Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Solving time: 14:43
THEME: HOMER SIMPSON (20A) "quip" - "JUST BECAUSE I / DON'T / CARE / DOESN'T MEAN I'M / NOT LISTENING" (27A, 37A, 42A, 48A, 57A)
You can probably tell that something is wrong. How in the world did it take me that long to solve a HOMER-SIMPSON-THEMED puzzle?? I can't tell you how ecstatic I was when I finally pieced together the [Speaker of the quip] answer - had the -MPSON ending and was thinking "SAMPSON ... EMPSON ... ?" Then saw and / or got (I forget exactly how things went down, so excited was I) the "H" and "M" and presto, HOMER SIMPSON, and then I was off to the races. I had solved pieces of the puzzle to that point, and so I just went to the "quip" clues and started typing my way across, very confident that whatever the "quip" was, it would come to me quickly, and it did. It appears to be from "Lisa's Substitute" (season 2, Way Back When), which is the episode where Lisa develops a massive crush on her substitute teacher, Mr. Bergstrom (voiced by Dustin Hoffman), who fills in for Ms. Hoover when she goes on leave because she thinks she has Lyme's Disease. I'm actually not sure I (or the internet nerds whose sites I just trolled) have the episode right, but I knew this quotation (it's on many, many "Homer Simpson" quotation pages out there). I was even wearing my "I Am So Smrt" Homer Simpson gray hooded sweatshirt (image pictured) while solving this puzzle. Total serendipity.
And yet ... I had my worst Wednesday ever. And yet ... if I had just stopped and thought for a second and been methodical about things, I would have solved it much more quickly. I can tell you that I had the grid filled in and there were fully FOUR answers of which I was unsure, THREE of which interconnected! So of course I spent my time fretting over those three ... when the single letter I had wrong was in that fourth answer (which intersected with a word I thought I had right). So the bad is: I flailed around and basically drowned. The good news: the life preserver was like 6 inches from my hand, and if I'd just turned the right direction, and not panicked (as drowning people tend to do), I would have been saved. Lesson. Stay calm, and focus your attention on the Wrongest-Feeling words, checking crosses that you "know" to make sure you in fact KNOW them. Because for all my frustration and exasperation, I had just a single square wrong, and I actually knew how to fill it correctly, but was too flustered to realize it. Good, if humiliating, practice.
THAT ONE LETTER:
43A: Grain bane (ergot)
38D: Director Browning (Tod)
My wrong letter was the "O" - I had an "E," then an "A," then my brain ran out of options (memo to self - next time, try all the vowels [moron]). If you had given me a multiple choice question and it had looked like this:
Q: Who directed Freaks?
a. Tad Browning
b. Ted Browning
c. Tod Browning
d. Todd Browning
e. Phyllis Diller
I would totally have known the answer. TED was what I put in absolutely unthinkingly (bad way to do anything); man's name = Ted. But TAD!? What was I thinking? He's not a @#$#-ing extra in Beach Blanket Bingo! TAD!? Dear god. ERGOT is infuriating to me, but mostly because I just did not know it. Never heard of it. Gets over a million Google hits, and Sandy knew it (I mean, when I gave her ERG_T she knew it, which is more than I can say for myself, clearly). I found this site of a mycologist who really really really loves his fungi. Did you know there is such a phenomenon as ERGOTISM (looks like a typo of EGOTISM, which is a typo he in fact makes on his own website!), caused by the eating of ergot-affected grain? Causes horrible physical symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting, but also, it seems, hallucinations. He goes on to suggest (apparently others have done so as well) that the victims of the Salem witch hunts were affected with ERGOTISM. He writes:
All of the accused had similar symptoms: manic melancholia, psychosis, delirium, crawling sensations of the skin, vertigo, headaches, vomiting and diarrhea. All of these are symptoms of ergot poisoning, and it is likely that at list [sic] the initial hysteria was started by Claviceps purpurea [a species of ergot] infecting the grains of rye.I have no idea what kind of scientific or historical validity this claim has, but it made for fun reading. I felt pretty ERGOTISTIC after "completing" this puzzle. Then I breathed it out. I keep that little red Anger book by my bed for a reason.
49D: Home of Lafayette College (Easton)
55A: Writer Santha Rama _____ (Rau)
71A: Barcelona babes (nenes)
Here is the ERGOTIC fill that caused me to freak out (metaphorically speaking ... sort of). Never heard of it, never heard of it, never heard of it. The last one is, I'm sure, very, very obvious to all Spanish speakers / professional solvers. This amateur solver thinks a NENE is a Hawaiian goose ... and he is RIGHT. Irony: I've been listening every day to a podcast called "Coffee Break Spanish" (out of Glasgow, which makes for awesome listening, as I try to decipher Spanish in between trying to decipher Glaswegian). We haven't gotten up to the NENE part of the lesson plan yet, apparently. EASTON is a place I made up to get through this part of the puzzle. "EASTON ... that sounds like it could be a place." It actually sounds like a made up college town, like they have on TV shows where every teen on the show grows up and has to go to college in order for the show to keep running, so at least one of the kids (the smart one) leaves town for college, possibly in a town called EASTON. I shouldn't hate this part of the puzzle as much as I should admire my own Educated (read: blind and desperate) Guessing ability. I got it all right (despite spending minutes and minutes trying to "fix" it after having my grid rejected by the applet). As for RAU, whatever. I'm not even looking you up .... OK I lied, I looked her up. Not sure whether to stress the fact that she was a leader in the Indian women's rights movement, that she was the International President of Planned Parenthood ... or that her name yields just 14,600 Google hits. [Rex Parker] gets 1.7 Million, for god's sake. OBSCURITY, thy name is RAU (actually, RAU Wattles, it seems - how unfortunate)!
23A: Choreographer Twyla (Tharp)
Ah, one of the more famous non-graduates of my alma mater (she left school to become, well, a legend). She wrote a book on creativity and discipline that is truly inspiring. Love her. Go Sagehens! Chirp, chirp!
65D: Charon's tool (oar)
66D: Tussaud's title: Abbr. (Mme)
I got super-claustrophobic in this tiny little SE corner with its single, narrow entryway. And I began to panic when I could get neither of these. Now, how is that possible? I teach Dante's Inferno nearly every year, and Charon is a prominent character in it. And MME Tussaud's? Who hasn't heard of the wax museum bearing her name? For some reason, I thought I was being asked about political figures in both instances - in my mind, "Charon" was an Israeli P.M. and "Tussaud" was a Haitian dictator. I had EMP. for MME. for a short while. And then I realized who Charon was, and everything fell into place.
- 24D: When doubled, a former National Zoo panda (Hsing) - Edumacated Guess
- 72A: Largest lake in Australia (Eyre) - thank god I'd heard of EYRE's Rock ... oh, weird. It's spelled AYER's Rock. HA ha. Well, good thing I didn't know that.
- 35D: "The Sopranos" restaurateur (Artie) - given the puzzle theme I think ["The Simpsons" restaurateur] would have been a better clue - with a different answer:
- 68A: Circular seal (O-ring) - OK, I knew this one, in the end, but ... well, I would say I inferred it more than I knew it, technically. I was picturing all kinds of seals, including circus seals, before this one fell into place
- 53D: Ingrid Bergman's last film "A Woman Called _____" (Golda) - Meir, I presume. NEV-er heard of it.
Lastly, a bit of cheating, I think. Can you have NINE (60D: A round of golf, informally) and O'NINE (13D: Cat-_____-tails) in the same puzzle without violating some repetition rule? Always like to be reminded of this hot piece of weaponry, though. You find a Lot of interesting things on a Google Image search of [Cat o nine tails], let me tell you - not all of it suitable for children. My favorite image, though, is this one, which makes a bid for Worst Movie Promotional Art Ever. Enjoy.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld