Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Solving time: roughly 10 minutes (with pen)
THEME: Bowling - rebus puzzle where (X) and (/) are used to denote STRIKE and SPARE, respectively
Rebus puzzles spread puzzle fun around because they involve not just the typical set of longer Across answer, but crosses as well. In this puzzle, STRIKE and SPARE phrases have to work up and down, and most of these phrases seem strong, lively, and, most importantly, in the language. Only two [STRIKE]s and two [SPARE]s on the whole grid, but you get eight affected answers. I have only two slight aesthetic problems with the puzzle. First, the rebus squares are not symmetrical, a fact made more evident (and thus displeasing) by the fact that they are Almost symmetrical. The [STRIKE] at the beginning of 35D: Begins to play ([X]s up a tune) and the [SPARE] at the end of 10D: "Hurry!" (No time to [/]) have that delicious reverse mirror image symmetry, but the [STRIKE] at the beginning of 17A: Appeal to caprice ([X] one's fancy) has no corresponding symmetrical [SPARE] on the grid. The [SPARE] in 62A: Go all out for a party, say ([/] no expense) would have to come at the end of the answer, not the beginning, for the symmetry to be complete. I Like Symmetry. How much? I LOVE the new Honda Civic ads that end with a little "ding" sound as the final "C" turns around the face the other way, creating not only a palindrome but a word the second half of which is a mirror image of the first. My (college) graduating class of 1991 gave itself the name of Palindrome. Dorky, yes, but it only happens once a century (for a while), so ... yeah, it's dorky. Still, I [heart] palindromes - but only single-word palindromes, none of that "A man, a plan, a canal, panama" crap. Oh, I almost forgot: the second thing that bugs me (very mildly) about the puzzle is that it should NOT have any other "X"s in it, so that the rebus is not confusing - you signify [STRIKE] with an "X," so all other "X"s should be debarred. And yet ... this lone actual letter "X" sits in the middle of [SPARE] NO EXPENSE, making the down cross, LATEX, look like LATE [STRIKE], which sounds rebus-y, but isn't. A minor blemish on an otherwise mostly lovely puzzle visage. Oh, and you will note on my scan of the puzzle that in my rush to finish the puzzle, I forgot the notation for [SPARE] and just wrote in "SP" - what would one have to do in competition to have a grid that was considered correctly filled? Would proper rebus signification count? Speaking of bowling, here's how they roll in Arkansas, which apparently is in the process of renaming itself "Dorkansas":
1A: Bulova alternative (Omega)
My first thought: "Do I know any other kinds of caviar?" ROE wouldn't fit. EGGS. Those aren't really alternatives. Oh, right, it's BELUGA caviar. Bulova's a watch. So ... ROLEX? TIMEX? Ugh. This whole NW was a bit choppy for me. Because I hadn't figured out that the puzzle was a rebus yet, I couldn't see 1D: Picketing, perhaps (on [X]) and was instead wondering if there was a three-letter word that meant "picket fencing." Also I misread 14A: Manicurist's expertise (nails) as "manicurist's EXPENSE" (I even just now mistakenly typed the clue that way), and while I guess manicurists would count the purchase of fake NAILS as an "expense" on their tax forms, the answer seemed a bit forced. Luckily for me, the lovely Sharon GLESS (4D) appeared and helped calm the waters. Remember when Cagney and Lacy was like the most badass cop show on TV? Sharon Gless was an alcoholic cop Way before that Dennis Franz guy. And now all cops are basically stage dummies ogling "scientific" evidence and muttering one-liners on their search for the apparently THOUSANDS of psychotic genius child-torturing serial murder-rapists that walk among us. Seriously, why are these ridiculous cookie-cutter cop shows so popular? I mean, Cold Case?! COLD CASE!? How can anyone even get past that ridiculous hair, let alone take the premise of the show seriously?
16A: Relative of butterine (oleo)
This was easy, and OLEO is a Pantheon word, but what the #$@# is "butterine," aside from the worst coinage ever (well, worst since AIRMADA)? "It's not butter ... it's butterine!" Oh, wait, is it a hybrid of butter and margarine? So the suffix is pronounced with a short "i" sound as in "saccharine," not a long "e" sound as in "gasoline?" Why would you make such a hybrid? The best thing I could find about "butterine" (in the one minute that I tried) is that it was part of a UC Davis cheerleading cheer, dating back to the 1920's: "Bossy Cow-Cow / Honey Bee-Bee / Oleo Margarine / Oleo Butterine / Alfalfa HAY!" I think a crowd of Aggie fans is supposed to shout that last word. When this is what passes for a cheerleader pyramid, it's hard to know:
28A: Viking Ericson (Leif)
Poor Leif. Probably got to North America centuries ahead of Columbus (if Newfoundland counts...) - Norsemen may eventually have gotten as far as Minnesota! - and yet, he gets no respect - the Rodney Dangerfield of the exploring world. All glory goes to Columbus, bringer of slavery and pestilence. But did you know?: in 1964, President of the United States Lyndon B. Johnson declared October 9 to be "Leif Erikson Day" in the United States. I demand that we all celebrate this next year. It's time Leif Ericson reclaimed his rightful place in history. As of now, he's not even the most famous "Leif."
56A: Pentagonal part of a diamond (plate)
50D: Compulsive lifter (klepto)
These are very clever clue / answer pairs. Love the phrasing, and especially love the colloquial quality of both "lifter" and KLEPTO. One of Sahra's favorite comics at the moment is about Superman's dog, Krypto. Krypto should have a nemesis (or Bizarro Krypto) called KLEPTO. That would be hot.
22D: Popes' headgear (tiaras)
23D: National rival (Oriole)
OK, on the first one: what? I thought MITRES, maybe. TIARAS are for princesses! Well, I'm technically wrong on this, though I think these things look more like crowns than TIARAS? Is it sinful of me to ask why the Catholic Church is clinging to fortunes in gold and jewels when most of its followers are living in poverty? Here we see Pope Pius XII showing off his mad poping skillz while rocking the three-tiered "neck-breaker" tiara. Old Skool.As for ORIOLE - look, I know why you clued it that way, and I fell right into your little trap, assuming "National" was the rental car company and fumbling around with HERTZ and AVIS and DOLLAR and what not. The problem is ... I know that the MLB is trying to manufacture rivalries, but until the Nationals or the Orioles a. start playing more than once a year, or b. start winning in general, then "rivalry" is a massive stretch. The Nationals have only been in existence, what, two years? And neither they nor the Orioles have had a winning record in that time. Rivalries are like trees falling in the woods. The Orioles and Nationals have not made a sound that anyone can hear, so their rivalry Does Not Exist, however much the greater Baltimore-D.C. metro area wishes it did.
41D: 1980's TV show with a stenciled logo (The A-Team)
44D: Musician Brian (Eno)
I never saw a single episode of "The A-Team" growing up, yet I have this weird love for it, as it seems to represent everything horribly, but now campily, wrong with the 80s. Remember when blowing @#$# up was just good fun and bad guys were clownishly incompetent? Good times. Brian ENO is hereby inducted into the Pantheon, as he is everywhere you want to be, puzzle-wise. He is the composer-producer who played with Roxy Music (love them) and later gained fame as a producer of albums for bands like Talking Heads and U2. He is considered the "father of ambient music," about which Eno has said, paradoxically: "it must be as ignorable as it is interesting." Well, you're half way there, as I'm ignoring it just fine. ENO is also a "fruit salt," which seems to be a euphemism for antacid AND, according to one box I read, "urinary alkaliniser." Salut!
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
late addendum: I just finished today's NY Sun Puzzle, and - awesome coincidence - it not only contains ENO, but clues it as "Antacid brand" - woo hoo! Learned something in the morning, used it in the afternoon. Serendipity. Nearly as perfect an experience as my trip thru the Dunkin' Donuts drive-thru this morning, which couldn't have been faster unless I'd tried to complete the whole transaction without actually stopping. Maybe next time.