Sunday, November 26, 2006
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME
So this is what 37 feels like ... huh. Interesting.
Here is the very super-fantastic "6th Avenue" super-dessert that we got from Sarah's Patisserie in Ithaca:
I'm sorry, but words cannot describe how good a "6th Avenue" tastes. Maybe some day you'll be lucky enough to find out for yourself. While you're at it, drop by Olivia, my favorite restaurant within a three-hour radius of my house, where the food is unfailingly fantastic. I am generally opposed to bumper stickers, but this one is going on my car immediately:
Solving time: 30 flat
THEME: "ENERGY CRUNCH" - a "crunchword" puzzle where the (very crosswordy) word ERG is crammed into eight squares around the grid.
For the record, here is the definition of ERG from Merriam-Webster (m-w.com):
a centimeter-gram-second unit of work equal to the work done by a force of one dyne acting through a distance of one centimeter and equivalent to 10-7 joule.
Birthday blog! This will be brief, as I have breakfast cooking for me downstairs and a sunny day and empty woods waiting for me and my wife and my dog, so ...
A few preliminary notes: traffic to this site hit a record high yesterday as a surge of returning visitors coming back from Thanksgiving vacation (I assume) dovetailed with a tidal wave of solvers around the world trying to find the answer to a single clue from six weeks ago, the answer to which was POG. Seriously. 500+ unique visitors looking for one little three-letter word. I love the apparent randomness of it all: who knew that that clue would send hundreds to their computers? LILI ST CYR ran a very distant second in the search race, but she's hot - she'll get over it.
A Manny Nosowsky crossword for my birthday!? Oh, you shouldn't have. It's beautiful. And it fits! And look, it's full of some of my favorite words: ASTA! (32D) President of the Pantheon! Snap! Oooh, there's IHOP (91D) again: My Church of Choice. Nice. And there's ... wait... who's that dude in the far north? Yeah, between CZAR (5A) and PUSS (15A). Is that ... is that @#$#-ing ILOILO (9A)!? Philippine seaport, my ass. Is this a joke? Oh, you think this is funny!? Get that bastard out of my puzzle! I told him I never wanted to see him again, and I meant it.
The ERG theme was cute. I just learned the term "crunchword puzzle" last night, actually, while reading Matt Gaffney's Gridlock (which is an informative and entertaining book on the world of crossword construction, by the way). I had done many crunchword puzzles before - I just didn't know that that's what you called them. The ERG's in this puzzle are maddeningly asymmetrical - maddening only because they are very nearly symmetrical (which would be an amazing feat), and would be close enough to satisfy my OCD were it not for this random extra ERG jammed into the NE corner. There's already one up there, not two squares away. Too many ERGs spoil my broth! Otherwise, no complaints. A lovely Sunday puzzle, really.
I am being told "breakfast is ready!" - more later.
I'm back, full of fried potatoes, beautifully scrambled eggs, and two kinds of pie.
4D: Place for pearls (oyster bed)
With just the "O" (from 1A AERO) I boldly and wrongly began to enter ON A STRING (it fits ... come on, it's an Awesome guess as wrong guesses go). Then when I got the "Y" from 19A TREY, I thought "Oh, OYSTER something ... BAR! Yes." No. If there are pearls at an OYSTER BAR, you can be sure that something has gone horribly wrong. "My tooth!" The correct OYSTER BED is not a phrase I can visualize. Do they sleep together? Are they farmed in beds? I got the "E" in BED only after 50A: Phrase of nonspecific attribution went from SOME SAY to THEY SAY. It's an odd clue / answer pairing, but I like it - which reminds me: for 27A: "Likewise" (I do too), I mysteriously had I DO SAY ... as in "if I DO SAY so myself" or "I (DO) SAY, old chap, what's all this?" Ridiculous.
30A: Juicy, tart apple (stayman)
Neither I nor my apple-loving wife (nearly wrote "wife-loving apple") knew what (the hell) this was. Until I looked it up just now, I was willing to be that the answer wasn't STAYMAN, but ST. AYMAN. Yet it is STAYMAN, a variety of Virginia apple, it seems. Sounds like something a hippie would say to his dog.
46D: Onetime American Communist leader _____ Hall (Gus)
86A: Prince Valiant's firstborn (Arn)
Oh, his firstborn. I see. No, I don't, as no one under 60 knows what the hell this refers to. See also GUS Hall ("five-time presidential candidate!?" Really?). Is Prince Valiant even running any more? I should know. I'm supposed to know something about comics. Hal Foster was a legendary comics artist. He's dead, but the strip goes on - here, if not elsewhere. Foster was a great, great adventure comics artist, though I always found Prince Valiant kinda boring. And that hair...
50D: Setting for some Sherlock Holmes mysteries (the moors)
Better clue than "Infidels, to the Spanish, once" or "Othello's people," I guess. I like the SYN[ERG]Y (36A) created by this clue and 26D: Raises a howl (bays), as it reminds me of The Hound of the Baskervilles, the Sherlock Holmes story I know best, and one that was adapted by Hammer Studios into a very campy yet enjoyable movie starring, who else, Christopher Lee, Dean of B-Grade Horror. For my brief review, see the first "Member Review" here at Netflix (written under yet Another pen name - not sure why I hide the name my mother gave me, which is perfectly good). One other SYN[ERG]istic clue pair of note is 55D: Travel guide (road map) and 87A: Directional aid (sign post). You know, to help you get home quickly in case you get lost on THE MOORS and hear the ominous BAYing of hounds.
82D: Lake that's a source of the Mississippi (Itasca)
Total guess. To be specific, I guessed the "C" - the other letters were solid, but the "C" came from 109A: Lifts (cops). Never having heard of ITASCA, and feeling the answer COPS a bit ... iffy, I circled the "C" here as a possible WRONG answer. I take it that COPS here means "lifts" in the sense of "shoplifts?" When I think of COP as a verb, it is generally followed by A FEEL, not A PACK OF CIGARETTES FROM 7-11. To learn more about Lake ITASCA, I direct you to this site, despite the fact that the text there begins: "The Mississippi River begins it's [UGH] two thousand three hundred and twenty mile [SO WHAT'S BROKEN ON YOUR KEYBOARD - THE NUMBER KEYS OR THE HYPHEN KEY?] journey to the Gulf of Mexico..." COPS intersects THOREAU (surprising - to me - answer to 95D: "Nothing is so much to be feared as fear" penner). Since I showed a picture of THOREAU two days ago (because he was the first ESSAYIST my Google Image search turned up), I'll leave you today with 118A (THEME): He was no dummy (EDGAR B[ERG]EN) and his "dummy," Charlie McCarthy. Enjoy!
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld