05.12 Thu

May 12, 2011
Mangesh Sakharam Ghogre

Theme: Figures of Speech — Each theme clue is a number the answer to which is a definition of a homophone of that number. Clear as mud?

Theme answers:

  • 17A: 8? (HAD DINNER). [ate]
  • 26A: 2? (EXCESSIVELY). [too]
  • 50A: 1? (TOOK THE GOLD). [won]
  • 62A: 4? (IN FAVOR OF). [for]
  • 39A: They're not literal, and this puzzle's title (FIGURES OF SPEECH).
Love this puzzle! And it's weird because I knew I was going to love it. I couldn't get enough crosses to decipher the first couple theme answers, so I just MEANDERED (36D: Wandered aimlessly) through the grid until I could. It finally happened when I got down to IN FAVOR OF and the theme was immediately apparent. The anticipation I felt while waiting to get to a theme answer that would break it open for me was very cool and was brought to an end by a real "aha" moment. (Which is much better than when it ends with a "wtf" moment.) But even then, there was still some puzzling to do with the remaining theme answers because at least two of the numbers have more than one homophone (I can't think of a homophone for "eight" other than "ate" but maybe I'm just blanking out here.)

Also, the reveal answer is awesome. FIGURES OF SPEECH. They're numbers (FIGURES) that sound like words (SPEECH). And in this puzzle, the numbers are literally transformed into words. Which is awesome on a whole 'nother level because a FIGURE OF SPEECH is, by definition, not literal. This is starting to blow my mind, man.

Ya know what I think I like about this? It feels like a Thursday puzzle to me. In the NYT, the Thursday puzzle often has something particularly tricky about it and that's what I really look forward to on Thursdays. The LAT doesn't use that convention though, so it took me a while to get used to a "straight" Thursday puzzle. And while this one isn't as creative/innovative/weird as some of the Thursdays over at the NYT, it's definitely leaning that way, so it was a nice surprise.

  • 14A: French darling (AMIE). Wait for it … French!
  • 15A: Reduce bit by bit (PARE). I tried WEAN first, which really messed things up in that section for a while. Also, embarrasing simply because it's so wrong.
  • 16A: Virginia political family (BYRDS). I was helping PuzzleDaughter study for a social studies test earlier this week and we talked about Harry Flood Byrd, Sr. I remember thinking to myself "Isn't that a West Virginia name?" But that's a whole different BYRD.
  • 19A: "Back Stabbers" group, with "The" (O'JAYS). I didn't think I was familiar with this song, but when I went to find the video, I realized I am. Check out these smooth moves.
  • 47A: Contrary retort (DOES NOT). I tried IT IS NOT first.
  • 57A: Its full name means "jumping flea" in Hawaiian (UKE). Who knew?
  • 68A: "Up in the Air" Oscar nominee Farmiga (VERA). How did I miss this movie? It looks pretty good. Anybody seen it?
  • 70A: Lake Michigan city (GARY).
  • 4D: Start to cure? (PEDI-). I would pretty much give my left arm for a mani-pedi right now. Hey, do you think I would get a discount …?
  • 25D: Newsman Roger (O'NEIL). I wanted it to be Roger MUDD. (Am I showing my age?)
  • 34D: One who brings out the inner child? (MOM). Now I don't know if I'm just in a good mood or what. I can imagine that at certain times I might not be quite so charitable with this clue/answer pair, but to be totally honest, it cracked me up today. In a groany kind of way.
Crosswordese 101 Round-up:
  • 5A: "Battle Cry" author (URIS).
  • 58A: Raison d'__ (ÊTRE).
  • 1D: Morse character (DAH).
  • 41D: Yale of Yale University (ELIHU).
  • 42D: Printers' measures (EMS).
[Follow PuzzleGirl on Twitter.]

Everything Else 1A: Not quite dry (DAMP); 9A: Yippie name (ABBIE); 20A: Ones with dark-spotted faces (DICE); 21A: Annual draft org. (NBA); 23A: 46th U.S. state (OKLA.); 24A: Nuevo __: Peruvian currency (SOL); 29A: Dig up (UNEARTH); 31A: "Ain't __ Sweet" (SHE); 32A: Pastures (LEAS); 33A: Protein building block, for short (AMINO); 36A: Animal's stomach (MAW); 43A: Happy hour order (ALE); 44A: Varnish resin (ELEMI); 45A: When doubled, a fish (MAHI); 46A: "Wheel of Fortune" purchase (AN I); 55A: Female rabbit (DOE); 56A: Business head? (AGRI-); 60A: Insipid (BLAND); 66A: It's slower than adagio (LENTO); 67A: Somber genre (NOIR); 69A: First noble gas discovered (ARGON); 71A: Noted sin scene (EDEN); 2D: Org. featuring seasonal flu information (AMA); 3D: Fifties, say (MIDDLE AGE); 5D: After the current act (UP NEXT); 6D: Operated (RAN); 7D: Goddess of peace (IRENE); 8D: Some Bosnians (SERBS); 9D: Donor classification letters (ABO); 10D: Exclamation from Colonel Pickering (BY JOVE); 11D: Start to stop (BRAKE); 12D: Pastoral poem (IDYLL); 13D: Common college admissions requirement (ESSAY); 18D: Cake finisher (ICER); 22D: Like-minded gps. (ASSNS.); 24D: Bacteria-fighting drug (SULFA); 27D: Try to catch (CHASE); 28D: Food chain (IHOP); 30D: Tempe sch. (ASU); 35D: "Don't mind __" (IF I DO); 37D: Blessing preceder (ACHOO); 38D: Snowy (WHITE); 40D: Monthly expense (RENT); 46D: A lot like (AKIN TO); 48D: Owner of a legendary lantern kicker (O'LEARY); 49D: 1999 movie about a reality show (EDTV); 50D: Indian drum (TABLA); 51D: Wolf, at times (OGLER); 52D: Long-armed ape (ORANG); 53D: Squeezing (out) (EKING); 54D: Columbus's birthplace (GENOA); 59D: Wander aimlessly (ROVE); 61D: Underworld bigwig (DON); 63D: Cedar kin (FIR); 64D: Valuable rock (ORE); 65D: Cheering crowd member (FAN).


Steve said...

Really nice puzzle, I got the hint through crosses before I was able to see what was going on with the theme entries.

Learned some stuff too (BYRDS, UKE, ELIHU). Always nice to be edumacated at the same time as entertained.

@PG - I saw the movie, and enjoyed it, possibly because I live out of a roll-aboard and travel a lot too (160,000 air miles last year, and on track for the same this year). I actually watched it on a red-eye from LA to NYC, which seemed very apt.

Anonymous said...

I agree with PG: this is a good one.

Bottom third was tough, as I had roam before rove; tabla is new to me; and, I completely fell for the "Michigan" part of 70A by foolishly only thinking of MI cities.

"Up in the Air" is worthy of your time. It's original.

burner10 said...

Had that nice solving situation where I couldn't get anything - grr one of those days, to done! I'm ready for anything. I did know that ukelele means jumping flea - makes me smile to think of this.

*David* said...

Everything about this one said slog at first glance but the reality was smooth. I flew through this one, got the theme right away with 2?. Only write over was had WINS THE GOLD at first. I think doing all those Sun puzzles is paying dividends.

hazel said...

thought this was a great puzzle. i really like the AHA and the way PG described it and it called to mind the fact that i saw the great bela fleck recently and he had an unbelievable tabla player with him - zufir hussain maybe - something like that.

i thought Up in the Air was pretty good not great. The George Clooney factor makes it a must-see, regardless...

Joon said...

not only was this a cool theme, but it seemed to me that there were way more interesting/clever/tricky clues than a typical thursday LAT. 2 thumbs up 4 this 1.

VirginiaC said...

At first I thought this was going to defeat men but I finally tamed it - with help from here, thanx PG!

Up in the air is a good movie - not great but good.If you want great, rent S.O.B.

I wanted it to be Roger Mudd too.

Ol' Man Keith said...

The use of clue numbers as sounded puns was cute, but overall I found this a fairly dull puzzle. I wished for trickier numbers! I guess there aren't any.

Anonymous said...

the theme is good. definitely trickier than a normal LAT puzzle, but I didn't like alot of the fill, especially two wander clues, white to describe snowy. Didn't know Irene, Elemi, Lento, Sulfa, and I have no idea what yippie name and owner of a legendary lantern kicker refer to.

Up in the Air was ok, it is rather empty of feeling. it was timely and sometimes funny. The ending ruined it for me. I do prefer a happy ending though...

Ol' Man Keith said...

Abbie Hoffman, one of the Chicago Eight, was probably the most famous (infamous?) of the Yippies, the nom de guerre of the Youth International Party.
It was Mrs Catherine O'Leary's cow that allegedly kicked over a lantern that started the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

Nighthawk said...

I had a very similar solving experience to @PG's. Just took a long time to get any traction, a few things here and there were gimmes (8A: ABBIE Hoffman was one of them-I'm of an age that the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago seems like only yesterday. I can even recall that the Yippee Party's [Youth International Party]mascot/Presidential nominee that year was a swine named "Pigasus").

Lots of blanks until I got to IN FAVOR OF and the light went on and the rest of the puz filled quickly.

I agree with others, I found this a bit more tricky that the usual Thurs. LAT fare, but that's what made it much more enjoyable for me.

Hand up for liking Up in the Air. Both Farmiga and Anna Kendrick were superb.

Had several write-overs including: i got THE GOLD, Nfl before NBA and sAc for MAW.

Had never encountered ELEMI.

@Anon 10:40 Legend has it that one Catherine O' LEARY's cow knocked over a kerosene lantern in their barn, which started the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

John Wolfenden said...

I've really liked the themes for the last three days in a row, very rare. For me one of this puzzle's strengths was the balance of cultural references.

Loved "Ones with dark-spotted faces" for DICE. The UKE clue was a fun learning moment, as was the fact that ARGON was the first noble gas discovered.

My only nitpick is "Animal's stomach" for MAW. I know it's in the dictionary but would rather have seen a clever clue for the "mouth" meaning, like "Beast's gullet."

Those of you with the tools: how many other puzzles has MSG had published? I look forward to more.

Margaret said...

Same feeling about this as PuzzleGirl, surprise surprise. Enjoyed the theme, wanted Roger to be Mudd, and laughed at one who brings out the inner child. And in conclusion: French!