FRIDAY, August 20, 2010—Donna S. Levin

THEME: Fancy house puns
  • 17a. [Faithful caretaker of a religious residence?] is a MANSE BEST FRIEND. This plays on "man's best friend."
  • 26a. [Stately home for debate team practice?] is a MANOR OF SPEECH, playing on "manner of speech," which sounds off-kilter to me. Aren't "in a manner of speaking" and "speech mannerism" a good bit more familiar than "manner of speech"? It Googles up OK, but…. (At my high school, the speech team and the debate team were entirely different activities, but the clue still works because the debaters make speeches.)
  • 45a. ESTATE OF GRACE, playing on "state of grace" and Princess Grace, is a [Former European princess's elaborate dwelling?]. With the ACE at the end, I tried something-PALACE too.
  • 58a. [French castle built with misgivings?] is a CHATEAU OF A DOUBT, punning on "shadow of a doubt." A redoubt is a fort, so I was messed up here.

Amy here, filling in for an under-the-weather PuzzleGirl. I have sent her to bed so she can awake restored to good health, so with any luck you'll have her back in time for the Saturday puzzle.

As for the Friday crossword—hoo-whee, this one knocked me on my tuchis. The first theme entries I filled in were 17a and 45a, so I can be excused for thinking this was an add-an-E theme (MANSE, ESTATE). The pun business threw me for a loop, and it took me 5:19 to finish—basically 25% longer than a typical Saturday L.A. Times crossword. Was it a bloodbath out there for everyone, or did you cotton on to the pun theme without a struggle?

What I liked best:
  • 10a. [Bar assistant?] is a PARA, as in a paralegal assisting the lawyers who've been admitted to the bar.
  • 14a. ALEE gets a fresh tropical clue: [Like the northern Antilles Islands vis-à-vis the southern ones]. Antigua and St. Kitts are two of the Leeward Islands, sheltered from the prevailing winds. Windward Islands like Martinique and Barbados bear the brunt of the winds. I suspect one group is rainier than the other, but couldn't tell you which is which.
  • 16a. ENID, Oklahoma, is a [City named for a Tennyson heroine]. Never knew that trivia tie-in.
  • 20a. Clues like this trip up a lot of solvers. [Choose to reject, say?] is an ANTONYM, in that the word "choose" is an opposite of "reject." Dastardly!
  • 34a. Sure, AHEAD is a regular word, but Donna splits it into A HEAD, or [Per person]. As in "the benefit costs a hundred bucks a head."
  • 41a. We all know the KAZOO, sure, but its synonym, [Vocaphone]? Not so much. I learned something here. I don't know the heavy metal song "Enter Sandman" by Metallica, but this fella's multi-tracked himself playing it on kazoo:

  • 51a. [It's used at Gallaudet U.] clues ASL, or American Sign Language. My family and I just started an ASL class. I keep forgetting how to fingerspell the letters F, G, K, Q, and X. Clearly I will need to learn the sign for the F-word because spelling it out will be too tough for me.
  • 66a. Clark KENT is a Perry [White underling].
  • 3d. Hidden past tense: [Hit the road] clues WENT.
  • 4d. Did you know the [FireDome and Fireflite] were DESOTOS, old cars? I did not.
  • 5d. [Short nightie] clues BABY-DOLL. Great entry.
  • 11d. [Operating room number?] means "stuff that numbs you in the OR": ANESTHESIA.
  • 13d. Another obscured past tense: [Put two and two together] clues ADDED.
  • 28d. NEW ZEALAND is the [Home of the flightless kakapo] as well as the bloodthirsty KEA, which can fly and will probably swoop in and terrify you. But do not discount the ability of the kakapo to get in some blows! This randy kakapo drew blood from a photographer:

  • 29d. FAUST is your literary answer of the day, a [Legendary soul seller].
Crosswordese 101: SCREE is one of those words I learned from crosswords. They use it in geology and up in the mountains, sure, but you can be excused if you didn't know this one. This 30d: [Cliffside litter] is the rocky debris that slides down the mountain slope.

Over and out. Happy Friday, folks!



Welcome back, Amy. Sorry to hear that Puzzlegirl is feeling punk today.
PG, hope you get better soon!

Tough Friday puzzle… took me 22 minutes to solve online, which for me isn’t bad.
Once I filled in the Downs across the top of the puzzle and saw MANSE BEST FRIEND revealed, I knew that the theme had to do with puns associated with regal estates. Then, from the clues on the other three, I figured them out and from there all the crosses seemed to just drop in place. I’ve always liked Donna Levin’s puzzles and this one sure sparkled for me. She uses very little crosswordese, always has fresh fill, and spices them with humorous clues. Donna, please do more for the LAT!

The best clue of 2010: “Choose to reject, say” (ANTONYM).

Great fill words: KAZOO (Vocaphone), ANESTHESIA, EFFICACY, DE SOTOS, and of course, BABY DOLL (crossing with LACE) … YUMMY!

A few baddies: SSE, ENER, and OOM.

The only thing that I struggled with was the Natick cross of ASL/O’SHEA. Not familiar with Gallaudet University (for ASL) and couldn’t remember the Irish character actor, Milo O’SHEA, so I guessed on those. Other than that I had no trouble getting the clues right.

We just talked about “pinto” horses earlier this week and so 44A (PIED) was a gimme. Another gimme was SCREE because I’m a Rock-Gardener and so I use a lot of it as mulch.

I don’t think you’ll ever hear me call a buddy “DUDE”.

Yesterday I ATEIN for breakfast, but this morning I’m hitting Route 66 again and so I think I’ll eat at “That 50’s Place” café down in Dwight, Illinois. Gotta get going!

Y’all have a fun weekend!

Eric said...

This felt as though it was putting up a lot of resistance, but in the end I found I'd finished in a respectable time, for me for a Friday.

It took me forever to get the theme, because it took forever to get enough crosses for the first couple of entries. I could see it was something to do with fancy houses -- and indeed, used that to fill in CHATEAU -- but the punning remainders eluded me for the longest time. (Fortunately, the second one I did get happened not to be an add-an-E, so I didn't go down that particular wrong path.)

I don't like SCREE. It's a fine funky word -- a welcome addition to the puzzle -- but the stuff itself is nasty when you come across it on a hike. It tends to dislodge really easily, so you have to tread very carefully, else you might find yourself sliding down the hill at the heart of a mini-avalanche.

Googles: DESOTOS (I'd heard of DeSoto, but not of either FireFoo model).
O'SHEA (he's way way down IMDB's list of Milo's; the only one I knew of was Milo Ventimiglia, of Heroes).

Failed Google: "vocaphone", which yielded some French telecom company and auctions for old dictating machines, but no KAZOOs).

Another one: "Gallaudet". If I'd looked at the Wikipedia article, I'd have been fine; the first or second sentence says it's a school for the hearing-impaired. But instead I went to Gallaudet U's home page -- which makes no mention of the fact! Imagine: failing to brag about the very thing that makes you special. A triumph of bland, marketroid PCness over, well, everything else I guess!

I resisted ANESTHESIA far past the point where crosses made it the only possibility; I didn't get the "number" = "stuff that numbs" misdirection until @Amy explained it.

I knew of the Windward Islands and the Leeward Islands, but didn't know they were all Antilles, even though I knew of those too.

What you all said about "Choose to reject, say?" My brain's telling me there must be an ANTONYM and Cleopatra pun somewhere, but I'm not finding it alas...

@JNH: What's "natick"? Y'all keep using the term; what's it mean?

Eric said...

Forgot to mention: that KAKAPO clip is a total hoot!

jazz said...

CHOOSE = choose
REJECT = unchoose


..had to google NEWZEALAND and DESOTOS, but otherwise feel like I did well to solve. Good Friday puzzle, w/ non-obvious theme answers

Tinbeni said...

PuzzleGirl: Get well soon.
You know my remedy.
Works like that ANESTHESIA, gets you numb, comes in a dimpled BOTTLE.

WOW, Donna Levin at her punny best.
Themes were good and I liked the GRID.

Liszt's, LES Preludes, "AVEC plaisir!" and the KAZOO is a Vocaphone ... learning moments I'll probably soon forget.

Loved LACE crossing BABYDOLL.

KENO finally replaced Faro as the game of choice.
Does anyone ever win @keno? I was told it's a sucker's bet.

Just curious, why is 'Half a tuba sound' never the 'pah' always the 'OOM'?

@JNH, DUDE is what the young'un's like to call each other. I know, it would be such a stretch to use their buddy's name. Me? I'll just call you John.

@Eric: Natick is a term 'coined' by Rex Parker. Google it. In a nut xhell, it means a "way too obscure" clue/answer for a solver to get, even from the crosses.

Rex Parker said...

MANSE answer simply doesn't work. Not grammatically. Even if answers is wacky, it has to make sense as clued. Noun noun = nothing. I guess you could argue that MANSE is being used as adj. here, but that's just painful.

Also, MANNER of SPEAKING is the phrase I know.

Hard for me too. 5-something, closer to 6.


*David* said...

Looks like my post got eaten by an Error 503. Suffice it to say I liked a lot of the fill and it was just right on the difficulty level where I moved but it took a while to suss out the theme.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for explaining NUMBer.

Isn't someone going to criticize the tennis ref's call? LET is a serve that grazes the net but still hits within the service area. The server gets to serve over.

Loved being reminded of Phil Silvers as Sgt. Bilko, black & white TV of my youth. Loved the DeSoto clue, a nice car from my early driving days.

An enjoyable puzzle.

C said...

Good puzzle today wrt difficulty, I didn't solve it in my typical contiguous fashion, I had to jump around looking for a toe hold into the grid. I actually got the toe hold with the CHATEAUOFADOUBT answer and was then able to build out and solve the puzzle.

I like puns (yeah, we know, get on with it) so I am taking the good grade and adding a plus to bring the final grade to good+.

SethG said...

What Rex said about MANSE.

Someone once sent me a post-interview thank you note that said "I look forward to programming in a challenging and interesting manor." I neither hired him nor bought him a house.

Why would anyone criticize the LET clue?

*David* said...

I wonder if a LETT would just LET it be?


The Natick Principle is a term that Michael Sharp adopted for a two words crossing that stymies most puzzlers.
It is best described in the CW Terminology on page 2.


@Amy Renaldo
Thanks for standing in for Puzzlegirl... I miss you in this blog.
Very nice writeup today and I particularly enjoyed seeing that vid clip of that rare NEW ZEALAND parrot (Kakapo) trying to mate with the photographer. I am anticipating my Ornithology degree in November... the study of bird behavior is totally fascinating to me. I've seen some pretty strange stuff in the bird world, but this one I'll surely have to share with some of my bird-brained classmates.

Joon said...

hard for me too. never caught on to the cluing vibe. a nice challenge, which i wasn't expecting.

CrazyCat said...

Thought this was a tough one, but lots of fun. I had to google a few times. First google was for 23A which yielded TED. Thought I few on TED once. Then I remembered it was Song. It's also defunct. Also googled 51A Gallaudet U. It sounded so familiar. Turns out that's where Marlee Maitlin went. Other google snagged DESOTOS. Had OUT first at 52A Umpire's call. LET was the last to fall. Wasn't thinking tennis at all. Got the theme at MANSE BEST FRIEND, but also had PALACE in where ESTATE OF GRACE ended up. Had to chip away all over the place. I really enjoyed the puns.
Excellent video of the LEWD kakapo!
Thanks for filling in Amy!

mac said...

Nice, tough puzzle! Odd about the speech/speach situation. Plenty of good clues and answers, though.

What's this TED? Is that Senator Stevens' line? We actually saw a plane with his name on it in Anchorage.

Loved that Kakapo clip; I always seem to be on the hand of the animal, I was sorry to hear they killed the bull that jumped the fence.

I'll be off to Europe tomorrow, returning on September 11. I'll miss you all! Thanks Amy, and get better soon, PuzzleGirl!

jazz said...


I kinda agree with you, but then I thought of a house + pet = housepet, which (one could argue in a stretch) is the same as a manse best friend.

I know, pushing it, but I give the benefit of the doubt to the constructor.

ddbmc said...

Totally black and blue from this puzzle, yet it's a good hurt! Knew O'Shea-had seen him in a play in London many moons ago. Desotos-got with the crosses. Made it through, without a Google, BUT did hit the dictionary for what turned out to be ridiculously easy words. I hang my head in shame! :)

@PG, hope you are better, soon. Hope it isn't Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever!

@Orange, always good to hear from you and @Rex.
@Eric, I'm thinking no one could eat anything ROASTed with acetylene! As the Pirates would say: Aaarrrrgggh!

@Tin, headed back to your part of the world, next week. What paper does this puzzle appear in? I'll be in the Sarasota area. Has the weather cooled down at all? Is there ANY BP oil on the beaches?

chefwen said...

@Eric - I'm with you on the hatred of SCREE. While hiking one day some SCREE shifted under my feet and I went down like a sack of potatoes, most of my weight landed on my right forearm, husband had to take a picture of its daily change of color. Not a pretty sight!

That clip of the kakapo was hysterical.

Feel better PG