Sunday, November 12, 2006
Solving time: 34:00
THEME: "Look Inside" - Theme clues have two blank spaces, the first of which is the answer, the second of which is a word made up of a subset of letters "inside" that answer (the latter being signified by circles within the grid squares), e.g. 91A: In the _____, there's the greatest concentration of _____ (MOTHER LODE - where the first O, the R, and the E are all circled => ORE)
Despite the fact that my explanation of the theme is convoluted, the theme itself was reasonably easy to grasp, and I moved through the puzzle with very little difficulty (for me, and for a Sunday). The last part of the puzzle to fall was Due North, where the long theme crossing threw me off for a while, despite the involvement of my alcoholic beverage of choice. 24A: In a _____, there's at least one fluid ounce of _____. Of the three circled letters, I had the last two, -IN. Yet for some reason I couldn't immediately think of what fluid might be spelled [blank]-I-N. So I wrote a "T" in the first circled square, though I was fairly certain that metals are not measured in fluid ounces (mercury?). The cross through that wrong "T" was also not coming to me - 10D: He's flexible (yogi) - this, despite the fact that I do yoga 4-5 times a week. Another simple but elusive cross (11D: Use a paper towel on (wipe up) - for which I had SOAK UP) delayed my ultimate mastery of the puzzle, but patience, and my unquenchable thirst for GIN (not TIN), helped me tease out SINGAPORE SLING (24A) and that was that.
Saw the BingPhil play with pianist Orli Shaham last night, and it was fabulous despite the intermittent wheezing sound of a woman's oxygen machine not five seats away from us (I told you the crowd was old). Actually, considering that the theme of the evening was "Death and Transfiguration" (after the Strauss piece, which they played last, to my great excitement, as I Love it), the wheezing and general old folk vibe seemed very appropriate. I may seem to mock the old at times, but I'm very, very aware that they are just me several decades removed (without the super-crotchetiness, I hope). Anyway, though "D&T" dramatizes a death, nobody actually died - though the couple in front of us went home at intermission because he kept falling asleep, which was annoying her to No End. Orli Shaham played Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini" to the first instant standing ovation I've seen at a BingPhil concert - she got called back to take a bow Three times. She was Adorable and Amazing, and seemed much younger than her head shot suggested, with straight blondish hair that she would occasionally tuck behind her ears. She was very animated, with her rear end completely leaving the piano bench at times - and she seemed really closely attentive to and responsive to the orchestra and conductor. I, however, was really closely attentive to her. I thought she was hot. My wife said she needed a good foundation garment. I humbly disagree.
29A: Designer Alvar (Aalto)
Come again? Thank god for crosses, because not only have I never heard of this guy, his name seems highly improbable. He appears to be a Finnish furniture designer and architect. Here is a building he designed for the University of Helsinki. Years after its creation, it was found to be a homing beacon for Cylon ships, and Alvar Aalto was found guilty of treason and put out the air lock.
39A: Root used in perfumery (orris)
How badly did I want the answer to be ELIHU!? But Elihu Root was just a diplomat, and they never (to my knowledge) made perfume out of his remains. I do not know what ORRIS is. I know what ATTAR is, sort of, but not ORRIS. Apparently it is the root of the iris plant. Whoa, Hang On! Serendipity - it's one of the key ingredients in Bombay Sapphire GIN. Glorious GIN. Bombay Sapphire is quite great, though by the end of the summer, the wife and I were favoring Broker's Gin for our gin and tonics, and Plymouth for our martinis. If you live in the greater L.A. area, you can go to Orris Restaurant, where presumably there is more on the menu than just perfume ingredients and gin (actually, the menu looks fantastic).
56A: Trueheart of "Dick Tracy" (Tess)
No offense to Madonna fans (!), but the 1990 "Dick Tracy" movie kind of ruined the whole vibe of the comic strip, and has since obscured the strip's manifest greatness. IDW Publishing has just recently (like, two weeks ago) started bringing out the entire run of "Dick Tracy" comic strips, from its very beginnings. The first edition in the series - The Complete Chester Gould's Dick Tracy, Volume One: Dailies and Sundays, 1931-33 - is an incredibly beautiful dust-jacketed edition, with colorful endpapers, an introduction by Max Allan Collins, and a blurb by Art Spiegelman on the back. Tracy is the iconic American crimefighter of the 20th century, and I love this strip at least as much as I love all things Batman (Tracy actually has the more comically gruesome cast of villains, which is saying something). Speaking of Batman: nice splitting of ADAM (5D) WEST (51A) as an answer for "Caped Crusader portrayer" - "'Family Guy' mayor" would have been harder, but this way's good too. For a less great but also very fun crimefighter-related reference in this puzzle, see also 90A: "Get Smart" group (K.A.O.S.)
97A: Co. that created the term "Buddy List" (AOL)
Great, now I know whom to blame. It's hard for me to express my aversion to the very word "buddy." Unless you are using it in a belligerent manner in a 1930s movie ("Hey, buddy, you better move your car if you know what's good for ya!"), or a kindergarten teacher herding children through the streets of Manhattan ("Everybody grab a buddy, we're going to cross the street!"), I don't want to hear it. I hate when men refer to their male friends as "buddies." (I hate guys calling their male friends "buddies" almost as much as I hate women calling their female friends the very redundant "girlfriends" - unless they are sleeping with said friends, in which case, tell me more) "I went to the bar with some buddies of mine, and ..." No. They're "friends." I would even take PALS before "buddies," which is so weirdly infantilizing. I feel like it's probably the term of endearment of choice for pedophiles. Everything about "buddy" is creepy, from the Skipper's coming onto Gilligan (!), to Buddy Ebsen, to Willie Aames's character on "Charles in Charge." No mas! Oh, and since we're on AOL for the moment, let me add the following to the list of expressions no one is ever to use again: 84D: chat room abbr. (LOL). If you have the energy to type "LOL," then you are not "LOL," so quit telling people lies.
114A: Two-syllable unit (iambus)
Hmmm. I teach the differences among the various metrical units, and I always refer to this one as an "IAMB" - not an IAMBUS. I see that it is a "variant" of "IAMB." OK. It's not a good variant, but it's in the dictionary, so there you go. Just wanted to make sure there wasn't some massive patch of ignorance smack dab in the middle of my alleged area of expertise. The opposite of an IAMB(US) is a TROCHEE, in case it ever comes up ... you know, at the hypothetical cocktail party at which such arcane knowledge is supposed to be useful.
116A: Needle holder (etui)
Back-to-back ETUI appearances. Welcome to the Pantheon, you ridiculously vowely word!
12D: Punk music subgenre (emo)
I just ... I just don't think "punk" is right here. Punks don't whine. They yell, break stuff, and OD. EMO seems to me a very recent coinage used to apply to hard-to-classify bands that seem "alternative" in some ways, but don't have much in common except a very sad male lead singer who likes to set his pathetic journal writing to music. OK, I'll give you "punk" if you'll give me this incredibly great definition of EMO, from the Urban Dictionary:
Genre of softcore punk music that integrates unenthusiastic melodramatic 17 year olds who don't smile, high pitched overwrought lyrics and inaudible guitar rif[f]s with tight wool sweaters, tighter jeans, itchy scarfs (even in the summer), ripped chucks with favorite bands signature, black square rimmed glasses, and ebony greasy unwashed hair that is required to cover at least 3/5 ths of the face at an angle.In support of this definition, here is the very first image from a Google Image search of "emo":
See also 37D: He-men's opposites (sissies).
51D: Dam in a stream (weir)
Great word. My two favorite weirs are a. the one over which water cascades in the Susquehanna River right outside the window of The Park Diner, and b. The entire Weir family from Freaks & Geeks, which as I have said, or meant to, is the greatest hour-long TV show of the last ten years, despite having been canceled after just one season. (Sam Weir is the one in the middle, with geek friends Bill and Neal)
76D: Large oval fruit (papaw)
Are you kidding me with this? What the hell is a one-w'd PAWPAW? We just had PAWPAW as an answer. I got the picture wrong and had to retract it. And now you throw this mutant word at me!? Alright, this time, dammit, I'm going to make sure I get it right. Hmmm, OK. I lifted this from answers.com, but I'm not sure it solves anything. It's the best I can do.
Papaw [PA-paw] Both the papaya and the papaw are sometimes referred to as pawpaw, which is thoroughly confusing because they're entirely different fruits. The papaw is a North American native that's a member of the cherimoya family. It can range from 2 to 6 inches long and looks like a fat, dark-brown banana. The aromatic flesh is pale yellow and peppered with a profusion of seeds. It has a custardlike texture and a sweet flavor reminiscent of bananas and pears. Papaws are seldom cultivated and are rarely found in markets.PS if you look up "papaw," the dictionary will eventually tell you to "see papaya." Dictionaries are supposed to be my friends.
108D: Wrigglers (eels)
109D: Composer Satie (Erik)
Well, we got rid of the ASPS, finally, but now we've got EELS. The EELS want into the Pantheon, but they are excluded on the basis of their being too common a word (and far too tasty). Right on the heels of the unlikeable EELS comes ERIK Satie, fabulous French Romantic composer, whose "Gymnopédies" I'm listening to Right Now. The best fact about this guy was that he started a Church - Eglise Métropolitaine d'Art de Jésus Conducteur (the Metropolitan Church of Art of the Leading Christ) - of which he was the only member. And he apparently was not high at all when he did this. Awesome.