SUNDAY, Oct. 29, 2006 - Elizabeth C. Gorski

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Solving time: 42:00

Theme: "Sandwich Man": Theme answers are familiar two-word phrases with "MR" sandwiched in between the two words, e.g. 16D: Putting up a guy in the bath? (Housing Mr. Bubble)

Considering how (relatively) easy today's theme was, I was surprised by how challenging it ended up being overall. Lots and lots of opportunities for writing in the plausible but Wrong answers (as evidenced by how inky my grid is in places). Actually, I say that the theme was easy - what I mean was, once I figured it out, it was easy to solve the theme answers. The figuring out part, however, took some time, primarily because I, I took a road less traveled, and that road, while hilarious in retrospect, was a dead end. See, I got seriously misdirected by the first theme clue, 23A: Cheery fellow in the neighborhood? (Jolly Mr. Rogers). Now, I had the "MR" and the penultimate "R," and so I was nearly certain that the answer would have to have something to do with the Beatles song "Mean Mr. Mustard." I mean, come on. Surely the "cheery" part of the clue would involve a reversal of "Mean" - and then there's the damn puzzle title, "Sandwich Man," which solidified my belief in "Mean Mr. Mustard"'s rightness. Sandwich ... Mustard ... the way I saw it, I had this theme / answer in my sights and it was going down. Only MUSTARD wouldn't fit in the spaces allotted to it. I tried to force it for a while, then just abandoned the NW part of the puzzle entirely. Oh, and my Certainty that the theme involved sandwiches was perpetuated by what my brain thought was the Gary Cooper movie in question at 36A: Excellent portrayal of a Gary Cooper role (Good Mr. Deeds). My mind went immediately to GOODBYE, MR. CHIPS. Why? Well, there's the #$%#$-ing GOOD at the beginning of the answer, which ended up being Correct. And then CHIPS. CHIPS go with SANDWICHES, don't they? I had MUSTARD, and CHIPS... I was thinking there'd be a whole lunch menu theme (I'm not saying this to try to be cute; I honestly believed that the lunch counter was the key to puzzle victory). If I hadn't been so excited at the thrill of the theme chase, I might have remembered what I knew at the time but chose to forget: that Sidney Poitier, not Gary Cooper, was in "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" (and now I am laughing because I just Googled "Mr. Chips" and it's not Poitier at all - Poitier was Mr. Tibbs in In the Heat of the Night and its sequel, They Call Me Mr. Tibbs! - whereas Goodbye, Mr. Chips was a 1939 movie about a beloved boys' school teacher starring Robert Donat, who won the Best Actor Oscar that year ... for the record). This is all to say that I was way off in sandwich-land at the beginning, but once I did crack the theme (way down in the SE corner), the puzzle fell quickly (well, quickly if you're me). The theme is quite cleverly revealed, by the way, at 61A: Something to "call me" per an old song ... or a hit to this puzzle's theme (Mr. In-Between). I quite enjoyed this Sunday puzzle, and was grateful for the opportunity to recall many campy advertising icons, including Mr. Clean and Mr. Peanut.

["Closing Time" by Semisonic just came on my iTunes. Why do I own this song? Is it just to remind me how horrible 1998 was? God, I don't even like the look of that year, "1998." I'm not convinced it really happened.]

Let's start in the "Montana" portion of the puzzle, since it's rare that anything of consequence happens there.

9A: Kind of case in grammar: Abbr. (Obj.)
21A: Shetland turndown (Nae!)
11D: Bach's "_____, Joy of Man's Desiring" (Jesu)

In retrospect, the answers in this little nook of the puzzle should have fallen before me like so many adoring subjects. I mean, it's got two of my favorite things (grammar and Scotland) shoved into the side of Another of my favorite things (Bach). Oooh, I like that "shoved into the side" metaphor, as it recalls the piercing of Jesus's side while he was on the cross. In certain awesomely gruesome versions of the story, blood shoots from Christ's side into the eyes of the spear-wielder, Longinus, who is instantly and miraculously cured of his blindness. Holy Gore! Anyway, as I've said, this looks easy, looking back. But my Latin-loving mind saw the "B" in 9A and wanted not OBJ. but ABL. (for ABLATIVE, my favorite grammatical case, particularly when it's ABSOLUTE). So that gave me an "L" for the beginning of the Bach answer, which led me (for reasons unfathomable) to enter LEDA for 11D. "LEDA, Joy of Man's Desiring?" From Bach? Maybe "LEDA, Joy of Zeus's Desiring." As with ELIHU a few puzzles back, I ultimately got JESU when the ultimate "U" became indisputable. JESU is great Middle English, another thing I'm supposed to know something about. O well. For your edification, here is Longinus's official trading card, courtesy of the Catholic Church:
PS if you do a Google Image search of "Longinus," you get a curious mix of religious imagery and (homo-)erotic anime.

47A: Social breakdown (anomie)

Twice this week now I have pulled an answer from thin air, knowing it without knowing why. Actually - I know precisely where this answer comes from. Not from my knowledge of the term firsthand, that's for sure. I was 18 and sitting in my American Government class during freshman year, surrounded by kids from prep schools who made me and my public school education in Fresno look retarded by comparison. I remember Professor ... oh, what's his name. Big, black man ... Smart, humorless, old skool ... Come on ... nope, not there. Anyway, he asked if any of us knew what some concept was called (I was too intimidated and / or tired to be paying proper attention to what he was saying, apparently), and I remember this young woman confidently raising her hand, saying the concept was called "anomie," and then defining it, as if she'd been training for that moment all her life. I was like "O come on! Who knows shit like that at 18!?" I went back to my dorm room and looked her up in the Look Book and her name was Elizabeth Sargent and she came from ... I want to say Georgetown. D.C. Anyway, that's when I knew I was in way over my head at my overpriced little college. Later on in my college career, I would think of Ms. Sargent as something of a superficial ditz (which I'm pretty sure she's not), but at that moment, I wanted to go back to the school where I was the smart kid. And that's what ANOMIE means to me. The End.

57A: Charlotte _____ (Russe)

What is this? Whoa, it's a horribly tacky clothing store! Who knew? You have no idea how badly I wanted the answer to be RAE:
73A (THEME): "The A-Team" actor on the cover of GQ (Model Mr. T)
By far my favorite "MR." in the whole puzzle. I pity the fool who didn't get this one instantly! To make this clue a bit tougher, I would have clued it by reference to Rocky III, or, better yet, D.C. Cab:
17D: Among other things (inter alia)

Rex used this phrase in his initial applications to graduate school just so he could seem super-smart (hmm... plausible) and Latin-literate (absolutely false at the time). I believe I used it when listing the various areas I wanted to study, thereby unwittingly suggesting that I was unfocused and hadn't really thought things through. Another "fun" fact about the phrase INTER ALIA: I learned it from the NYT Crossword Puzzle. God Bless Eugene T. Maleska. INTER ALIA is up there with ADIT and RE-UP as one of the most iconic answers in my crossword-solving career. (I'll explain the importance of the latter two some other time)

53D: Natural bristles (awn)

What is this? Oh, plant anatomy. I see. And now you can see too:
90D: Aptly named author Charles (Reade)

Very cute. I'm going to have to dispute the aptness of his name, however. I mean, I see what the cluer is getting at: his name is READE, and one READ(E)S books by authors. Fine. Only, it doesn't seem that anyone is actually READING Mr. READE - the first of the "Charles Reade Websites" listed here is entitled "Charles Reade: A Neglected 19th Century British Author." Add to that the fact that I can't even get Firefox to READ said website, and ... well you can see that clearly the gods don't want anybody actually READing the (it turns out) ironically named Charles READE - though I will say, if this illustration from one of his books is any indication, his writing was pretty hot:

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


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