ELF as a trickster. Might have put IMP instead if it hadn't already been used.

mac said...

I liked this puzzle, and appreciate the density of theme answers.

NEVER saw or heard SWAK, poor me...
I also think of an elf as a sweet little helpful think rather than a trickster.

I bet Gareth is watching the Germany - Spain match!

I would find it interesting to see where people had trouble in the puzzle, so count me on the "yes, tell us about it" side, PuzzleGirl.

Sweltering in NY - I'm getting out of here, flying to Holland tonight, just in time for the World Cup finals!

*David* said...

Putting in a little RSA love with the Goose, keep the street cred, my friend.

Eric said...

@PG: The Dardanelles as a girl group? LOL (literally)! George STRAIT? Never heard of him. The Georgia STRAIT, on the other hand...

Here in Toronto there's a gift shop named SWAK II.

My first guess for "'Beowulf', eg." was OENG, "old English" :-)

@CCL: I also put IMP first instead of ELF (seeing as I don't think of elves as little; see below).

@Margaret: In the old lore, ELVES (um, what *is* the typographic convention for the irregular plural of an answer?) aren't all sweetness and light! They're tricksters at the very least. The examples you cite are all latter-day sanitized versions. The same goes for fairies; Tinkerbell is *not* representative of the breed. Nor were elves or fairies particularly small. Even Tolkein's elves are tall. "Little people", "wee folk", etc., began as euphemisms, as it was believed that naming the beings outright might summon them -- not necessarily a good idea, as they weren't all kindly desposed towards humans.

ESSAY is from the French verb "essayer", which is literally "to try", "to attempt". Borderline-crosswordese *assay* is related.

Eric said...

I knew that HOVE TO more or less meant "stopped", but it slipped my mind; I too started with CAME. (I think "came to" came to mind, and I was too sloppy to notice that it means different things entirely.)

Wikipedia explains: To "heave to" (HOVE is the past tense) is a particular manoeuvre for bringing a sailing vessel to a stop in open water. You hear it given as an order in pirate movies and the like.

To explain it, I need to digress -- which, it turns out, is worth doing for a bunch of word nerds :-) A sail is said to be "aback" when it's position is such that the wind blowing on it would tend to push the vessel to stern, i.e. backwards. To "back" a sail is to set it aback on purpose. (To be "taken aback" is for that to happen to you unexpectedly, e.g. due to a sudden shift in the wind; hence the obvious generalization. It seems this can cause serious damage!)

Heaving to is done by backing *some* of your sails, so that they'll counteract the forward thrust from the ones that are still set normally. You also have to readjust the un-backed sails and the rudder, to maintain the equilibrium.

(To "back and fill" is another sailing manoeuvre, in which you alternately back sails and then let them "fill" with wind. I can't find a detailed description of why you'd do that, though. The expression has been repurposed for a power-boat manoeuvre, as well as the familiar automotive one.)

chefwen said...

If I knew how to embed (which I don't) I would give you a little "Sealed With A Kiss" recorded by Bobby Vinton back in 1972, it was a pretty big hit.

Good puzzle in my opinion. Had a few write overs, hEE before YEE, turn DOWN before SHOT DOWN, tried to squish amidst (didn't fit) before AMONG. Eventually, got the job done.

CrazyCat said...

@Chefwen Ha thanks! I kept thinking sealed with a kiss OMG we just had an earthquake! Small one I think...phew. Anyway I was thinking SWAK was from "See You in September" by the Tempos and then by the Happenings in 1966. Thanks for reminding me there was an actually song named SWAK. 5.7 in the desert.

Bohica said...

I can't believe how many people didn't know SWAK. Sealed With A Kiss was a big hit several times over. From Wiki:

It was first recorded in 1960 by The Four Voices. While their version was released as a single, it failed to make a significant impact. In 1962, Brian Hyland, a frequent recorder of Udell's and Geld's material, released the song as a single. It became very popular, charting as high as # 3 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the UK Singles Chart. It charted in the UK at # 7 when re-released in 1975. Hyland also recorded a version in German.

The song became a hit again in 1968 when Gary Lewis and the Playboys released it as a single. This version also had a high placing on the Hot 100.

A third Top 40 Hot 100 version came in 1972, when Bobby Vinton released his version as a single. This version also placed high on Billboard's adult contemporary chart.

The Bobby Vinton version was used in both the trailer and end credits of the film All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2007) starring Amber Heard.

Rube said...

I too had never seen/heard the acronym SWAK. Knew the song of course. This reminds me of my first encounter with SASE in Xwords about a year and a half ago. Knew Self Addressed Stamped Envelope, but not the acronym. I'm calling them acronyms because they can be said as a word, like Xerox, not abbreviations like IBM. Does anybody who is familiar with these terms insist they are abbrevs?

Can't say I was excited about the puzzle. It just went too fast to be savored. However, dense theme entries like this are always impressive.

Per the NYT today, I would not call Snap, Crackle, Pop, or the Keebler elves tricksters. Nor should Legolas and his compatriots fall into this category.

Tinbeni said...

Anyone who can turn a tree into a cookie factory or make my cereal sing to me after I added the milk ... well I'd call them tricksters.

CrazyCat said...

@Tinbeni ...cute! They are little tricksters, those elves.

shrub5 said...

Smooth solve today on this nice, theme-dense puzzle. I'm still chuckling over @Masked and Anon's assessment: "Gareth, you animal!"

I had forgotten Beowolf author was ANON so was a little skeptical as this answer emerged. Hand up for the BAD to BEN fix. Never have used the word ESSAY as a synonym for TRY. HOVE sounded vaguely familiar and rang a nautical bell. @Eric: thanks for the great explanation of this and related terms. Once you've heard the name of golfer Retief GOOSEN, you probably won't forget it -- though he gets much less puzzle time than his fellow South African Ernie Els.

@gespenst: I don't like SKED and have never seen it outside CWs.

@PuzzleGirl: Yes, I would be interested in a report on google traffic -- weekly sounds fine.

CrazyCat said...

Nicely put : )