Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Solving time: who knows?
THEME: Double-Double-Z - all theme answers are pairs of words with double-Z's in them, e.g. 17A: Bear of children's verse (Fuzzy Wuzzy)
I will keep it short today - very short, and for two reasons. First, I have to teach soon (in three hours from this very second), and, second, because I really really hated this puzzle. I'm sorry, Nancy; I know that part of the reason I hated it (as my fellow blogger was only too happy to point out) was my own inexcusable ignorance - or, as I originally saw it, two "obscure" answers crossing one another at the center of the puzzle. But there was an overall ungainliness to the grid, with some highly dubious cluing. Plus, the theme ... was poorly expressed (in my strong opinion) because two of the answers were just ZZ-words repeated, while the other two were rhyming-but-different double-Z words. The "Z" fetish sort of did this puZZle in - from where I sit, at any rate. Beethoven's Triple Concerto is easing the pain somewhat this morning, but even that can only do so much. Let's start with the part of the puzzle I hated most, then move on to the part that actually, legitimately, completely stumped me - and then a smattering of observations, and I'll be done:
6D: "Bah, humbug!" ("pfui")
You know your fill sucks when your first Google hit for it is a site reassuring the public that it is, in fact, a legitimate word (in someone's world). This word makes me yearn for ETUI or AQUI or the other beautiful UI-ending words available out there (actually, those are the only ones I can think of, and neither would have worked well, if at all, in this particular grid...). You can tell how desperate PFUI is by looking at all the other very shaky fill around it (although it all looks like gold compared to PFUI). 21A: "_____ Silver, away!" (Hiyo) is, apparently, technically correct, although it's famously misheard / disputed. Dave Barry wrote a whole piece about his search for the correct spelling of the Lone Ranger's cry. I had HIHO, like many red-blooded Americans, I'm guessing. If there were no PFUI in this region of the puzzle, I'd complain a lot more about HIYO [late addition: just got some spam that began HIYA, which I like better than HIYO, except that there is no one or thing I know named PUZA, so it wouldn't work]. Then there's OOZY (7D: Leaking goop), which is fine, in its way, but again, up here with this absurd word-combo orgy, it's just one more thing to hate (I am a little surprised by how much the word "hate" is creeping into this commentary - I'm being a bit histrionic, I realize, and exaggerating, slightly, for effect). This entire puzzle looks like it was constructed by a Scrabble addict on a bender. The Z's end up necessitating (or suckering the constructor into) other absurd letters, til the whole thing looks a mess. Fake-sounding, dated, or otherwise messed-up words include JIVEY (22A: Lively, as dance music) crossing JAUNTILY (22D: In a stylish way) running through the ugh-inducing HUZZAH HUZZAH (27A (THEME): Congratulatory cry). HUZZAH on its own is far more common than the double-HUZZAH - and neither of them should rightfully be anywhere near the word "common." You know who would say HUZZAH HUZZAH? The same guy who would say ZOUNDS (47D: "Holy smokes!"), i.e. a Renaissance courtier or someone else I'd like to punch in the face, perhaps while sporting a BEZEL (3D: Gem holder) - THE THIRD DEFINITION OF "BEZEL" - seriously, come on.
29D: Ghana's capital (Accra)
39A: ATM maker (NCR)
OK, I should, I guess, know the capital of Ghana, but I kept waiting for it to look like something familiar, and it never did. Plus, with ACURA (2D: Integra maker) already in the grid, I don't think ACCRA has any business here. NCR probably stands for National Cash Register, and I was condescendingly told earlier this morning that that's just something I should know if I really want to call myself a crossword person, which at this point I'm starting to have doubts about.
All my seething hatred (that word again) of this puzzle is making me want to ignore its better features, but I'll cave in and throw some bones to this puZZle (I can't even look at the word "puZZle" right now, I'm so annoyed). 33A: "This looks ver-r-ry bad!" (Oh, God) is nice, but should've been clued by way of reference to the George Burns / John Denver film of that name, or its sequel, OH, GOD, You Devil. Right underneath that is the tricky but admirable 38A: Last episode in a Monday-Friday miniseries (Part V) - I had the TV at the end and thought for Sure the answer was something TV, as in HDTV or BAD TV - that the T and V belonged to different parts of the phrase took me a while to figure out. And yet I liked it - see, I don't dislike stuff just because it makes me struggle. MUDVILLE (25D: Joyless town after Casey struck out) was a fun gimme, reminding me of the baseball poem that I surely haven't heard since fifth grade, when I believe Mrs. Flam (Best Teacher Ever) read it aloud to us many times, in between sessions of playing her guitar and teaching us the lyrics to "King of Road" ("... I ain't got no cigarettes!" - because I'm 10 years old, for one). 11D: Like hoped-for-winter temps in the North (above zero) is colorful fill, but kind of vaguely clued. I live in the North (sort of) and it's almost always ABOVE ZERO. In fact, the past two winters (including the early part of this one), it's been downright balmy. KIBITZ (10D: Give unwanted advice) threw me because, while it was my first idea for an answer, I mistakenly thought that it was spelled like KIBBUTZ, i.e., with two B's. 32D: "Bonanaza" brother (Hoss) is fun fill. I didn't know how to spell HARA (34D: _____ - kiri) because like most of dumb America I always think of it as HARI (pronounced HAIRY) KARI. Mmmm, Americanization. ERI (42A: "_____ tu" (Verdi aria) shows his grizzled head again today, but I'm fond of the old guy. Stephen Colbert would hate this grid, as it has not one bear (FUZZY WUZZY), but several: 35D: Scary bears (grizzlies). That's GRIZZLIES, plural. Plus PAW (62D: Hairy hand). And WASPS (69A: Dangerous nestful). And if the bears or insects don't get you, perhaps a winter storm will ICE you IN to your cabin in the woods (14A: Make housebound, say, in the winter) and you will starve to death. ZOUNDS! 101 ways to die in the wilderness! - which is an apt metaphor for my puzzle experience today. The end.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld