Monday, April 30, 2007

I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a crossword puzzle today

SPOILER WARNING: Don't read any further until you've done today's New York Sun Crossword Puzzle. You can download this puzzle and join in on the fun for free here.

The May Day puzzle is by Joy M. Andrews and is called Artoo. But don't worry, it's not one of those dreaded "playground retort" puzzles where in addition to "are too" you have "are not" "are so" "did not" "did so" "am not" "are so" and "I'm rubber, you're glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks on you."

Instead Artoo refers to the way you have to add the letters AR onto the end of several common phrases to get the theme entries.

To wit:

20A: Rite place to sing Christmas songs (CAROLALTAR) I loved this one, even though I could not have picked Carol Alt out of a line-up of super-models. The fact that they clued it as the "rite" place rather than "right" (which would have worked just as well) makes it seem doubly elegant. I appreciate the extra wordplay.

58A: Jenny Craig or Robert Atkins? (DIETPILLAR) I don't know about Jenny Craig, but Dr. Atkins and his bacon and butter diet have lost favor lately. There were rumors that he was overweight when he died a couple of years ago, and I know there's some kind of scandal with his estate, but I'm not sure what it was about. I saw it in the Wall Street Journal as I was looking for their Friday crossword puzzle. (By the way, if you haven't already, check out the WSJ's great weekly puzzle in the Friday paper. It definitely has the Green Genius Seal of Approval.)

10D: Give Genghis Khan a knuckle sandwich (POPTARTAR) Poor Genghis Khan, he established the Mongol Empire, the largest contiguous empire in world history, but when people hear tartar today they either think of white sauce for your fish or brown stuff on your teeth.

33D: Piano bar tip for Joplin tune? (RAGDOLLAR) That's Scott Joplin, not Janis. He was famous for playing ragtime music.

That's four theme entries, two long across ones and two down, and that would have made for a very enjoyable puzzle, but great constructors always look for ways to give more, and Joy Andrews gives us another entry as lagniappe right in the center of the puzzle. 41A: Sample collector in a G.P.'s office? (DRJAR) As I mentioned before, I always appreciate extra wordplay, and if it were up to me Ms. Andrews would get a gold star for throwing in this riff on Dr. J.

Other entries of note:

24A: Mythological racer who picked up three golden apples ATALANTA. Atalanta is one of the one most interesting characters from Greek mythology. When she was a baby her father left her
in the woods to die because he wanted a son not a daughter. A kindly bear nursed her and a group of hunters raised her. And she grew up to be one of the greatest hunters in Helas, which pissed off the patriarchy plenty. Her first love Meleager was killed trying to protect her after she slew the monstrous Calydonian boar. Eventually she had a reconciliation with her father, and he wanted her to get married but she wasn't interested, because she was still carrying a torch for Meleager. She told Dad she would marry anybody who could beat her in a footrace (she was faster than anybody but the god Hermes so she knew this was a sucker deal) and that any guy who lost in a race with her would be killed. Hard as it is to believe, a lot of guys went for this deal and they were all slaughtered after Atalanta left them in the dust. Then along comes a guy named Hippomenes, who was crazy in love with Atalanta, but smart enough to realize he was never going to be able to beat her in a race, not a fair race anyway. So he went to Athena who helped him cheat. She gave him three golden apples to drop during the race to distract Atalanta. It worked, but it most likely worked because Atalanta kinda liked Hippomenes anyway and let him win.
Unfortunately the story does not end happily. Zeus turned these two lovebirds into lions after they had sex in one of his sacred temples. Being turned into a lion doesn't sound like too bad a punishment compared to what a lot of other people got back then -- especially for doing it in church! -- but at that time it was believed that lions could not have sex with each other, only with leopards, so Zeus figured the worst thing he could do to them was ensure they couldn't have sex with each other ever again. (Luckily for Atalanta and Hippomenes, Zeus did not get the National Geographic Channel.)

43A: El Al's hub (BENGURION) crossing 41D: They have shins on only one side (DREIDELS) Israel's first prime minister meets the traditional Chanukah toy. It looks like we have a Jewish subtheme. (By the way, the Dreidel has a different Hebrew letter on each side. Shin is a Hebrew letter that looks sort of like a W with delusions of grandeur.)

6D: Receding Asian sea (ARAL) One of these days, I'm going to learn the difference between Aral and Ural. But not today.

5D: Chevrolet pony car introduced in the '60s (CAMARO). Just because I hadn't heard the term "pony car" for a long time.

55A: Gracie Mansion predecessor of Ed, Dave, Rudy and Mike (ABE) The New York Times and the New York Sun can both (not surprisingly) be a little Empire-state-centric. I have been known to look up a NY politician on Google, and I don't even consider that cheating because I figure if I lived in NY I'd know the pols there like I know the ones here in SC. But I didn't have to look anything up here. I remember Abe Beame. And hey, if I remember correctly, he was the first Jewish governor of New York, so that ties in with out subtheme too. Cool.

27D: Movement that's French for "bent" (PLIE) PliƩ pops up all the time but I didn't know its literal translation. Now I just have to make it mine by using it in a sentence.

30D: Golgotha inscription (INRI) Interesting how easily this religous acronym can become the business memo starter INRE

That's all I have time for. The fender on my car is slightly pliƩ and I need to go straighten it out.

See you tomorrow.


Rex Parker said...

I Loved this puzzle. Everything about it is fun, fresh, and clever. Funny theme, and some amazing non-theme fill I've never seen before (BEN GURION and ATALANTA most notably). Plus, lots of K's and J's and X's ... including EXILE Island, which my sadly "Survivor"-addicted wife will enjoy. I will tuck this puzzle away for consideration in the various puzzle awards I will be handing out (metaphorically) at year's end. This could be up for "Best Tuesday" or something...

Norrin2 said...

That is one awards ceremony I would actually be interested in seeing. So we have the Oscars, the Emmys and the Tonys; what are we going to call the crossword awards? The Emus? The Anoas?
Ooh, maybe the statuette can be shaped like a ewer.
I can see Liam Neeson and Theda Bara as presenters.

Zan said...

I gave it a try. It hurt my head.

Linda G said...

I couldn't figure out what a RAGDOLLAR was, but I knew all the acrosses were right. Then I got DIETPILLAR and figured out the theme.

In 1976, I went to see the remake of A Star is Born. On my way home, I stopped at the Chevy dealership (still in tears after the movie) and bought a brand-new Camaro. That memory came to mind after seeing it clued as a pony car.

I'm with you, Robert. Aral, Ural...whatever.

DONALD said...

Just lurking...loved the puzzle and your paean!

Howard B said...

Interesting puzzle. I have to admit that I was hung up on EXILE for a little bit, although it made sense in context.

I do have this mild fear that a few years down the road, there's going to be a ton of less common reality show-referenced clues (contestants, shows, hosts' names, etc) appearing as 'fresh' puzzle answers, since they've made it into the pop culture lexicon.
Since I've avoided most of these like the plague over the past few years (with the exception of the American Idol preliminary auditions), if that ever happens it's going to come back to bite me.
I know Idol judges' names appear occasionally, but that's fine... so far ;). Am I being silly?

Norrin2 said...

Actually, Howard, my fear is almost the opposite. It used to be that everybody watched Ed Sullivan, read Life magazine and listened to Top 40 music, and anything that was featured there would be -- and in many instances still is -- fair fodder for crossword clues.
But American society has become so fragmented and entertainment geared more and more to niche audiences that there are fewer and fewer shared experiences that all Americans are familiar with. It's hard not to know about "American Idol". I've never seen the show, but I know about Simon and Sanjaya and all the gang. But I think that kind of experience is going to become more uncommon and it will get harder and harder to clue crosswords fairly.