Wednesday, March 7, 2007
Solving time: untimed
THEME: Evil Twins! - phrases containing the names of famous twins have one twin's name switched out for the other's, creating weird phrases which are then clued, e.g. 27A: Spitting image of a children's storybook character? (Uncle Romulus)
The first Richard Silvestri puzzle I've ever blogged? That seems impossible, as his is a very familiar name to me. Perhaps I solved many of his puzzles in pre-blog days - that, or I've been solving his puzzles in the many puzzle books I have lying around the house. Anyway, he should construct more, because I really liked this strange, challenging puzzle.
The first theme answer I came across was 17A: Look-alike of a source of oil? and I had to get nearly all of the crosses before I realized both the answer (POLLUX BEAN) and the nature of the theme (one twin's name changed to the other's). Would have helped if I'd known that CASTOR oil came from a CASTOR "BEAN" - to me, CASTOR oil is just some old-fashioned snake-oil that people used to make sick kids drink. I couldn't pick a CASTOR BEAN out of a line-up. I didn't even know CASTOR was a type of bean. I think I thought CASTOR oil was just named for some guy named CASTOR. How many times can I write the word CASTOR in this paragraph? Many. The BEAN part was mildly iffy to me, as I only just learned the term "arbitrager," so the "B" from ARBS (6D: Wall St. figures) made me a little nervous. It's very weird, taking a new word out for a spin. I put in ARBS and felt very advanced in my crosswordiness, but then the -XBEAN part ... well, I know of no BEANs ending in -X, so I began doubting my maiden ARBS voyage. Luckily for me, ARBS held up. The other newish-to-me answer up there in the North was IRENE (15A: One of the Horae). Had the -ENE, guessed the IR-, which was confirmed at the "I" by the great cross of SIXPACK (5D: Beer buy), and so I had IRENE crossing ARBS at the "R" - which, many months ago, would have annoyed me no end: crossing obscurities! But practice makes fewer terms "obscure," or at least lets you fake your way through a grid in a semi-educated-guess kind of way. My main point here: the IRENE / ARBS was one of those little moments where I could feel that my crossword muscles had gotten stronger. Progress!
14A: Old Greek theaters (odea) - if it's not in the Pantheon, it should be. A must-know for aspiring solvers (plural of "odeon"). Nope, I checked, not in the Pantheon. Putting it on the short list for next year's induction now. I may have to have an induction ceremony more than once a year. The list of deserving nominees is getting quite long. Perhaps every season (so . . . March 22 or so, for Spring, I'll usher some new terms into the Pantheon)
63A (THEME): Carbon copy of a Cleveland ballpark? (Esau's field) - Took me longer than it should have because I worked this answer backward, from -FIELD, and despite many years of A.L. baseball fandom, couldn't remember the Indians' longtime ballpark. Another word inexplicably not in the Pantheon: ESAU. I'm going to have to put ESAU in, because he's very deserving, and ... well, STET (32D: Mark in the margin) and ARIA (10D: Met highlight) are teasing him mercilessly for still being a non-inductee.
33A: Grills or pumps (asks) - Astonishingly good cluing. Totally baffled me. The old noun-for-verb switcheroo - I struck out looking at this one.
24A: Place to play? (Peoria) - Another nice, if not equally vexing, clue. I had a little trouble getting it, as the second "I" was wrongly crossed for a while - at 18D: _____ arms, I had OPEN instead of the correct UP IN, such is my love for Steve Perry and Journey.
45A: Easter preceder (Nor') - Another great clue, but one that I cracked instantly (once I saw that LENT didn't fit).
39D: Beyond the pale? (ashen) - Degrees of paleness are my specialty. I have some experience with being pale.
65D: Give-go go-between (it a) - Clever, multi-hyphenated, pseudo-pallindromic phrasing on that clue! Also very misdirecty, as sports fans will want AND instead of IT A.
54D: Sniggled (eeled) - OK, this is not a "good" clue, it's just a fabulously silly-sounding clue. EEL terminology is very important to aspiring crossword solvers, as every facet of an EEL's life and death is covered in CrossWorld, all out of proportion to EELS' influence on the daily lives of most people. Except EELERS.
38A: Devilfish (manta) - Wanted SKATE, for some (bad) reason.
43A: Self-interest doctrine (egoism) - It's a "doctrine" now?! Pretty high-falutin' way to refer to the problem of being an @$$hole.
9D: One serving a long term (senator) - Don't like this. "Long" is too arbitrary here. "Long" by comparison to US Representatives, yes, but not "long" by comparison to Supreme Court justices. I'm just sayin'.
46D: One of 11 kings of Egypt (Rameses) - So that's how you spell RAMESES! See, I would not have / did not want to put that first "E" in there. Initially I spelled this answer thusly: RHAMSES. One-E RAMSES is the brand name of a popular condom. My favorite sentence from Consumer Reports' Condom Reliability report:
Five tested condoms claim to be strong (or stronger than some other brand), but only Ramses Extra Ribbed Spermicidally Lubricated earned a top score on our Burst Index.First of all: "Extra Ribbed"!? Are there more ribs, or are the ribs just ... ribbier?
Second of all: "Spermicidally" = best adverb ever
Third of all: "Burst Index"! I must start trying to work this phrase into conversation somehow.
55D: Helen who sang "Angie Baby" (Reddy) - The entire Helen REDDY catalogue makes me think of my mom, and only my mom, circa 1975. I know, verbatim, the lyrics to far, far too many Helen REDDY songs. Buy me enough martinis and you might be able to coax me into a full-throated chorus of "Delta Dawn."
48A (THEME): Exact replica of six Northeastern states (New Changland) - gets my vote for best theme answer of the year so far. CHANG and Eng! A totally unexpected direction for the twins theme to take - plus I like how, in this answer, only part of a word has been replaced, creating the great hybrid word CHANGLAND. My prediction: 100 years from now, when China officially owns this country and all its subsidiaries, those "six Northeastern states" will indeed be called NEW CHANGLAND.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld