Monday, November 13, 2006
Solving time: 7:04 - applet = :(
THEME: L's - three 15-letter theme answers are clued "One-L lama," "Two-L llama," and "Three-L lllama?" (the answers are, in order, BUDDHISTHOLYMAN, ANDESPACKANIMAL, and [I apologize for even repeating this, but I have a point to make] BLAZEINBROOKLYN)
Not not not a fan of this so-called "theme." Puns! I'm sure the folks at the NYT Forum (some of them, anyway) are wetting themselves with glee over the answer to that "Three-L lllama?" clue, but I do not enjoy Groaners with my morning puzzle, especially not this early in my week, Especially not in late autumn, when the world is darkening around me just fine without extra help from the puzzle. Puns are almost never funny. They are clever, I suppose, but notice how the punner is usually the first one laughing at his/her own joke. It's like masturbatory humor - designed to please yourself and to show others how clever you are. It's show-offy, not actually funny. No one ever Actually laughed at a pun, I contend. Chuckled, maybe. I don't mind little puns here and there in my puzzles, actually - you know, for three-to-five letter answers. But when they are the Punch Line of your puzzle, when the whole theme, the whole payoff, rests on one pun, and that pun is as painful as this pun, well then I protest. I am being hugely unfair to this puzzle, but I can't state this clearly enough: puns are crutches; puzzles - and people trying to be funny - should use them only sparingly. I think my main objection here is how much puzzle-weight this pun is made to carry - it's just not up to the task. If someone tells me a bad joke, well then, it's just bad. No effort lost by me. But I had to work to arrive at this bad joke. So it hurts.
4D: Locales for rest stops (roadsides)
9D: Wheat product used in making pasta (semolina)
35D: Attire covering little of the legs (mini-skirt)
37D: Temple entrances (porticos)
Here are some things to like about this puzzle: unusually long and colorful fill for a Monday puzzle. Clues could have been a little more concise, but otherwise, I'm genuinely impressed at the interesting, lengthy answers here, especially considering you've already got 3 15-letter answers anchoring your puzzle. Actually, some of the short answers are pretty nice as well. There are predictable crossword staples throughout, but also interesting phrasings like 10A: Like very early education, for short (Pre-K) and 57A: 4, on a sundial (IIII).
39A: Architect _____ van der Rohe (Mies)
A nice and mildly difficult Monday clue. The story of MIES is a tragic one. Not only is he one of the Masters of Modern Architecture, but he has an extremely crossword-friendly name - and yet he is DOOMED (44D), like some tortured soul in Dante's Inferno, to forever play back-up architect clue to the eternal first-stringer EERO SAARINEN (who has appeared in the grid quite recently, in fact). What does a legendary German architect gotta do to get a little puzzle time? Apparently, wait for Monday. He's like the warm-up act. "EERO's a little tired this morning, MIES. He needs his rest for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday; so we're putting you in! Dust off your uniform! Good luck, kid."
28D: Old battle clubs (maces)
34D: Wished (bade)
I had to make several passes at this center-ish part of the puzzle because the answers were not instantly apparent to me. For 28D, I was imagining some kind of organization or gentleman's club - where veterans of old battles get together and wear their old uniforms and reminisce about killing Japs or Krauts and complain about young people these days. But no, an actual club that you beat people with. My years of playing Dungeons & Dragons as a pre-teen should have come in handy here, but didn't. I remember that maces were one of the few weapons that clerics could wield in D&D - no weapon with a blade. Because pounding someone's skull to bloody custard is the holiest way to kill. Not too KEEN (13D) on the cluing for BADE - which is closer to "asked" than "wished," but it's within shouting distance of "wished," so whatever.
43D: Drink often labeled XXX in the comics (ale)
I always thought this was MOONSHINE. How is ALE different from moonshine? The latter is distilled. Isn't the former brewed? I really don't know, but I do know that I associate that XXX symbol, in the comics, with a jug out of which hillbillies drink. Here is a paragraph about moonshine from answers.com:
Moonshine is often portrayed in the media in a clay jug marked only with XXX. Supposedly, the moonshiner would inscribe a single X on the jug each time the mixture passed through a still. This image of a jug or bottle marked XXX is used in comic strips and cartoons to depict an intoxicating beverage. For example, Drinky Crow is often shown drinking from one of these stereotypical jugs. Although clay jugs may have been widely used in the nineteenth century, glass "Mason jars" have predominated since at least the early twentieth century, with plastic jugs also coming into use in the 1970s. Devotees of moonshine usually prefer to buy and drink the elixir from Mason jars because it is easier to judge quality and lacks the plastic aftertaste.Drinky Crow is from Tony Millionaire's Maakies, a comic set largely on the 18th-century high seas, featuring Drinky Crow and Uncle Gabby (a monkey) as violent, liquor-loving protagonists. Why am I not reading this comic? What else could I ask for?
53D: _____ Yang Twins (rap duo)
Sweet way to clue YING. Non-rap-fans can infer the answer from the clue or get it from the crosses, while the rest of us can enjoy the silly image that such a clue conjures up. The Ying Yang Twins are an Atlanta-based rap duo whose style of rap is called "crunk," which is a word I desperately need to see in a crossword. High-energy, club-oriented rap jams. All fun, no thought, kinda woman-hating. I'll stick with Outkast for all my rap duo needs, thanks.
Happy Birthday to semi-faithful reader Sarah S., who turns, well, older today. She is a voracious reader, a fan of all the Arts, and a genuine lover of words. She is also my mother.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld