Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Solving time: 9:44
THEME: SNL sarcasm - theme answers are sarcastic catch phrases from SNL bits gone by, e.g. 17A: Words of admiration - NOT! (Isn't that special?)
Nice to add to the theme-y-ness by including Wayne's World in the theme clues. Andrew, remember when Madonna was on Wayne's World, and said "NOT!"? Which is to say, remember, uh, 1992? Good times ... not.
I am not familiar with 57A: Words of congratulation - NOT! (Nice going, genius), at least not in an SNL context. I'm going to guess that it has something to do with Bill Murray and Gilda Radner. Hang on ... well, no, I'm not getting Any significant hits for ["nice going genius" snl] and only 85 hits period for ["nice going genius"]. What gives?
Also, who decided how many "U"'s would go into 37A: Words of apology - NOT! (Well, excuuuuse me)? Steve Martin pronounced the word as if it had four syllables, so maybe two extra "U"'s would have made sense. Three extras ... that seems pretty arbitrary. But the very idea is cute enough that I'm not going to call a foul. Searching around the "internets," as I am doing right now, it seems that the four-U spelling is pretty standard. I am looking for something like a track listing on a comedy album, but can't find one. And now that I'm saying the phrase to myself, in my head, over and over, I'm thinking maybe it does have five syllables. What a weird thing to have to fact-check.
- DIAL for AMFM (10A: Radio switch)
- ROAN for RUST (2D: Reddish-brown)
- NERD for WONK (22A: Bookish sort, slangily) - I don't like WONK here at all
- FIVE, then NINE, for NOON (35A: Factory whistle time)
- AVG for EST (43A: Plus-or-minus fig.)
- GELDS for SPAYS (42A: Neuters)
- LORDS for GENTS (62A: Ladies' men) - despite having seen this exact clue / answer pairing just one day earlier
21A: Architectural molding (ogee)
Two architectural terms I know only from doing the puzzle, both Pantheon or Pantheon-caliber words, and here, finally, they are made to intersect. Would you find an OGEE in or near an APSE? Well, you find them all over churches, so yes, I guess so. Where else can you find an OGEE? Glad you asked:
65A: Popular theater name (Odeon)
Back-to-back days with variations on this answer. Don't wear it out! Other Pantheonic fill includes 40A: Slippery swimmers (eels) - have I mentioned how pleased I am that I haven't seen ASPS for a while - and 26D: They're carried by people in masks (epees). I am pretty happy with recent cluings of EPEE(S), as they have been cleverly deceptive. We had [Arm-waving activity] (or something to that effect) recently, and now mask-wearing. Which brings us to an unwritten Pantheon rule: if you are going to use a word over and over, you should dress it up in different costumes from time to time. See also 26A: Company whose name is pig Latin for an insect (ebay). Keepin' it fresh and spicy! Nobody likes stale EBAY. Last thought: I have seen many bank-robbery movies where robbers wear crazy masks - rubber president-head masks, panty-hose masks, etc. Why not EPEE masks? They're pretty scary. I know it would be hard to knock over a bank using just swords, but still - your look would be original. And isn't that what it's all about? You know you're gonna be on camera...
4D: "O.K., back to work" ("Duty calls")
27D: Pull off a high-risk feat (Bell the cat)
30D: Company publication (House organ)
Of the (amazing) six 9- and 10-letter, unthemed, vertical answers in this grid, these three deserve special mention for their unusualness. The only time hackneyed phrases can make me happy is when they appear as long fill in my crosswords, and such is the case with DUTY CALLS. I would never say this phrase - sounds too much like something you'd say if you had to use the toilet (or is that NATURE CALLS) - and yet the quoted cluing is spot-on. Perfect. In-the-language. Hard to see before it's there, obvious once it gets there. HOUSE ORGAN grosses me out a little, the way that ORGAN MEAT does (now that should be an answer). BELL THE CAT - that is what is called Getting Medieval (well, if you're like me and have read Piers Plowman a number of times - and who hasn't?). In Piers Plowman, William Langland borrows from Aesop, actually, in imagining a group of mice and rats (just wrote "rice and mats," much to my own amusement) who are afraid of the cat (duh) and want a way to protect themselves from him. Everyone agrees that belling the cat is a good idea, but no one wants to do it. I think Langland was using this as an allegory for the necessity of checking royal authority over both the people and the Church, but I'm not sure and I can't be bothered to look it up right now. "Talk amongst yourselves"!
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld