Wednesday, November 1, 2006
Solving time: 8:39
THEME: T.S.Eliot - the letters "TSE" appear in order in every theme answer
[I am currently infuriated because I accidentally deleted an entire paragraph just now, and I can't UNDO it - just so you know]
Had the @#$# scared out of me twice yesterday for reasons that had nothing to do (I think) with Halloween. First, I took the dog for a walk in the woods, which she loves even more than I do. There were a surprising number of people out doing the same thing. I guess I'm not the only one in town who has the luxury of idling away a weekday afternoon. Anyway, it was a beautiful warm day. The dog had run ahead and I had stopped to admire, let's say, a crazy mushroom. I heard the dry autumn leaves rustle right next to me - not that odd, given the wind and the abundant squirrels and chipmunks out there. But I heard it again and looked down just in time to see a two-foot-long (Shaun, if you're reading, look away Now) SNAKE slither right past my toes. It was a harmless, common garter snake, but that didn't keep the adrenaline from delivering a sharp shock to my chest. Once it was safely past, it was kind of cool to look at. I called the dog over to share in the experience. She didn't seem to care.
Later, when I was organizing my office, and the sun was just going down, I heard voices in my house (over the din of iTunes). I thought maybe they were coming from outside, but I kept hearing them, as if they were coming from the next room. So I turned the volume of the music down and realized that my Simpsons toys in the next room had begun talking Of Their Own Volition (you're supposed to have to press a button to get them to do this). Luckily for me and my family, the toys had not actually come to life. As for the rest of Halloween: our candle-lit jack-o-lanterns looked awesome, trick-or-treaters were reasonably friendly (and plentiful) and a good time was had by all. Now it's November, wherein we count down to Thanksgiving (my favorite meal - Nov. 23) and my birthday (my favorite day - Nov. 26). Come on, start counting.
1A: Take _____ at (try) [a stab]
Why are the possible answers to this so violent? I had written A SHOT, but then stumbled when I realized that 3D: Play ground? (theater) could not possibly begin with two H's, so SHOT became STAB, a much better word for Halloween time. Guns are more efficient killers, but for good ol' fashioned horror, the killer needs the up-close and personal touch that only blades can provide.
18A: Place to see a Goya (Prado)
I love me some Goya. His paintings are truly horrifying. He brought GORE to high art - his depictions of dying and mutilated bodies were revolutionary, and inspired many later artists, particularly the surrealists. Dali's famous painting of the clocks draped over various objects:
was directly inspired by this etching of Goya's from "The Disasters of War" (which depicts atrocities from the French occupation of Spain in the early 19th century):
Needless to say, Goya is good Halloween material.
44A: "Friends" was once part of it (Must-See TV)
O god, there are few things I love more, puzzle-wise, than defunct advertising campaigns. This one was very, very effective, and came from the time in the 1990s when NBC absolutely owned Thursday night: "Friends" [FILLER] "Seinfeld" [FILLER] "E.R." More than a few shows that NEVER should have seen the light of day went on for years because they sat in one of those "FILLER" slots. An example of a less effective, in fact, supremely irritating, in fact, totally insulting advertising campaign for NBC shows would be the "It's New To You" campaign (also from the 90s, I think), which was used to sex up the practice of showing Re-Runs ... "If you haven't seen it, it's New To You." I guess that's better than "Who are you kidding, You've Got Nothing Better To Do."
46A: Cosmetics maker _____ Laszlo (Erno)
34D: Old newspaper sections (rotos)
These intersected at ROTOS's second "O" and I had to make an educated guess. What is ROTO short for? ROTARY? As far as Mr. Laszlo is concerned, I don't believe that he actually exists. Google Image search turns up only pictures of little black-and-white bottles and tubes. Whereas a Google Image search of "Estée Lauder" gets me this:
Did you know she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush in June, 2004? Weirder, did you know there is a medaloffreedom.com? It's true.
58A: G.I. chow (M.R.E.)
My first thought on completing this answer: "Who is 'Mr. E?'" I forget what "M.R.E." stands for, so I'll look it up now. MMMmmm, stands for "Meals Ready to Eat." They sound Delicious. Why not order some now for your future camping and / or survivalist needs?
4D: Record label founded by Clive Davis (Arista)
One of my (least) favorite parts of "American Idol" is the time in the season when they thaw the cryogenically preserved body of Clive Davis, wind him up, and point him in the direction of the stage (or the judges' chairs) so that he can dispense his pearls of pop wisdom. Everyone has to act like he's the king of cool because he's richer than god and can have them all killed in the blink of an eye for the slightest suggestion that he is not très hip and SexyCool. Nobody can raise so much as an eyebrow in the presence of Mr. Davis. Or else ... "You dare to snicker at the great Clive Davis. I slept with Patti @#$#-in' Smith, you mother-$$%@ers!" And then the stormtroopers would come in and rid the room of all signs of life.
37D: Education fundamentals (Three R's)
This is just in here because I got it with just one crossing letter, and it made me feel very proud of myself. I also just like the fact that one of the R's doesn't start with "R" at all.
38D (THEME): 1988 vice-presidential candidate (BenTSEn)
It makes me sad that despite the fact that the 1988 election is not only within my living memory, but it's also the first election in which I ever voted, STILL I struggled (slightly) to get this. I was like "Who ran with Dukakis? Big guy ... Texan ... should have been running for Prez, probably ... spanked Quayle on national television." Eventually, knowing that "TSE" was in the answer somewhere triggered my feeble memory, and I got it.
57D: Literary monogram found in the answers to the nine asterisked clues (T.S.E.)
The great thing about this puzzle's theme, from a long-time solver's point of view, is that "Literary monogram" (T.S.E.) is an established crossword staple. I would say that, along with R.L.S., T.S.E. is the most famous literary monogram in all of CrossWorld. So, to take something so familiar, overly familiar, even, and do something new with it ... great. Lovely. Throw that monogram all over the puzzle! Eliot, Eliot, everywhere!
I'm off to measure out my life in coffee spoons.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld