Saturday, March 10, 2007
Solving time: untimed (average for a Saturday ... maybe 20-25 min.)
This was a solid Saturday puzzle - no weak fill, tough clues. That said, there is nothing sparkly about it. Nothing to make you go 'wow.' Perhaps more gimmes than I'm accustomed to seeing in a Saturday (though that didn't do much to speed up my time). All IN ALL (32A: Total), a good but unmemorable workout. In fact, this morning, I literally could not remember anything about this puzzle.
1A: Real name of a Disney tile character (Simba)
Gimme, right? Well, I thought so. I was so happy to see this clue at 1A and confidently wrote in ... ARIEL. Once I entered the real gimme, ON AIR (14A: Broadcasting), underneath ARIEL, though, it became clear that ARIEL was untenable, so I just abandoned this corner and eventually hacked my way back. Speaking of "hacking," this NW corner was home of a long answer whose clue had me baffled for a good while: 3D: "Big iron," in hacker slang (main frames). Of course the "iron" and "hacker" part had me thinking golf - a word which, by the way, appears in its plural form elsewhere in the grid => 46D: Follows a course (golfs). I had something -DRIVER at one point, thinking the answer was some kind of golf club (I don't play golf - well, except for mini-golf, which rules). What other ridiculous wrong answers did I entertain for a while? Let's see.
35A: Flip alternative (page boy)
This clue generated what may be my favorite wrong answer of all time: GAME BOY. At first I thought "Flip" was a kind of drink you might order at a soda fountain (like where Archie or Richie Cunningham might hang out). Whoops, turns out the drink FLIP is generally alcoholic:
Flip, n.So maybe Archie and Richie don't drink them, at least not at soda fountains. Once I had the BOY part, though, I thought that "Flip" must be the name of some hand-held gaming device I'd never heard of (one you "flip" open, somehow?) and since GAME BOY fit, and both the crosses in question, GONIARDS and PFENNIMS, seemed vaguely plausible, I thought, "sure, GAME BOY, why not?" I had the grid completed, and it was not until going over it that I stopped, looked at my answer, took a few seconds to reconsider, and then Bam, the right answer presented itself. "Flip" = hairstyle. Seems quite obvious now. I miss GAME BOY as an answer, though. R.I.P. GAME BOY. I hardly knew ye. Oh, and GONIARDS and PFENNIMS ended up being PONIARDS (35D: Narrow-bladed weapons) and PFENNIGS (16D: Divisions of a mark). My excuses for missing these, initially: I thought PONIARDS was spelled POIGNARDS, and I know nothing about pre-Euro German currency besides "mark." One more mistaken entry...
Def. 3: A mixed drink made with any of various alcoholic beverages and often including beaten eggs.
45A: Concern for a hostess (seating)
Easy, easy answer. And yet, when SETTING got into my head, I couldn't get it out, and since it fit so nicely (almost), it did not occur to me to ditch it until very late, when I just couldn't think of an author whose name started LT- for the clue 41D: "Truthful words are not beautiful; beautiful words are not truthful" espouser. Eventually I had LTOTZU and I seriously said to myself "... who's Lieutenant OTZU????" But no, LAO TZU, a crossword staple. Ah so (he said, facetiously).
28D: "Strange Magic" band, for short (ELO) 54A: One of the Traveling Wilburys (Lynne)
Any "band" clue in three letters is 95% certain to be ELO. This clue went pretty far down the catalogue to clue it, but ELO is ELO is ELO. What makes ELO's appearance here interesting is the presence of founding member Jeff LYNNE's name in the same grid, here clued via his less well known musical venture, that forgettable amalgam of once and future rock luminaries that called itself The Traveling Wilburys (other members included Roy Orbison and Tom Petty). ELO is not typically Saturday fill (too easy), but when it's spiced up with this kind of intra-puzzle interplay, I like it just fine. While we're on the subject of rock, ladies and gentlemen, The RAMONES (33A: Rock group whose members all assumed the same last name, with "the")! "I'd just like to say this gig sucks!" "Hey, up yours, Springfield!" (sorry, channeling a "Simpsons" episode, again)
22A: Gene _____, 1932 U.S. and British Open champ (Sarazen) - only SARAZENs I know are "heathen warriors," generally from the Middle East, in medieval romances.
43D: Female bacchanalian (maenad) - should have known it, didn't know it. Not much else to say. Hate having my knowledge of classical mythology fall short, but there it is.
5D: Greek city that remained neutral during the Persian Wars (Argos) - staying in the classical Mediterranean... I know of ARGOS, but I didn't know this factoid.
51D: Birthplace of Herod the Great (Edom) - you know I suck at Biblical geography. I wanted ELOM here - I don't know what ELOM is, if anything, but I do know (now) that the reason I wanted it was because of the ELOI (a great word to know for crossword solving, btw).
12D: Amphilochus, in Greek myth (seer) - again with the damned mythology! Thankfully SEER was totally inferrable.
There was some clever cluing in this puzzle, most notably 6A: Small drawing? (puff) and 25A: Information for the record (liner notes). I also liked 27D: Laundry that's often food-stained (table linen) a lot, mainly because "laundry" made me think clothing, but also, eventually, in its non-specificity, was the part of the clue that made me think non-clothing. If you follow. The first thing I entered in the grid was the S in SERB (23A: Nikola Tesla, for one), not because I knew it, but because I knew 1D: Pickles (which turned out to be SOUSES) was a plural. This allowed me to get SERB (what else could Tesla be in four letters starting with "S"?) which allowed me easily to get BRONC (24D: Unbroken mount) off the "B". The puzzle opened up slowly from there. I don't think of "Scuzz" and SMUT being synonymous (48D: Scuzz), in that I think I would enjoy some SMUT but not any "Scuzz." UTAHANS is an insane-looking word, but a far better answer than MORMONS for 7D: What many Latter-day Saints are. Had never heard of 19A: Laurel and Hardy film with the line "Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into!" ("Sons of the Desert"), but it joins PYLE (52D: One of Carter's charges, on TV) and MAD DOCTOR (53A: Wild-haired stock character) as one of the grid's few non-musical pop cultural moments. Ooh, wait, there's also EDIE (50D: Warhol actress Sedgwick), which I had as EVIE but whatever, I worked it out. I think there's a newish movie about EDIE Sedgwick. Yes ... that British actress who is / was married to Jude Law and / or is was having an affair with him ... I think she's in it. What's her name? Sierra? Oh who cares, really? Looks like the (great) Velvet Underground song "Femme Fatale" was written about her (EDIE, that is). Tracey Thorn (of Everything But the Girl) does a fabulous cover of this song, which I'm listening to ... right now. "Here she comes / You better watch your step / She's going to break your heart in two / It's true..."
SIENNA! SIENNA Miller!!! That's the actress name I wanted. God, that was killing me. And I was Not going to "cheat" by Googling. Ah, I feel better. Oh, and the movie about EDIE Sedgwick is called Factory Girl. Good day to you.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld