MONDAY, Jan. 29, 2007 - Fred Piscop

Monday, January 29, 2007

Solving time: 4:46

THEME: words that end -PPER? - all theme clues are two-word phrases that, well, end in -PPER, like I told you, e.g. 17A: Popular grilled fish (red snapper) [addendum: Just found out from Crossword Fiend's blog that the vowel that precedes -PPER changes with each answer, and does so in alphabetical order, no less: -APPER, -EPPER, -IPPER, -OPPER, -UPPER]

It is early in the morning, and I can't remember - was there a clue in this puzzle that refers to the theme and explains it more elegantly than I did? I know what you're thinking: "You have the puzzle in front of you ... right now! Why don't you look for yourself?" Good question. I'm tired. There are a lot of clues. I'm not in the mood to read fine print right now. I just want to glance at the grid, see an answer, and write the first thing that comes to mind. No time or energy for close analysis this a.m. Assuming I haven't missed something, this theme is pretty tepid, though some of the fill is pretty fancy and lively. Favorite theme answer was THE GIPPER (37A: 1940 Ronald Reagan role - I mentioned Reagan in yesterday's commentary, and voilĂ , here he is today, back from the dead, ready for puzzle action, sir), followed closely by DR PEPPER (24A: Soft drink since 1885). Note that there is no "." (or "period") in the "DR" of DR PEPPER. Why am I telling you this? To spare you the annoyance of having some know-it-all correct you should you ever have occasion to write about DR PEPPER. It's like one, big public service announcement, this blog.

Multiple-Word Phrases

  • 15A: Wash gently against, as the shore (lap at) - love it
  • 28A: China, Japan, etc. (Far East) - see also TOKYO (57A: City trashed by Rodan); as opposed to the Near East, where you would find the DINAR (23A: Jordanian cash), though probably not in the pocket of an ISRAELI (46D: Ehud Barak or Ehud Olmert)
  • 66A: Started a cigarette (lit up) - reminds me of when I first solved a Times crossword, back when my diet consisted almost entirely of cigarettes, Diet Coke, and fried burritos; God bless college (and a 20-year-old's metabolism)
  • 45D: Close to its face value, as a bond (near par)
  • 11D: Take some pressure off (let up on)

I [heart] multiple-word phrases in my crossword grid, and these are all fairly vibrant. Why do I love multiple-word phrases in general. Something about the way they exploit the possibilities of the grid in unexpected ways - I think the brain instinctively, for however split a second, takes in the blank row / column as a single unit. My brain likes when that unit has subunits, finding out where the breaks between words are, etc. Plus, multiple-word phrases tend to swing toward the colloquial (as opposed to the dusty dictionary) end of the language, which I appreciate.

Odd Jobs

12D: Opposite of dividers (uniters)
24D: Inventor (deviser)
25D: Speaker with a sore throat, say (rasper)

Every Monday puzzle, it seems, brings with it an assortment of verbs that are tortured into becoming nouns, although these jobs aren't that odd, in the end. Well, the last one is pretty icky, but the first two I can actually imagine someone's using in conversation. Nice UNITER / divider juxtaposition. Timely, without being catty. Toward the President. In case that wasn't obvious. In other made-up word news, REBOLTS (42D: Makes tighter, in a way) is kinda gross, but it does have a certain Frankensteinian aura that makes it vaguely tolerable.

59D: Nile slitherers (asps)
26D: Actress _____ Dawn Chong (Rae)

They're back! Haven't seen either of these Pantheon members for a while (or so it seems). I was just thinking yesterday that I haven't seen ASPS or EERO in a long time, and here I get a visit from ASPS - if they keep their appearance frequency to about once a month, I'll tolerate them quite fine.

7D: PC program, briefly (app)
8D: Al Capp's Daisy _____ (Mae)

One of the weird things about solving a Monday puzzle, for me, is that I never set eyes on a significant number of clues. When you know all the Acrosses, you never see the Downs, and vice versa. So it was in the Far North of this puzzle, where I only just now noticed these two little words - and I'm glad I missed them, because I have a feeling that I would have botched / misspelled them if I'd gone at them in their blank state. I would have looked for some acronym for the first one, and spelled the second one MAY, probably, despite my alleged affection for / knowledge of comics.

41D: Overlay material (acetate)
49A: Sicilian seaport (Palermo)

These seem pretty fancy words for a Monday. I'm not sure I'd know ACETATE if it bit me, or if it were sitting on my desk right now. For all I know, it is. No, it isn't, but you get my point. Was CARLA (40A: "Cheers" waitress) Tortelli from PALERMO? I don't know. I do know that I misspelled her name on my first pass through the grid - spelled it with a "K," which is how my dissertation adviser spelled her own first name. Also botched 44A: "National Velvet" author Bagnold (Enid) - don't remember what I put in, but it was probably something like EDIE. Let's go back to Italy for 4D: Puccini opera (Tosca) and then over to GAM (60D: Pinup's leg), just ... because, and then we'll close it out with my favorite book, the OED (27A: Brit. reference work), which I own in the single-volume edition, the one you are supposed to read with a magnifying glass, but which I read without aid (my eyes are one of a select number of body parts that are Not showing their age ... yet). Sadly, I have deferred getting the Webster's Unabridged Dictionary that I really, really wanted, for financial reasons (i.e. we bled money over the Holidays and are trying to stop the bleeding before we make any large-ish expenditures). Someday my dictionary will come. Til then, I'll make do with my (very) old standby, the OED.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Orange 9:13 AM  

Was your dissertation adviser fond of misspelling sitcom characters' names? (Insert wryly amused emoticon here.)

Was the Julia Sweeney character LA PAT or EL PAT?

Rex Parker 9:20 AM  

OK, Orange Snark, I'll change "it" to "Karla" and the ambiguity will magically disappear. . . [is there an emoticon for giving someone the finger, while smiling?]

-=] ;-)


Linda G 10:50 AM  

Felt pretty good about whipping through this in short order, despite interruption for an argument with teen :[

Didn't even notice that the theme words all ended with -PPER, so certainly didn't notice that the vowels changed in order. Maybe I should start looking at the puzzle after it's finished instead of tossing it aside with a hurrah --or curse, if later in the week.

Sure enjoy the benefit of your insight (and yours, Orange).

Anonymous 3:24 PM  

This fan wants to know. Why "Rex Parker"? "Rex" for King (of the Crossworld) I infer. Or is "Rex" in honor of Morgan MD? Is "Parker" for the Judge? What name will you use in the Tournament?

Rex Parker 3:43 PM  

Dear Anonymous fan,

Rex Parker was a name I adopted just so as not to use my real name, back when I had no idea what this blog would become - back when the very idea of BLOGS seemed ridiculous to me, and I didn't want my actual name associated with any blog. Rex started out as a kind of fictional character / alter ego, but then I phased that out and now he's just me with a different name.

This blog was a total lark in the beginning, an experiment. So, I used "Rex Parker" - a name I had leftover from 2004 when my wife, sister, brother-in-law, and I all invented "beach names" for ourselves when we were in Hawaii. I think the point was that they were supposed to sound like they were names from 40 years ago that B-movie stars might have. So I was Rex Parker, and my wife was Sandy Davenport, and my sister was Jaycee McFadden, and my brother-in-law was Chet Houston (my favorite of them all - makes me laugh every time I hear it). Now, that it's been a few months, I wouldn't have a problem using my actual name, but "Rex Parker" is too entrenched. It's a brand name, in its own, little way. So I'm sticking with the name that got me here, even though it's not really mine.

At the Tournament, I'll be using my actual name: Increase Mathers Halperstein.


Anonymous 4:53 PM  

Hmmmm. Well OK, if you say so but still. . .

I have a sneaky feeling that you are having a little sophisticated fun at this country rube's expense.

Anonymous Fan

Linda G 5:00 PM  

Well, I'm crushed. In my little crossworld, you're really Rex Parker and you look exactly like your picture. I was sure I'd recognize you if we passed on the street -- or met at one of Kelly's concerts. Sob...


Rex Parker 5:30 PM  

O I didn't say that wasn't my picture...


Rex Parker 5:37 PM  

PS, Dear Anonymous Fan (any relation to Carol Fan, Pomona College class of '91?),

I am having fun at no one's expense but my own, I promise. Anyone who uses the word "fan" to describe his relationship to me is OK in my book, rube or no.


Anonymous 7:40 PM  

No kin of Carol's but there is a big Fann family in these parts.

Disclaimer accepted. I remain,

Anonymous Fan

PS: Give my best to Ms. Davenport.

C zar 9:05 PM  

Thanks for the low down on "Rex Parker." I would have guessed that this was your porn star name.

I've heard several versions of how to determine one's porn star name, my favorite is to combine your first pet's name with either your mother's maiden name or the street you grew up on. So you can see why "Rex" led me to that conclusion.

- Duke Donaldson, Porn Star

Rex Parker 9:30 PM  

Well, Rex Parker is a way more plausible porn name than my "actual" porn name (by your rules). Who's gonna pay to see a porn star named Alice Alcorn? Or Alice Teilman? Honestly ...


Anonymous 11:52 PM  

Shadow Shelbourne...I like it!

Orange 12:21 AM  

Lady Aberlyn Warwick...

Anonymous 8:05 PM  

Licorice Heffington. Sounds like a star to me.

Anonymous 4:49 PM  

Penny Manor. Sounds as though I'm underpriced and/or undervalued. Maybe go with second dog, Ginger.

Anonymous 4:17 PM  

From the land-of-six-weeks-back I just have to throw my own porn-star name out there.... Bimbo Zenobia. I think that pretty much beats anyone's for sheer and inappropriate bizarreness.

I also have a most-embarrassing-moment story that usually beats all others but I'll save that for when HoJo next appears in a puzzle.

What I really popped in for though was to warn you regarding that 20/20 eyesight, Rex. In 1996 I had better than 20/20 vision. Then I got my first home computer and found the political chat rooms on AOL and debate lists and Spades and all manner of things that had me glued to my computer 16/7. I now wear tri-focals. :(

Love the blog, wish I could rationalize the expense of a NYT subscription so I wasn't always having to SCREAM TO BE HEARD here in six-weeks-back-world.

D in CO

Rex Parker 4:34 PM  

You don't have to scream; I can hear you. You should splurge on the subscription, though. Over the course of a year, it's a pretty small price to pay for daily puzzle enjoyment (in the present).

And yes, I declare Bimbo Zenobia the winner.


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