Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Solving time: 7:10
THEME: THE - compound words have "THE" inserted between their word-parts, and the new phrase is then clued, e.g. 17A: Supply weapons to a committee head? (arm the chair)
Ah yes, the always dynamic "THE." Really, all themes should involve shoving definite articles into weird places. I was not feeling this theme. In fact, honestly, I didn't get the theme, exactly, until I began typing this entry. The first theme entry I got was 11D (THEME): Criticize a bakery dessert? (pan the cake), which I thought was a play on CAKE PAN, not PANCAKE, and so I thought there was some compound word reversal going on, instead of the far less dynamic "THE" insertion. This may (partially) explain my first major problem solving the puzzle.
63A (THEME): Donate to Eve? (spare the rib)
If you are Adam, yes. Otherwise, no. The phrasing just was not intuitive at all. In fact, it's WEAK (30A: Wimpy). I was busy getting the crosses, hoping a phrase would come into view, but for some reason "THE" was not part of my thinking until very late. Didn't know a crucial Down cross, 50D: Tweed twitter Thomas (Nast). As of this second, I have No Idea what that clue means. I know NAST from Condé-NAST Travel; NAST is also something my sister and I would say about anything disgusting. My NAST knowledge ends there. NAST ran through my second major problem solving the puzzle.
54A: The "magic word" (please)
Yeah, it looks obvious, but I had just the "P" and immediately wrote in PRESTO, a word I finally ditched only after I saw that 55D: Start of the año nuevo was obviously ENERO, not ONERO. I AIN'T (49A: Isn't misused) too proud of this mistake, which resulted in my solving time's being NOT SO HOT (42D: Just O.K.). PLEASE intersected a host of answers I didn't know, not just NAST, but SAL (45D: Erie Canal mule) - still don't know what this means - and ARTIE (35D: Howard Stern sidekick Lange) - the only LANGE I know is LANA, and I don't think her last name has an "E" on the end. While we're in the middle of this puzzle, I would like to say how much I dislike the awkward clue 44A: Magi's origin, with "the" for EAST. If you're going to go the "with 'the'" route, the payoff better be good. Here, it is not. And the third and final stumbling block in today's solve...
31D: Grand _____ (wine designation) (cru)
Not only haven't heard of it (or maybe heard of it, then forgot it somewhere in time), but took far too long to get the "C" - the cross is 31A: Purchase for a beer blast and the only word I could come up with was KEG, and even after I was staring at _ASE, I hesitated many seconds before coming up with the rather banal "C" for CASE. Oh, and I had CRA instead of CRU because I misread the tense of the across clue, 41A: Be delayed, and so had RAN LATE instead of RUN LATE. (Side note: I am already running late this morning)
There were a few other tricky parts of the grid. 59D: Algerian city (Oran) is always tough for me, as I routinely get ORAN and OMAN and ADEN and AMMAN and other Middle Eastern (or Middle-Eastern-sounding) places confused. Speaking of the Middle East, If I hadn't had AQABA (52D: Jordanian port) in a puzzle just last night, I would have taken considerably longer in the SW, since, when you see "Jordan" in the clue, and you have an answer that's five letters, starting with "A," you want AMMAN (if you want anything). Clue from last night said that AQABA was in fact Jordan's only port. Good to know (it's on the Gulf of AQABA, by the way, which is also good to know, and easy to remember). Also had OSKAR (46A: Heroic Schindler) in a puzzle last night (or was it in a recent NYT? I forget), which was lucky, as I don't think I'd known or even thought about the "K" spelling before then. SWAMI (1A: Hindu master) makes me think that there should be an entire subsection of the Pantheon reserved just for Eastern Spiritual Leaders: SWAMI, IMAM, LAMA, GURU. I think that the only reason anyone outside of North Carolina knows about ELON (28D: North Carolina University) is because it appears in crosswords, making it very promising Pantheon material. Speaking of Universities, I start teaching again at one today - and despite the fact that there has been considerable grade inflation nationwide since the time that I graduated from my ALMA (3D: _____ mater) mater, I can assure you that no one in any of my courses gets an EASY A (24D: Expected grade in a gut course). Had never heard of the phrase "gut course" until just now. Thought it might have something to do with biology or anatomy. Something about the ERRATA (10D: Printing after a printing) / TRACTOR (21A: Deere product) crossing is making me happy. Lastly, I would like to acknowledge the venerable Pablo CASALS (22D: Cellist Pablo). Jackie Kennedy once invited him to play at the White House. Whereas I think the last people invited to play this century's White House were probably ... oh, let's say, Brooks & Dunn.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld