Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Maybe I'm a schmuck. . .

Well, this one really wasn't geared toward me, was it? A Carolina country boy can't be expected to know much about Hebrew culture, can he? I solved the puzzle but only one of the themed words could I define, and that one only vaguely. If you're fluent in Yiddish, you were probably slapping your knee when you finished this puzzle; I was headed toward

That's okay, I always enjoy learning new stuff.

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. If you'd like to read about an unbiased head-to-head competition between the Sun and the Times check this out. Or if you'd rather decide for yourself you can download this puzzle and join in on the fun here.

"Puzzle Tov" is by Jack McInturff and the conceit here is a play on words from Jewish or Israeli culture, like so:

18A: Where Elijah's cup and the Haggadah are stored? (SEDER CLOSET) Seder is "a ceremonial dinner that commemorates the Exodus from Egypt and includes the reading of the Haggadah and the eating of symbolic foods, generally held on the first night of Passover by Reform Jews.". This is the one I knew. It was downhill from here.

34A: Tale about a round dance? (HORA STORY) a traditional Romanian and Israeli round dance.

39A: Journeys to get chocolate Hannukah candy? (GELT TRIPS) This one really had me scratching my head. The only time I've heard the word "gelt" it was the past tense of "geld" and that is one journey nobody wants to take. My old friend said it was also Yiddish slang for money. What did that have to do with chocolate candy? A little more research revealed another meaning of gelt -- chocolate that looks like money. I'd never heard this word before, but I'd seen gelt before. I think the Easter bunny may have brought me and my siblings some, but we didn't call it gelt, we called it chocolate money

55A: Fruity beverage served in a hut used in Tishri? (SUKKAH PUNCH) Sukkah is a booth or hut roofed with branches, built against or near a house or synagogue and used during the Jewish festival of Sukkoth as a temporary dining or living area. Tishri is the first month of the Jewish calendar. As much as I love corny jokes and wordplay, I have a feeling that if I did know Yiddish this one would've cracked me up.

Actually, the one that made me laugh the most was due to a misunderstanding, I thought 4A: Position that an up-and-comer is unlikely to take (MCJOB) was an emcee job and I couldn't see why an up-and-comer wouldn't take such a position. Aha! Mental repunctuation, as Richard Maltby reminds me every month in Harper's Magazine, is the key to solving the puzzle. McJob is a dead-end, low-paying position that an up-and-comer would wisely avoid.

Other entries of interest:

Losing pitcher to Don in his World Series perfect game (SAL) In the 1956 World Series Don Larsen of the Yankees threw what is still the only no-hitter in baseball postseason history -- and it was not only a no-hitter; it was a perfect game, where no one on the opposing team reached base by any means. His opponent that day was the Brooklyn Dodgers' Sal (The Barber) Maglie, so called because of his tendency to throw inside and up, giving batters a close shave, as it were. Don Larsen seems an unlikely choice to throw a perfect game under such pressure. He started game 2 of the '56 Series and only lasted two innings. his nickname was Goony Bird. On the same day as he threw the perfect game, his wife filed for divorce.
I am by no means a Yankee fan but that is cool -- the perfect game I mean, not the divorce.

The only other Yiddish word is in the clue at 17A: Schmear topper (LOX).

Christianity and Islam get equal time at 31A: He was affiliated with Peter, Paul, and Mary (Jesus) and 4D: Eid observers (MOSLEMS)

I love my tea, but I'd never heard the word "bohea" before -- 45D: Bohea's better alternative (PEKOE), bohea, it turns out, is an inferior grade of tea grown late in the season.

45A: Arroz con pollo tidbits (PEAS) Arroz con pollo is rice and chicken. Peas are optional, but add a nice touch of flavor and color.

9D: Wizards, formerly (BULLETS) before the NBA team moved to our nation's capital, they were known as the Baltimore Bullets. I read this clue too fast and was looking not for a former term for wizards but a formal one.

That's all for today. Shalom!


Austin said...

I think this was the fastest I've ever solved a Thursday puzzle, and I'm not very knowledgeable about Jewish culture, either.

Couple of things ... on the theme answers, did you want to put the whole answer in there? And when you're talking about SAL, I think you meant to say "I am by NO means a Yankee fan ..."

That being said, I think my favorite clue/answer was 34D: Those who have will power? (HEIRS)

Norrin2 said...

Austin, thank you for the proofreading. Corrections have been made.

cara said...

Just a heads up, none of those, with the exception of gelt, is a Yiddish word. Sukkah, seder, and hora are all Hebrew words.

Norrin2 said...

Thanks, Cara. It just goes to show I was in over my head here.

Howard B said...

Not necessarily over your head. For what it's worth, 'schmuck' is very, very Yiddish :).

If you're stuck on the theme, and you can still fight your way through the puzzle, that's pretty good stuff.