Friday, December 29, 2006
Solving time: 14:25
Rex Parker is officially back from vacation, though I won't be blogging at full strength until tomorrow. You know how it is when you return to your house after a substantial time away: you're jetlagged and groceries need buying, plants watering, dog exercising, bills paying, etc. So I'm going to get my House in Order today and return full of vim and whimsy tomorrow.
Today, however, I will say a few things about the Friday puzzle, just to whet your appetite. O and by the way, apologies to the Thursday puzzle, which becomes the first puzzle since I started this blog (Sep. 25, 2006) for which I failed to produce a commentary. You're probably lucky, Thursday, because I was none too happy with your Far North. Not blogging means not having to carp at you.
Friday was gloriously easy for a Friday. I SAILed (45A: Move easily) through it, though I probably could have / should have charged ahead faster. I always slow down a bit on late-week puzzles, approaching them more deliberately for fear of entering multiple wrong answers and then never being able to find my way out of the mess I've created. But there weren't any tricky patches in this puzzle, just a few odd words and names. The long entries, perpendicular pairs of familiar 15-letter phrases, were all beautifully colloquial and totally familiar - though I'd always heard YOU AND WHAT ARMY?, not 3D: Retort to an improbable threat (You and whose army?). I also hesitated at 20A: Insult from a fashionista (That's so last year), first because the word "fashionista" is so horrifically ugly, and second because I thought the phrase might be THAT'S SO LAST WEEK (funnier, somehow).
6A: Slate, e.g., informally (e-mag)
Of all the E-prefixed neologisms, this is perhaps my least favorite. Do people really call Slate this? Have heard of E-ZINE, but perhaps the more underground, DIY-sounding "ZINE" is too lowbrow a term to be applied to high-minded Slate. I like how the Down cross here, 7D: Send off (mail), creates a little upside-down-L-shaped E-MAIL.
6D: Bygone Cadillacs (El Dorados)
I had no idea these were "bygone." This is the first long answer I got in this puzzle (off of E-MAG). These Spanish-sounding cars descend from the top to the middle of the puzzle, where they just kiss the verifiably Spanish 47A: 16th-century Spanish mystic (St. Teresa), of which there is a famous statue ... somewhere ... ah, yes, "The Ecstasy of St. Teresa," by Bernini, from the Cornaro Chapel of Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome (ah, the return of graphix to my blog; aren't you happy?):
THINGS I DIDN'T KNOW
- 23A: KNO3 (niter) - my first thought: "Vanity license plate?"
- 28A: Runner in "The Sun Also Rises" (toro) - The second "O" was the last square I filled in, once I realized the clue was asking for an ANIMAL, not a person - TORA seemed an odd name for a literary character, and I was pretty certain that the phrase was not LOVE CANQUERS [CANKERS?] ALL (11D: Starry-eyed sentiment (Love conquers all))
- 52A: Pioneer in the math of Sudoku (Euler) - ick, I object, mainly because this clue is so inbred that only the puzzliest puzzle nerds are going to get it. HINMAN ("ACPT Champion") is a more familiar name to me than EULER, and you wouldn't put HINMAN in a puzzle ... would you? You should, actually. He's not Ken Jennings-famous (and Jennings was in a Sun puzzle earlier this year), but surely among puzzlers he's practically a gimme. Beats hell out of EULER ("Euler ... Euler ... anyone ... ?") [late addendum: OK, so EULER is a totally famous mathematician and I'm an idiot. Happy?]
- 58A: 1814 Byron poem (Lara) - Oh 1814! Ugh. I had MAUD, which I think is also a Byron poem. The only Byron poem I know (well) is "Don Juan"
- 63A: "The Phil Harris-Alice _____ Show" of 1940's-50's radio (Faye) - because "Tammy _____ Bakker" would be too easy
- 50D: Home of the Ashanti (Ghana) - the only Ashanti I know is an Awful pseudo-R&B pop star
- 25D: Some lobsters (hens) - yes, sometimes, in a clever ploy to get the fishermen to throw them back, lobsters start clucking and flapping their wings
48D: Hunt's sitcom co-star (Reiser)
How about "'Mad About You' also-ran"? Hunt, who was a huge star for about 4 years in the mid-late 90s (see, uh, Twister (1996), I guess), won a ton of Emmys, while Reiser ... didn't. He probably made a ton of money, though, so that's something. His great claim to fame, at least from where I sit, is that he is perhaps the most famous graduate of the university where I teach. When that's the best you've got for your promotional literature ... well, you can understand why we decided to invest so much energy in becoming a Division I athletics program. Sports give donors a reason to give, and "Mad About You" re-runs ... not so much.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld