Friday, 1/6/12

NYT 4:40 
LAT 3:48 
CS 11:26 (Sam) 
WSJ (Friday) 8:38 
CHE 6:12 (pannonica) 

David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword

NYT crossword solution, 1 6 12 #0106

Lots to like here, and only one square to hate. (The latter is where 7d: [Russian ballerina Galina] ULANOVA hits 20a: ["Dove __" (Mozart aria)] SONO. I tried ULALOVA and SOLO first.)

Tops on my Likes list:

  • 1a. JIFFY LUBE! Fun brand name to say, nice 1-Across opener. Now, Jiffy Pop popcorn would be even better.
  • 17a, 60a. Pop songs from the ’50s, ’60s, and 2010,”MAYBE BABY” and “FOXY LADY” and “WE R WHO WE R.”
  • 37d. ATALANTA, the [Mythical runner] best known to me from Free To Be…You and Me.
  • 36d. The neologism PALINISM is clued by way of a neologism, ["Refudiate," e.g.]. Circle of life, my friends. Circle of life.
  • 13d. Medical terminology! I tried FLAT FOOT before FLAT FEET for pes planus. Most people do have two feet, so the plural works.
  • Other zippy pop culture stuff includes MARIO KART and TIME TRAX and EX-LAX and Simon LEBON, who I thought was the bees’s knees around 1983. Wait, I just inserted a laxative into the pop culture category.

Oddball entries that are hard to parse in the grid: the kind of strip at 23a is a NO-PEST insect control strip (and this was not helping me put together ULANOVA, I tell you), and the Nike competitor at 45d keeps looking like LAG EAR, which surely is a medical condition among lop-eared rabbits, rather than L.A. GEAR.

Overall, 4.25 stars. The high sparkle quotient pushes the rating up, but that ULANOVA/SONO crossing knocks it down back down to 4.25. Still a fun puzzle.

Updated Friday morning:

Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Extended Barking” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, January 6

The four theme entries to this Bob Klahn offering all have the word YAP hidden inside:

  • 17-Across: The [Woody Allen comedy with a rhyming title] is MIGHTY APHRODITE, the movie that ignited my ongoing crush on Mira Sorvino.
  • 29-Across: The [festive "Deck the Halls" attire] is our GAY APPAREL that we now don.
  • 49-Across: A BARBARY APE is a [Misnamed tailless monkey]. I’m guessing it’s the APE part that’s wrong and not the BARBARY part. Yep, Google confirms: it’s a macaque. I know the Barbary Coast (it’s a dive of a casino on the Las Vegas Strip), but I wasn’t aware of the Barbary ape. I wonder if you can see a Barbary ape playing 21 at the Barbary Coast. A blackjack macaque. I smell a theme….
  • 62-Across: [He planted nurseries rather than orchards] is a reference to JOHNNY APPLESEED. Hey, kids–it’s time to play Find the Lie! I’ll give you four statements about Johnny Appleseed, and you tell me which one is a lie (I should note that I pulled the other three statements from Wikipedia, so they might be lies too): (1) Johnny Appleseed was born John Swedenborg, and his mother died while he quite young; (2) when asked why he didn’t marry, Appleseed said that two female spirits would be his wives in the after-life if he stayed single on earth; (3) Appleseed cared about animals too: when he heard a horse was to be put down, he bought the horse, bought a few grassy acres nearby, and turned the horse out to recover–when it did, he gave the horse to someone needy, exacting a promise to treat the horse humanely; and (4) in addition to spreading apple seeds, he was also known for spreading the gospel–he converted many Native Americans, about whom he wrote with fondness, “I have traveled more than 4,000 miles about this country, and I have never met with one single insolent Native American.” The incorrect statement appears at the end of this write-up. No peeking until you guess!

Anyone else note the flowery feel in this puzzle? There’s an OXLIP, an AZALEA right next to some POPLARS bearing tulips, and even THE ROSE, the [Biopic inspired by Janis Joplin]. Even the clue for OPEN is [In full flower]. There’s so much pollen in this puzzle I’m starting to sneeze!

As usual, there are lots of great clues. My favorites were in the northwest corner. [Keys at the piano] had me thinking of lots of things (IVORIES, EBONIES, et al) but not proper names. It’s ALICIA Keys. [Northpaw?] is a fun clue for RIGHTY (left-handed folks are southpaws, so it stands to reason that righties would be northpaws). TWO PAIR is a great entry, and the clue ([Kings and queens at Caesar's Palace, perhaps]) is fun even if it didn’t fool me for a second. Ditto with BOPPER, the [Teeny follower?].

This grid wasn’t exactly the smoothest, what with ICH, DER, IER, and WYE strewn about. There were some tricky entries, too.  SAPID, meaning [Mouth-watering], is not a word on the tip of my tongue, and for whatever reason I always seem to struggle with EPODES, the [Horatian "aftersongs"] (nice euphemism).

I admit I’m no fan of cluing SEC with [Like Chianti and Chablis]. Until thirty seconds ago, I had no idea that SEC is an adjective for “dry, as in wine.” (So does that mean that triple sec is really, really dry? Any sots care to help me out?) When it’s crossing the fugly and not entirely intuitive CTNS, an abbreviation for [Boxes] (cartons), this solver needs an easier clue for SEC. The other clue that really vexed me was [Hits what's pitched] for COPES. Come again? Even after looking up “cope” in my dictionary, I’m still not figuring out how this clue works. Fortunately I was confident enough in the crossings to stick with COPES.

Oh, the incorrect statement in Find the Lie was number (1). Appleseed’s given surname was Chapman. Swedenborg is the theologian/philosopher whose writings were the subjects of Appleseed’s preachings. Thanks for playing!

Ki Lee’s Los Angeles Times crossword

LA Times crossword answers, 1 6 12

Kudos for a theme I haven’t seen before: The phrase BACK TO SQUARE ONE doubles as the instructions for completing the other theme answers, each of which is missing its final letter but that letter can be supplied by going BACK TO SQUARE ONE, as the word/phrase’s first letter is repeated at the end:

  • 17a. [*Major financial concern] is ECONOMIC COLLAPS(e).
  • 22a. [*Numbers field?] is ANESTHESI(a), the specialty for doctors who numb patients up and/or render them unconscious.
  • 50a. [*Fantasized] clues DAYDREAME(d).
  • 59a. To [*Misrepresent, in a way] is to TAKE OUT OF CONTEX(t).

I like the theme concept, but it would be more of a knockout if the four affected theme answers had something in common or had some sort of connection to the phrase back to square one.

Favorite answers/clues:

  • 1a. [You might do it after making a wish] is BLOW, as in blow out the candles on your birthday cake. Today would’ve been my crossword-loving grandma’s 100th birthday!
  • 28a. TOUGH LOVE is a [Caring but strict approach].
  • 64a. ["The __ Affair": Jasper Fforde novel] clues EYRE. Fforde’s Thursday Next mysteries involve a literary detective who enters various fictional worlds of literature, such as going into Jane Eyre.
  • 5d. [Name meaning "beloved"] is AIMEE or Amy.
  • 31d. [Subject of the biography "The Man Who Loved Only Numbers"] is ERDOS. People who write papers about mathematics have Erdos numbers, which I think is the math equivalent of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.
  • 60d. UMS are [Thinking-on-one's-feet indicators]. You may think it’s bogus to pluralize this answer, but how often do you hear a speaker use a slew of “um”s? Nice clue.

Not crazy about all the fill here. A little more in the vein of ENSE STYE IERE DEO OSOS PLATY SATO STR, etc., than one would like to see. The thematic freshness is welcome, though. 3.25 stars.

Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Chill Out”

WSJ crossword solution, "Chill Out" 1 6 12

Phonetically, a “BRR” (111-Down) is added to 10 phrases to warp them into something different:

  • 23a. [Bonsai trees cut down for wood?] = TINY TIMBER (Tiny Tim)
  • 25a. “Charlotte’s Web” pig no longer confined to a pen?] = FREE WILBUR (free will)
  • 40a. Giving Justin a breather by taking the stage for him?] = SPELLING BIEBER (spelling bee). Spelling “Bieber” is also challenging for many people who never studied German and are convinced that “Beiber” makes more sense.
  • 56a. Church work by a woman who’s not ordained?] = LAY-LADY LABOR (“Lay, Lady, Lay”)
  • 61a. Pekoe-potato trade?] = TEA FOR TUBER (“Tea for Two”)
  • 74a. One cutting locks in airlocks?] = SPACE BARBER (space bar)
  • 77a. Proud parent’s comment when Junior calculates 2 x 2 x 2?] = THAT’S  MY CUBER (“that’s my cue”)
  • 96a. Cop’s disappointed cry on reading a breathalyzer?] = “SAY IT AIN’T SOBER” (“say it ain’t so”). I don’t like the “it” paired with “sober” here, because who would say that?
  • 111a. Roman river after a big ink spill?] = BLACK TIBER (black tie)
  • 113a. Fan fiction based on “Cimarron” and “Show Boat”?] =- FAUX FERBER (faux fur)

I liked the theme for the most part—it was kind of fun to try to figure out the theme answers based on the clue, with the variations on “brr” spellings increasing the difficulty. Was less enamored of the fill, though MR. BUBBLE is delightful. 3.5 stars.

Mark Bickham’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Peak-a-Boo” — pannonica’s review

CHE crossword 1/6/12 • "Peak-a-Boo" • Bickham • solution

The tall 15×16 grid is apposite, as the long vertical theme entries conceal—not quite shrouded in mist—the names of four famous mountain ranges spanning words. 25-across plays revealer: [Skill helpful in discovering the quartet hidden in 3, 5, 7, and 8 Down] RANGE FINDING. While I know what a range finder is and have a vague idea of how one is used, I’m not sure how much currency it has in verb form.

  • 3d. [Region bordered by the Euphrates] SYRIAN DESERT. Wikipedia informs me that it is a combination of steppe and desert and that “the desert is very rocky and flat and mountainous.” So the answer itself contains some elevation.
  • 5d. [Study of nonhuman behavior] ANIMAL PSYCHOLOGY. With the -OGY in place I confidently filled in ETHOLOGY, which caused me trouble toward the end of the solve, as the puzzle was not sewing up properly. If you’re a biology major, you think ethology. If your a psychology—or perhaps sociology—major, I suppose you think of animal psychology. The two disciplines strike me as being distinct and I feel ethology is a better answer for the clue. But of course I’m biased.
  • 7d. [Severe throat ailment] ACUTE TONSILLITIS. Why is that second L in there, anyway?
  • 8d. [Centerpiece of Darwinian theory] NATURAL SELECTION. Eh, I guess you could call it a centerpiece of the theory.

So, with the ANDES, the MALPS, the TETONS, and the URALS we have three continents represented, Asia twice. The puzzle would have been stronger if a fourth was invoked. Perhaps Africa’s Atlas Mountains? Something like HOME AT LAST, PEACE AT LAST, perhaps even the slightly awkward FERMAT LAST THEOREM? Scratch that, it’s seventeen letters; it would have to spill over into the margin.

I was wondering if the longish TIRAMISU at 17a was intentionally clued [Dessert name that's Italian for "pick me up"] to echo the theme, but I doubt it, as its symmetrical partner TWIN SIZE (which sits below the simpatico TANDEM) is thoroughly unrelated. Speaking of symmetrical pairs, I got a weird feeling about ANGOLAN and ANGORAS looking too similar. And pity the poor DALAI (56a) Lama, searching in vain for the missing HIMALAYAS.

Else:

  • 28d [Musk-secreting mammal] BEAR CAT, which is, of course, neither bear nor cat, although it’s in the Carnivore family with those other two. The binturong is a large viverrid—think civets, genets, and linsangs (all wonderful cruciverbal and Scrabble words)—and one of the few carnivores to possess a prehensile tail. Their musk has a sweet, buttery smell.
  • Was completely flummoxed by 32a [Sash insert] because I only thought of  obis and beauty pageant tiaras. PANE.
  • Speaking of crosswordy entities, where, where were the oh-so appropriate SNO-CAPS??

Stick a flag in me, I’m done.

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45 Responses to Friday, 1/6/12

  1. Tuning Spork says:

    Many thanks to David and/or Will for the x-tra info on the 60-Across clue.

    After some initial easiness, it morphed into a challenging Friday, afterall. Me likey.

  2. Bananarchy says:

    WERWHOWER has been on my must-fill shortlist for a while, but I would have never dreamed of sticking it in a NYT submission! Just goes to show how much I have to learn about Will’s taste…
    Loved it; 4.5 stars from me

  3. joon says:

    i’ve seen WE R WHO WE R in a BEQ crossword. i’ve seen MARIOKART in a natan last crossword. not sure i’ve seen TIME TRAX (but probably TRAX?), but hey, the crosses were all there. but the 2×2 box around LEB__, ULA__VA, S__O and __PEST was simply unsolvable—i am quite sure i have never seen any of those in a crossword. i’m going to pat myself on the back for guessing three of the four squares correctly. that was incredibly frustrating, enough to pretty well dampen my spirits despite the rest of the grid being really quite spectacular.

  4. Tuning Spork says:

    Note to Self: Fresh entries stump Joon.

    Got it. :-D

  5. Matt says:

    NYT was a mix of popcult and more classical clues, generally entertaining and doable. FWIW, I knew ULANOVA and NOPEST, given a couple of letters, and got LEBON and SONO as plausible guesses. On the other hand, the intersection of LAGEAR and WERWHOWER was a pure guess and PAIN for a sibling was rather odd, IMO. Also puzzled for a while by WIGGLE/WIGWAG, ADREM/INREM (not a lawyer), and AIDA as a ‘musical’.

  6. Gareth says:

    I’m seeing lots of quite experienced solvers battling at any number of different points today. LEBON was a gimme for me and I’d seen ULANOVA before, no trouble there. On the other hand, the first and last letters of yVEs were sheer guesses for me, right ones as it happened. On the other hand, I couldn’t parse WERWHoWER right, but after trying each letter Mr. Happy Pencil appeared. I probably would have left it as an E if I was solving on paper. Fairly sire I’ve heard the song though, as I listened to that entire album during a painful period of a roadtrip of sorts last year…

  7. janie says:

    talk about yer “different strokes”… first entry for me? SONO… and not that everything came easily. plenty o’ resistance throughout, but all areas solvable. one terrific solve today!

    ;-)

  8. ArtLvr says:

    I’m with Janie — The wistful Mozart aria “Dove sono?” (Where are they?) is singing in my head now, but I never got that WE R WHO WE R UNRAVELED. Yech! Liked the PALINISM, after taking out Malaprop… I did get the Klahn without too much trouble, as Tulip POPLARS and AZALEAS were common in Maryland where I lived for a dozen years. And I’m glad to have figured out this WSJ before breakfast — a good mind-bender to wake one up!

  9. Spencer says:

    “pes” is plural, thus FLAT FEET

  10. Cyrano says:

    A third for Dove SONO being a gimme. For an opera lover, it is really nice to see something besides ERI TU, which I personally don’t enjoy nearly as much. But I was naticked on OKA/MARIOKART out of laziness but more slapped by WIGWAG for which I had WAGWAG and ASK instead of INK…nonsensical but so i WERWHOWER to me.

  11. Victor Barocas says:

    Simon Le Bon will forever hold a special place in my heart for the end of the “View to a Kill” video. If you haven’t seen it, here is a link:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fp4CR2HcHLQ

    If you just fast forward to 3:45, you’ll see the awesome part.

  12. Karen says:

    WIGWAG was new to me. I got caught at the MARIOKART/OKA crossing. And the northwest was unsolvable for me–YVES, ULANOVA, NOPEST, SONO. It didn’t help that I kept thinking Simon BONN.

    I’m still not clear about the clue for NYT 1D–is it referring to a broad JUMPER? It shouldn’t be a dress…

  13. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Well, it just goes to show. Dove sono and Galina Ulanova were my first gimme entries. I managed to get Simon Somethingorother from the crosses. I absolutely hated, hated, hated the SE, and never quite managed to come up with all the right guesses. Does anyone actually know 60a and 63a?

    Bruce

  14. David says:

    Karen – I think 1D refers to a jump shot (jumper) in basketball.

    David

  15. Zulema says:

    More different strokes: my first entry was FLAT FEET, second ULANOVA, third DOVE SONO. AIDA is a “musical” because the clue reference is to the musical, not the opera. Way too many pop-cult names and/or titles in one themeless puzzle. And it took me a while to figure out how GOAT was “attack,” but that was my fault, not the puzzle’s.

  16. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Bruce: My son listens to top-40 radio and plays video games. I got 60a and 63a with little difficulty. That said, Ke$ha’s songs are annoying and the sound effects in MarioKart for Wii are annoying.

  17. Pamela says:

    Ulanova and sono were the first words in my grid. If I rated the puzzles, then star would be lost for the Ke$ha song crossing Volga tributary. Luckily, my kids played Mario Kart so was able to get the K.

  18. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I left off my last post too negatively, especially since David is a new and tremendously talented constructor. There was much about the puzzle that I liked. This was overshadowed by my earlier comments. (And I think it was one of David’s a couple weeks ago that I was championing in the face of some negative and luke warm reactions.) Clever clueing; liked “palinism” though it is one of those words on the edges of my consciousness; like the nod to legal terminology; liked the balance between old and new.

    Brucer

  19. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Also–Yves Tanguy has long been my favorite surrealist, above even Dali whom I also like. Tangiuy paints weird, sciencefictionay landscapes, which appeal to me.

    Re Dali–years ago (probably in the late 60′s, when I was at Juilliard) he paid a visit to Columbia University. The Columbia students welcomed him with a rousing chorus of “Hello Dolly”–which he loved, of course.

    Bruce

  20. Jan (danjan) says:

    I didn’t have trouble with WE R WHO WE R (glad there was a little hint in the clue about creative spelling), but did get hung up in the NOPEST strip area. Couldn’t remember ULANOVA’s exact spelling (probably because I listened to “Apollo’s Angels” on CD – great book, but worst pronunciations of ubiquitous French terms and names ever on the CDs – a real shame). I also at first had “chants” instead of BEBOPS for the Monk music, and LEBON was new to me.

  21. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Another interesting aside: Lenin, (Ulyanov) and Palin in the same puzzle. Fair and balanced as Fox Socallednews would say.

    Bruce

  22. Bananarchy says:

    @Bruce – Your original comment didn’t strike me as overly negative about the puzzle in general, but I understand where you’re coming from. For me, 60a was the first thing I dropped in and 63a followed once I got a few crosses, whereas ULANOVA and SONO completely killed me. I get frustrated as well when an entire section is left to guesswork because of “know-it-or-you-dont” proper nouns, but I do try to acknowledge that solvers are all over the map in terms of age, interests, experience, etc. (and I jump on the chance to broaden my knowledge base via unfamiliar entries – I’ve learned today that YVESTANGUY has produced some outta sight work). I’m sure that decisions to run puzzles like this are never easy, but I for one like the fact that editors will take a chance on MARIOKART and Ke$ha. That stuff is an important part of the zeitgeist for me and those around me.

    Really, what I like most about forums like this is the constant reminder of how wildly solvers’ brains vary!

  23. Gareth says:

    Amen to that last point Bananarchy

  24. joon says:

    i like to think of myself as having a wide knowledge base, but i think you really do have to be an operaphile to know SONO. it’s not the name of an opera, a composer, a librettist, or a major character. it’s not on a compilation of the 100 most famous arias, according to whoever compiles such things. it’s not clear from the title what language it’s in; perhaps the clue is referring to a translated title—e.g. the “flower song” from carmen, which is commonly referred to that way by english speakers even though the opera is in french. but even if you can correctly deduce that it’s italian, all you really know is that you are looking at a word that ends in a vowel. i kind of wanted ULANOVA because of ULYANOV, but i’m not even sure those are the same name, and SOLO looked righter than SONO by more than ULANOV looked righter than ULALOVA.

    anyway, the mozart clue is the kind of clue i’d be happy to see in general, because it teaches me something new and interesting (as opposed to {Prefix with gram}), but the crosses have to be solid in order for that to work. so i think this is a rare misstep on the part of the editor—with the actual crosses, the lousy prefix clue would actually have been a better choice.

    (the irony in me pointing this out is not lost on me, by the way. i distinctly remember a recent themeless of mine having TIMUR clued as the character from turandot crossing ULALUME at the M, making for another brutal crossing for non operaphiles.)

    there’s no real cluing alternative to make the SE easier for people who didn’t know WE R WHO WE R or MARIOKART where they crossed LA GEAR, SAW II, OKA, and WIGWAG, so i’m fortunate that i knew both of those. either way, the whole puzzle was breathtakingly fresh and i’m excited about david steinberg’s bright future. but for today, failure smarts.

  25. Daniel Myers says:

    @spencer–Not sure if you are just being whimsical or what but, for the record, pes planus is most definitely singular. The plural would be pedes plani—I liked the puzzle, but being a fusty pen-and-ink solver, made the same gaffe as Amy did on the 7D, 20A crossing, guessing “L” rather than “N”. A small price to pay for getting all the other zesty zingers.

  26. David L says:

    @joon: ‘dove sono’ is easy if, like me, you’re not an operaphile but happen to know a little Italian. Just means ‘where are.’ The kind of phrase that, for reasons I don’t really understand, seems acceptable crosswordese if it’s Spanish, possibly if it’s French, but not if it’s German, Italian, or Serbo-Croatian.

  27. ArtLvr says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEPB6sfRdOI
    Youtube rendition of the aria from the Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, with English across the bottom as it unwinds with jealous fears mounting– and I’m sorry I can’t give this to you in clickable form, but enjoy. Oh, it works!

  28. Alex says:

    “Dove sono” can also mean “Where am I?” which is how I interpreted it. Don’t know any opera, but my limited Italian made that one not too difficult.

    EDITED TO ADD: well, apparently that’s not what it means in the opera, but my Italian does appear to check out, anyway.

  29. Amy Reynaldo says:

    And yet! If you don’t know Italian, “Dove ___” doesn’t look Italian and there’s nothing in the clue to suggest that it is. Even if the clue did hint at that, anyone who doesn’t know Italian would be no closer to guessing SONO. I have never, ever encountered “dove sono” = “where are.” “Dove”? Really? Had no idea.

  30. joon says:

    what amy said (and i said, more longwindedly, a little earlier). and david L, the “reasons you don’t understand” are, i’m guessing, related to the fact that there are several orders of magnitude more native spanish- and french-speakers in this country than italian speakers (much more so spanish than french, but still true of french). i’m guessing every high school offers spanish and most offer french classes, but rarely italian (or any other language). most americans’ knowledge of italian would be limited mostly to terms you’d see on an italian restaurant menu. i have no special knowledge of spanish and have never visited a spanish-speaking country, but i have seen/heard “donde esta” many times, just from living in america for 3+ decades. “dove sono” 0 times. (well, 1 now.)

  31. Bananarchy says:

    @Amy: Not only is there no indication of Italian, the only hint at a language is the Austrian composer’s name (who wrote operas in German, Latin, and Italian). Somehow, though, I still inferred Italian (not that that helped me solve it).

  32. ktd says:

    Just want to add my two cents about SONO: I knew it would have to be an Italian word but I wasn’t going to guess off the top of my head. The question was, could I get it through crossings? And for me that a no. I had to google to complete YVES, LEBON, and ULANOVA, having never heard of any of those people. So in my case it seems like this segment of the puzzle was a bit too trivia-name heavy.

  33. ktd says:

    Realized my comment echoes the earlier post by @Bananarchy–should have acknowledged. Sorry!

  34. Cyrano says:

    Just since some of the indignation (rightfully or wrongly) has been directed at the actual clue for Dove SONO, I’m surprised I’m the first person to check and see that it has been used before in the Times, 12/22/02 as Mozart aria “Dove _____” also in 2010 as “I am” in Italy and bizarrely in 2006 as “Ronzoni _____ buoni” (old ad slogan). I’m sure the crosses were better (I didn’t look) but its not like this is a hapax legomenon.

  35. Bruce N. Morton says:

    First let me add my complete agreement with Bananarchy’s last post.

    I swore, swore, swore, that I was not going to allow myself to drawn into the contretemps over ‘Dove Sono.’ I’m sure that what I say will be taken as–well–you can decide how to take it.The older I get, the less I care about what people think about what I say. It is not intended as disrespectful of anyone here, indeed, if I did not greatly respect all the regular posters here, I would not bother adding my 2 (4, 6, 8?) cents.

    The aria “Dove Sono” and the opera from which it is taken “The Marriage of Figaro” (or as I sometimes call it “Oh. Susanna”) is one of the soaring monuments of western culture. A wonderful recitative, followed by one of those inexplicably, incomprehensibly gorgeous, arias–C Major (at least I’m hearing it mentally in C Major, which is probably correct since it is a basically G Major opera)–a diatonic, simplistic, almost naive theme–Do……Re, Do, Si, Do, Re MI………Fa, Mi, Re, Do Re etc. It is sung by Countess Almaviva, wistfully deploring “Dove sono, (where are) my happy times of old?) The plot is a comical mess–a bedroom farce, people hiding in closets, jumping out of windows, characters discovering they are the long lost children of other characters, mistaken identities etc. etc. WARNING TO FEMINISTS–one of the early plot complications is the notorious ‘Droit du Seigneur,” (upon the marriage of a subservient woman.)

    I’m amazed by the earnest argumentation about “what language is “dove. . .” is. Mozart was an Italian opera composer. Admittedly, one would have to know this. His great operas were in Italian–a few were in German, notably “Die Zauberflote” and “Bastien und Bastienne” and a few other minor ones. What possible language could “dove. . .” be? An English translation of a pigeon? Far fetched at best. Of course, not everyone is going to have even a minimal knowledge of Italian. But to my mind, understanding “Dove sono” in Italian is like understanding “Una cerveza mas” in Spanish.

  36. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Somehow that got posted inadvertently.

    What upsets me is the idea that this entry is outrageously outside the bounds of what is reasonably expected in a solver, when one is expected to know every bizarre rapper, rock group; one is expected to know the *second* place finisher on an idiot American Idol show–(that one practically made me apoplectic;) one is not only expected to know who eminem is, but also that he is called something else–Shaky Slick, or something of the sort. etc. etc.

    I suppose I should cut my losses and stop.

    Bruce

  37. Martin says:

    “What upsets me is the idea that this entry is outrageously outside the bounds of what is reasonably expected in a solver, when one is expected to know every bizarre rapper …”

    I couldn’t agree more, Bruce.

    -MAS

  38. sbmanion says:

    ULANOVA was a gimme. As janie has often noted, my first entry is often her last and vice versa. My last entry was the O in S_NO and LEB_N. I wasn’t troubled by the crossing even though–as I am sure is even more the case with Joon–it is rare for me to be flat guessing at any crossing.

    My gripe goes more to the issue of what is fair in a crossword. I am pretty sure that MARIO KART is one of the all-time best selling video games with perhaps 1000 people being aware if it and its spelling for evey one that knows DOVE SONO. On the other hand, the ratio is probably closer to 10 to one in the crossword world. In spite of this, I think that Will would be much more likely to reject a crossword with an “obscure” video game reference over one with an “obscure” opera reference or little known author.

    Each year for the past three years, there seemed to be fewer sports references than there were the year before. And I am still waiting for a themed puzzle with nothing but card games.

    Steve

  39. John Haber says:

    I actually got the NW, not because I knew “Dove Sono” (and I’m really into Mozart), but it looked reasonable. So somehow I navigated LEBON, ULANOV, and JIFFY LUBES, none of which ring a bell, and BE BOP as a verb.

    The SE defeated me, where I guessed the chart topper might be WE R THE WE R, didn’t know the river given the two outer letters, didn’t recognize the horror movie, and couldn’t complete MARIO_ _. I got LA GEAR only as a guess, and I’m a runner so thought of Adidas, New Balance, Asics, and a couple of other options, but what in heck was that? So for me it’s junk entries not worth knowing.

  40. cyberdiva says:

    Bruce, I’m glad you didn’t cut your losses before you posted your last message. I’m in total agreement. Mozart’s aria “Dove sono” has given pleasure for well over two hundred years. I doubt that WeRWhoWeR or Mario Kart will last for even another ten years, except perhaps in crossword puzzles.

  41. David Steinberg says:

    Thanks for all the interesting comments, everyone. @Amy, I really like the sound effects in MarioKart, though my parents hate them!

  42. Dan F says:

    Bruce, for the record (since this is the third time you’ve complained about it, and just FYI – you are entitled to your well-stated opinions!): that second-place “American Idol” finisher was one of the three or four most successful singers to come from that show. Not saying he’s an important artist, but he’s definitely famous enough for the crossword, “second place” notwithstanding. My god, I can’t believe I’m defending Clay Aiken.

  43. Zulema says:

    This discussion has been close to my heart. Thank you, Bruce, though my reasons for people knowing DOVE SONO are slightly different. A smattering of Western languages is something that every English speaker should be expected to have, the most elementary sort, as in DOVE SONO. And as it was pointed out, SONO has been in our crosswords before.

    Cyberdiva, I hope that even in crossword puzzles, Mario Kart and WeRWhoWeR will not be found sitting on top of each other ever again, however optimistic your long view of their life expectancy is. But this has been a wonderful discussion!

  44. Mattie says:

    Thank-you Thank-you Sam Donaldson. We do the Wash Post puzzle and your explanations always clear up so much confusion for us. We find your column “sapid”, hah?! We head-slapped when you exposed “Yap” – hate it when we can’t solve the theme!

  45. Lois says:

    Here’s another vote for the fame of Dove sono. In my music 1 course in college, the textbook used music samples to illustrate various music words and concepts. For soprano, the example was Dove sono.

    The discussion was lots of fun! Thanks.

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