Friday, March 30, 2007
Solving time: as a rule, I do not rush a Quarfoot puzzle
THEME: Republicans of the late 20th century (or, none)
Orange emailed me late last night, as I was writing my seemingly eternal Stamford recap, and assured me that I would like today's NYT puzzle, and she was not wrong. It went immediately into the "Best of 2007" folder I keep on my desktop. One of the shocking things about going to Stamford is meeting all the constructors you admire and finding out that many of them are, in fact, children. OK, so Quarfoot's probably in his mid-20's, but still, he has no business being that young when his puzzles are so damned good. The rule is: if you are great, you must be old and woolly and out of shape so that I have some way to compare myself favorably to you. None of this young, cool, athletic crap. After having Quarfoot pointed out to me at Stamford, I finally went over to introduce myself and he was very friendly and I turned to introduce myself to whoever it was he was with ... and it was Mike Nothnagel, who is another of my favorite NYT Friday/Saturday constructors. Too much young talent in one place. And nice too. Seriously. It was sickening. Oh, and add Patrick Blindauer to the list of baby-faced talent. Also a really nice guy. Anyway, on to today's fantastic puzzle.
26A: "Miracle on 34th Street" director (Seaton)
27D: Greek sea god (Nereus)
How in the world did I, I of all people, end up stumbling on @#$#-ing [Greek sea god]. Had the "E" in the second position and started writing NEPTUNE only to find that it didn't fit. So I thought "Well, OK, what's his Greek name ... uh ... o my god what is it!?" It was only after I got all the vowels and the "S" that I had a vague idea. Now that it's sitting there, yes, I know (of) it. You don't see NEREUS the way you see APHRODITE or ATHENA or ARES. At least I don't. The intersecting answer SEATON was flat-out unknown to me. Again, I don't know how that's possible. Saw the title and thought "Capra?" No.
1A: With 60-Across, much-heard sound bite of 1988 ("Read my lips / no new taxes!")
First "sound bite of 1988" that came to mind? WHERE'S THE BEEF?! But that was from the 1984 campaign, though, not 1988. Didn't Mondale say it about Gary Hart? Ah, Gary Hart. Donna Rice. "Monkey Business." Sometimes I miss 80's politics. All seems so innocent now. Donna Rice really really needs to be in a puzzle. She and Fawn Hall. But back to the actual answer, which is GREAT, and has perfect rotational symmetry to boot. Gorgeous. This grid is heavily laden with notable Republicans, both in the clues and the answers. First, we have George H.W. Bush with READ MY LIPS, NO NEW TAXES, followed by
2D: "With Reagan" memoir writer (Ed Meese)
30D: Dole's successor in the Senate (Lott)
46A: Org. established by Nixon (EPA)
Three presidents, a presidential candidate / senator, another senator, and an attorney general. All Republicans. I'm surprised these guys agreed to share space with YOKO ONO (38D: "Starpeace" performer).
11A: "The Human Stain" novelist (Roth)
16A: Emperor for only three months (Otho)
12D: It was first performed at Whitehall Palace in 1604 (Othello)
As a lisping solver would say, OTH-ome! ROTH was a gimme and the first entry in the grid. OTHO is a mythical creature as far as I'm concerned, but I'd seen his name before and figured there were too many OTTOs for the answer to simply be OTTO. So, OTHO. OTHELLO was in yesterday's puzzle, which is weirdly coincidental. Nobody ever answered my question about whether the game OTHELLO had a racial component, i.e. are the pieces black and white to signify miscegenation? Inquiring game-players need to know.
35D: Robin's place (Batcave!) - speaking of Batman, Dave Sullivan has promised me that at next year's Tournament (in Brooklyn! Reserve your room now!), he will come dressed thusly:
So come to the Tournament for that, if nothing else. Seriously, I'm going to be actively advocating that people attend the tournament next year, no matter how poor a solver you think you are. It's so much fun that, believe me, you won't care (much) about your times. If you like puzzles enough to read this stupid blog, then you Definitely like them enough to go to the ACPT. Plus, I can almost promise you that you will kick Phil Donahue's ass, which should at least give you some small amount of satisfaction. (I take it back, I love you Phil, please tell your wife that "Free to Be You and Me" is the defining album of my childhood)
54A: 1999 Jodie Foster title role (Anna) - "Nell!?" Damn, wrong year. O how badly I wanted Nell. The very word makes me think of my sister making fun of that movie, which sounds cruel but is actually hilarious.
48A: Some dolls (Kens) - True enough. I also would have accepted [Dolls without balls]
59A: Actress Sommer (Elke) - I know her name well, though she's before my time. Was she ever on "Match Game?" How do I know her? Well, she was on "The Muppet Show" once, so that's a possibility. I know I own an old movie tie-in paperback with a sexy picture of her on the cover, but I can't be bothered to search through thousands of books right now. The movie was called "Deadlier Than the Male" (1966).
45D: Miller's "S.N.L." "Weekend Update" successor (Nealon)
And thus began the long march into unfunny Miller successors until finally Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon got hold of the gig and made it good again.
39D: Brand available in "fire" and "ice" (Dentyne)
53A: Pop label (Pepsi)
I miss non-X-treme gum. [Pop label] is a good clue, in that could have been a lot of things, including my first thought, a record label.
14D: Hood moniker (home boy) - there was a "Hood" clue in the Tournament's A Finals, too: [Hood ornaments] => PINKY RINGS. I was not sure then, nor am I sure now, if HOOD meant "criminal" or HOOD meant (presumably black) "neighborHOOD," as in "Boyz 'N the HOOD." Here, the meaning seems to be the latter.
29A: "We definitely should" ("Yes, let's") - Good, and yet the only person I can imagine uttering this phrase unironically would be someone replying to the question: "Shall we purchase a TEA COZY (31A: Service cover-up?) for Aunt Martha?" So genteel.
8D: Bored with life, say (in a rut) - yes ... I know this feeling
40D: Pitch (deep six) - is this related to "eighty-six?" No, but they mean remarkably similar things.
- 38D: "Starpeace" performer (Yoko Ono)
- 15A: Singer of the Top 10 hit "Walk on Water" (Eddie Money) - really wanted Neil Diamond here
- 6D: First name in exotica music (Yma) - AMY backwards
- 10D: Jazz singer Sylvia (Syms)
- 28A: Range of some robe wearers? (alto) - niiiiice clue
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld