Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Solving time: 6:35
THEME: "The Inn Crowd" - 3 theme answers are people whose last names are also the names of famous INNs: Alex COMFORT (17A), Lionel HAMPTON (26A), and Billie HOLIDAY (47A)
Cute theme, quick solve. The only snag was 17A (THEME): "The Joy of Sex" author (Alex Comfort) - I was solving that region of the puzzle before I knew the theme, and for some reason I thought the guy's last name was COUSINS. I figured out just this second that the person I was thinking of was NORMAN COUSINS, the man associated with the healing power of laughter. He wrote Anatomy of an Illness, in which he described how watching Marx Brothers films, among other things, helped him recover from a grave illness. Not sure what it says about me that I confused the SEX expert with the LAUGHTER expert.
Seemed a bit mean and unnecessary to clue Lionel HAMPTON as the So-called "King of Vibes". That "so-called" sounds derisive, implying that he's called that but doesn't deserve to be, or that the the title is dubious. I can't speak to his vibes skills, as I have barely heard of Lionel HAMPTON (I'm more of a Lionel RICHIE man myself) and probably couldn't pick vibes out of an instrument line-up. Still, I think "so-called" should be eliminated from cluing unless there is some deflating intent behind it. Long Reign Lionel, KING OF (good) VIBES.
14A: Canon competitor (Xerox)
1D: Oral, e.g. (!) (exam)
4D: Either of two A.L. nines (Sox)
Throw in ALEX COMFORT, and this tiny NW portion of the puzzle has 4 X-words (3 total X's). Now throw in 38D: Invoice add-on (sales tax) and its X-cross 68A: An inert gas (xenon) and, well, that's a lot of X's. Nice, especially for a Tuesday. Speaking of the SOX, it seems that the Red SOX (my co-favorite team, along with Detroit) are going to trade Manny Ramirez (perhaps my favorite player, in that his play, good and bad, brings me the greatest joy) because they are picking up some nondescript white boy (J.D. Drew) to play left field. Ick. Manny has personality. Manny makes inexplicable fielding decisions. Manny is the the most preternaturally gifted hitter I have Ever Seen play (finally got to see him play live this past summer - he hit a home-run, hurray). It will sicken me to see him as, say, an Oriole. Nobody that good deserves to be turned into an Oriole.
11A: Huck Finn's raftmate (Jim)
11D: Like many a disabled semi (jack-knifed)
The first of these was my first desperate toe-hold in the puzzle, after I'd gone past 1A and 6A with no luck. The second of these has to be the greatest Tuesday fill ever. The clue is hot - perfectly conceived and worded - and the fabulous double "K" brings an added sparkle and shine. Such an animated answer, and it just feels good when you say it: JACK-KNIFED!
32A: A deadly sin (envy)
33A: Lecherous goat men (satyrs)
Here we enter the sinful center of the puzzle (actually, the true center of the puzzle is 39A: Sale item, maybe: Abbr. [irr.], but IRR. isn't sexy enough for me to want to write about it). ENVY and Lust side by side. Nice. I got ENVY as soon as I read the clue because, coincidentally, I was holding a book with that very title last night as I wandered around Barnes & Noble thinking about what to get people for Xmas. There is a whole series of little books on the deadly sins put out by Oxford University press - and they seemed really interesting to me. They're written for a general readership by quite reputable writers and scholars, including Francine Prose and Wendy Wasserstein. I actually bought the one on Anger for myself. I have ... occasional ... issues ... with that particular ... sin. This is moving into weirdly confessional territory, so I'll move on.
46A: Houston hockey player (Aero)
Never heard of 'em? Well, no surprise there, as they are not an NHL team. They are, rather, an AHL (American Hockey League) team: minor league. I am happy to hear this because I had this alarmed feeling that my sports cred was falling precipitously - how could I not know that Houston had a major league hockey franchise? I mean, I could not name all the NHL teams off the top of my head, but I think I could tell you the name of the hockey team if you gave me the name of the city / state. Florida PANTHERS, Dallas STARS, Carolina HURRICANES - I'm just going to do memory drills here for a while, you guys can go ahead without me ... San Jose SHARKS, yes!
65A: Garlicky sauce (aioli) (mmm, 80% vowels)
35D: Hospital fluids (sera)
59D: Fruity drinks (ades)
All potential Pantheon material. You will not find ADES outside of a crossword puzzle grid except as a suffix. SERA? Hardly. Who says anything with proper Latinate pluralization like that (besides, uh, me)? AIOLI, however, is common parlance - but it's exotic enough, and common enough in the grid, that I would consider AIOLI for inclusion at some point. In conclusion, "Hospital fluids" is the grossest clue I've read in a while - I just thank god the answer was SERA and not one of the hundreds of horrifying potential answers floating through my head.
24D: Singer with an Oscar-nominated song in "The Lord of the Rings" (Enya)
Ugh, now she pretty much has to go on my short-list for new Pantheon inductees. She's everywhere she wants to be. It's a bit annoying. I was happy to see Pantheon aspirant 12D: Louvre pyramid architect (I.M. Pei) up there in the NE, and in his full-name form, no less. Very impressive, Mr. Pei. ASTA approves.
41D: Worth a C (fair)
Man, this threw me right off. Aside from the COMFORT / Cousins fiasco in the NW, this was the part of the puzzle that slowed me down the most. It was only on my third pass at this answer that I saw what the clue was aiming for. So misdirective! C = 100, so my mind was thinking mathematically; the horrible irony is that the clue was going for the "C" that is actually closest to my everyday life, in that I give lots and lots of "C"s on papers. I think did so just yesterday. Grrr.
27D: "To Live and Die _____" (in L.A.)
Thought I'd end today with some glorious 80's goodness, and what says glorious 80's goodness better than Wang Chung? "I wonder why in L.A. / To live and die in L.A." - genius. Wang Chung did the entire soundtrack to William Friedkin's 1985 neo-noir film. If you can get over the group's ridiculous name and ignore some of its sillier top 40 hits / videos, the music on this soundtrack is not bad. Screams 80's, but in the best way possible.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld