Thursday, September 25, 2014

Thursday, September 25, 2014, Alex Vratsanos


An interesting "Word Search" puzzle theme today, with ten three-letter body parts hidden in the Across answers. Let's see, we find GUM, TOE, JAW, RIB, EAR, ARM, HIP, LIP, EYE, and LEG. That's ten. It is rather interesting that BOSOM, and rather unfortunate that ANUS can also be found. And ORA is Latin for "mouth." EGO is in there a couple times, but I guess that's not physical. And lastly, way down in the SE, you can find a slightly bent NOSE. Is that enough?

My primary complaint with this puzzle is its use of TALCUM as a 52A: Soft rock. The son of a geologist, I put "gypsum" in there immediately, which is number two on the Mohs scale, and would definitely qualify as a "soft rock." Talc, is number one, of course, and sure, it comes from the Latin, and maybe that's a valid scientific alternate, but nobody calls it that. Why not just clue it with a reference to the powder?

Another slightly odd clue was 21A: It may be raised in a company's new building (MORALE). Yes, I suppose that's true, but it just strikes me as an odd choice of morale-raiser. On the other hand, we loved the trivia in 21D: According to legend, at age 2 he identified a pig's squeal as G sharp (MOZART). What else could it have been?, but still, it's fun. And nice trivia also in BEIJING (42D: Literally, "northern capital.") As opposed to "Nanking?" Yes. cf. Taipei and Tainan.

The West was where we finished today. I put in ONATEAR (35A: Rampaging) on my first pass, emboldened by the fact that it held an EAR, but 27A: Series of watering troughs? (AEIOU) held us back for quite a long time. MOGULS (29A: Big guns) was very clever, and JARULE (18D: Rapper who co-starred in 2002's "Half Past Dead") did not come quickly, perhaps because we had gone with the "G" spelling of SACAJAWEA. The JAW should have tipped us off sooner, but, well, it didn't.

As a Bostonite (no, nobody says that), it was nice to see ESPOSITO (39D: First N.H.L. player to score 100 points in a season) in there instead of the usual "Orr." And lastly, we liked the one-two combo of SPOCK (47A: TV character who says "Captain, you almost make me believe in luck") and SPACESHIP (48A: Enterprise, for one), although I was briefly stalled there by wanting "starship."

Overall, a fun challenge.

- Horace


  1. 28:35
    I had a "G" in there for SACAJAWEA at first, too, until I had a few JARULE crosses. MORALE was clued oddly, as Horace mentions, and I also was happy to see ESPOSITO in there. I went to a few games with my father back in that era, sometimes in an orange VW Bug that he'd park for free on some side street. Agree: SPOCK / SPACESHIP (yes, I wanted "starship" too). I didn't know that an EAGLE was a 12D Figure on Mexico's flag. Did Frannie like (although she no longer indulges) 54D Cheese _____ (Nabisco product) (NIPS)? I also liked the MOZART trivia. Now, finally, I didn't read it, but Sue did, so she'd probably have gotten 30D "Fifty Shades of Grey" topic (SADISM).

  2. 29:41. Did not get the word search theme at all. How did you know to look for it, Horace? It makes three of us who wanted starship instead of SPACESHIP. JANUS is nicely clued. I put veNUS in first, but really the two-faced god makes much more sense for Iago. EZEKIEL was also clued well. I was thinking that Gog and Magog were British, so I was confused for a time. The hardest section for me was the middle W portion. AEIOU was very hard to see. Weird to see it crossed with AEONS. A lot of vowels. Never heard of Sarah RAMOS, and CIGAR was trickily clued. Thank goodness for Hope, who saw PEACEOUT. Another tricky clue was 49D: Gay ____. I had the P from SPACESHIP and confidently put PridE in, which slowed things down. I should have known ARLES, but couldn't think of it, and thought that maybe Nimes would be the choice...

  3. In the NYT app, there is always an "alert box" that tells the constructor's name, and on Sunday the title, but today there was a second box that gave away the word search. I wonder why tey choose to do that, because surely in the real paper there is no such help.

    And yeah, that middle west was killer.

  4. I have to admit to being quite surprised by the EAGLE on the Mexican flag, an eagle with a rattlesnake in its mouth, standing on a cactus! I don't know about you, Huygens, but this seems like the exact sort of trivia that I'd ordinarily know cold, particularly of a neighboring country, and yet I've apparently never looked carefully at it before. The things we learn for Mr. Shortz...

    1. I've been meaning to learn some foreign nation flags. Perhaps this will spur me on.