Monday, February 26, 2007
Solving time: 4:36 (on paper)
THEME: THE HIDDEN AGENDA - 55A: What conspiracy theorists look for (as hinted at by 17-, 25- and 42-Across) - each of three 15-letter theme answers has six squares with circles in them, and when the theme answer is filled in correctly, the circle-squares spell out the word AGENDA
Very clever theme, and because of the weird manner in which I generally solved the puzzle (NW to NE to SE to SW, in a "Z" shape), I got the theme key answer before any of the actual theme answers were filled in, allowing me to go and fill in all the circled squares before I'd even looked at their crosses. My time is slower than it has been the past couple of weeks, but this is certainly the fastest I've ever solved on paper, so I feel OK.
Congratulations to Jennifer Hudson and Helen Mirren on winning Oscars last night. I really loved all the discussion (and the song!) about how Hot Helen Mirren is. Smoking. Seriously. God I love her. For once I actually saw some of the movies and performances that were awarded Oscars. Dreamgirls was just an OK movie ... except for the times JHud and Eddie Murphy were on screen, when it was Awesome. I generally have fond feelings for Melissa Etheridge, but my god her song was Boring and I can't believe it beat the Dreamgirls songs - those performances were by far the most exciting part of the night - the most exciting non-Helen-Mirren-related part, at any rate.
6A: Cub Scout group (den)
Well, of course. Yet wrote in BSA (Boy Scouts of America), a very common crossword abbreviation. I should have known that the word "Scout" in the clue pretty much precluded the answer from having the "S" from "Scout" in it, but it's a Monday puzzle and I'm not stopping to think things through. Still, this little hiccup cost me a little bit of time, as my error sat there until the Very End.
1D: E-mail offer of $17,000,000.00, e.g. (scam)
21A: Old punch line? (scar)
48D: Dagger wound (stab)
SCAR + STAB = SCAB; OK that equation makes no sense, but I can tell you that I got hung up on SCAR and STAB because I wanted both to be SCAB at various points. It's kind of weird how close, spelling-wise, all these knife-fight-related words are. In the end, the closest thing, spelling-wise, to SCAB in the puzzle was SCAM, which is nicely clued here. A fun gimme.
32A: One of the Astaires (Adele)
An old crossword standby. I should put her on the shortlist for next year's Pantheon induction. Still, I have no idea who she is or what relation she is to Fred. Time to find out. She was Fred's older sister, and they had a Vaudeville act together when they were both young (when she was more famous than he). Read this - it's pretty interesting.
48A: "La Nausée" novelist (Sartre)
43D: Rolle who starred in "Good Times" (Esther)
This is the reason I love crosswords. Where else in the world (besides the classroom, on occasion) would my love of depressing French philosophy and my love of 1970's sitcoms ever meet? There is an entire term paper to be written on the relationship of these two clues, I'm sure. Speaking as someone who has to grade lots of papers, I can tell you that a paper on existentialism in "Good Times" would be something I'd set aside to read last. To savor. Here is what the title of that paper would be, were it being presented on a panel at the annual MLA conference: "From Jean-Paul to J.J., or, No Exit from the Ghetto without Dyn-O-Mite!: Theories of Selfhood in the Post-War West."
51A: "Star Wars" guru (Yoda)
41A: C-3PO, for one ('droid)
[ahem] .... NERD! (anytime anyone violates the "no more than one Star Wars clue per puzzle" rule, I have to shout "NERD!" - just so you know, for future reference)
9D: Last part (tail end)
30D: Untagged, in a game (not it)
Nothing much to say about these, except that I liked them - fun, lively, colloquial, multi-worded - everything that good fill should be, and particularly appreciated in a Monday puzzle.
14A: Chili con _____ (carne)
60A: Spanish hero played by Charlton Heston (El Cid)
I just like that these two answers have 180-degree rotational symmetry. Remember that part in EL CID where he douses the Moors with chili con CARNE? Me either, but it would have made a great scene.
19D: Some blenders (Osters)
40D: Old gold coins (florins)
These answers genuinely gave me pause, and I entered them only tentatively, when I had just the first letter or so of each. I was very happy when they both panned out. On Mondays, I'll tend to send a longish answer out into the void much more readily than I will on other days, since on Mondays, my gut feelings about words tend to be much more accurate than on later days of the week.
Off to do the NY Sun puzzle. See you tomorrow.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld