Thursday, February 8, 2007
Solving time: unknown
THEME: "CH" => "SH" - theme answers are familiar two-word phrases where a "Ch-" sound at the beginning of one of the words has been changed to a "Sh-" sound, creating a wacky new phrase, which is then clued, e.g. 18A: Web listings for an old western? (Shane links)
Don't have much time today, so I'll be (uncharacteristically) brief. Fell asleep last night before puzzle time, so did the puzzle this morning as I milled about the house, eating and what not. The puzzle seemed very easy - for the third day in a row. I wish I'd done it online, as I'm pretty sure I would have beat my best Thursday time - felt like I could have done it in under 8, maybe closer to 7, but I'll never know.
The theme was OK - nothing awe-inspiring, but cute and fun. The most tepid of the theme answers was 46A: Part ownership in a bar? (lounge share) - no sparkle, no flare, no fun mental picture; the best of the theme answers, on the other hand, was 56A: Comment on a woman from Copenhagen? ("She's Danish") - there's something about the terseness and colloquiality of the phrase, as well as its complete reorienting of the meaning of DANISH, that pleases me tremendously. I imagine that there's this woman doing something awfully strange, like eating potato salad with her hands, and when Guy 1 sees her, he turns to Guy 2 and asks, "What's her problem?" Guy 2 replies "Who? Her? Oh, SHE'S DANISH."
Here is some fill that is creeping into the grid a lot - too much, perhaps. Thus, I feel a need to put out a warning before the fill becomes totally overexposed and I become (more) peevish.
10A: Damage assessment grp. (FEMA) - unless this is clued [Grp. formerly headed by "Brownie"] or [Infamously incompetent grp. of 2005], I'd rather not see it.
29A: More remote (icier) - this little bit of fill is awfully uppity for a five-letter word (and a comparative adjective at that). If the Pantheon weren't averse to comparatives, ICIER might have a place somewhere just underneath ENOLA in the Pantheon 5-letter pecking order.
44D: Like most music in record stores nowadays (on CD) - we Just had this answer, didn't we? Although last time I think it was clued as something like [How most people buy their music nowadays], which comes closer and closer to being untrue with each passing year. This clue is accurate, but ON CD ... needs a mini-vacation. For a similar problem (not featured in this grid) see IPOD.
33D: Equine color (roan) - this comes up a lot a lot a lot. It was one of the most searched answers at my site at one time, when it was clued via some obscure bit of trivia from, I believe, Shakespeare's Henry V. KOAN, yes; ROAN, no (or at least dial it back a bit).
63A: Syrian leader (Assad) - he's OK, but he appeared very recently, clued the same way, so I'm just putting out an early warning signal here.
48D: Sea eagles (ernes) - [squawk!] They're everywhere! Three times this month already! But I take it back. I love my ERN(E)S. I want to make them the official mascot of my site, but that's treading too close to Stephen Colbert territory, so I'll just admire them from a distance (which is apparently the best way to admire them - they are not, er, friendly creatures).
There wasn't much thorniness, but there were a couple of moments where I pulled up short. I cascaded down the grid until I hit 42A: Beaut, which I had --ACH. As BEAUT is an abbreviated form of the word BEAUTiful, I was thinking the answer would be something similarly truncated, and nothing would come to me. This made the Down cross 39D: Biology topic (heredity) very hard to see, with just the "H" sitting there and all those blanks squares spread out before it. I had to restart in the deep SE with the semi-gimme 64A: Days of _____ (yore) (THUNDER wouldn't fit) and then work my way back up the grid, solving HEREDITY from its tail end and then, finally, seeing PEACH, an answer I'm not too fond of, giving its cluing, but I guess it's fair.
An other slight slow-down for me occurred in the general region of the HOSEA (50D: Book after Daniel) / ROOTED OUT (52A: Expunged) intersection. HOSEA wouldn't come to me, despite my having the "H," because, once again, as I've said, if it's Biblical / Hebraic, I'm a dead man. ROOTED OUT took forever to come to me, especially considering I had the -EDOUT part of it quite quickly. I do not think of ROOTED OUT and "Expunged" as being very close synonyms. One is something done to something hidden or buried, like ROOTS, and the other is done to something on the surface, like graffiti or chalk. So :-(
While we're on the subject of badly clued fill, I'd like to register my objection to 47D: Seemingly forever (on end) - I'm trying to substitute "seemingly forever" into a phrase containing ON END, and I'm not getting anywhere.
Ironically, one of the last squares to get filled in was in the name of someone I am very, very well aware of. 7D: "Movin' Out" Tony winner looked like a clue I'd have No way of getting without crosses, and since that's what I believed, that became the truth, despite the fact that the actual answer, Twyla THARP, is someone whose name I own quite well. I own a book by her. I've blogged her before. She Attended My Alma Mater, for god's sake. And even after I solved it, I thought "Wow, I only know one THARP - I wonder who this guy [yes, guy!] is." Yikes. Weird brain slip.
Final observations: Totally spaced on the Bushes' dog - was thinking MILLIE, from the first Bush administration, not BARNEY (45A: Bush White House dog), from this one. CECE Winans (34D: R & B's Winans) has a very weirdly spelled name. I could not have spelled it correctly before this puzzle. But then again, I can't spell CEMETERY. I mean, I just did, but I spent many minutes yesterday, my mind wandering while in traffic, wondering how in the World one spelled CEMETERY. All answers seemed wrong. Surely there's an "A" in there ... yet there's not. On and on my brain pondered the weirdness of CEMETERY (I live near a couple of them, so the word comes more readily to mind than you'd think). For my feelings on Lindsay LOHAN's reappearance in the grid (46D: Actress Lindsay), please see the subsection of yesterday's blog entry, "Some notes on the word 'Actress.'"
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld