Sunday, October 15, 2006
Solving time: Indeterminate (but under an hour)
THEME: "Help Wanted" (JOBS: common phrases with "-ing" words, where sense of the phrase is re-imagined by cluing "-ing" word in its verbal rather than adjectival sense, i.e. 23A: Job for a ballrooom dance instructor? (Leading ladies) - "Leading" goes from being the adjective in a common phrase to being the JOB that the imagined ballroom instructor does... Too much explanation? [late addendum: just noticed that I have an error in my puzzle (twice in two days!): 22A: Start of a hole should be TEE SHOT, not THE SHOT (?!), and thus 14D: Antipoverty agcy. should be O.E.O., not O.H.O., which is more exclamation than acronym]
Decided not to time myself this morning, and instead worked on the puzzle intermittently, between sports highlights, while lying on the couch. Birthday concert last night was amazing, especially the performance of "Night of the Flying Horses" by Osvaldo Golijov, which begins as solo voice and then the orchestra comes in and then the voice stops and it's just orchestra for the second half (whole piece is just 8 minutes long). I don't normally like voice in my orchestral music - not a big, or small, opera fan - but the woman seemed to be in genuine pain and I was feeling her for some reason. The music was tense, with individual instruments (especially winds) playing bent, off-pitch notes, or notes that bent from on- to- off-pitch and back. Then there was this swelling of the orchestra and then crazy driving strings playing a bass line that gave the whole thing a passionate yet Hitchcockian feel. You can see why I blog puzzles instead of criticizing classical music. Anyway, it was a revelation - the most moving piece of music I've heard live since - well, since I heard Kelly Clarkson sing "Behind These Hazel Eyes" at the Binghamton Arena as I shrieked like a little girl (like all the little girls who comprised the vast majority of the audience). As near as Andrew, my wife, and I can tell, that's MY worshipping hand in the picture. Andrew's suggested caption: "She's ... healing ... me!" But I digress. Guest soloist was violinist Charles Castleman, who played Bartók's Violin Rhapsody No. 2 and Hubay's "Scènes de la Csárda" No. 12. Castleman was animated in an impish kind of way. Cute, and fiercely virtuosic, if his massive bow flourishes were any indication. One problem: no, two: first, an inexplicable, persistent, low-level beeping throughout the haunting (literally - it's about a ghost) performance of La Falla's "El Amor Brujo." Second, at the beginning of the Bartók Violin Rhapsody, the couple next to us decided to start HAVING A CONVERSATION. Not a lightly-whispered, lean-into-your-partner's-ear kind of conversation, either. The kind where People Can Hear You. They were a nice-looking, slightly elderly couple ("elderly" being the average age for this crowd, let me tell you), so I was mystified. I was thinking "you're #$$-ing OLD people! You're supposed to be COMPLAINING about the people who talk and forget to turn off their cell phones and what not!" My wife, sitting right next to them, turned completely in their direction and just stared until they shut up. She can do that. "The small, set mouth of an educated woman" (Graham Greene, The Power and the Glory). I think I'll keep her. Puzzle-opolis!
20A: Protracted prayer (novena)
Had to look this up to make sure it was right. NOVENA is feminine Latin for "ninth" and refers to the nine days Jesus's disciples and the Virgin Mary spent in constant prayer between Jesus's death and the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. I know (or only have time to find out) what Wikipedia tells me. About.com tells me that novenas "are great to pray." Isn't that a bit like defining something by exclaiming that it's "super!"?
21A: Relative of a rhododendron (azalea)
I just this second noticed that I have an "s" entered where the "z" should be (looks like I misspelled 8D: "The Compleat Angler" author Walton (Izaak) because I didn't bother to check the cross. So I was going to complain about how I'd never heard of an "asalea," but instead I will tell you that I am very familiar with azaleas because a. we had them in our back yard when I was growing up, and b. my sister and I once served many drinks to my father's colleagues during a Radiology Department pig roast of some sort in our back yard. (We were WAY underaged to be handling alcohol, but that's another story) Each drink came adorned with an azalea flower, until one of the scores of science-degreed professionals on premises noted that azalea leaves are poisonous to human beings. Luckily, nobody died (except that WHOLE PIG that was cooking underground in our back yard...). By the way if you are considering poisoning a child with azalea, this site will tell you exactly how many leaves you're going to need, by weight.
29A: "Nonsense!" (pah)
Are you sure he's not saying "Bah!" 'cause I think he's saying "Bah!"
34A (THEME): Job for a lingerie salesclerk? (packing slips)
Had "showing slips" for a good long time, mainly because the image is more pleasing to me. I actually had "...FITS" at the end of this answer for a while because I reasonably thought that 30D: In a tizzy (all upset) was AFLUTTER (the L, U, and E all fit), which gave me the "F." I couldn't figure out why a sales clerk would be THROWING FITS, however, so I hunkered down and waited out the correct answer, which eventually showed itself.
41A: jimjams (dts)
I love the DT's, as a concept, and am surprised both that I didn't know this apparent synonym, and that such a stupid-sounding word could denote something as horrible as the DT's. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis produced many hit singles for the likes of Janet Jackson, New Edition, and Usher, among others.
50A: Vegetable with sushi (udo)
Aralia cordata is the scientific name of this member of the ginseng family. Served raw in salads or lightly cooked in soups and other dishes (Answers.com).
72A: "Family _____" (Feud)
I of course had TIES here, though I am a huge fan of the original Feud and of Richard Dawson in particular. He did his best work on Match Game, of course, but he still had some of the sleazy, urbane, smoky, half-drunk magic left for The Feud. "Family Ties" was a favorite show of mine growing up - Elise Keaton was (along with Mrs. C. from Happy Days) one of a long string of TV Moms on whom I had serious crushes during my adolescence. And beyond.
74A: Decorate, as a 54-Down (ice)
54D: See 74-Across (cupcake)
These two answers intersect, at their middle letters, at the dead center of the puzzle, which is a very, very nice touch. Presentation means a lot!
112A: Least bit (rap)
OK, I guess "I don't give a rap" is a phrase wherein this definition would hold true, but ... there are so many good, music-related ways to clue this! Like "What most adult suburbanites should never, ever try to do, even, perhaps especially, in jest."
126A (THEME): Job for a business tycoon? (running boards)
I had CUTTING BOARDS at first, which is a vastly superior answer. My model of a "business tycoon" = Mr. Burns.
4D: Was up (led)
Is this a baseball clue, as in the phrase "Magglio Ordoñez LED OFF the first inning with a home run?" Enlighten me. And speaking of Ordoñez, I've held off this long, but I must now mention that the Detroit Tigers became champions of the American League last night thanks to a walk-off, three-run homerun by Mr. Ordoñez, so good for them. And me. Bring on the Metinals!
37D: Kids' jumping game (potsy)
There is only one Potsy and he looks like this:
92D: Disgraces (attaints)
This is just for Andrew, who loves (part of) this word.
108D: With 86-Down, popular serial comic strip beginning in 1940 (Brenda Starr)
First, "BRENDA STARR" is still being printed today (go here for proof). Second, for the best commentary on current newspaper comics, please see The Comics Curmudgeon, updated daily. Third, and in closing, I would like to thank the immortal Debbie Harry, without whose musical expression of savage gossip, "Rip Her to Shreds," I would never have heard of this answer. "She looks like the Sunday comics / She thinks she's Brenda Starr." If you ever want to say something bitchy about someone, please say those exact lines, preferably within earshot of me.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld