TUESDAY, Oct. 10, 2006 - Tyler Hinman

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Solving time: 7:20

THEME: Long clues all homonyms: OAR, OR, O'ER, ORR, ORE

This puzzle was hot, because the answers are pretty damned clever (see especially 39A, below). I nearly wrote that there was no theme, because there is none visible on the solved grid. NOTE: I am bound to make mistakes on This Here Blog, so please correct me when you see them, okay? Sweet.

Went to see David Sedaris last night. First story was cutesy and unamusing to me (and my wife ... let's just say he used the word "cockatoo" as a pun), but after that he read a couple that were blisteringly funny, one about buying pot in rural NC with his redneck brother, and another (a partial story, actually) about the time he spent "researching" an article on daily life in a morgue. His morbidity went from creepy and disquieting to flat-out hilarious. He talked about buying a book when he was young that was meant for forensic pathologists; the book contained numerous pictures of people who had died in the most gruesome ways. The captions of the photos read like titles of poems, he said. His first example, "Extensive Mildew on the Face of a Recluse," for some reason made me laugh like a howler monkey. I was his from there on. By turns snarky, vulnerable, deadpan, stuttering ... he was completely charming. He has an astonishing ear when it comes to the subtleties of the language and the amazing inner life of ordinary words. You should see him if you can. Onto Mr. Hinman's delicious puzzle:

1A: Auto amenities, for short (acs)

My first thought: "cds." Good thing I decided to start the puzzle elsewhere.

4A: Baseball and football star Sanders (Deion)

I just watched Mr. Sanders doing football commentary this morning on ESPN. Or was that Michael Irvin? Actually, I think it was Irvin. Anyway, Deion has a great crossword name - so many contiguous vowels. If I ever open up the Pantheon to 5-letter words, DEION will be in there (along with ESTES - see yesterday's puzzle). I also like that DEION sits atop 15A: _____ -Detoo (Artoo). Deion Sanders riding R2D2 = a very satisfying mental image for me.
39A (THEME): O'er (Opposite of 'neath)

Some kind of genius. I was over on the right side of this answer thinking "'...ofneath,' what the hell is that?" I had already had to change one of the intersecting answers (10D: Start of a David Letterman countdown (Number Ten) - I had "Number One" initially) so I was already a little shaky, and seeing the "fn" combo made me frown in consternation. Until I glanced at the clue again (always useful) and realized immediately the answer and its pristine logic. Love those old-skool poetic contractions!

60A: Friend of Morpheus in "The Matrix" (Neo)
13D: Warring Tolkien creatures (ents)
19D: Luke's sister, in "Star Wars" (Leia)

ARTOO is one thing - every puzzle is allowed one Star Wars clue by law. But double-dipping with LEIA and then dragging out Tolkien AND The Matrix? I have to call an Excessive Nerdiness violation (hereby known as the CBG). Ten yards, loss of down (I have to use the sports metaphor to counteract the sedentary pull of NerdWorld). I mean, we're all nerds at heart, but let's show a little restraint. There's no need to wallow.

3D: Rats' milieu (sewer)

You know, if crossword puzzles were to be believed, you'd think rats lived nowhere else. So many potential ways to clue SEWER ("One with thread and needle," perhaps), but no, it always comes back to rats. Not all rats live in sewers. Some live on the subway tracks. Or in barns with cute pigs. So yes, some rats live in sewers, but do we have to focus on the negative? E.B. White saw the potential decency that lies at the heart of the rat. Let's try to focus on that, and give the rats a break.

55D: Grammy winner Jones (Norah)

Hating as I do the music of Norah Jones - yawn-inspiring Barnes-&-Noble pseudo-jazz for whitefolks, I say - I desperately wanted the answer here to be "Davy Jones." Two problems: 1. DAVY is only four letters long, and 2. Davy Jones never won a Grammy (to his credit, I should think). He did, however, get to kiss Marsha, the lucky bastard.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS in case you don't read Crosswordfiend's blog (which you should), I wanted to tell you about the new Onion AV Club Crossword. I did the first one today and thought it was f-ing brilliant. Puzzlers under 30 (which I am sadly not) should especially love it, as the clues and answers skew teenward while remaining sufficiently brainy. Go here to subscribe for email delivery. Yes, now.


Orange 11:23 PM  

Of course, the rat/sewer nexus will only become more entrenched in the popular imagination after Flushed Away hits theaters in a few weeks.

And take heart—some of the Onion constructors are your age or older.

Loooove David Sedaris!

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