Thursday, March 8, 2007
Solving time: untimed - slower than normal, I think
THEME: "Question about an old proverb" - a quip puzzle, ugh!: (19A) IN THE CASE WHERE / (29A) THE STITCH IS LATE / (36A) DO YOU THINK IT CAN / (51A) STILL SAVE EIGHT
Well, at least it rhymes. I am not a fan of quip puzzles in general, and I'm especially not fond of ones with corny, non-funny, "things-Ziggy-might say" qualities about them. That said, I had a love / hate, rather than just a hate, relationship with this puzzle, based on the most fabulous, Rex-pleasing crossing in recent NYT puzzle history (beating even the apparently Rex-referencing IHOP / ORANGES crossing of a few days back). And the Crossie goes to:
7A: "Steve Canyon" cartoonist Milton (Caniff)
12D: Actress Spain of "God's Little Acre" (Fay)
"Actress Spain" were the first words my eyes went to, and I just about burst with giddiness, as FAY Spain is my absolute most favorite B-Movie actress of all time. She was super hot and in mostly terrible movies, including 1959's The Beat Generation, the original poster for which hangs on my living room wall. I never, ever, ever thought I'd see her name in the puzzle. Someone who has access to the cruciverb database will probably tell me that she has, in fact, been in the puzzle before, but not in my memory. The fact that my favorite B-Movie actress is crossed with one of the greatest comics artists of all time makes that whole NE corner really light up. Spain and CANIFF were both involved in the production of largely forgotten popular fiction, from roughly the same era. CANIFF is best known for creating the enormously popular comic strip "Terry and the Pirates," which he began in the 30's and left in '46. STEVE CANYON ranked third in the list of pseudonyms I considered for this blog, behind Rex Parker and Chet Houston.
Also fabulous was the YAHTZEE (38D: Classic Milton Bradley game) / WOZNIAK (55A: Apple co-founder) Z-crossing of the great SW. So the NE and SW were solid. The rest ... meh.
Alright, let's breeze through the rest of this puzzle with a series of haphazard, off-the-cuff observations. Ready? Go.
4A: Jr.'s place (Sch.) - Sucks. Just sucks hard. Really bad.
13A: Rhine tributary (Aar) - All European Rivers Lead Straight To Hell.
15A: Country of Saroyan's heritage (Armenia) - This answer is right under CANIFF in the great NE corner of this puzzle. I love it because I grew up in Fresno, CA, where every other thing is named after Fresno's favorite son (besides Tom Seaver and Cher), William Saroyan (and every other person is, or was, Armenian). Every damned play or performance I ever saw growing up was put on in the Saroyan Theater, for instance. Ironically, I don't think I've ever read any Saroyan, My Name Is Aram or otherwise. That book should have been called Maram, I'm Aram. If "Maram" were a word.
18A: No place for an epicure (beanery) - Ick. First, I think we've seen this exact clue / answer pairing before. Second, WTF is a BEANERY? Hmm, "an inexpensive restaurant or cafe." So ... why wouldn't an epicure be there? I know plenty of self-styled epicures who love diner food. This clue misunderstands both epicures and beaneries.
26A: 1990's Ontario premier Bob (Rae) - Yet another way to clue this answer, and possibly the most obscure. There's a reason RAE is in the Pantheon. Someday I will do a special called "Better know your RAEs," as there are at least half a dozen.
27A: "_____ Madness" (1966 Sean Connery comedy) ("A Fine") - REEFER would not fit. The very phrase "Sean Connery comedy" reads like an oxymoron. I had NO idea what this answer was, even after getting A-INE. I seriously considered A-LINE - like ... maybe there was a skirt craze in the mid-60's that I'd just never heard of, one which created "A-LINE Madness."
34A: Swamp critter (croc) - A "critter" is something tiny that annoys you, not something gigantic that can crush you to death with its might jaws. I had the CR- and still couldn't get it. I was wondering if CRAY (as in CRAYfish) were possibly right. When I asked my wife, she got CROC immediately, but agreed that "critter" was iffy. Speaking of my wife...
24D: Frontier gathering (bee) - So I turn to my wife and say "Frontier gathering, 3 letters." She thinks for a while. Nothing. I say "Starts with 'B'." Nothing. She asks "Did you get it already?" I say "Yes." She asks "Well what is it?" I say, "Bee." She ... Loses Her Mind. I've seriously never seen her so worked up about a clue. I'm going to quote to you now from the various things she said, which I was furiously scribbling down as she said them, trying to keep up. The part that seemed to bother her most was the "Frontier" bit:
Oh, that's horrible. That's just wrong. You can blog my absolute horror ... of that. [...] I'll bet there's a bee going on right now in this country!This will surely be one of my favorite puzzle memories of all time, watching this little word (which, for me, was actually a near gimme) make my poor wife's skull explode.
25A: Carbohydrate suffix (-ose) - When you mean "sugar," say "sugar."
56A: Queen in "The Lion in Winter" (Eleanor) - ... of Aquitaine. Hurray for the Middle Ages.
1D: Frenchman with a famous line (Maginot) - vexed me for a while. "Can't be Marcel Marceau; he never spoke..." To my wife's credit, she knew this almost instantly, with no help from crosses or anything. Pressed to tell me what the MAGINOT line was, she ... was not so helpful: "Something about World War I" was what I remember her saying. She's not wrong.
8D: Asian nurse (amah)
9D: Sight on Hawaiian lava flows (nene)
Two of the great, exotic Pantheon members, standing side by side and intersecting CANIFF and ARMENIA. I'm telling you, that NE corner is Hot. Speaking of hot, I did not know NENEs (Hawaiian geese, in case you didn't know) could walk on lava. Impressive.
10D: It keeps things going (inertia) - Fabulous. Great clue / answer pairing.
17D: Symbol of electric flux (phi) - did not know. Will soon forget.
32D: Katzenjammers (hangovers) - As my wife said when asked if she knew that Katzenjammers meant HANGOVERS: "No. I know the Katzenjammer Kids..."
40D: Hair bun (chignon)
41D: Antique jar (amphora)
42D: Quack remedy (nostrum)
This is quite a trifecta of sequential SAT words. More Friday than Thursday in its difficulty level. Got CHIGNON fast - a word I know only from watching, reading about, or discussing Vertigo. Wife knew what an AMPHORA was. I didn't, or didn't readily. Once she explained, I was like "Oh yeah..." I was thinking AMPHORA was a literary term, but that's ANAPHORA. I thought a NOSTRUM was just a remedy - did not know it was particularly quacky.
53D: Novelist O'Flaherty (Liam) - NEESON too vulgar for you?
54D: Lamb by another name (Elia) - Pantheon retiree takes final stroll around grid before death.
55D: Loos (WCs) - Anita!? No, just toilets.
I leave you with a picture of FAY Spain, topless, because I'm just that nice a guy.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld