Thursday, February 15, 2007
Solving time: 7:30 (give or take a few seconds)
THEME: Broken words - common phrases are clued as if one of their words were in fact two words, e.g. 53A: Bit of mischief that won't be noticed for years? (long-term imp act)
I hope that explanation of the theme is sufficiently clear. It was hard to make it succinct.
This puzzle was Super Easy - usually at least some of the Thursday fill seems to come from outer space, or at least from outside my ken, and yet there is literally nothing troubling or unusual about the non-theme fill today. Maybe a couple of SAT words or AP History terms, but really, all the difficulty (such as there was) was in the theme answers, which took some teasing out, even after I semi-deduced the theme. I did the puzzle in pencil, and I'm pretty sure that's how I'm going to be doing all puzzles from now until the tournament - must hone my paper technique. I timed myself with a bedside digital clock, hence the lack of pinpoint accuracy on my time. But it was 10:29 when I started and 10:36 when I was done, so I figured 7:30 is a reasonable ballpark figure - I started Exactly at 10:29, but I have no idea how long the clock had said 10:36 when I finished. Looking at the times at the applet (NYT website), I did pretty well. Take that, gilknipe and susanlaws! (my imaginary enemies - if you belong to one of these handles, please don't take my taunting seriously. Not very seriously, anyway. I'm sure you are very nice people whom I would like in real life. PS In your face!).
Today's entry will be short - must teach soon. So I will sip my HOT TEA (5D: Traditional cold remedy) - which is now a bit tepid, actually - and make a few observations. If all goes well, some of those observations will be SMART (38D: Clever), or possess some WIT (39D: Cleverness). There are very few clues that I DEEM (43D: Judge) to be ENIGMAS (42D: Knots), but I also didn't hate the puzzle, so at least after reading today's entry (unlike on other days), you won't be able to say "NO MORE (46D: Gone), I'm NEVER (16A: On the 31st of February) going to read that EVIL (14A: Dark side) jerk again. It's all VENOM (58A: Gila monster's defense?) with him. Once again, he had hardly anything nice to say - he just GRIPED (47D: Bellyached)."
21A: Neighbor of Hi and Lois, in the funnies (Irma) - it's one thing to expect me to know who Hi and Lois are, or who their creator is, but it is quite another to expect me to be familiar with their neighborhood. IRMA? Is she friends with CORA Dithers from "Blondie?" The crossword fan in me does not like such relative obscurity - the comics fan in me, on the other hand, loves it. More tertiary characters! This is how I feel about "Simpsons" clues too - stuff involving the core family is good, Apu and Moe are a little better, Disco Stu even better ... but trust me, you can go deeper. LIONEL HUTZ and TROY McCLURE (voiced by the late, great Phil Hartman) beg for greater use.
61A: Gillette of stage and screen (Anita) - how in the World did I know this. I had Only the "T" and, though I wouldn't write it in at first, my first thought was ANITA, and every subsequent cross bore that out. So weird. I swear that as of this moment, I have no idea who she is and could not pick her out of a line-up. Whoa - she's been on "Sex and the City," "C.S.I.," "Trapper John, M.D," and "Quincy." How many people can say that!? Also, she was apparently an occasional panelist on "Match Game"! The nadir of her career appears to be her time as part of the cast of "Normal, OH," a very short-lived (and so-called) comedy about a big fat gay guy, played by John Goodman. Oh, FOX. Will your good ideas never stop...?
- 60A: When the shipwreck occurs in "The Tempest" (Act I) - While it took me too long to realize the nature of the answer (I was thinking "Springtime? ... Morn?..."), I remember this shipwreck very, very well. "The Tempest" was one of two Shakespeare plays I read in high school. My teacher was Very old school: we read them so slowly, and so closely, and were held responsible for the smallest details. The exams were legendary, arduous affairs - and I loved them! Nothing like a primarily objective exam to demonstrate your intellectual superiority, I always say. We also got to go to Ashland, OR for their annual Shakespeare festival, where we saw "The Tempest" (and other plays) performed. Mr. Berglund was a fabulous teacher. I just heard that he died a few years back. I heard about this because a high school friend of mine just contacted me to ask if I might possibly be coming to my 20th Reunion! After I cleaned up the tea I spit all over my computer screen on hearing the news that I'd been out of high school that long, I emailed her back and said that in order to get me back to Fresno, Literally Everyone I knew and liked (yes, all four of them) would have to be going. I doubt this will happen. We'll see.
- 52D: Vantage point of Zeus, in Homer (Mt. Ida) - this answer intersects ACT I (above). I thought it was going to be some Greek term I'd never heard of or couldn't remember, because I didn't know any words that ended -IDA. I then remembered that there is a Mount IDA, and that "Mount" could be abbreviated MT. And that was that. Exciting!
- 55D: "Behold," to Cicero ("Ecce") - ECCE HOMO! I just like saying that phrase - I so rarely have occasion to do so.
Instead you lay still in the grass
All coiled up and hissing.
And here is what I genuinely believed the lyrics were:
Instead she laid still in the dress,
All coiled up in Houston.
If you go here (and just scroll down, or do a screen search for "hissing") there are many examples of other mishearings of these very lyrics, though I have to say, my mondegreen is best. By the way, in a few days, if you Google ["coiled up in Houston"], you will get two hits - today's entry, and a page from a while back, when my friend Shaun taunted me with the phrase in the Comments section. Rex Parker - bringing the best misheard 80s lyrics to the world. Gotta run - gotta long day ahead of me, including teaching, parent-teacher conference, and then "The Office" and "30 Rock" on the television SKED (63A: Piece of Variety news) tonight.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS I forgot to pay respect to ASTA (66A: Film dog), former Pantheon President, who is just back from helping judge the Westminster Eugenics Compet... I mean the Westminster Dog Show, and making one of his occasional puzzle appearances, as he likes to do. For olde tyme's sake.