Thursday, January 11, 2007
Solving time: 11:08
THEME: "ADD-ICT" - Common expressions have ICT added to them to make odd expressions, which are then clued. 62A tells you the theme: Fiend ... or a hint to this puzzle's theme (addict)
I feel very good this morning, despite an only slightly better-than-average Thursday time (I give myself a B+). After yesterday's debacle, and after doing Several Puzzles in a Row in my Shortz "Greatest Hits" puzzle book wherein I had 1-3 squares wrong in Wednesday and Thursday puzzles, it was nice to complete a puzzle, with no extended struggle, and to have the applet accept my first grid submission. The other reason I'm happy - uh, this puzzle was hard. There were multiple times when I managed to get past a really difficult part and immediately thought "man, that was rough - that's gonna trip someone up" (usually that someone is me). Examples below.
I am still waiting for confirmation from someone that yesterday's Homer quotation was in fact genuine and not an internet myth grown to stellar proportions. I wouldn't want the paper to have print another retraction - as they had to do recently when SARA LEE got clued [Company that owns the brands Playtex, Kiwi and Hillshire Farm] - doesn't own Playtex anymore, apparently - but facts are facts and I want facts. Not factiness. Speaking of "The Colbert Report" (which I just did, whether you knew it or not), I was terrifically happy yesterday when I was flipping through the latest issue of Previews - massive catalogue of upcoming comics releases .... [cough] ... ["Nerd!"] ... -
and I noticed a number of high-profile ads for the upcoming comic book adaptation of Mr. Colbert's unpublished "Tek Jansen" novel. Here is the promotional blurb:
Solar plexus! Bursting out from the hit Comedy Central show, The Colbert Report — it’s Stephen Colbert’s Tek Jansen! In this stunning continuation of Stephen Colbert’s critically acclaimed, yet unpublished prose novel, everyone’s favorite sci-fi hero must stand against the enemies of freedom, no matter what dark planet they crawl from!I ordered the series - which won't be in stores for three months. I'll let you know how it is.
31D: Glimpse (aperçu)
This clue/answer pairing is an ass-pain on many levels. First, APERÇU implies "insight" or "special understanding," where [Glimpse] just suggests "sight." Second, the clue skews more verb-ward than noun-ward, likely causing many mental forays into Useless-ville. Third, holy cow, what the hell ends in -CU??? Without the cedille on that C, that C really really wants to be hard (!). But the U comes from EMU (48A: Noted Australian sprinter), and how could EMU be wrong when it gave me the M that allowed me to get the great and manifestly correct 30D: "Rah!" (Go team!) (where formerly I had HUZZAH, which is making me laugh even as I type it)? In the end, APERÇU was about as palpably physical an "aha" moment as I've had in a while. Exhilarating.
36A (THEME): Order to act one's age? (maturity d-ICT-ate)
Was working on this before I had the theme, and the only thing that second word wanted to be was some form of DIRECT ... DIRECTIVE ... DIRECTION ... ? I had even written in DIRECT, which left me one letter shy of the end of the answer. I figured if I just let DIRECT hang out there for a while, something would happen. Strangely, though it was wrong, its "T" helped me confirm the correct GO TEAM (30D, see above). Now that I look at this whole mid-Atlantic region of the puzzle, it's very very France-circa-WWII. Two French military answers: 35D: 1944 battle site (St. Lo) and 44A: Encamp (bivouac) (the latter apparently comes from the French, via probably Swiss-German). Then APERÇU and Albert Camus, too (that's a rhyme!): 29D: Camus subject (plague). ST. LO is pure crosswordese - a very handy four-letter combo I know only from doing crosswords. I was happy to traipse through this mid-Atlantic region relatively unscathed. I had to work for it, but I could easily have fallen flat on my face, and didn't.
60A: Required (need be)
I can't tell you how befuddled I was by this. Time-wise, I didn't get chewed up too badly, but I ran into an apparent Unstoppable Force / Immovable Object problem when this answer, which I had understandably entered as NEEDED, rammed its final "D" right into the "E" of 58D: Firmed up (set), which, true to its name, would not budge. "NEEDLE? How is a NEEDLE 'Required?'" It was left for me to pick up the "B," which I did only by finally (duh) getting the gist of 57D: "The Office" address? - I had N_C, and I figured the answer was something web-related, or something having to do with business-speak or somebody's title in an office. Of course, if I'd bothered to notice the quotation marks around "The Office," it might have dawned on me sooner that the Office in question was the TV show of that name (which, semi-ironically, is one of only 4 or so shows that I actually watch). So NBC. That's the "address" of the show. OK. NEED BE. Wow. Another thorn that impeded but did not halt my forward progress.
49A: "The Odd Couple," for one (Simon P-ICT-ure)
As of right now, I have no idea what SIMON PURE is. Once you add the ICT, then I get the clue, but what is this expression that is being modified??? OK, I am calling in my resident Restoration and 18th century expert on this one. So, Shaun, when you read this, please respond. Apparently the phrase "The (real) SIMON PURE" dates from the early 18th century and comes from "The name of a Quaker in Mrs. Centlivre's comedy A bold stroke for a wife (1717), who is impersonated by another character during part of the play." So "the real SIMON PURE" is the genuine article, not a fake. At least one on-line dictionary suggests that the phrase might also be used derisively, to mean "superficially or hypocritically virtuous." Do people use this expression nowadays, or even know it? Yes, I'm talking to you.
Speaking of "Odd Couple," Christina ROSSETTI (9D: "Goblin Market" poet Christina), meet Horatio ALGER (41A: Author of "Jed, the Poor House Boy"). She writes wistful sonnets, and he exhorts boys to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.
The SW was where I made my last stand, and after my first pass through the Across clues, it was still wide open. But 49D: Chesterfield, e.g. (sofa) - everything I know about furniture I learned from the NYT Crossword - gave me the first letters of all the longish answers down there, 51D: Bleu parts of French maps (mers) [sacré bleu, more French] gave me their third letters, and everything fell from there. Really liked Jackie Robinson's number getting the fully written-out treatment: 59A: Jackie Robinson wore it (forty-two) (which also marks the strange, strange return to the puzzle of the number "42" (see Tuesday's puzzle)).
- CALVIN for ARMANI -1A: Big name in menswear and cologne
- REVELLED (?) and then CAVILLED (!?!?!) for CAVORTED - 38D: Made merry
- 12D: Son of Ramses I (Seti) - sure, OK, whatever you say
- 8D: It's to the left of # (Oper.) - this is on a telephone keypad, right? Did not know that. Kept looking at my own computer keyboard and seeing only "@" and "2"
- 37D: Group whose 1946 song "The Gypsy" was #1 for 13 weeks (Ink Spots) - not THE INK SPOTS? Worst band name ever.
- 20D: Harvard's motto (veritas) - I pieced this together easily enough, but didn't know it, exactly. Pretty pompous motto.
- 16A: Fit of rage (apoplexy) - one of the greatest words to grace the grid in a while
- 5D: Not very potent potable (Near Beer) - great, Jeopardy-esque clue with super-fresh answer
Given that 7A: Sticking points (morasses) crossed with 7D: Kind of nest (mare's) in the NE, I'm really surprised I didn't have trouble there. APOPLEXY is up there too. That corner is all bark and no bite ... and 99 44/00 Awesome.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
Solving time: 14:06
This puzzle warrants mentioning for some fabulous fill, including 1A: Lila Crane portrayer in "Psycho" (Vera Miles), 32D: Alternative to Golden Crinkles (Tater Tots), 38D: She played Prue on "Charmed" (Shannen), and the very very best answer of 'em all, 14: Simpsonian institution (Kwik-E-Mart). Who Needs the Kwik-E-Mart!? I dooooooooooooo. This puzzle is also awesome because I got to use my knowledge of the fabulous but rarely seen word "ecdysiast" (41D: Is an ecdysiast (strips)) and because I got to use recently acquired obscure TV knowledge in answering 45D: Ralph of "The Waltons" (Waite). I'm also a big fan of the DIME NOVEL (17A: Early paperback) if not, at all, a big fan of REBA (20A: Sitcom title character with the last name Hart).