FRIDAY, Nov. 10, 2006 - Lynn Lempel

Friday, November 10, 2006

Solving time: 21:28

THEME: none

Solved this one on the on-line applet again, for some reason. I never feel good after I've done it, and yet I have trouble restraining myself. "This time'll be different!" Actually, there were patches today (last night, actually) where I felt like I was moving along at a good clip. But then there were walls, about which more below. I think it's harder for me to appreciate a puzzle's good- or great- or badness when I do it on-line. Something about having that baby in my hands makes its features more readily apparent to me - and makes it more responsive to my will!

O, and apparently now-former RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman is totally gay. He was outed by Bill Maher on Larry King last night, though he'd been outed by many, many less-famous others before that. To see Tim Russert's (non-gay-related) interview with Mehlman, in which Mehlman discusses his lack of a problem with the race-baiting ad that was run with RNC money against Ford in Tennessee... and then see a parody of said ad - aimed at Gay Mehlman - go here.

1A: Emotional mess (basket case)

Instant karma! Saw it, knew it. The puzzle is mine! Sadly, with all those juicy first letters set up for the first ten Down clues, I managed to get only three, two-and-a-half of which were wrong [game-show loser sound-effect here] - the "half" was from 4D: Mauna _____ (Kea), which I wrote as KOA because I can't keep all those South Pacific ... volcanoes? ... straight. I wrote ETA for 10D: Pilothouse abbr. (ENE). Damn airport abbreviations. (MEMO to self: buy X-Mas airline tickets to Colorado this weekend!) Then, I was absolutely sure that 1D: American Film Institute's "greatest male star of all time" (Bogart) was BRANDO. I mean, I was Certain. I have heard him called the greatest ever by other actors so many times that it's become a truism. What's weirder than getting this wrong is that after I knew it was wrong, it took me forEver to figure out what else could possibly go there. BOGART was playing the sneaky detective, but to his detective credit, once he turned up, he solved the hell out of the whole NW corner. Thanks for the help, Bogie. Try showing up a little earlier next time.

I loved the three 10-letter Across answers in the NW corner, because they tell a horrible little story about a messy divorce. A woman becomes a BASKET CASE when she finds out about the OTHER WOMAN (15A) her husband is seeing, so the next time he's out of town she holds a GARAGE SALE (17A) and sells all their stuff; then (let's keep going down the grid on the W side, shall we?) when he comes back, smelling of cheap perfume (one of the Coty brands, perhaps), she takes an AXE (19A) and RIDS (22A) herself of her oafish spouse, but only after torturing him with a TASER (26A) for several hours until he confesses the whole thing. BOGART would never star in such a movie. SAL MINEO (9D), on the other hand...

16A: 2003 and '05 A.L. M.V.P. (A-Rod)

Curse his crossword-friendly name. Isn't it enough that I have to have to look at Mike Mussina every time I pick up my copy of Wordplay? Must the puzzle badger me with hateful Yankee names? Where's TED WILLIAMS or BIG PAPI or ... here's a challenge: MAGGLIO ORDONEZ. Put A-ROD away, preferably with the ASPS. Oh, and a question about the cluing. Are you trying to save ink with that abbreviated "'05"? You wrote out "2003," why not "2005"? - unless that is somehow a hint that the answer itself is an abbreviation, which seems to me totally redundant since you've got not one but two other abbreviations in that damned clue already. Just sayin'...

33A: Assignments done in class (seat work)

I have been in classes most of my life. I'll be in one later today, during which students will in fact do an assignment in class. I have never heard this term. I had BUSY WORK written here, but knew that was too disparaging to be correct. SEAT WORK sounds like something for a tailor to do after your comical run-in with the neighborhood pit-bull. This man also could be said to be doing "seat work" - gross, water-damaged seat work:
42A: Clunker at sea (tub)

After completing the grid, I spent several minutes looking for the stray letter(s) that I had incorrect (computer rejected my first grid). I had TUG here, which seemed a very reasonable answer somehow. The fact that TUG turned my cross into the mysterious WEGER (for 34D: Composer of the opera "Euryanthe" (Weber) did not faze me. Lots of composers with crazy Greek-named compositions I've never heard of - not gonna question it, too much puzzle to do...

59A: Modern journal (blog)

I predict that my fellow crossword blogger blogged this entry too. Can't resist an opportunity for meta-blogging. Blog about the blog. Bloggity blog blog blog. Seriously, couldn't someone have invented a less silly-sounding word for this thing?

60A: Token taker (arcade game)

A very great clue / answer pair, DEAR READER (63A). Back when the video game craze was in its relative infancy (very early 80s), my siblings and I spent many an hour (and many a quarter) at 7-11 or, more likely, Round Table pizza, playing games and pounding sodas and listening to "I Love Rock & Roll" by Joan Jett & the Black Hearts on the totally non-digital jukebox. My game of choice was Donkey Kong, my sister Amy's was Ms. Pac Man, and my stepbrother, who preceded us all into the world of video game mastery, played Asteroids. We had an Intellivision video game system at home, which I totally wore out whenever I got the chance, but it couldn't compete with the big-screen, joy-sticked, full-body action of the stand-up ARCADE GAME experience.

6D: "Ring" leader (Tweed)

Still don't know what this means. Little help? - Just looked it up. Apparently "Boss Tweed" (not to be confused with "Boss Hogg," sadly) was a 19th-c. Democratic Party leader who enriched himself and others by defrauding the city of New York. Political cartoonist Thomas Nast pilloried Tweed and the graft with which he was associated, and Tweed eventually fell from power and died in prison.

41D: Fierce fighter (Bearcat)

So that's what a bearcat is! I had no idea. The only evidence I had to go on was our University's mascot, whom I would have clued as "mythical humanoid animal with Incredible Hulk-like tendencies." But "fierce fighter" is much more concise and direct, not to mention less suggestive of something that escaped from the "Island of Dr. Moreau" (which, by the way, starred Brando, not BOGART).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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