Sunday, March 4, 2007
Solving time: untimed - but like every puzzle this week, it seems, this one was on the easy side
THEME: "You Can Look It Up" - 63A: Dictionary source for each asterisked clue in this puzzle (Random House Unabridged)
I feel as if I am tempting fate by remarking on the easiness of recent puzzles. I'm sure this means that I'll get eaten alive by the Wednesday puzzle this week. Still, things have been pretty smooth sailing lately. Maybe I'm just getting better and the puzzle difficulty doesn't really need tweaking. I should develop a difficulty level rating system, ranging from PWN3D (easiest) to NO MAS (hardest). I guess these are based on things one might exclaim on completing (or, perhaps, in the case of NO MAS, not completing) the puzzle. I need words for levels of difficulty in between. Suggestions appreciated.
This theme ruled, IMOO. Oh, in case it's not clear, all clues have answers that relate to the placement of the clue's word or phrase in the RANDOM HOUSE UNABRIDGED dictionary, and those answers are themselves familiar phrases. The first theme clue sets this up - 23A: *Where to find para in the dictionary (one below par) - and subsequent themed clues just have ellipses, implying an extension of the 23A "para" question to later words, e.g. 46A: *... Hancock ... (beforehand). Just the sight of RANDOM HOUSE UNABRIDGED running across the length of the middle of the puzzle give me happy feelings. It is true that once you got the theme, you could at least get the beginning part of most of the asterisked clues pretty easily - and yet the cleverness of the whole endeavor, complete with 180-degree rotational symmetry for all asterisked answers, made solving the puzzle a pleasure.
[took a two-hour break for pancakes and for showing a couple of first-graders who's the boss of Crazy 8's]
58A: "The Man Who Knew Too Much" actress, 1934 (Edna Best)
This puzzle got a little sticky at the end, and this answer was one of the reasons. I had EDNA B-S-, and thought it could be BUSH or BEST. Even the "S" was tentative because I didn't really like WHISH (43D: Rustling sound) - SWISH or WHOOSH seemed more appropriate answers. Further, if it was BEST, which it was, the E gave me EMS for 60D: Modem termini? which I did not understand, primarily because the clue appeared (on paper) to be [Modern termini?]. In case you don't understand the clue/answer, "termini" are end points, and "modem" begins and ends with the letter "m" - thus "modem termini" are m's, written out here as EMS. To add to my problems in the Utah region of this puzzle, I did not know who 70A: Actress Kimberly of "Close to Home" (Elise) was - I don't even know what "Close to Home" is (a newish TV drama?). All of these problems might have been taken care of sooner than later if I'd only been able to see 44D: Broad, in a way (ear-to-ear)! When you are thinking a one- or two-word answer, EAR-TO-EAR is quite inscrutable, I assure you.
57D: Mallard cousins (widgeons)
A widget crossed with a pigeon gets you ... these birds! The word "mallard" always makes me think of this guy, so divorced from nature and immersed in the world of comics am I. I had a little trouble in this little puzzle thoroughfare - the one connecting Virginia with western Tennesse - because of both this answer and the parallel 56D: Take _____ (swing hard) [a rip], which I had as A CUT. It took me far too long to put in FRI for 62A: When "Dallas" aired for most of its run: Abbr. because the "C" from A CUT was where the "R" from A RIP should have been. For a while, I thought the "Dallas" clue might be referring to a time of day ... (9pm?).
76A: Volga feeder (Oka)
Aargh, Revenge of the European Rivers!
77A: Fashion designer Saab (Elie)
Memo to self - commit this dude's name to memory, as you have been busted by him before, and his name is so crossword-friendly that is bound to appear again and again.
11A: _____ II razor (Trac)
OK, I shave, with a razor, and I watch TV, so between the two of those activities, why did I not get this instantly. I blithely wrote in MACH. Then when that proved untenable, TECH. Stupid made-up hard-C advertising names.
109D: Kind of lane (HOV)
Heard of these, but we didn't have them in CA when I was growing up, or if we did, I didn't know. We had diamond / carpool lanes. There is a Jay-Z song (perhaps many) wherein he refers to himself as HOV. I can't explain, but this guy can. Officially, the term refers to "High-Occupancy Vehicle." I would like to add to my street cred by name-dropping not only Jay-Z but DRU Hill (78A: _____ Hill, R&B group), which was a gimme for me. I may even have a DRU Hill song on my iTunes, on one of my MTV dance compilations. Perhaps I should stop now before this gets any more embarrassing. OK, I just changed the music on iTunes from the very hip Decembrists to the very rump-shaking DRU Hill, specifically "In My Bed." I believe the chorus references "Goldilocks and the 3 Bears": "Somebody's sleepin' in my bed / Messin' with my head..."
47D: Old mythological work (Edda)
53A: Like some Keats works (odic)
OK, that second one is an adjectival groaner, but I like that these answers are both quaintly literary and intersecting. I had EPOS for EDDA at first. That clue in four letters could also accommodate SAGA.
62D: Monastic title (Fra)
Know this only from the Robert Browning poem "Fra Lippo Lippi," which is also the name of a Norwegian synth/pop band.
55A: Rival of Cassio (Iago)
Ooh I sadly tanked this one. I was thinking of watch brands (or keyboard brands), not Shakespeare characters. Turns out that CASIO the electronics brand is spelled, well, like that.
"I ain't fer it, I'm AGIN it!" (50D: Votin' no on) - I just like quoting Abraham Simpson any chance I get, even if it means repeating the same quote I used last time AGIN was in the puzzle. Some answers I admire include:
DAS BOOT (84A: 1981 German-language hit film)
CRAP GAME (71A: Shooting match?)
DOOFUS (1D: Pinhead) - I can't see this answer enough; really really love all the words my sister might have called me when I was a teenager (or ... now, I guess)
BRALESS (85D: Without support, in a way) - [!]
LESAGE (24D: Writer of "Gil Blas") - OK, I don't exactly like this, I'm just dead curious about who the hell this guy is, as he's been in many of my puzzles lately; whoa, 18th century! Old School.
OK, must lunch, then walk in woods (as it's FINALLY warm enough to do so without physical pain), then prep for my teaching week.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld