Thursday, March 15, 2007
Solving time: who knows?
THEME: Double-X words (I think) - 8 double-X words positioned throughout the grid, including a pair that intersect at the heart of the puzzle
I guess this is a theme. It's cool to see all these X's, but ... and I've said this before ... either give me symmetry or don't give me symmetry, but don't give me something symmetrical in Nearly Every Way, but one. Or in this case, two. Two pairs of theme answers have 180-degree rotational symmetry, and another pair intersects in the heart of the puzzle (its own kind of symmetry). The last pair:
XERXES (3D: 1738 Handel opera set in Persia)
XANAX (52D: Popular anti anxiety drug)
are opposite the grid from one another, but one of them (pick one) is two columns too far east for them to have true symmetry, so ... while this is not really a knock against a complicated little puzzle, the asymmetry stands out and grates a little. So close to symmetry and yet ... no.
MAXIXE (1A: Brazilian dance ) - WTF!?!?!
TEX MEX (66A: Spicy cuisine)
PRIX FIXE (15D: Menu heading)
NEXT EXIT (31D: Informational sign on an Interstate)
LUXURY TAX (20D: Monopoly square) - "Square?" I challenge. It's a rectangle:
And lastly, the greatest and most shocking answer in the puzzle:
EXTRAMARITAL SEX (37A: Private affair?) - This passes the NYT breakfast-table test. So illicit and ... frank. For the Times, I mean. And why is there even a question mark at the end of the clue? It's pretty literal. I know that "private affair" has the meaning of a "party for a select group of people," but still, if you're going to "?" a clue, it should be well and truly misleading. I believe there are situations where EXTRAMARITAL SEX would not be private, but I'm quite certain that those situations are not ones you'd see referenced in the Times puzzle. Yet.
It's Thursday a.m., so I have no time to write a gloriously eloquent entry. So every Thursday will be "Kwik Kakes" day, wherein I fly through the grid making only passing, one-liner-type observations. Why "Kwik Kakes?" Well, "Kwik" because I'm writing this entry Kwikly. And "Kakes," because "Kwik Kakes" alliterates and is also the single greatest store name I've ever actually encountered (downtown Fresno, early 90's - is that right, Andrew? You were there)
- 23A: VW front? (STU) - yesterday a poker player, today a letter sequence. Nice.
- 30A: Fishing hook with a handle (gaff), intersecting...
- 30D: Hootenanny participant (gal) - had to guess at that "G"; not familiar with GAFF (my wife thinks it must be related to the "gaffer," whose name you always see in movie credits), and my hootenanny attendance has been way down lately. Long story.
- 41A: Affirmed's 1978 Triple Crown archrival (Alydar) - for reasons I will explain to you and / or a therapist some day, I do not like being forced to relive any part of 1978. I was, however, super-proud of myself that this name floated up from out of nowhere to the front of my brain, especially considering I was eight years old back then.
- 45A: Missile from a prankster (pie) - nice homonymic throwback to yesterday's puzzle! I think of "missiles" being more, uh, phallic shaped than your average pie, but insofar as the pie hurtles through the air, I guess it's fair. Spent many seconds wondering how the answer here could be KIE because I had the very plausible RETAKE for RETAPE (29D: Shoot over).
- 63A: Moon of Saturn (Telesto) - Add "Moons of Saturn" to categories that make me go blank.
- 65A: "Shifting gears a little" and others (segues) - really loved this one; have I mentioned that I did not know how to spell segue until I was in my thirties. It still looks So Wrong to me.
- 23D: Army NCO (Sgt. Maj.) - ugh, yet Another category (military ranks) that I have not come close to mastering; this answer is way longer and more Scrabbly than most NCO answers. This answer joines EX-MARINES (32D: Some vets) and AIR RAID (16A: Cause for a siren) to form a kind of military subtheme.
- 28D: Vance Air Force Base site (Enid) - woo hoo, another throwback to yesterday's puzzle. The return of ENID, clued as the Oklahoma City, just as I wished for yesterday.
- 39D: Cal-Nev-_____, Nev. (Ari) - weirdest-looking clue! Is this pronounced "Calnevari"?
- 55D: Tennis star Rusedski (Greg) - define "star"....
- 58D: _____ Cross, James Patterson detective (Alex) - ugh, contemporary best-selling detective fiction. No thanks. Thank god this name was easy and not some freak made-up name like ALOX or ELEX. In fact, of all the ALEXes in the world (Trebek!) why go to this guy?