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