Saturday, December 2, 2006
Solving time: 36:41 (applet)
THEME: Prefix Remix - common words are clued as if they were two-word answers, with the prefix as the first word, e.g. 76A: Amounts owed at a diner? (counter balance)
Blogger is screwing with me again, so today I'm not going to give it enough time to trip me up. In and out. No fuss, no muss.
Loved the theme, which was easy and difficult in equal measure. Helped me a lot in the lower half of the, held me back a little bit up top. The big challenge of the puzzle for me was the NE and NNE, where I guessed (correctly) at a cross of two words I didn't know. I was actually a little surprised when I clicked "Done!" and the computer accepted my grid. Pretty lucky, considering the guess and the fact that I hadn't double-checked my grid at all.
28A (THEME): Graffiti on a jail wall? (con-notations)
This was the clue that held much of the NE hostage until the bitter end, when stormtroopers seized the building in a cloud of tear gas and hail of gunfire. Luckily, all the answers got out alive. It is clear to me why I couldn't get CONNOTATIONS. I knew that the prefix was CON-, but assumed wrongly that the next letter must be an "S" or "T" or "V," anything but yet another "N." You can't hear the prefixiness of the CON- in CONNOTATIONS because the second "N" is elided, so ... buttons. Took me forever, though the answer is obvious when you see it, just sitting there mocking you (me). Perhaps I would have got it from crosses sooner if the crosses were known to me. Let's look at the little far NE segment.
22A: Do followers (re mi)
26A: Destructive 1995 hurricane (Opal)
The first of these made me Angry (at myself, for not understanding the gist of the clue sooner). The second made me ... shrug. I had IVAN written there for a good long while, IVAN being the the only recent 4-letter hurricane I could think of (besides Rita, whose year I knew). These two sat atop one another, and with one blank and the other wrong, I was going nowhere fast. At first, in this whole NE corner, I had just two sad little words written in, the validity of which I doubted over and over again, though they ended up being right: 15A: Junket (trip) and its "I" cross 17D: "Somehow everything gets done" ("I manage") (love that one). Besides IMANAGE, the other Downs, the ones that crossed the then-unsolved CONNOTATIONS, were not helping me out.
15D: Counselor on "Star Trek: T.N.G. (Troi)
16D: Fix, as brickwork (repoint)
18D: Footed glass (pilsner)
OK, to a certain brand of mainstream nerd (not this brand, but a brand), that first one is a gimme . With that spelling, I'm surprised I haven't seen Counselor TROI more. But those other two ... I could not have told you what a PILSNER glass looked like before today. For most of the puzzle I though "footed" meant ... something done to glass, or some technical term for paned glass; never occurred to me to think drinking glass. REPOINT is still mysterious. Seems a rather technical masonic term: "repair the joints of bricks; 'point a chimney'" (thefreedictionary.com). Once I figured out that 43A: Like some penguin feet was ORANGE (an answer that makes me go "ewwww" for some reason - would have liked "Blogger Reynaldo's handle" better) and guessed that Actor Charleson of "Chariots of Fire" was IAN ("three letters, probably British ... IAN. Why not?"), then the NE Downs eventually fell. The NNE was another story entirely.
21A: Dark region of the moon (mare)
12D: Pitch-raising guitar device (capo)
These little answers cross at the "A," which was the Very Last Letter I (desperately) entered in the grid. I have never heard of either term. Need a vowel. CAPO is something I've heard of, usually in relation to whacking people, not playing guitar, but when in doubt, enter something that you at least know is an actual word. MARE also is a word I know, though in relation to horses, not the moon. From the fruitily named enchantedlearning.com
Mare (plural maria) means "sea," but maria on the moon are plains on the moon. They are called maria because very early astronomers thought that these areas on the moon were great seas. The first moon landing was in the Mare Tranquillitatis (the Sea of Tranquility). Maria are concentrated on the side of the moon that faces the Earth; the far side has very few of these plains. Scientists don't know why this is so.Here is a picture of the Mare Nectaris:I began this little segment of the puzzle with 11A: Easily passed (aced). "Mmmm, the ironing is delicious."
I'm off for a walk in the woods. Part II later in the day. . .
And I'm back, full of lunch and fresh off of both Listener (NZ) crosswords, the cryptic and the regular (well, British regular, that is, with all those non-intersecting squares, ugh). So, where was I? Ah yes. The rest of the puzzle.
71A: Refrigerator brand (Amana)
39A: Poplar tree (abele)
33D: Extra capsule in a pill bottle (desiccant)
The first of these: "Hey, that's my refrigerator brand. Gimme gimme gimme." The second: "....?" It might have helped if I'd read the clue properly (I only just this second, literally, noticed that the word in the clue was "poplar" and not "popular"). On second thought, no, that wouldn't have helped. I know tree names like I know, let's say, dark parts of the moon. Both of those 5-letter "A" answers intersected the long down DESICCANT, which I could not see forEver, and whose validity I hereby dispute. Or at least question. "Extra capsule" implies that it is like the others in shape and size. I would not even call most DESICCANTS I've seen "capsules." They are little pouches, where a capsule is, well ... a capsule. Need visuals!
DESICCANT:One last fact: Google Image search of [DESICCANT capsule] gets you 20 hits; same search of [DESICCANT pouch] = 83,400. Prosecution rests.
[late addendum: I have no idea where I got that last Google Image search number from, as it is wrong. The actual number is ... 44. And "capsules" are, in fact, the name given to certain kinds of DESICCANTs commonly found in bottles of capsule medication. I am told that DESICCANT pouches are not found in medicine bottles, which I dispute as I am certain I've seen a pouch or two in a medicine bottle in my time. But in retrospect, all my complaints in this entry are pretty ill-founded. Not sure what got me so worked up.
75A: Director Gus Van _____ (Sant)
79A: "CHiPs" star of 1970's-80's TV (Estrada)
Really, did you need "of 1970's-80's TV" in that clue? "Oh, that 'CHiPs.'" ESTRADA was a big hunk of beefcake when I was a kid. I'll take "CHiPs" over "CSI" or "Law & Order" any day of the week. Fast, fun, cheesy, sunny - everything modern crime dramas are not, and without the hicksville heavy-handed morality and round-house kickery of "Walker, Texas Ranger." ESTRADA was having a good time, and you could come along for the ride. Or not. He didn't care. He seemed to understand his pop culture niche, and he embraced it rather than trying to escape it. Big hit on Spanish-language soap operas. He's done voice-over work in recent years on both "King of the Hill" and "Sealab 2021." His official website features a blurb from Cindy Williams of "Laverne & Shirley" fame. Long live good-time ESTRADA. May he work forever. Oh, maybe I should say something about Gus Van SANT, since I bothered mentioning him and all. Uh ... My Own Private Idaho was pretty good. To Die For was Great. The 1998 "shot-for-shot" remake of Psycho, however, was an abomination. That's enough about Mr. Van SANT.
91A: Draft org. (NBA)
Wow, nice trap. Got me. I of course had SSS (and SSN and SSA, since I wasn't rightly sure of the proper abbreviation). I like how the puzzle brings up the draft - during war time, with a bill on reinstating the draft about to be put forth in the Congress - and then pulls a little fake-out, bringing us back to the happy land of professional sports, where everything is right with the world.
A few last thoughts:
Two new answers are making a play for Pantheon status: 66A: "The Matrix" hero (Neo) and 124D: Rob Roy's refusal ("Nae!"). Please note that if NAE really wants into the Pantheon, we are going to require that he start being clued by way of reference to Groundskeeper Willie, e.g. "Groundskeeper Willie's refusal." How hard was that? What are you saving the ink for, Christmas? Liven the clue up a bit!
87D: "Woe _____" (humorous grammar book) [is I] is a very fine book, probably the best of its kind (that is, for a general audience). I have used it in my courses with some success, though lately I've gone totally Old School and unleashed Strunk & White's Elements of Style (a finer book on writing has never been written, I assure you). Side note: I read the first fistful of pages of that Eats, Shoots & Leaves book and immediately got that violent feeling that sometimes comes over me when I see pedantic people on their haughty high-horses. I'm all for modeling correct usage, but to advocate that people become "sticklers" and actually start correcting people, people they don't even know ... if you try that bull@#$@ out in the real world and get the @#$#@ kicked out of you, do not come crying to me because I will not care.
Security Council member 89D: Sport with arm-waving (epée) is hereby acknowledged, in accordance with Pantheon by-law 0004 ("All Security Council members must receive public acknowledgment each time they appear in puzzles"). With no disrespect to EPÉE, I wanted the answer here to be HULA.
119A (THEME): Where we be? (dis-location) is by far the hottest of the theme entries, in that it made me laugh out loud mid-solve, which, believe me, is a rare event. The Eugene T. Maleska "Out of the Past" award this week goes to 13D: Verdi aria ("Eri Tu"), which I hadn't seen in so long that I'd completely forgotten it and written in my default five-letter E---U word, ELIHU.
Lastly, a little something for one of my most faithful readers, who knows who he is: 32D: "Take _____" ("Congratulations!") [a bow]. Next time, Mr. Shortz, you might try upping the difficulty level a little by turning the clue in this direction:
Just a friendly suggestion.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld