Saturday, April 19, 2008

Sunday, April 20 - John Farmer

Although he's kicked my butt on more than one occasion, I've always enjoyed John Farmer's puzzles...but he won my heart with this one.

I can't explain it...but as soon as I see circles in the grid, I get almost giddy.

Today's circles spelled out the names of the eight planets within the theme answers...and what excellent theme answers they were.

24A: 1941 Henry Luce article that coined a name for an era (THE AMERICAN CENTURY).

34A: Closeout come-on (EVERYTHING MUST GO).

52A: Novel that ends "Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody" (THE CATCHER IN THE RYE).

75A: Artful deception (SMOKE AND MIRRORS).

82A: 1972 Harry Nilsson hit (JUMP INTO THE FIRE).

107A: Prime eatery (FIVE STAR RESTAURANT). This was the answer that revealed the theme...or at least part of it.

125A: Stanley Cup finalists of 1982 and 1994 (VANCOUVER CANUCKS).

138A: Head of a special government inquiry (INDEPENDENT COUNSEL).

But there's more. 9D: Center of many revolutions (whose first letter starts a bonus phrase reading clockwise around the shaded squares). The first letter of the answer...sun...starts us around the grid to form SOLAR SYSTEM. I've highlighted the letters in the grid at the end of the post.

John even found a way to include 131D: 2006 neologism meaning "to demote."

Most difficult answers:

29A: Tevye creator __ Aleichem (Sholom).

33A: Celine Dion's "I'm Your Angel" duet partner (R. Kelly).

45A: Truncated cones, in math (frusta).

1D: "Number 10" Abstract Expressionist (Rothko). I believe I could paint something like that.

7D: Money (lucre). Haven't heard the word, but I'm guessing that lucrative comes from the same root.

8D: Botanist Gray (Asa).

15D: Spanish sherry (Amontillado)...although I'm sure I read Poe's story, "The Cask of Amontillado."

51D: Hills of Yorkshire (Wolds).

84D: Nick Nolte movie based on a Kurt Vonnegut novel (Mother Night). I'm a big Nick Nolte fan, but I'd never heard of this.

116D: Sting's last name (Sumner). I never stopped to think that he had one.

125D: Singh on the links (Vijay). I can never remember how to spell his name...or maybe it's that I don't ever remember it.

Favorites include 4A: 1960s-'80s Red Sox legend, informally (Yaz)...along with its cross at 6D: Closed (in on) (zeroed), 67A: First principles (axioms), 97A: 1984 Heisman winner (Flutie), 101A: Laughing gas and water, chemically (oxides), 104A: Lover in "The Merchant of Venice" (Portia), 134A: He played Krupa in "The Gene Krupa Story" (Mineo), 149A: Charles de Gaulle alternative (Orly), 48D: Royal Navy foe of 1588 (Armada), 59D: Bleeth of "Baywatch" (Yasmine), 102D: __ Zagora, Bulgaria (Stara), 121D: "Into the Wild" actor Emile (Hirsch) and 122D: Home of Gannon Univ. (Erie, PA).

The best clues in the puzzle are 1A: Thing in a case (res)...think Latin, 22A: King of comedy (Alan), 23A: Going rate?: Abbr. (mph), 70A: "I'm king of the world!," e.g. (boast), 113A: You can't take it with you (estate), 2D: Made a comeback? (echoed), 76D: Like some twins (evil)...can you spot the evil twin in the picture?, 124D: Past records? (LPs) and 130D: Jaded figure (cynic).

AcrossLite wouldn't accept my solution, and I couldn't find an error to save my life. I finally checked it against Harris's posted solution...and discovered it at 114A: Upstate N.Y. sch. I had RBI (wondering why they didn't clue it in relation to baseball), giving me pab (short for pablum?) for 104D: Infant's food. The correct answer for the school is RPI (I should have known that)...but how is pap a baby food? I hope someone knows and will share.

There was just so much to love about John's puzzle, and I barely scratched the surface. Did I miss your favorite?

Here's the grid...

...and I'll see you tomorrow.

Linda G


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Linda G said...

Spam comments return...sorry, but that means return of the squiggly letters for the time being. I hope that doesn't discourage your comments...but if I can keep one person from following one of those links, it's worth it.

wendy said...

Great puzzle. I love it when the presence of circles eventually helps me fill in incorrigible areas, which it did today after I finally glommed onto the theme as MERCURY peeked out at me from THE AMERICAN CENTURY. (I am such a gullible solver sometimes; you really have to beat me over the head.) The bonus phrase helped me fill in a few more letters too.

There were a few clues that I just couldn't conquer and I refused to google so I waited until I got here to get the bad news.

No problem with RPI as that's my dad's alma mater; my nemesis was that I had Four instead of FIVE STAR RESTAURANT! I was having such issues there but it never dawned on me that I should go up one more number. Shows you I don't travel in the right "circles"!

I loved that John put poor demoted PLUTO into the puzzle. One of the all time saddest comedowns.

Linda, Sting is actually Gordon Sumner, son of a milkman. Yes, it's true.

I always like it when STELLA appears in the puzzle. It never fails to remind me of the Seinfeld episode where Elaine is wigged out on painkillers from sleeping on a bad sofabed while visiting Jerry's parents in Florida and they're in some receiving line where she keeps yelling out STELLA in Marlon Brando style. Just one of many classic moments.

Anonymous said...

Hi Linda -- Thanks for being vigilant re spam. As to "pap" that is now applied to baby food b/c it is mashed. I am no authority, but I have seen the word pap used to describe mashed, mushy food such as invalids would eat. It is usually derogatory except when applied to baby food (go know!). Mostly I have seen its usage in books by Brit authors. As to the puzzle itself, I enjoyed it although I think the author leaned over a good bit for some of the definitions. I didn't look at the answers to the grayed letters, so thanks for telling us about solar system.

Anonymous said...

I liked that the planets appear in order from closest to the sun outwards - the mnemonic I learned still works without Pluto but not as well - Mary's violet eyes make John stay up nights (pining). ET

Anonymous said...

Parallel universes don't frighten's the perpendicular ones you have to watch out for. Like poor Mercury, crossed by the Sun in this puzzle. A fate worse than Pluto's. Come back Pluto, we hardly knew ya'!

I had no idea about the Solar System letters. Downloading and using AcrossLite, all I saw was "See Notepad". I don't know where said notepad may be. I see in the Magazine version, the hint is included with the clues. Perhaps my system is not the optimum, as it also means (on my print-out version) the circles cut through the answer numbers, meaning I have to look at adjoining parts of the grid to see where I am.

Anyway, an incredible show of cleverness on Mister Farmer's part. Pretty brilliant.

Oh, nice to see an ET chiming in on a day like today. And LInda, what is that heavenly body below Mercury and Venus in the picture?

wendy said...

KS - if you click on the notepad in acrosslite, it'll give you the little secret. It read one way there and another in the print puzzle, though.

Linda G said...

KS, if you click to enlarge the solar system picture (thanks again, Donald, for cluing me in on that trick), you'll see that the heavenly body is moving. A shooting star? Yasmine Bleeth or Sal Mineo in flight?

Wendy and KS, I thought one of you would comment on the evil twin...I had you in mind when I posted it ; )

wendy said...

Oh you did, did you? ;) Which one of us has the mustache, in your mind's eye?

I admit that was a favorite clue and answer.

Ellen said...

RPI is also the recent alma mater of Tyler Hinman.

Anonymous said...

use the dictionary-pap is bread soaked in water or milk to soften bread for infants or elderly, middle english origin, 15th century