Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Solving time: mystery
THEME: WATER - theme answers feature words describing water in its different states, with each theme answer representing its state at a higher heat: main theme clue: 51A: Put more pressure (on) ... or a title for this puzzle? (turn up the heat)
Well, if you were dreaming of a white Valentine's Day, and you live in the midwest or northeast, then congratulations! Whitest Valentine's Day Ever! Maybe someday our street will get plowed and I'll be able to see where it is again. Right now: solid white. Wife is outside shoveling like Sisyphus. Our crazy mortician neighbor was out with snowblower at 4:30am and kindly snowblew about 1/8 of the length of our sidewalk. He's generous that way.
This puzzle would have been So much better if it had SNOW in one of the theme answers, though I realized that SNOW is probably not a technical term for a water's STATE (24D: Cabinet department). I like this theme a lot - seems very inventive to me. I got very slowed down, though, by ICE HOCKEY TEAM (20A: Hurricanes and Lightning) because I had HOCKEY TEAM and had no clue about the theme yet, and so naturally entered NHL HOCKEY TEAM - by the way, I like the use of ironically named teams in this clue, hurricanes and lightning not being phenomena normally associated with ICE. That NHL mistake kept the entire "Seattle" section of the puzzle cordoned off and kind of disordered for a bit. For example:
1A: Own (up to) [fess]
1D: Terrif (fab)
Did anyone else, in his/her haste, read 1D as "Tariff" and enter something like TAX or FEE? Because I entered both of those answers: TAX, and then when it seemed FESS was right, I took the "F" and made FEE. I somehow never corrected this error and noticed it only at the very end. Oh, speaking of "very end," my time is a mystery because when I hit "DONE" at the applet, Nothing Happened. After many, many attempts to get something to happen, I had to reload the puzzle (which took Many tries) and then refill the whole grid. So my "official" time was something in the 13-minute range. I believe the actual time was probably in the 7 minute range, but who knows?
5D: Contents of some hookahs (hashish)
53D: "The _____ Report," 1976 best seller (Hite)
Some spicy fill for your Valentine's Day. Why not TURN UP THE HEAT, get high, and read The Hite Report - just like our pioneer ancestors used to do on Valentine's Day!
29A: "Out of the question" (I can't)
56A: Turner autobiography (I, Tina)
What is: TINA Turner's response to an unreasonable request, if TINA Turner were a caveman?
15A: Old Intellivision rival (Atari)
Now here's a controversy I remember well. The "rivalry" in question is right in my pop culture sweet spot. My father bought me Intellivision when it first came out (1979, I think - if you remember any previous discussions of my dad, you know that he is / was prone to buy new-fangled gadgets the second they debuted, without waiting to see if the market would hold up or the prices would come down). The very first game I ever played: Intellivision Baseball. God I loved that game, with its highly pixelated robot-looking players. In my mind, ATARI was low-class and Intellivision ruled. We played the hell out of that Intellivision set for about 5-6 years, until it just became ridiculously dated. I don't know where it is now.
11D: U.F.O. pilot (alien)
TUT TUT (10D: Expression of annoyance)! ALIEN is an absurd (if obvious) answer. "U.F.O. pilot ... In the movies," maybe, but to claim outright that ALIENs do indeed fly U.F.O.s!!!? I mean, the whole point of U.F.O.s is that they are UNIDENTIFIED, so how the hell do you know who's flying them?
12D: Charlotte Corday's victim (Marat) - French Revolution! After supporting the French Revolution, Corday got jaded by the subsequent Reign of Terror, blamed Marat for the carnage (he ran a newspaper), and stabbed him. In his bath. I think the death-in-the-tub scene has been painted often. For no good reason, I associate Marat with the painter Corot (Corday - Corot - they sound alike) even though Corot never painted a Marat-death scene. He did paint "Woman with a Pearl." Artists who actually are referenced in this puzzle: Diego Rivera (47D: Diego Rivera work (mural)) and GOYA (57A: "The Naked Maja" artist).
27A: Blasts of the past (N-Tests) - why tricky? See also A-TESTS and H-TESTS. In fact, I'd not seen N-TESTS before.
49D: Mortise's mate (tenon) - Is this something to do with rock-climbing? I hate the vocabulary of rock-climbing. Oh. No. It's a simple joint, from woodworking. See this illustration, for Dummies (like me, I guess).
29D: _____ Walton, author of "The Compleat Angler" (Izaak) - I was proud that I finally got this guy's name right, after seeing this clue so many times in the past and always being befuddled by it. Sadly, I initially spelled his name ISAAC.
52D: Sunroof alternative (T-Top) - My first look at those two "T"s was "??????? - something is wrong."
36A: Periodic table abbr. (At. Wt.) - OK, so it means Atomic Weight, and I know that, but I get that WT on the end and all I want to fill in is NT WT (a far more common abbreviation in puzzles).
I knew 43D: Modern, to Mahler (neue) only because my first serious girlfriend's last name was NEUMAN, and somehow I learned what NEUE meant through conversation with her ... maybe. Actually, that sounds implausible. But it's the first association that came to mind with NEUE, so it must be true. I interviewed with TCU (49A: Horned Frogs' sch.) back in the late '90s. Nothing came of it. Just think: I could have been a Horned Frog, far, far, from this ridiculous snow storm. Speaking of out of the snow, if only I could fly QANTAS (44D: "The Spirit of Australia" sloganeer) to Australia or (better yet) New Zealand now, where the winter of my discontent would be made glorious summer by the sun of (Motel On) York.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld