Sunday, January 14, 2007
Solving time: 5:21
THEME: TRAFFIC LIGHT (54A) - Three long theme answers contain colors RED, YELLOW, and GREEN (reading from top to bottom, in the same order the colors would appear on a traffic light): 20A: Special occasion (red letter day), 29A: Beatles movie (Yellow Submarine), 44A: Winner of the first Super Bowl (Green Bay Packers)
Ooh, the north of this puzzle was murder on me (I mean, for a Monday ... Monday Murder). I would say it was a Manic Monday and that I wished that it was Sunday, but in fact it was Sunday (evening) when I solved this puzzle, and nobody remembers the Bangles anyway, sadly. RED LETTER DAY is not a phrase I use or hear much, if ever. The other two theme answers were easier and easiest (for me), both answerable immediately without my knowing the theme. There were a lot of Scrabbly letters in here (again, for a Monday), resulting in a lively grid that felt almost Tuesday-ish to me (though my time improved 6 seconds from last week, which was up 5 seconds from the week before: impryooovement!). One objection to this puzzle. It is totally out of season. YULE (7D: Christmastime) was fine, unremarkable; but NOEL (38D: Christmas song) was pushing it - I mean "Christmas" in both clues, come on!; but what really tore it was EGGNOG (47D: Holiday quaff). Oh "Holiday" quaff, eh? Well, at least you didn't say "Christmas quaff," I guess, which would have combined redundancy with cute alliteration to create Angry Rex. Christmas is SO 2006. I give this out-of-season nonsense a CATCALL (43D: Raspberry).
In addition to calling for a halt to Christmas clues, I would like to call a halt to all constructors named DAVID. What the hell, do you guys have some kind of club or union or secret agenda for Daviding the planet? My middle name is David, so I'm a fan, in theory, but there are too many Davids in CrossWorld. I'm calling for quotas. We'll grandfather Benkof, Kahn, Quarfoot, Sullivan, and now Pringle, but the rest of you will have to apply, to me, for special dispensation. Moving on.
1A: Church recess (apse)
Ah, APSE. My beloved APSE. Sweet Pantheon gimme. It is in the Pantheon, right? (This year's new Pantheon line-up will be released later today, in honor, by total coincidence, of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.). So the first clue was easy. Second, however, was Not. 5A: Wallop in the boxing ring (kayo). This is all kinds of icky, and especially grating given the nearby presence of 12D: "Thumbs up" (A OK) - I've made my feelings known about words that sound silly when uttered one after the other (side note: I kind of like that there is a "Thumbs up" clue in a puzzle that also features EBERT as an answer - 40A: Film critic Roger). Criminy, if you say KAYO A OK, you have some kind of sonic palindrome. You also have an anagram of OO, KAYAK! This is all to say that I had some reasonable synonym of "punch" in there, and it was wrong, and the odd letters in KAYO for some reason took a (Monday) while to unearth from the crosses. One of these crosses, off the "O," was the great (but hard to see without the "O") OPERA BOX (8D: Area from which to hear an aria). OPERA BOX has puzzle symmetry with LEAP FROG (39D: Spring game?), which pleases me for reasons unknown to me. Maybe because they are very colorful answers from entirely separate universes.
25A: Arctic bird (auk)
39A: Unilever soap brand (Lux)
These two little buggers gave me small fits. Why can't you be more like your three-letter cousin, BOA, i.e. obvious (24A: _____ constrictor)? I have heard of, but could not define, picture, or perform the appropriate bird call of the AUK. I provide a picture here for my edification as well (perhaps) as yours. Like AUK, LUX is another answer I have heard of, but not often. It's from another era, right? Like, my mom used it to wash ... things ... in the 60's, maybe? AUK and LUX are what happens when you try to cram a lot of Scrabbly letters into a Monday puzzle (see also DANKE [19A: German word of appreciation], RUBIK [32D: Hungarian cube maker], WIZ [26A: Oz musical, with "The"], and "Q's - The Good and The Bad," below).
4D: 1928 Oscar winner Jannings (Emil)
Oh, right, 1928. I remember it well. No, wait, I don't. My GRANDMOTHER probably doesn't remember it well. I want to know what EMIL Jannings is doing in my Monday puzzle! It's not like he's there to pick up some tricky, odd letters. He's an anagram of LIME, for god's sake - surely you could have cleaned up this corner and gotten the musty silent movie star off stage - rest up for Thursday, EMIL!
5D: Acts obsequiously (kowtows)
43D: Raspberry (catcall)
Though KOWTOWS took me way too long to get - see my anti-KAYO screed, above - it is a great, colorful word, and has sizzling symmetry with CATCALL. I'm happy with today's puzzle pairings, for the most part. Makes it seem as if some serious thought went into grid construction.
46D: First (primal)
Untrue to its name, this was not anywhere close to the "first" answer I got. In fact, it was nearly last. For some reason it was nearly impossible for me to see it even though I had _R_MAL. Looks very wrong. I seriously entertained AROMAL before PRIMAL ever came into view. PRIMAL, to me, describes an urge, an atavistic craving, not the "first" of anything. I know that it means "first" in some contexts (math contexts?), but not in any contexts in which I find myself on a regular basis.
51A: Dadaist Jean (Arp)
God I love his name. I am a big fan of crazy-ass 20th-century art, esp Dadaism. I have a special Dada edition Swatch watch (Andrew is my wondertwin - we bought our watches together, which is possibly a more romantic purchase than anything my wife and I have ever made, save our wedding rings - and I lost my wedding ring almost two years ago. My Dada Swatch, however ... safe and sound!). Arp did a lot of abstract and blobby paintings and sculptures, many of which I find strangely beautiful. I get him confused with Calder for absolutely no good reason. ARP is his real name, which is great because it sounds just like something absurdly made-up, like he renamed himself in honor of the sound of a dog barking, which is something a Dadaist might do.
9A: Catcher's position (squat)
10D: Waterfront site (quay)
I especially like the first of these, as I got it instantly, with no crosses. I would have preferred that it be clued 9A: Jack _____, but baseball is a good way to go too. I am indifferent to the word QUAY and include it here only because it's the "Q" crossing.
57D: Figs. averaging 100 (IQ's)
62A: Capital of Ecuador (Quito)
Were this a Wednesday+ puzzle, I would be filing this under "GOOD," but that "Q" was blank for more seconds that I care(d) to count. I am very bad on South American capitals, in that I know most of them, but easily forget which countries they belong to. LA PAZ = Bolivia .... and it sort of breaks down from there. I know SUCRE is down there somewhere. Oh, SANTIAGO, that's easy. Is RIO the capital of Brazil? Anyway, QUITO would not quome (cwm?) to mind for many, many seconds. Some might say that this blank-out on my part is at least somewhat ironic, as I slowed down on a clue whose answer involved IQ. I would humbly disagree.
67A: S-shaped molding (ogee)
Again, this puzzle has ingenious symmetry, and this is the ingeiousest of all. Start with APSE (church architecture), end with OGEE (church architecture). Amen. Alpha and Omega. I'm sure God approves. Now if only you could have provided the appropriate symmetrical companion for EBONY (21D: Piano key wood). "EBONY and EXCEL (40D: Do well (at))" isn't nearly as catchy as "EBONY and IVORY."
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld