Thursday, December 7, 2006
Solving time: 11:20
THEME: Ups and Downs - 4 long vertical theme answers clued with two-word phrases ending "up" or "down," the "up" answers running up and the down answers ... that's right. Example: 13D: Line up? (ngisruoystahw - or "what's your sign" standing on its head)
I like the fact that this grid is unusually shaped, and that all four theme answers are vertical - uncommon. I like also that the four theme answers are all consecutively clued, i.e. 11D, 12D, 13D, and 14D - also uncommon. Nice palindromic (or chiastic) structure to the four theme answers, which run, in order, down-up-up-down. But most of all, I like that this puzzle was written by KELLY CLARKSON! Woo hoo! I saw her in concert, and it was awesome. Perhaps you've seen the photo of me (and my giant hand) adoring her, but it's worth showing again:
Look, I know the author's name is Kelly Clark. I'm just going to consider it a not-so-clever pseudonym. I love you, Kelly!
The fill for the theme answers is not particularly striking, though I do like the idea of upside-down MORTIMERSNERD 12D: Dummy up?. Which is to say, DRENSREMITROM. I got slowed DOWN (slow on the UPtake) by IREMEMBERMAMA (11D: Play down?), because I couldn't figure out what was theme-y about it, especially after I had DRENSREMITROM. I took out all of IREMEMBERMAMA, figuring it was wrong and must really be something upside-down. Then I saw all the theme clues, noticed the "up" / "down" theme, and, uh, got it. Lost some time there. Not a good time. My nemesis at the NYT puzzle site, whom I have dubbed "Chuck," beat me today (after I had thrashed him the day before). O well. Tomorrow is another day, Chuck. Watch your back.
Speaking of Olivia Newton-John ... no fewer than two of my readers sent me this bit of Olivia News. She is apparently suing Universal for back royalties from the sale of the Grease soundtrack. Here is the brief AP article:
LOS ANGELES — Lawsuit is the word [heh, cute]: Olivia Newton-John is suing Universal Music Group Inc. for allegedly failing to pay more than $1 million in royalties on sales of the "Grease" soundtrack album.
Newton-John starred with John Travolta in the 1978 movie version of the Broadway hit.
The breach-of-contract suit was filed Friday in Los Angeles County Superior court. It contends that while Universal did pay some royalties on the album, it failed to make a range of other contractual payments, said John Mason, an attorney for Newton-John.
According to the suit, a recent audit showed Universal owes more than $1 million to Newton-John's company, ON-J Productions [good thing you got that "N" in there...], Ltd.
"The lawsuit is without merit and, at the appropriate time, we expect that the court will dismiss it," Universal said in a statement Tuesday.
Now I'm no lawyer, but my gut tells me Olivia should win this suit and be awarded not only what she's asking for, but massive punitive damages, which she could the use to bring her dreamy, peaceful, sexy vibe to all the people of the world who have never been mellow. I mean, she's like a million years old, and look how cute:
Clearly she has something wonderful to teach us all.
1A: Sounds in a coffee ad (ahs)
4A: Sight in a coffee ad (cup)
Coffee, coffee, bam bam! Nice. I have coffee every morning and yet could not see either of these answers at first glance. I guess if you're going to clue "ah's" and you want the clue to pass the dinner-table test, then yes, go with coffee ads, where people respond in ridiculously sexual ways to their mediocre morning brew. I always loved the ads where the poor, beleaguered housewife watches her husband guzzle coffee at a neighbor's house and then tells us (through the power of ESP) that her husband never asks for a second cup at home. That's because you don't know how to take care of your man, you stupid, selfish cow! You know what else? Your husband's sleeping with your neighbor, too. That's right. I guess you should've put a little more effort into your coffee-making, and a little less into shopping, watching soaps, doing your nails, and sneaking snorts from the flask you keep under the seat cushion of the Barcalounger, you sorry specimen of American wifery. Etc.
I would like to add that I am not fond of 7A: Clothe (tog). TOG is a verb, now? When did that happen?
18A: Studs (breeders)
I believe STUD was a recent answer, and now it is a clue. It is a good, versatile word. I don't like that this clue/answer pairing forces me to visualize horse sex, but I'm all for the word STUD, in theory. I would especially like to see it clued thusly: "'Tell me about it, _____'": last spoken words of Grease."
WORDS I DIDN'T KNOW:
2A: Montana college town named after a French port (Havre)
32A: Semidry American white wine (sauterne)
53A: Spinachlike plant (orach)
42D: Depth charge, slangily (ashcan)
I can tell you that my Blogger text editor does not like "semidry," "sauterne," "spinachlike," "orach," or "slangily" (all underlined in red by the editor-bot). I've heard of Le Havre, but not the Montana college town. Which college? O my god, Montana State University - Northern, a satellite campus, I guess, in the farthest northern regions of the state. That's a long way to go for this answer. SAUTERNE is surely some pretentious thing that a lot of hardcore solvers will know, but not me. Hmm, actually, it's pretentious in name only. From answers.com:
[soh-TERN; saw-TERN] A generic name used in the United States for inexpensive white wines ranging from dry to semisweet. Such wines aren't anything like the famous French sauternes (spelled with a final s) and are often simply jug wines made from a variety of mediocre grapes.
I would not willingly eat anything called ORACH. Unless I were in LVOV, where it's probably a staple. All I know about ASHCAN is that it's the name given to a school of realist painters working in New York City around the turn of last century. They did not paint submarines or the destruction thereof, as far as I know.
56A: Spanish "she" (ella)
Ella is also a beautiful name. Of someone I know. [wink]. And a great jazz singer.
7D: Kind of shell (taco)
26D: Huey, Dewey and Louie, e.g. (trio)
Jeez, I gotta deal with these ducks nearly every week when Sahra and I go to the comic store, and still this answer gave me trouble (made the rookie mistake of assuming the word was a plural ending in "s"). Lately, Sahra is more into all manner of Archie comics than she is into her earlier comics love, Uncle Scrooge. Yesterday she discovered Richie Rich in a back-issues box, and much as that pampered little jerk Richie and the aristocratic values he represents make the bile rise in my throat, I cannot bring myself to stifle Sahra's curiosity. So I bought her a Richie Rich comic. On the plus side, it was only a dollar, and thus a third of what I'd been paying for, say, Uncle Scrooge (who, like Richie, is tremendously wealthy, but has the decency not to sicken us with pretensions to virtue).
55A: Pot over a fire (olla)
61A: Literary inits. (T.S.E.)
Add 'em to the list of Pantheon nominees. OLLA in particular should rank pretty high in the Pantheon, with an insane crossword-frequency-to-language-frequency ratio. UZIS (5D) and SACS (51D) both aspire to Pantheon status, but are currently banned for reasons of violence and grossing me out, respectively.
47D: Part of a bowling game (frame)
Out of respect for my Kiwi wife ("Kiwife!" ... hey, it's better than "fishwife!") and her lovely home town of Dunedin, NZ, I humbly suggest that in the future FRAME be clued like this: "Dunedin-born writer Janet."