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 youand
With a pint of beer and a new tattoo.
The people from your church agreeSo it's a lot about beer. It's a very sweet song, though, really. Have a nice Monday.
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.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld