## Monday, January 8, 2007

Solving time: 5:27

THEME: Doubting Thomas (20A) - and the things he might say: I'M NOT BUYING IT (25A), YOU CAN'T FOOL ME (43A), and WHO'S KIDDING WHO? (49A)

Should be "Who's kidding whom," but I'll let grammar slide today. Everything about this puzzle was average: difficulty level, my solving time, the cleverness of the theme, the amount of crosswordese, etc. So I don't have a lot to say (for once). I'll focus on my trip-ups and failings (as usual) and observe some odd entries and then maybe go see Casino Royale later today.

1A: Heartbeat (pulse)

I had THROB. I don't know why. I'm all for entering answers as they come to you and fixing them later on, but this does take some time, not to mention the manual dexterity not to accidentally f-up your grid. Sometimes I forget how the cursor moves in relation to already solved squares, skipping over them if you are starting from a blank square, staying on them if you are re-entering an already solved square. When I read that sentence, it doesn't really make sense, but I swear that's how the system works. So when you are (I am) typing quickly, I often botch whole words because I've misjudged the cursor. Not sure if that really happened here. PULSE is so obvious that I'm not sure what I was thinking with THROB. Of the first nine Across clues, I got 2/3 of them instantly, missing only here and at 18A: Not so much (less) - where I had A TAD (!?), and 10A: Heavy, durable furniture wood (teak), where I had nothing. See also the lamely repeated 6D: Heavy, durable furniture wood (walnut).

15A: Jai _____ (alai)
24A: "Little" girl of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" (Eva)
11D: Humorist Bombeck (Erma)
16A: Folkie Guthrie (Arlo)
7D: Designer Cassini (Oleg)
34A: Just managed, with "out" (eked)
46D: Sash in Sapporo (obi)
58A: Jacob's twin (Esau)

You can see why I have called this puzzle "average" - I mean, look at this glut of tired crossword standards. How many years must Bombeck be dead before she becomes unfamiliar enough to be interesting again? I didn't know "Little EVA" until very, very recently - Sandy (wife) has read Uncle Tom's Cabin, while English Ph.D. Rex has not (he is trying to remedy his literary ignorances with a trip through the Modern Library's 100 Greatest Novels of all time - to be read in one calendar year, a "journey" which will no doubt find its way into this commentary with some frequency). Thanks to Sandy's coaching, "Little EVA" is a sweet gimme for me (and, as with most new words that I learn, I see her Everywhere now). I would have thrown 28D: Instrument making HI notes? (uke) into the mix here, too, but that clue is too good.

Speaking of Sandy, did you see "You're The One That I Want," the "reality" show where America votes to cast the parts of Sandy and Danny in the next Broadway production of "Grease"? Well, if you didn't, consider yourself lucky, as it was Terrible. The talent pool appears wading-pool-shallow, and the whole production had the feel of a very, very low-rent "American Idol" ("American Idol" being a show that I luuuuhhhhhve, for many of the wrong reasons - but mostly because, for all the cheese and hyperbole and product-placement, it's a show where you sing, and you can either sing or you can't, and it's Live, and its Live-ness matters: real National Spectacle, ranking in grandeur somewhere between watching the moon-landing and watching lions eat gladiators).

62A: Turn inside out (evert)

Welcome to the Bizarro World of crosswords, where words No One Ever Uses metamorphosize into Monday gimmes. I swear that I saw this clue and wrote in EVERT immediately despite the fact that I had no confirming crosses. I suspect hundreds of crossword veterans across the country did the same. I ask you all to think about the utter weirdness of this phenomenon.

37D: Nicknames (monikers)

This word I like. Notice how many words for nicknames are just good words. First, NICKNAME, that's good. MONIKER. NOM DE PLUME, SOBRIQUET (hot!), etc. MONIKER is a great K-in-an-odd-place (K-between-two-vowels) word. Almost as sweet as the rare double-K word ... none of which I can think of right now. I do think that TRICKKNEE would be great fill, though.

40A: Snoring sound (zzz)

OK, that's kind of cheating, getting your "Z"s in in such an easy way (like EEE for [Shoe width], OOO for [Victory on paper]), but as this is Monday, I guess such crutch-reliance is OK, since you get some spicy crosses out of it, most notably 25D: Maker of Rodeo (Isuzu) - which I blanked on for many second (not yet having the Z cross) - and the potentially delicious 33D: Ricelike pasta (orzo), which is "ricelike" only in its basic shape and general starchy quality. I like ORZO in interesting colors like red and green. I'm like a child that way.

9D: Unfriendly looks (fish eyes)

I really don't like this. First of all, if you make FISH EYES at someone (an expression I have never used or heard used by people I actually know, in real life), then that is a look. One look, singular. You have two eyes, but together they give just one look. Not "looks." This lame answer (or botched clue, however you want to look at it) is offset by the seldom-used but springy and appealing TAXMAN (10D: I.R.S. worker), which, strangely, I have heard more in musical contexts than tax-collecting contexts in my life. Most people are aware of the fine Beatles tune "Tax Man," the opening song of Revolver, but I'm guessing fewer of you are familiar with the Billy Bragg album Talking with the Tax Man about Poetry, which is my strongest association with TAX MAN. That's what happens when you enter college in the late 80s and Everything On The Radio Sucks (I'll exempt Madonna from this claim, just so my best friend doesn't blow a gasket ... again) - you discover cool, off-the-beaten-path music. The album opens with the amazing song "Greetings to the New Brunette," which I believe is a song about a working-class romance, but it's pretty enigmatic (like many Bragg songs). It's also lyrically lovely (and funny). My favorite lines are

I'm celebrating my love for you
With a pint of beer and a new tattoo.
and
The people from your church agree
It's not much of a career
Trying the handles of parked cars
Whoops, there goes another year
Whoops, there goes another pint of beer.
So it's a lot about beer. It's a very sweet song, though, really. Have a nice Monday.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

xwords4ever

Why are some squares colored?

Orange

xw4e, the Across Lite software highlights the cursor's current square red, and the current word, gray.

My cousins' cousin on their mom's side made it to the next round on that Grease show, I hear. This girl was always mean to my niece, who's about six years younger, at family events, so we hope she does poorly here on out.

Yo, Will Shortz is way ahead of you on grammar—the WHO's KIDDING WHO clue says "ignoring grammar."

Fisheye lens, yes. But I'm more familiar with the term "stink-eye" for the unfriendly look. Did you see The Daily Show a couple years ago when they highlighted a Condi Rice stink-eye? It still makes me laugh.

Rex Parker

O my god, thanks for answering that question, Orange, because I had NO IDEA what it was about? I thought xw4e was seeing things / losing his mind? Or offering a riddle...?

And O My God the clue Does say "ignoring grammar," HA ha. I did not mean to suggest that His Puzzle Highness did not know the diff between "who" and "whom." That would be absurd. I thought (reasonably) that the phrase itself was ungrammatical as it exists in the language, and therefore it's acceptable fill. If I insisted on propriety all the time, a lot of great fill would probably be sadly excluded from the grids. Like, er, SHIVER ME TIMBERS ... is that grammatical? It's damn sure 15 letters, making it ideal trans-grid fill. Use it! I wanna see a puzzle with both SHIVERMETIMBERS and TRICKKNEE in it, preferably crossing, before year's end.

"SHIVER ME TIMBERS, Me TRICK KNEE is acting up again!"

RP

xwords4ever

Thanks, Orange, for explaining the colored squares. Also thanks to you, from now on I will be "xw4e", a better nick than "xwords4ever", imho.

Anonymous

liKKewaan=iguana

You're welcome.

Orange

Bookkeeper.

A snort of likker.

Fokker planes.

Knick-knack.

Knock-knock.

Hokkaido.

Rikki Tikki Tavi.

Howard B

Chukker! OK, that's a bit obscure. Back to post-workday semi-consciousness now.

(snoring sound, 3 letters)

Orange
Donald

This Monday, I pulled the Times out of a puddle of water (it poured on east coast) and even tho it was double-wrapped, had to carefully extract sopping wet pages to find the crossword which I subsequently microwaved to dry it off and then photocopied it before getting started -- is there an easier way or am I living in a stone age? Where do I go on line when the paper is in a puddle?

Thanks.

Howard B

Orange, if Dokken ever appears in a Times puzzle, I owe you a case of hair gel. Although if it does, I hope it crosses DEF LEPPARD at an E.

Well-played :).

PS - don't forget 'jackknife'.

busmun

Perhaps KKK jargon would yield some double k's, but then I guess hate group verbiage is forbidden, like Merle Reagle observed in Wordplay, ENEMA would've saved his butt many a time, but for the fact that it's too tasteless for the general public.

Rex Parker

We had a cat named Dokken (yes, after the band) for about 3 weeks in the mid-80s. It "ran away," which I learned well over a decade later was code for "Dad took it to a nice neighborhood." The Cat Was Mean. But it's life didn't begin well. My sister found it in a bag w/ other kittens in a dumpster.

Donald, many of us solve the puzzle at the NYT puzzle site, but I'm pretty sure you gotta pay the yearly subscription to do so. All the info is there (link in my sidebar).

RP

Anonymous

Thanks for the mention of "Modern Library's 100 Greatest Novels." I googled that phrase and the primary results were for "Modern Library's 100 Best Novels." I don't know if they're the same list or not, but the the "Best" list was actually two lists--the "board's list" and the "reader's list."

The "board's list" was pretty much what I hoped for--a good collection of titles and authors, imho. The "reader's list" included, in their top ten, four titles by Ayn Rand and 3 titles by L. Ron Hubbard.
So much for popular tastes (or at least mass-voting by a disconnected few).

Just so ya know, imo, yours and Amy's are still the best places to read about the puzzles. First, 'cause you both dissect the puzzles in an honest way, and second, 'cause your sites are always available. Do you guys have bigger web budgets than the NYT?

--kratsman

Orange

For the sake of accuracy, Merl didn't say ENEMA would save his butt. (Though that could be a part of an advertising jingle!) He said URINE and ENEMA could "bail me out of a tight corner."

martin

In addition to the ZZZ, a cheap CCC was wedged into this puzzle. Definitely a 'meh' for me as well. The only wrong fill I had was STAG for HART and GENUS for GENRE.

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