Friday, April 27, 2007
Relative difficulty: Easy to medium
THEME: no way, man
I had the great, great privilege of teaching Raymond Carver short stories to my wife's very precocious and amusing high-schoolers this morning. It was, no lie, the best teaching experience I've had in recent memory. Not sure what that says about me, my regular students, or these kids I taught today, but I don't really care, either. Magical. Reminded me why I got into this profession in the first place. ANYway, the puzzle had to take a back seat. Sorry, puzzle. I hope this commentary is not too late to be useful or at least interesting.
This was an adequate Friday puzzle - a bit on the easy side, with only a couple of stumpers (easily overcome via crosses). I like how the RAMONEs (16A: Rock's Dee Dee, Joey, Johnny or Marky) keep getting invited back to the grid again and again and again. I think they've been an answer in at least three late-week puzzles since I began blogging. Hang on, I'm going to put them on iTunes now for inspiration. Why don't I have anything by them except their cover of the TV "Spider-Man" theme song??? Well, it'll do, as one RAMONEs song has this way of sounding, at its core, like all the others. Driving three-chord awesomeness. The 15-letter answers here aren't that interesting, and I'm nearly certain I've seen one of them - SARASOTA SPRINGS (45A: Resort town northwest of Naples) - in a puzzle recently. The other, DRAWBRIDGE AHEAD (19A: Sign before a crossing) is OK ... it just sort of lies there, but it's not bad. In general, there was a lack of scintillating fill in today's grid. Very little that seemed particularly original, and the Scrabble quotient was decidedly Low.
9A: Rain forest denizens (okapis) - my favorite x-word animal! This was the first clue I answered ... only I answered LEMURS. Of all the answers one might go with ... I picked LEMURS. Not sure why? Discovered LEMURS was wrong when RAMONE (a gimme) went in underneath it. RAMONE gave me INCA (13D: Temple of the Sun worshiper) and old school x-word stalwart AMAH (11D: Mother's helper in Madras), and the rest of the NE pretty much crumbled from there.
9D: Monteverdi opera ("Orfeo") - coincidentally, after I had the "R" this was a total gimme for me. I say "coincidentally" because ... coincidentally ... I taught the English romance "Sir Orfeo" and a later Scottish version of the same story called "Orpheus & Eurydice" this past week, and we talked about the connection between Orpheus and song, and how there are many operas based on his story (a bunch of which are being performed at Cooperstown this summer, or so I'm told). Anyway, opera's not really my bag, but today's clue came at just the right moment for me.
10D: Block splitter (karate chop) - I love this phrase. My daughter and wife both take karate. Neither of them can split blocks yet. As far as I know.
21A: 2000 film "Billy _____" ("Elliot") - saw this sappy movie about the dancing kid (who conned me into that?), and still totally blocked the name. The one-T'd ELLIOT appears to be reasonably unusual - I mean, compared to two-T'd ELLIOTT (Gould, Chris, Missy, Yamin, etc. - all two-T'd, I think).
22A: Author of "Oedipus at Colonus" (Sophocles) - Sophocles was a Red Sox fan. Or so I hear.
17A: Got going after a crash (rebooted) - this long word was the first thing I was able to get in the NW, and, as usual, the letter with the highest Scrabble value provided the most information - the "B" helped me get REBA (3D: Hart family sitcom) despite the fact that I've never seen even a second of that alleged sitcom. Both WORKSHOP (1A: Training session) and OPEN LINE (15A: Opportunity for a radio talk show caller) took me far longer to get than they should have. I had GIVE AWAY (??) then OPEN MIKE before I ever had OPEN LINE.
2D: Abbr. to the right of a star (Oper.) - this is clever. Phone keypad cluing is always fun. I did not figure out what the hell this meant until well after I'd completed the puzzle.
7D: Hollywood's Ed and Jennifer (O'Neills) - can't picture either one in my head right now, but this was easily inferrable from crosses. Was Jennier O'NEILL in "Summer of '42?" Oh yes, yes she was. I take it back: I can certainly picture her in my head. Right now. Memorable.
34D: Trying person (attempter) - I want to make a noise here of a buzzer going off, a horrible noice REJECTING this answer as in any way acceptable. This falls solidly under the Odd Jobs category of entry, which I can't stand. You can add -ER to any verb to get a noun. This does not mean that you should.
28D: Highest point on the Ohio & Erie Canal (Akron) - yet another claim to fame for this ridiculously over-represented American city. In the NYT puzzle, AKRON is by far the most frequently recurring Ohio place name (if you discount the name of the Great Lake it borders). Reader Wendy is no doubt proud of her little town. Again, the most Scrabbly letter (here, the "K") allowed me to get this otherwise potentially elusive answer.
38D: U.S.A.F. rank (SSGT.) - that's "staff sergant." I got beat up by that abbreviation once in my life. No more.
22D: Surprise visitor to Israel in 1977 (Sadat) - remember when peace in the Middle East seemed almost possible? No, of course you don't. Puzzle-wise, I prefer SADAT's more Scrabbly first name, ANWAR.
35A: Reagan adviser Michael (Deaver) - yowza. Good one. Had to get a few crosses before my memory was sufficiently jogged. You really have to have lived through that era to have any hope in hell of getting that one.
Three words I just don't like the looks of ...
- 37A: Figures above a line (addends) - when NUMERATORS wouldn't fit, I stabbed at this one and guessed right ... but I still don't like the word. So many great, lyrical words from the world of mathematics (e.g. quadratic, parabola, etc.) - this one is just clunky and dull.
- 43A: Memory imprint (engram) - I have no idea what the clue means, let alone the answer. Isn't an ENGRAM one of those personality tests? Or is that an ENNEOGRAM? IDIOGRAM? JAMES INGRAM?
- 52D: Growl (gnar) - yuck. A hundred times yuck. You would never say this. No, you wouldn't. GNAR is missing at least one letter, possibly two.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld