Saturday, February 16, 2008

Sunday, February 17 - Henry Hook

Henry Hook is a man after my own heart. His Sunday puzzle, Political Leaders, was full of of my favorite things.

Trouble is...I didn't get it.

Even after I finished the puzzle, with some help from Dogpile, I couldn't figure out the significance of the theme...revealed at 19A: With 105-Across, what the answer to each starred clue starts with (scrambled / president).

The starred clues...all good, as were the answers:

21A: Again (one more time)

23A: Baseball's Willie Mays, with "the" (Say Hey Kid).

24A: Fiancé (husband-to-be).

58A: Symbol of rejoicing for someone's long-awaited return (fatted calf). Maybe not so much in this day and age.

61A: Brownish-orange (terra cotta).

68A: Kind of ratio (price earnings).

100A: Decelerating (slowing down).

102A: Composer's due (royalties).

104A: Whatever happens (rain or shine).

After I finished solving the puzzle, I spent a good twenty minutes trying to figure out how the start of each starred answer made a scrambled president. I took that quite literally, though, and just had the first letter of each answer. O, S, H, D, F, T, S, R, R...meant zero.

I know that Donald at The New York Times Crossword in Gothic generally solves and posts early, so I checked him out. I was right in a sense, but much more wrong than right. Check out his blog for his explanation of the anagrams...the only one I caught as I was writing this was Taylor from the first six letters of royalties.

I didn't have too many gimmes in this. The noteworthy ones were 1A: Words "beautifully marked in currants" in "Alice in Wonderland" (Eat Me), 13A: Destination in Genesis 8 (Ararat), 34A: Bigwig (nabob)...thanks to its previous appearances, 106A: Cantankerous (ornery), 8D: All the parts of a column except the bottom (addends), 16D: Laugh-a-minute (riot), 41D: Passing remark? ('scuse me)...makes me think about "while I kiss this guy," and 83D: Creator of "Hägar the Horrible" (Browne).

Best clues in the puzzle include 45A: Crunch's title (Cap'n), 46A: Rod holders (retinae), 75A: Supermarket lines? (UPC code), 99A: Like wiping one's dirty mouth on one's sleeve (gauche), 1D: Mississippi quartet (esses), 13D: Ball handler? (Arnaz), 31D: Bar personnel (bouncers), 86D: Noble partner (Barnes) and 90D: Dots on a map (towns).

Some of my favorite answers...because of their Scrabbly letters or just how they looked in the grid:

28A: Home of Faa'a International Airport (Tahiti).

30A: Jury pool (venire)...short for venire facias.

31A: Watch-crystal holder (bezel).

67A: West Coast wine city (Ukiah)...have never heard of it, but I know where it is because of 91D: Home of 67-Across: Abbr. (Calif).

88A: Indy champ Bobby (Rahal).

91A: __ of vantage (good position for viewing) (coign). Totally unknown to me...and I was sure it was wrong.

96A: Split (cloven)...and the same clue for 98A (forked).

4D: "Real Time" moderator (Maher).

33D: Rears (keisters)...used often by my father when we were kids.

39D: Tourist mecca near Venezuela (Aruba).

46D: Schumacher of auto racing (Ralf).

80D: Muse of music (Euterpe). Yesterday it was Clio.

There are so many more good ones, but I want to go spend some time with Don and Elaine.

Here's the grid...

...and I'll see you tomorrow.

Linda G


Anonymous said...

I'm big fan of Donald's blog too. He was the first person to include a link to my blog when it was brand new; without him nobody would have discovered me. Plus he's a true, blue crossword fan and that comes through every day.

I'm including discussion about him (and you too, Linda) in an upcoming post on crossword blogs. :)

Anonymous said...

First several letters of the * clues are scrambled names of presidents.

24 Bush
61 Carter
100 Wilson
102 Taylor

Didn't help in completing puzzle - afterthought. Didn't check the rest.

Anonymous said...

I don't mind anagrams if the word or words make up all the letters, but this puzzle was just too obscure and tried too hard to be clever. The Times and Will Shortz are trying to find "clever" but this is a poor excuse for it. The comments seem positive -- but when will someone stand up for creating puzzles that challenge but play fair and don't over-reach trying to be clever and end up not even being cute or smart???

wendy said...

I agree with you, anonymous. This theme did overreach in that it didn't add anything at all to the solving process; it was completely superfluous. I love political anything and by the end it mattered not one iota to me which presidents were buried in the lovely long answers.

Love the Jimi reference, Linda. I've been arguing with myself over which of his songs to include in my blog and have yet to decide on the best one. Purple Haze is certainly in the running!

And speaking of SCUSE ME, in that space I had An Aside. Y'know, as an aside? Wrecked everything over there for some time.

I too am a Donald fan. The imagery he selects each day for his post blows me away.

JPF said...

68 Pierce
21 Monroe
23 Taft

still working on 104

JPF said...

104 Eisenhower

Linda G said...

I agree that the theme didn't add to the solving experience...still a good puzzle overall.

Even with my anal tendencies, I was able to walk away from the anagrams...a big step for me.

Perry, 104 is HARRISON. Good try, though ; )

JPF said...


wendy said...

I didn't check; was my favorite president Millard Fillmore in there anywhere? ;)

Anonymous said...

I think it's "'scuse me while i kiss the sky"
21 monroe
23 hays
24 bush
53 adams
58 taft
61 carter
68 pierce
100 wilson
102 taylor
104 harrison

Linda G said...

anonymous 10:57...check out ( for other misunderstood lyrics. Some of them are too funny.

Anonymous said...

Wendy -- I agree with your agreeing that the puzzle over-reached in the quest for clever. I got it all except "coign" so it isn't that I didn't have what to work with -- and after I read the blog and comments I found some of the presidents -- but it was so uninteresting I didn't even check them all. Here's to a better experience next week. "Scuse me" (which I got) was a bastardization and to play fair, shoulda had some notation, like "var." or "slang" or a more esoteric description. That's what I mean about playing fair and addressing an audience beyond adlescence.

Sandy said...

Wow. This is the first time I have not been able to get the "trick" on my own. I was googling 'retinae' to see how it could possibly be a 'rod holder' and found your blog. I'm bookmarking your blog! It's nice to see my fellow crossworders' responses to the NYT puzzles. I am ashamed I turned to reference tools this time for Ukiah, coign, Mischa Auer, Damascus steel, and so many others! This was the first time I have needed to do anything other than ask my husband for the name of a sports figure.

Kim said...

Aaaaaah, so nice to find this place. My girlfriend and I were't sure if anyone else had as much difficulty with the schwerpunkt of this one. Incredibly interesting though. Don't you just love to be confused occasionally. I do. The pecentage of solution would be of interest

Linda G said...

Schwerpunkt is a new one for me, Kim...although I can sort of guess the meaning.

I agree that being confused occasionally is a good thing. How boring life would be if we knew everything ; )