A River Puns Through It

New York Times, Jan. 16

Brush up on your geography before starting this puzzle. As the title implies, it’s filled with punny references to rivers around the world – one of which I was very familiar with.

“Why a Midwest river has so many tributaries?” (23- & 24 Across) is MISSOURI LOVES COMPANY. It’s a slogan I first heard after my husband took a one-year teaching gig at Mizzou last year; apparently, misery also has a sense of humor in the Show-Me State.

Other theme answers: YANGTZE DOODLE DANDY (“Fop who makes idle sketches of a Chinese river?” 35 Across); TOMORROW NEVA DIES (“‘If you don’t meet my demands within 24 hours, I’ll blow up a Russian river’?” 48 Across), which plays on a James Bond title; YALU JACKET (“Life vest worn on a Korean border river?” 66 Across); ODER EATERS (“Piranhas in a German border river?” 71 Across); YUKON GO HOME AGAIN (“Request to an Alaskan river to return to its headwaters?” 92 Across); THAMES FIGHTIN’ WORDS (“Aggressive posturin’ on an English river?” 100 Across), which coincidentally echoes a theme answer last week; and WE’RE ALL INDUS TOGETHER (“What minor rivers of Pakistan say at their junctions?” 120- & 123 Across).

Unpronounceable Dept.: I was stumped by 40 Down, “Christine ____, ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ heroine.” Even after getting all the crossing words, I was certain I had something wrong because I was left with DAAE. Turns out that *is* her last name, which is completely bizarre but also seemingly a constructor’s dream; I can’t believe I haven’t seen it before. Not sure how French author Gaston LeRoux pronounced it, and having never seen the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical or Hollywood film, I can only guess – “day”? Anyone?

Your Mascot Is A What? Dept.: Again, I thought I had done something terribly wrong when all of the crossing letters spelled KEYDETS for 130 Across (“V.M.I. athletes”). But no, the mascot for the Virginia Military Institute is the keydet, whose origin is murky and either has to do with Southern accents or a kangaroo.

Harry Potter Trivia Dept.: I admit that I read the first Harry Potter book. OK, maybe the second as well. But that’s it, I swear. Occasionally it pays off, as it did today when I correctly guessed the “School whose motto is Latin for ‘Never tickle a sleeping dragon'”: HOGWARTS (86 Down).

Philly-Area Shout-Out Dept.: Just a few miles up the road from Philly is BRYN Mawr College (“___ Mawr,” 18 Down), the women’s school celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. Katharine Hepburn is among its most famous alumnae. Maybe that’s how she got her role in “The Philadelphia Story”?

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3 thoughts on “A River Puns Through It”

  1. it’s Christine daae, yes. She supposedly came from the Olde Country with her father on a boat with a violin. It’s pronounced “daah-ay”, two syllables. Hope that helps 🙂

  2. Daae: It’s actually spelled with an accent over the E (Daaé), and pronounced (at least in the musical) something like “dah-eh”, or if you say it faster, “die-eh”.

  3. Thanks, Kirstin and Jocelyn! Will definitely remember that one next time I’m trying to construct a puzzle and get in a bind.

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