## Thursday, January 25, 2007

Solving time: untimed

THEME: ONE TWO THREE FOUR (7D: Start of a march chant ... or a hint to 17-, 27-, 47- and 63-Across) - This answer runs vertically through the middle of the grid, from top to bottom; four theme answers, with the words ONE, TWO, THREE, and FOUR (respectively) hidden inside other words or word combinations, provide horizontal crosses to the vertical answer, with each horizontal answer intersecting the vertical answer at that answer's respective number, e.g. 63A (THEME): Bill Moyers speech on income inequality in America (Fight oF OUR Lives) intersects ONE TWO THREE FOUR at the "O" in FOUR.

Well, that's officially the longest explanation for a theme that I've ever had to offer, but it was worth it, as this puzzle is instantly a candidate for Best Thursday Puzzle of the year. Not just clever, but clever in multiple ways - hidden numbers, intersecting numbers, and then (whether intended or not) a total theme fake-out: the first theme answer had MONEY in it and the next one had SOU, and when I saw that the next one (47A (THEME): Critical stage in a space shuttle's flight (Earth re-entry)) had -REEN in it, I thought for sure that those letters would become GREEN and that the theme would, obviously (MONEY, SOU, GREEN) be words for currency. Wrrrrong. Very wrong. My misunderstanding of the theme thus meant that it took me Forever to see EARTH RE-ENTRY. I thought perhaps there was some technical NASA term that had the phrase GREEN DAY in it, and that, possibly, that was where the band got its name. Yes, I did actually think that, and am not saying it (just) to try to be funny.

Short entries today - Thursday is quite tight for me from now until, oh, mid-May.

17A (THEME): 50% likelihood (even money chance)

I have never heard of this phrase. I have heard the phrase EVEN MONEY, but the CHANCE part is new to me. Not having CHANCE meant that the whole NE corner stayed empty for a while, until a blessed, ubiquitous Genesis clue (10D: Leading man? (Adam)) bailed me out, as it has time and time again. While we're up in the NE, I'll say that 9A: Where some bolts fit (jambs) is a really, really odd clue, despite being, technically, correct. The answer to this could have been Anything. How about NECKS? GATES? DOORS? I do love the look of the word JAMB, I have to say. I am put off by 9D: Head (John), as it does not pass my personal breakfast-table test. [Male Doe?] is a better clue, and has the virtue of not referring to the toilet.

34A: _____ of color (riot)

I'm sorry, what? I could have worked on this answer from here to eternity and Never have guessed this. There are nearly 82K Google hits for this phrase, but yuck. [Zoot Suit pastime] works better for me. My ignorance of this answer made the West very thorny for me, despite the fact that when you look at the words over there, none of them is very troubling. My problems were made worse by my being unable to close the deal with IN---- at 24D: All together (intact). IN SYNC and IN STEP were making a lot more noise in my brain than INTACT was. Besides "RIOT of color," other answers I'd never heard of include:

• 69A: Artful Dodger (Reese) [Oh, Criminy, I JUST got this - you jerky clue-writers! Pee Wee Reese = "artful" at the position of shortstop for baseball's Dodgers = ugh - and here I thought I was missing a Dickens clue, or a cleverly worded clue about Della or Witherspoon]
• 52D: Monte _____ of Cooperstown (Irvin) - another baseball clue I didn't get, though at least this time I could tell that the frame of reference was, in fact, baseball. Other, hidden baseball answer in the puzzle: 30D: Steep-sided gulch (arroyo)

There were other answers that I knew, or knew of, but spaced on, such as 49D: One of the Castros (Raul) and 58D: Microscopic Dr. Seuss characters (Whos) and 60A: German honey (frau) - the last of which I spaced on because I thought they meant "honey" such as Pooh Bear is fond of.

Some potential Pantheoners make a strong showing here, including 39A: Jingle creator (adman) and 57D: Eyeball (ogle) and 13D: Hook hand (Smee).

I have to go prepare for work. I'll update the entry, with a few visuals, in the early afternoon. [I was wrong about this, sorry - by the time I had time to get back to this, it was time to do the next day's puzzle. My apologies]

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

Anonymous

Early afternoon has come and gone. I'm waiting.

Donald

Thanks! After completing what appeared to be just an alphabet soup, assumed there was no "theme" and lacked any admiration for Manny Nosowsky's creation; kinder constructions have nice little circles inserted into the squares for illumination, but perhaps that's only Monday and Sunday. NW corner stayed totally dark for eons until I got "odium".

Linda G

Agree with you on JOHN. I had an equally distasteful one going for a while. I had OBIT in place of OPED for 46A. Had NOTWORTHA but didn't know SOU, was thinking BIT. Had IRONS but not TRACE. So...31D (wet bar?) was looking like BO_B. Knew the Times wouldn't go there, so threw in the towel and looked you up. As always, thanks for being there.

BlueStater

I had the opposite opinion of today's puzzle by Manny -- namely, ecccchhh. I've been one of his biggest fans, but something happened to this one, I suspect because Shortz torqued the clues into something unrecognizable. For example: 22A, "With sound enhanced" ON MIKE? C'mon. Or 60A, "German honey," FRAU? A Frau, meine herren, is somebody else's honey. Used as it always is in the slang sense in English, to refer to an available, i.e. single, woman, a "German honey" would be a "frÃ¤ulein" (or, more likely, a "Schatzi"). Or 67A, "as required," DULY?!? And on and on -- there are three or four other out-of-bounds curveballs like this that bear the unmistakable stamp of the editor, who occasionally (less so in recent years) gives way to an inability to leave the very good alone. Bring back the unadulterated Manny!

Will Shortz

For the record, Thursday's clues for ON MIKE and DULY were Manny's. For FRAU, I changed Manny's "Herr's honey" to "German honey" -- just to be a little devious, but not altering the meaning of "honey."

--Will Shortz

Anonymous

Just found your blog. Thank you. Took me 1.1 hours for puzzle completion. Did "CPATEACH" and "SPAMTHEMAG" do it in their normal 1-2 minutes?

Rex Parker

I don't really care about applet cheaters (people who pre-solve the puzzle and then "solve" it on the Times' website, posting Ridiculous, Impossible times). It's not like anyone or anything's being harmed. Just their souls, I imagine.

rp

GM Career

A comment on yesterday's puzzle.
Coati Mundi: Probably the meanest
animal pound-for-pound on this earth. About as big as a small dog, they will fight a bear to the finish, most bears will forego the
contest.

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