Wednesday, February 7, 2007
Solving time: 6:43
THEME: TYPEWRITER (62A) KEYBOARDS (49A) - three theme answers are the first, second, and third rows on a TYPEWRITER KEYBOARD, e.g. 17A: Top line (QWERTYUIOP)
Did I or did I not say there was a moratorium on puzzle constructors named "David?"
Puzzles are getting easier, I'm getting faster, or both. Why do I say that? This is a record Wednesday time for me (I think...), which I got the day after a record Tuesday time [correction: my record Wednesday time was set in early January, and it was under 6]. Part of me wants to complain that the puzzle wasn't challenging enough, and the other, bigger part wants to celebrate my speed. I'll do a little of both.
I can't believe this theme hasn't been done before (maybe it has). As my fellow blogger remarked last night, this puzzle would have been somewhat harder to do on paper than, as we do it every night (!), sitting at KEYBOARDS. Even with the obvious theme, which allowed me (once I got it, fairly quickly) to fill in huge chunks of the grid, I still managed to get slowed down by a couple of unknown answers, some bad typing, and my own stupidity. First the unknowns.
15A: Amtrak speedster (Acela)
As of this moment, I don't know if it's one word, or two (ACE L.A.?), or an acronym. Maybe this is some commuter train that actual (as opposed to far upstate) New Yorkers are very familiar with. Yes, it turns out that the ACELA Express serves the NE corridor from D.C. to Boston (at least that's what Wikipedia says). You can be sure that if you are a five-letter word starting AC and ending A, I will not know what the hell you are (see ACCRA, Ghana, inter alia).
45D: Nottingham villain (Sheriff)
I did not notice until just this second, as I was typing the heading, that this clue says "villain," and not, as I had imagined, "village!" "There's a village called "Sheriff?" How in the world am I supposed to know that?" I ended up getting this answer Entirely from crosses, which, thankfully, were easy, even the one from a musical, 58A: "Oklahoma!" vehicle (surrey) - "easy" because "Surrey With the Fringe on Top" was featured in When Harry Met Sally and because I own a version of the song performed by the incomparable Blossom Dearie. A very slow, sweet, thoughtful version unlike any you can imagine. Brilliant. OK, back to puzzle. Here is my ideal clue for SHERIFF: [Band whose song "When I'm With You" became a #1 hit in 1989, four years after the band broke up]. It's true! I do love the power ballads. I'm pretty sure I "danced" to this song at my wedding (which was NOT in 1989). It was very, very late in the evening and only the hardcore fans of me and my wife were still around. Memories! Here's a weird coincidence: I just played the Sheriff song on my iTunes. The next song that came up (randomly!): "I Shot the Sheriff." O LORD (8D: Psalm starter) I love when stuff like that happens.
22D: Old Irish alphabet (Ogham)
In keeping with the theme of the puzzle, this answer looks like something you'd get if you randomly pounded the KEYBOARD. Nothing about it is familiar to me. Never seen or heard it. And I'm a @#&*-ing medievalist! It's an ancient language, sometimes called the "tree language" (damn druids!) and it looks a little somethin' like this:
24A: Center line (asdfghkl)
Really, how hard can it be to basically roll your hands from left to right. My fingers sit right atop all the right letters while I solve the puzzle! And yet I somehow managed to throw an "I" into the mix in my haste to fill this answer in - I blame the inexplicably alphabetical FGH combo that set my mind thinking "I" and not "J." Stupid trained fingers! Thankfully, when I tried to do the Downs off of this answer, I quickly realized something was off - all the first ideas that were coming into my mind were oddly one letter off from where they should be, e.g. 25D: Isn't serious (jests) had an "I" in the initial position when I really really wanted JESTS. The answer that made my error crystal clear, however, is the X-word favorite LSATS (27D: Exams for aspiring D.A.'s) - there was no way in hell any proper response to that clue could start with a "K". So my time could have been even faster if I'd been a more careful typist. Just so you know.
46A: Timbuktu's river (Niger)
39D: W.W. II Japanese fighter planes (Zeros)
These two buggers cross at the "R," which I just guessed because it's the only letter that made the answers look like words I knew. I figured "R" had to be wrong - I mean, since when does the NIGER flow in Nepal? What? I'm thinking of Kathmandu, not Timbuktu? Damn it! I would have thought ZEROS was pluralized with an "-ES," but apparently it swings both ways.
7D: Actress Tara and others (Reids)
18D: Actress Polo (Teri)
[Actor Robert and others] would be a far more appropriate clue for REIDS. Damn, his name isn't spelled right! Still, as for Tara REID: Is she even an "actress" any more? Hasn't she taken to skanking her away across Europe as a so-called "reality tv" star? And TERI Polo has become the female counterpart of Eric BANA, i.e. the Puzzle World's "It Girl," which seems far too high an honor to bestow on someone who is best known as "the nondescript blond chick from Meet the Fockers" (which may explain why I have No Real Idea who she is). I don't mean to be NAGGY (33D: Shrewish), if that's a word, which I'm pretty sure it's not, but I'd like a higher class of actress in my puzzle, please. I mean, you've got Ava Gardner down there in a clue, 54D: An ex of Ava (Artie), so I guess that's something. At least she is truly A STAR (50D: "I'm gonna make you _____")
Lastly, as for this clue:
51D: It's hard to do with "orange"
I leave you to invent your own joke. The actual answer is RHYME, but come on - we can do better.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld