Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Solving time: 7:48 (Across Lite)
THEME: "They can be spiked" - answer to 39A: What 18-, 23-, 52- and 61-Across have in common
Today's theme is rather pedestrian, but it helps start the healing process after yesterday's affront to my puzzle sensibilities. Besides the four theme answers, I can't think of that many more things that one could spike. A fever? A football? If you were Ty Cobb, you would have no compunction about spiking the second-baseman (or third-baseman, or ump, or wayward fan). Golf shoes are spiked, and would have fit, but that's hardly better than SPORT SHOE (18A). As we saw in the picture in yesterday's puzzle commentary, a mace can sure as hell be spiked. Lee? Milligan? Jones? Jonze? Their mamas Spiked them good. SHORT HAIR is an OK answer, though medium-length hair can be spiked too (especially into mohawk form) and if hair is too short, it can't really be spiked at all. I think I would have liked this theme if the answers were livelier or more unexpected. But it'll do.
1A: Flubs (muffs)
Yes, speaking of, it took me far longer than it should have to get this one. I ended up having to work into the NW corner backwards. I froze on the intersecting 1D: Fox comedy show (MAD TV), probably because I assumed the answer was one word, and because I didn't know MAD TV was still on the air. (Is it? Yes it is) I can't wait for the day when I get the clue "Old FOX TV show" and the answer is MAD TV or THE SIMPLE LIFE or UNDECLARED. That last one's already a total obscurity. Anyway, once I saw 2D: In _____ (unborn) [utero], I got it instantly and solved the corner off of that. It's a little strange to see MUFFS in the grid because despite its many everyday meanings, it always looks like a dirty word to me. See also 9A: X-rated (adult). And the award for worst MUFF ever goes to:
8D: Thumbprint feature (whorl)
I confidently wrote in WHIRL and later wondered - for a couple seconds - what a SPIRTSHOE (18A) could be. Is that a Nike brand I'd never heard of? No, the answer is WHORL, which is a totally ugly word. Are there any other whorls besides the ones on your fingers? Ooh, there are many meanings:
Main Entry: whorlI'm not liking that 3rd definition. A WHORL is something that WHIRLS - well then what's a WHIRL? Maybe WHORL is bothering because of how it sounds (I'm literally saying it aloud here at my desk, over and over) or because it is very close to WHORE.
Pronunciation: 'hwor(-&)l, 'wor(-&)l, '(h)w&r(-&)l
Etymology: Middle English wharle, whorle, probably alteration of whirle, from whirlen to whirl
1 : a drum-shaped section on the lower part of a spindle in spinning or weaving machinery serving as a pulley for the tape drive that rotates the spindle
2 : an arrangement of similar anatomical parts (as leaves) in a circle around a point on an axis
3 : something that whirls, coils, or spirals or whose form suggests such movement : SWIRL
4 : one of the turns of a univalve shell
5 : a fingerprint in which the central papillary ridges turn through at least one complete circle
25A: Kindergarten basics (ABCS)
ABCS was the answer I initially wrote in for yesterday's (far more interesting) PRE-K (Like very early education for short). What are your ABC'S, really? Is it just knowing your alphabet, because ... well, most kids I know have that down pretty well before Kindergarten. I guess ABC's must signify basic reading education in general, not just the fact that you know three letters of the alphabet, or even all 26. "Abecedarian" is a very great adjective, relating to rudimentary education - and it seems very crossword-friendly, as 11-letter words go... ooh, it can be a noun or an adjective. Please find a child (or any kind of Beginner) to refer to as an ABECEDARIAN today.
35A: Poetic foot (iamb)
It's as if the puzzle is returning to a state of equilibrium today. The theme is no longer jarringly offensive, and now my good friend IAMB has had the unfortunate -US growth removed from his rear end (see Sunday's puzzle) and appears as he should: sleek, economical, ready for poetic action. IAMS is a kind of dog food, of no clear relation to IAMBs. How to tell them apart?: PETA hates only one of them.
34D: Sports artist Neiman (Leroy)
It was very kind of this puzzle's authors not to have put "artist" in quotation marks. Leroy Neiman was an icon of sports "art" in the 1970s (and beyond, allegedly). You can see his work in galleries (and probably certain kinds of corporate boardrooms) all over California (probably other states too, but he seems very California-esque to me, in spirit if not in actuality). What I remember most about him is that he did a series of promotional posters for Burger King in the mid-1970s. Perhaps his most enduring visual legacy will be the creation of the "Femlin" - part "Feminine," part "gremlin" (you heard me), which (who?) has been a staple of the Playboy joke page since the 1950s. Here are some statuettes:
According to his Official Website, "Leroy Neiman is probably the most popular living artist in the United States." O dear god he's right! What's wrong with you people!? Jasper Johns isn't dead yet!
26D: Pianist Eubie (Blake)
27D: Drinks with the old slogan "Refresh yourself" (Cokes)
28D: Jenny Lind, e.g. (Swede)
This trio on the puzzle's eastern seaboard starts strong and fades quickly. Eubie Blake (1887-1983) was a ragtime pianist and jazz composer who was born in Baltimore, MD, where the Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center now promotes the music he helped develop. He was honored with a US postage stamp bearing his likeness in the mid-90s. I don't like COKES as an answer for "drinks" for some reason. COKE as "drink" doesn't bother me - brand name. But the plural seems forced. Did the ad use that word? Hmmm ... it seems that this slogan, "Refresh yourself," is from the 20's, and that at that time (until WWII, actually), the company actively discouraged calling Coca-Cola COKE. From Wikipedia:
Advertising campaigns encouraged people to "ask for 'Coca-Cola' by its full name," but people persisted in asking simply for "Coke." In 1941, the company resignedly began advertising Coca-Cola jointly as Coca-Cola and Coke. In 1945, the "Coke" name was trademarkedSo COKES were not actually advertised with the "Refresh yourself" slogan. I think. Let me double check the dates of the slogan... yep, 1923. Not sure how long it lasted, but there are tons of intervening slogans between then and 1941. So I think this clue is inaccurate. The SWEDE answer is just terrible. I mean, you could have put any SWEDE in that clue, right? Abba? Bjorn Borg? Why not this guy?
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld