Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Solving time: not paying attention
THEME: "POWER" - first word in all theme answers can precede POWER (29D) to create a familiar two-word phrase
Robert Altman died yesterday. He directed some of my favorite films, including Short Cuts, Nashville, The Long Goodbye, Gosford Park, and the inimitable, insane, random, rambling, absurd late-80s anti-classic O.C. and Stiggs. He was a Great director and one of the last remaining directors whose vision did not seem driven primarily by a desire for massive commercial success. Some of his stuff was terrible, but that's because he was daring and experimental - if you want to do Great work, you have to risk failing miserably. Otherwise, the best you'll ever get is passable mediocrity, of which we need no more in this world, despite the fact that, as I've said before, I do love the word "mediocre" on a purely sound-based level. R.I.P. Mr. Altman - Every Pret-a-Porter and Popeye I had to endure was more than made up for by The Player and all the other movies mentioned above. An enviable career.
Today's puzzle is by Edward Alch, a name I've not seen before. Sounds like a bad pseudonym. What are you hiding, Mr. Alch?! ... if that is your real name...
Yesterday's discussion of ATHOL led me to discover that there are ATHOLs all over America: in MA, ID, NY, SD, and KS (the last one with a massive population of ... 51).
4 theme answers running across and 2 running down. I would think doing intersecting long theme answers would be hard. The theme answers are pretty fun and unusual - I especially like 56A: "Saturday Night Fever" sequel (Staying Alive), mostly because it conjures up campy 80s Travolta-ness. I don't usually like to be reminded of WILL AND GRACE (20A), a comedy which started out interesting and ended up hateful (see also "Seinfeld"). So many other WILLs - WILL Ferrell? WILL o' the wisp? WILL you still love me tomorrow? But Mr. "Alch" cannot be blamed for my personal TV ... is there a word that's the opposite of "predilections?" Botched two answers (as you can see on my grid) - had LEAP for 41A: Bound along (lope) and ENTER for 49D: Put on the books (enact) - but otherwise, smooth sailing.
5A: Austrian's "Alas!" (Ach!)
51A: "____ bin ein Berliner" (Ich)
Is Mr. Alch tipping his hand here? Does he come from the land of Chocolate? Is he a Friend of Uter? Hmmm ... I'm just sayin' that this is a lot of phlegm-clearing guttural for one puzzle. One American puzzle, that is. If it were during WWII, or Germany were at all a military threat to anyone outside of Belgium, I'd be ... suspicious. I'm watching you, Herr Alch.
23A: Row C abbr., maybe (Ind.)
I claim that we have seen this exact clue, almost if not exactly verbatim, in the past month or so. Why not "Sen. Bayh's state" or "Place for a driver to put it"? - ooh, I really like that one. Steal it, Will!
30A: Cooperstown's _____ Lake (Otsego)
This is just down the road from me and it still took me a long time to get. There are So Many Native American "O" words with "G"s in them around here that I can't keep them straight. Otsego, Owego, Oswego, Oquaga, Onondaga. That's just off the top of my head. I'm sure there are more.
39A: Ratty place (sewer)
Again with the rats and the sewer! And as one faithful reader has pointed out, recent and future movies are not going to help sever this association. Flushed Away was all about rats in the sewer system, and I suspect that next year's Ratatouille will continue the caricature, only doubling the insult by having the rats live not only in sewers, but in France. (Not sure where my Euro-hostility is coming from today ... maybe not enough coffee in my system, though I am full of very American Pancakes, courtesy of IHOP)
46A: Bejewelled toppers (tiaras)
The TIARAS are starting to make me miss the ASPS. This is at least the third appearance of this word (singular or plural) in the past two weeks.
7D: Artist _____ de Toulouse-Lautrec (Henri)
Love this midget's work. Just an amazing, important artist, especially for all of his fabulously vibrant poster art of the late 19th century. Like other post-impressionists of the time, he was heavily influenced by Japanese art, especially print-making techniques. Great great stuff (just trying to give Europe back a little of the love I took away earlier in the commentary).
33A: Sandy's mistress (Annie)
I find the phrasing here very disturbing. I understand that dogs are normally said to have "masters," but Annie is a girl and so the word was changed to its feminine counterpart, "mistress." And yet ... "mistress" has romantic and even sexual overtones that make this clue read wrong. While I'm sure that there is a Tijuana Bible somewhere that depicts Annie as Sandy's "mistress," I'd prefer to think of her as his "owner" or "companion."
43D: Ralph of "The Waltons" (Waite)
More obscure than John Astin, I say! I watched "The Waltons" a Lot growing up - a very iconic 70s TV show whose final family "goodnight" scene is still famous enough to be parodied today in cell phone commercials and the like. But as of this second, I couldn't tell you which Walton Ralph Waite played. I only know it wasn't John Boy. Or Erin. Ah, yes, I would have guessed the father. In my mind, this Ralph Waite guy was by far a more believable and likable and more reasonably groomed TV father than Michael Landon ever was. Not that I didn't watch a Lot of "Little House" too.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld