Thursday, May 24, 2007

My 201st Post

Sometimes it’s good to know what you’re up against. When I see the name Byron Walden (especially if it’s under the words “Weekend Warrior”) I know I am about to enter a realm where you have to watch your step because nothing is what it seems and there are traps everywhere.

You probably know when you see the name "Green Genius" that you're about to get a SPOILER WARNING: Don't read any further until you've done today's New York Sun Crossword Puzzle. New York Sun puzzles are every bit as fun and challenging as the more well-known New York Times, and they're indisputably better in one way -- they're free. You can download this puzzle and join in on the fun here.

Because I know that Byron Walden is a trickster, I'm on my guard right from the start, so at 1A: Beethoven, et al, I immediately think ST. BERNARD. I'm not a hundred per cent sure, but I check and make sure I've got a good strong eraser and I write it in. Off the E in Bernard, I get EVILS (Pandora released them) and I think "This puzzle is going to be easy." That is the last answer I get in the northwest for a long time.

So I skipped down to 32A: Liz is his vet (ODIE). Garfield's owner (roommate?) has had a crush on her since 1979, and they've recently taken their relationship a notch or two above pet owner and pet doctor. I love it when comic strip romances work out.

Now I've got the first letter (E) in 45A: Wind with a misleading name, but I'm thinking something with East or easy that is actually out of the North and rough. I'm nowhere near the orchestra, which of course is where the ENGLISH HORN is found. It's name is doubly misleading, by the way, since it's neither English nor a horn. It's an oboe and it apparently originated in Austria.

I also had had the opening O in 32A: Brahmin realm, but I'm barking up the wrong dog again. In the Indian caste system, the Brahmin are the priests. But Byron had in mind the Beantown Brahmin. OLD BOSTON proves to be elusive for some time.

I've talked before of my ignorance about the difference between Ural and Aral, but when I see a clue like 29D: Orenburg's river and notice the answer is four letters, I'm willing to bet it's one of them. I guess URAL. Correctly as it turns out. This helps me get 36A: The Fool is in it (Tarot) And then I get 21D: Dagger part (HAFT). (Well, I get it after a brief, meaningless dalliance with HILT.) I also get 30D: A throw might go over it (SOFA).

And then I got my second long answer and my favorite answer in the whole puzzle. 25A: Bad poker hand (BUSTED FLUSH). Why is this my favorite entry? Because it reminds me of one of my favorite writers, John D. MacDonald, and one of his greatest creations, Travis McGee. Travis McGee was a "salvage consultant" and that means if you lost something or had something taken from you, McGee would find it and bring it back for half its value. He lived in Fort Lauderdale on a houseboat called the Busted Flush, so named because that's how he won it, his poker opponent had a busted flush. (For those of you of who don't play poker, a flush is all cards of the same suit and it is a very good hand, a busted flush is four cards of one suit and one of another and it is useless.) McGee is one of the most interesting characters in mystery fiction, sort of a beach bum Philip Marlowe. He was one of the first environmentalists, and if you read the 21 books in order you can see how Florida and America changed from the 1960s to the 1980s. You can get a taste of John D. MacDonald and Travis McGee here, although it's not from a Travis McGee novel. It's from "Reading For Survival", and I think MacDonald deserves knighthood or sainthood or something just for this alone.

It's late and I have a lot to do, but I need to hit just a few more

61A: Classic loafer (LOTUS EATER) I was looking for a shoe.

66A: Some Warhol subjects (POP BOTTLES) Not what he's mos
t known for, but he did paint some supermarket stuff other than soup cans.

15A: Bar exam? (TRIVIA QUIZ) I love
this one. I know by the question (and by the byline) this has nothing to do with a legal exam, so I'm thinking breathalyzer or field sobriety tests. But it was something a lot more fun.

20A: 1915 Charlie Chaplin short (A NIGHT OUT) I love Chaplin, but this was too obscure for me. I had ANOTHER ME, then I had A NIGHT OWL, eventually got the right answer, but only after I cheated. Yes, I admit I Googled 10D: Hungarian city near the Serbian border (SZEGED). This is called Karma, because I teased Rex for Googling one a few days ago, and because I told my son last night I never Google for crossword answers.

35D: Series parts (BALL GAMES) I love seeing an answer like this take shape, especially when the payoff is in a field I love, like baseball.

No Sun on Monday, so I'll see you on Tuesday. Have a great weekend.


Rex Parker said...

I own a jillion Travis McGee novels (in my vintage pb collection) and I've never made my way through a one of them.

This puzzle was rrrrrrough, but I actually finished it faster than I did the NYT, which chewed me up and spit me out. Actually found the bottom third pretty easy (not a word I use w/ Byron puzzles often, if ever), but the rest of it was WORK. Had GENTLEMEN (as in "Gentlemen, start your engines") where PARADE LAP was supposed to go, which gave me the very reasonable EL ANO instead of the correct ENERO as a cross. That colon clue was rought too, as I had ATTN instead of HTTP for a good while. Many unknown words in both the clues and answers, and yet I finished with no errors. Always a good feeling.


Howard B said...

I'm still surprised that I had never, ever heard of either a BUSTED FLUSH or a PARADE LAP. (I ended up with WASTED FLUSH, which weren't my only errors) This despite having played poker and, although not a fan, seeing and knowing a little racing terminology. Those couple answers, along with the Chaplin clue, ensured that I didn't stand a chance at completing this thing correctly. Nice job there for beating the SZEGED monster and overcoming the puzzle.
(Also spelled MCLACHLAN with a G for LING, despite knowing her name)

Could someone explain OLD BOSTON? I don't understand that reference either. (My other mistakes were somewhere in there).

PS - 37A is DURA. Nasty puzzle.
Isn't it Byronic, dont'cha think?

barrywep said...


Unlike Rex, a number of us crossword geeks are McGee fans. See the thread on Amy's blog.

P.S. I would gladly take those books off your hands.

Austin said...

Wow. I have a lot of work to do. Even after doing crosswords in my local paper for 7 years, I've just recently started doing the Times and the Sun. They are completely different monsters, I'll tell you that. I'm very lucky if I finish a Thursday or Friday in either of them.

But still, I am on the young(er) side of doing the puzzle and I love it when I can figure out a particularly twisted clue.

Anyway, just wanted to say thanks for doing what you're doing!

Norrin2 said...

Rex, I wish I owned a jillion John D. MacDonald books. I only have eleventy-seven or so, but I've read and enjoyed all of them. It's unfair that a guy can be that prolific and that good too. His science fiction was great too. I love "The Girl, the Gold watch and Everything."
Howard, thanks for the correction, DMAG? what was I thinking? The Boston Brahmins were the ritzy New Englanders descended from the original settlers.
Barry, if Rex decides to part with any Travis books, I get first crack at them.
Austin, keep at it, the more you do the better you get at it.

barrywep said...

I loved "The Girl etc.". Very innovative and amusing. Of his non-McGee works I thought Condominium was terrific--an early and entertaining environmental statement.

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I like words puzzle it's quiet interesting because you learn a lot of new words and ancient terms too it's a nice way to study many stuff in general.