Tuesday, January 9, 2007
Solving time: 6:49
THEME: Woody Allen (11D and 55D) - Five Woody Allen movies, plus Woody's full name and the first name of his wife, SOON YI (45D)
Highs and lows. After a slowish start, which involved my having repeated troubles getting 1A: Carson predecessor (Paar) right (LENO ... no, wrong direction; PARR ... no, wrong spelling, etc.), I flew through most of this puzzle very, very quickly. At about 4/5 finished, I had this feeling that my time would be a new record Tuesday low for me. Note to self: keep that part of your mind Muzzled until you are Done. The Gulf Coast and Mexican Border of the puzzle made me stumble a bit, and by the time I worded [awesome typo - I meant "worked"] my way over to Bakersfield, well ... my car had run out of gas crossing the desert and I sputtered and ultimately stalled and had to wait for a tow. Well, not a tow (that would be the equivalent of resorting to Google), but ... well, I had to walk a ways to get gas. 6:49, that's not exactly Slow ... but I'm telling you, I lost something like 1:30 to 2:00 in the SW. It's (almost) all I want to write about.
THE ARID, DRY, MEAN SOUTHWEST
OK, I'm exaggerating how bad it was. It's just ... imagine running a great race and getting toward the end, looking up to wave at your mom/husband/whatever, and tripping and falling headlong onto the pavement, scraping your arms and legs and face. So you stand up, and you're dirty and bleeding, but you're basically OK, and you stagger to the finish, so that your overall time is still pretty good ... but that glorious finish you had in sight: yeah, it never happened.
50D: Oteri of "Saturday Night Live" (Cheri)
Oh, look, a gimme! And it would have been, too, if I had solved 48A: Hunter's lure (decoy) first, because that would have told me that CHERI starts with a "C" - but of course I put in SHERI, which was wrong. And my certainty about its rightness made me bypass the obviously correct DECOY, which was the first answer to pop in my head. "Guess it can't be DECOY..." So there's that.
48D: Neuter (desex) [god even typing that "word" makes me taste bile]
67A: Forum 42 (XLII)
These two cross at the southwestern most point in the grid (San Ysidro!). I had neither for a while. The first, because I could think of nothing plausible to put in, and the second because I had no idea what the hell the clue meant (yes, it's obvious, now). I've heard of Studio 54 and Level 42, but ... what the hell? Way to hide your cheap Roman numerals Mr. Early, you bastard (that's facetious anger, mostly). "We're going to DESEX your dog now, ma'am." "WHAT!?" It's a grim, grim word, and seems to imply not just castration but depenisification. Is it a medical term, DESEX? "Unsex me here!" - that's Lady Macbeth, but she wants to be less woman, more man, which is a totally different operation. Anyway, the fact that an "X" was involved in this fiasco is just icing. Now the real killer...
45D: Wife of [Woody Allen] 11D/55D (Soon Yi)
First it always seems slightly indecorous whenever anyone mentions her name. The very name suggests "not good with children." I'm sure she's a lovely woman, but her name is like an accusation. Anyway, possibly because the whole Mia/Soon Yi situation was So So Ugly, I did not pay attention at the time to the really important question: How The F@##$ Do You Spell SOON YI? I had SUN YEE. It would seem that there aren't many other options, and that once I got some crosses, this would take care of itself. Yes, it would seem. I was so befuddled by all of this southwest grid confusion that I swear I hit "DONE" in desperation when, it turns out, my answer for DECOY still read "DESUY." Actually, my first time hitting "DONE" and getting rejected made me notice XLIE where XLII should have been. THEN after the next "DONE" was rejected, I saw the "DESUY." THEN I got through, with a very very (for me) average Tuesday time. I haven't even mentioned that there was yet another "X" down here (at the 49D: Stand out (excel) and 57A: Give a pep talk (exhort) crossing). Oh, the best thing about the SOON-YI answer is that it has puzzle symmetry with SOON-ER.
If I was going to torch any puzzle, it should have been this one. I quite enjoy Woody Allen movies and have seen most of them ... made before 1993. Sadly (for me), all three 15-letter theme answers were more recent movies from the darker corners of Woody's resume. SCENES FROM A MALL (61A) - really, are you proud to be (likely) the first person to introduce that movie to the puzzle world? Never saw SMALL-TIME CROOKS (17A) or HOLLYWOOD ENDING (38A). My favorite movie of all time - MANHATTAN (51A) - and probably one of the my 20 favorite - ANNIE HALL (23A) - are both here, in supporting roles.
5A: 1970's-80's Renault (Le Car)
Ha ha. Imagine a bread box on wheels. I hadn't thought about these cars in two decades, and yet I some how knew this answer instantly. Can you imagine anyone in the U.S. driving something called LE CAR now, no matter how big, armed, and Hummer-like it were?
16A: A Chaplin (Oona)
That's for Shaun. Apparently OONA is about to stage a puzzle comeback and reclaim her former Pantheon status. Good for her.
2D: Lumberjack (ax man)
Yesterday, TAX MAN, today, AX MAN. When I (finally) got this - it was part of the PAAR debacle in the NW - I audibly exclaimed some kind of profanity. Don't lumberjacks more typically use saws?
5D: Chinese nut (litchi)
Most non-intuitive food-spelling ever. Even after I'd solved the puzzle and Sandy was solving it and she was wondering aloud how to spell it, I looked at the grid and I swear for a while I couldn't remember - and I'd just done the puzzle like 10 minutes earlier. I like, however, that this answer parallels 18D: Wiggle room (leeway), which is another word that somehow looks very weird written down. LITCHI LEEWAY! (see also 25D: Yorkshire city (Leeds))
3D: Actor Delon (Alain)
It's pretty Frenchy up here in the northern part of the grid. Damn Canadian influence! I was happy that I knew this guy's name, as it helped unlock the eternal mystery of how the hell one spells PAAR. ALAIN Delon was a very, very handsome man. He stars in a great movie called Le Samourai. He could have played Bond very easily - you know, if he'd been British. Speaking of Bond, Casino Royale (which I did indeed see yesterday) is very good - at one point, I thought it was Great, but then the movie kept going, and going, and squandered its greatness for reasons I won't give away. Still, this Bond is believably badass. Very unpretty.
Finally, a set of little monsters that dogged me as I tried to close the puzzle out...
54D: Visibly upset (teary)
I think I had four letters of this answer before I saw it. It's not a word I use, and even now as I look at it, it looks like it wants to rhyme with "hairy."
62D: Showman Ziegfeld (Flo)
?????! There is only one FLO, and she has a bouffant hairdo, smacks her gum, and works at Mel's.
63D: Producer: Abbr. (mfr.)
Ugh, I had _FR for a while (until the stupid SCENES FROM A MALL came into view, giving me the "M"). It was only when I was done that I noticed what the puzzle was going for: MFR., short for Manufacturer. When I see _FR, I want to put an "A" in there. Although most of what AFR. is "producing" right now, I don't want any part of, thanks.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld