SUNDAY, Feb. 4, 2007 - Paul Guttormsson

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Solving time: 26:57

THEME: "INITIAL INITIALS" (61A: What the answers to the 15 starred clues have) - e.g. 38D: Apple variety (iMac), 71D: Critical time (D-Day), etc.

In a foul, foul mood for a host of reasons, not the least of which is that I have to blog now (Saturday night) because tomorrow a.m. is all filled up with crap. I am also having infuriating knee problems for No Good Reason, which is making me feel 30 years older than I am. To top it off, having to blog early meant having to solve early, and what began as an absolutely brilliant, lightning-fast solving experience was utterly derailed by daughter coming upstairs (like 15 feet away from where I type) for bathtime, during which she is notoriously shrill and hyper. Once she started with the shouting / singing / what not, I could Not concentrate, and once I got hung up (the entire S of the puzzle, particularly the SW), I really really got hung up. Sore, audibly creaky knee + sporadically loud child + a couple of thorny patches in the puzzle = me wanting to smash something. Then I told myself that these are really really bad solving conditions, and maybe I should solve like this more often in order to simulate whatever is going to annoy me about tournament conditions. And then I finished. What would have been a glorious, well-under-20 minute time ended up just slightly worse than average. This was also about the tenth puzzle I've solved today (and my third Sunday), so I might have been flagging a bit.

I enjoyed the theme somewhat, but the most exciting thing about it may have been the description in the middle of the puzzle: INITIAL INITIALS. The actual theme fill was, in large part, run-of-the-mill stuff, like the aforementioned IMAC and DDAY, plus

  • 16A: Primo (A-one)
  • 19D: In-box contents (e-mail)
  • 64D: Fortune 500 company based in San Jose, Calif. (eBay)
  • 109A: Backup for Dick Tracy (G-men)
  • 111A: Benjamin (C-note)
Some theme answers were pretty colorful, like 53D: Saloon floozie (B-girl) and 110A: Gridiron lineup (I-formation), but mostly they just lay there. Somewhat disappointing as themes go.

There was, however, a subtheme. Three of the clues feature villains:
  • 44D: Villain who says "For I am nothing if not critical" (Iago)
  • 65D: Villain who says "That's a Dom Perignon '55. It would be a pity to break it" (Dr. No)
  • 93D: Villain who says "So you don't like spinach?" (Bluto)
These were more fun than the actual theme answers, and the last one absolutely shot me down in the SSE. For some reason I was thinking that Popeye's nemesis was BRUTUS, not BLUTO. Turns out I had good reason for making this error. At any rate, BRUTUS wouldn't fit and my failure to get BLUTO led to my most serious snag in the puzzle (more below on the horrendous South). I like that all these villains kinda rhyme.


If the main theme was no great shakes, thankfully some of the non-theme fill is pretty hot.

Hot Fill
  • 21A: "Hey, good lookin'!" ("Hubba hubba!") - for a non-theme answer, this goes especially well with the doubleness of the theme itself: INITIAL INITIALS
  • 37D: Nowheresville (the sticks) - I like the clue even more than I like the answer
  • 36D: Like sororities, at times (serenaded) - man this took me Way too long to get
  • 73D: Gets blitzed (ties one on) - what one does in THE STICKS to dull the pain of not being SERENADED
  • 93A: Treat for a dog (belly rub) - nice play on "treat" - I was thinking something edible, but the -LYR- combo brought the real treat to light. My dog does like BELLY RUBs - but not as much as she likes actual, edible treats, that's for sure.
  • 42D: Product in an orange box (Wheaties) - a very nice clue. Beats hell out of "Breakfast of Champions" and goes nicely with ATHLETIC (80D: Fit)
  • 91A: Sang on high: Var. (yodelled) - I guess the "Var." is that apparently extra "L" in there. "YO, DELL. It's ED!"
  • 49D: Umpire's call ("Strike one!") - this is cool and odd. STRIKE OUT and STRIKE TWO would have worked here as well.
  • 53A: Infamous innkeeper (Bates) - Psycho!
There were lots of "OR" sounds in this puzzle. I made a little story out of the "OR" fill, just fOR you. Ahem. "NORA (39D: Best-selling author Roberts) is a BOER (40D: _____ War of 1899) who lives on the MOORS (46A: Ties up). She PERFORMS (31A: Executes) for a LORD (82D: Follower of "O") named SOREN OSBORN (36A: Philosopher Kirkegaard and 89A: "The Paper Chase" author John Jay _____ Jr.)." That's all I have so far. What do you think?

Stuff I Didn't Know

Not much, actually, but some. For example, that OSBORN guy, above. Total blank. No idea. Further:
  • 52D: _____ Kinnock, 1980's-90's British Labor Party leader (Neil) - to be fair, to myself, I'm pretty sure I've heard of this guy, but only vaguely.
  • 72A: Retired N.H.L. great Hull (Brett) - OK, I knew this, but I clearly forgot it temporarily, because it was not a gimme. Kept wanting BOBBY even though I knew I was thinking of BOBBY ORR.
  • 92D: Md.'s largest city (Balto) - I was pretty sure that yes, BALTimOre was the city in question, but I had never heard it / seen it abbreviated as such. Maybe it's common in their local newspapers? BALTO, in my mind, is a dog ... a sled dog, to be exact.
The Rough Spots

First was the far SW, where, as I've told you, I'd never heard of that damned OSBORN guy (89A), and I mysteriously had T-WING instead of O-RING at 89D: Certain gasket. This made 97A: Golf outing, whose answer is the innocuous ROUND, impossible to solve because in my grid it looked like this: WO-ND. WOUND? That's some odd golf slang right there. The whole situation "down there" was made worse by my having G-MAN instead of G-MEN: 109A: Backup for Dick Tracy looks like it wants a singular answer, dammit! So 91D: Dieter's problem looked like this: --L-A. That's right, that gives you Nothing. Further confusion resulted from 106A: Scrubbed (no go), which I could Not see, and which I had as NO NO for a while (so close!); that turned --L-A (for [Dieter's problem]) into the more wrong --LNA. How I got from --LNA to BULGE (the correct answer) is actually beyond me at this point.

Lastly, there was the Deep South, where I was in despair as I had so many Downs and yet couldn't buy an Across to save my life. I guessed (correctly) that 98A: Where St. Paul was shipwrecked, in Acts was MALTA (it was that or YALTA). But I still don't know what MILLENNIUM means as an answer to 102A: Period of future bliss. What year is it? Was this puzzle written in the 90's. Or better yet, the 50's, when everyone believed the MILLENNIUM would bring us jet packs and world peace? Nope, this puzzle must have been written since the 90's, because there's a Better Than EZRA clue in here (25A: Rock music's Better Than _____).
Also, I know it's not the 50's because my answer of SEN for 103D: D.C. baseballer was mysteriously wrong. Apparently D.C. has a new team called the NATs (at least that's what they call them in BALTO). Back to MILLENNIUM: Maybe I'm supposed to believe that the year 3000 is going to be Edenic? God only knows (seriously, He does). Under MILLENNIUM we have AFTERTASTE (107A: Diet soda feature). This answer is highly subjective. Not sure diet soda has more of an AFTERTASTE than regular soda, or lots of other drinks. I can't tell you how many times I tried to make ASPARTAME fit in here. My mind would Not let it go. Would have been a much better answer, btw. But not Better Than EZRA, because EZRA, well, that's some A-ONE fill.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

21 comments:

stringer bell 10:32 PM  

Bobby Hull is, in fact, Brett's NHL HOF father.

As for the puzzle, it struck me as kind of meh. I usually look forward to the themes on Sunday, but this one was way too straightforward and, IMO, not very clever. I figured out the theme (not very much figuring out, as it sort of smacked me in the face) after 1A, which is a lot less fun than working through the puzzle and having that "OOOOOH, that's pretty clever" moment that I usually have on Sundays.

kratsman 11:28 PM  

One more thing about the theme: the theme answers completely circle the perimeter of the puzzle and have an intersection at dead center. A construction feat if nothing else.

--Dave

Rex Parker 11:36 PM  

Thanks Dave. Good point. Very cool, structure-wise, if not so much content-wise.

RP

anani maus 1:14 AM  

Millennialism (or chiliasm), from millennium, which literally means "thousand years", is primarily a belief expressed in some Christian denominations, and literature, that there will be a Golden Age or Paradise on Earth where "Christ will reign" prior to the final judgment and future eternal state, primarily derived from the book of Revelation 20:1-6. Millennialism as such is a specific form of Millenarianism.

Among Christians who hold this belief, this is not the "end of the world", but the penultimate age, prior to when it is believed that the world will end. Some believe that between the millennium and the final end of the world there will be a brief period to allow a final battle with Satan, or a time of the Anti-Christ, followed by the last judgment.

Millennialism is also a doctrine of Zoroastrianism concerning successive thousand-year periods, each of which will end in a cataclysm of heresy and destruction, until the final destruction of evil and of the spirit of evil by a triumphant king of peace at the end of the final millennial age (supposed by some to be the year 2000). "Then Saoshyant makes the creatures again pure, and the resurrection and future existence occur" (Zand-i Vohuman Yasht 3:62).

Various other social and political movements, both religious and secular, have also been linked to millennialist metaphors by scholars.

Anani Maus 1:30 AM  

gyratOR, erectORset, perfORms, I fORmation, O Ring

burps bulge balto bluto inbred inbed badly belly

44 & 45 down anagram "I GO at Rex"!

Rex Parker 8:51 AM  

Being something of a medievalist, I am very familiar with the concept of MILLENNIALISM, but was not aware that the generic noun MILLENNIUM had somehow detached from its strict numeric meaning to mean something like a new Eden.

I GO @ Rex!

I want to start (or take over) the domain rex.com, just so I can have the email igo@rex.com

RP

Wendy 11:31 AM  

Before the Baltimore-Washington International Airport was known as BWI, it was known as Balto-Wash. It's just one of those oddities Baltimoreans have, not the least of which is that natives pronounce the name of the city BALMER.

Wendy 11:47 AM  

There was a noticeable tendency toward negativity in this as well, with answers like NO ONE, NO GO and NONE, along with clues like NOWHERESVILLE. You could even say LOSS qualifies as the answer to NONPROFIT. There were probably others in this vein, intentional or otherwise.

Crswrdlvr22 12:37 PM  

and speaking of negativity, those Sodomites didn't fare too well.

A.G. Argent 4:56 PM  

Yes, Your Wordness, it was a largely unremarkable puzzle with it being a bit of a stretch to find a lot that's all that interesting. But as you were (if you ain't havin' us on, Mr. Baseball ) surprised to hear mention of a team in D.C. called the Nat(ional)s, then I was happy to learn of a band called "Better than Ezra". But I'm no longer hip nor worldly. And I always find it slightly morbid when crossword builders use "O-ring" being as how nobody ever heard of an o-ring before said gaskets caused the Challenger disaster back in what?'85, '86? Oh, and I now realize why you enjoy dissing the Cards. You're a bloody Mets fan, now ain't you. NL Championship game 7. I shan't gloat. And sorry to hear about the ol' knees. Very painful, I know.
AG.

Linda G 8:42 PM  

Breezed through this one and thought I was finally beginning to get it. Now I find it was just an easy puzzle -- aarrgh.

Not to worry, Rex. Before too long, the shrill, hyper, singing and whatnot will fade, only to be replaced by sullen, angry and shouting. Something to look forward to, along with aging, more aches, etc.

Kevin 8:09 PM  

Once I got the theme, I somewhat expected the initials to be unique, but they weren't. E was used twice.

Anonymous 2:52 AM  

This was an annoyingly easy puzzle for anybody older than about 55. I didn't need Google at all and only had to ask my best puzzle buddy (hubby) two sports questions. No wonder you found the Blog a chore!

Rex Parker 7:58 AM  

Gar! I'm considerably Younger than 55! What the hell kind of impression am I giving? That's it, no more talk about sore knees.

The puzzle seemed avg Sunday to me. If it was easier than avg, my time didn't show it.

RP

Anonymous 8:53 AM  

Kathy said:
How silly of me, I thought the Diet Soda feature was no calories. . .anybody else go there?

Povilas from The Sticks 12:17 PM  

I suggest sliding Innkeeper Bates of Psycho fame to join the subtheme villians: Iago, Dr. No and Bluto.

Rex Parker 12:39 PM  

You just did it for me! Thanks.

Good eye!

RP

PS there are a couple more villains in next Sunday's (which is to say, TODAY's) puzzle, so keep an eye out, if you like villains. And who doesn't?

Ger 12:51 PM  

Initially, this puzzle seemed reasonable; I cruised until deciding that 85A: was 'sturdy'. Off the rails for a while on that one. I totally misread 92A: as III instead of Ill so spent quite a while trying to make 'third' fit. *groan*
Kathy ... yes, yes I did.
I LOVE the Sunday puzzle.

Anonymous 11:40 PM  

my wife and i came across your blog while searching for clues and we think you should spend less time solving puzzles and blogging and more time with your family

Anonymous 11:41 PM  

ps...
geek

Anonymous 11:58 PM  

we're just jealous of your skills...thanks for the answers

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