Monday, April 23, 2007
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: Fingers - five theme answers, four of which contain words that name various fingers on the human hand, and a fifth to clue the theme: 37A: Identify exactly ... or a hint to this puzzle's theme (put one's finger on)
This puzzle needs a THUMB. Other than that, it's just fine.
Did the puzzle on the NYT applet and felt like I never hesitated - I knew nearly every answer at a glance - and yet still I only tied my fastest time ever, which is still well over a minute slower than the fastest people. My grid navigation skillz need toning. They are good, but they are not yet, as the kids say, mad.
I should have blogged this puzzle yesterday evening. I barely remember it now, primarily because of the intervening major excitement of last night's Yankees / Red Sox game, which was almost too much for my still-fairly-young heart. I had two beers, which for me is binge-drinking. I had about a pound of guacamole - I stress-eat like crazy when watching sporting events. I threw my cap around the room, I jumped out of my seat shouting at the TV and slumped down in my seat cringing and high-fived people like an extra in a Miller Lite commercial. Let's see, how can I connect this to the puzzle? Oh, I know: this puzzle has four fingers in it:
17A: 3" x 5" aids for speakers (INDEX cards)
23A: Corporate office staffers (MIDDLE managers)
47A: Fonzie's girl on "Happy Days" (PINKY Tuscadero)
58A: Head of a cabal (RING leader)
And I needed all four of those fingers to count the back-to-back-to-back-to-back home-runs the Red Sox hit in the third inning of last night's game (including one from AGING - 22D: Getting on in years - third baseman Mike Lowell, whom I routinely call "Old Man" despite the fact that he is younger than I am). Let me recount the number of "backs" I wrote in there ... yep, that's right, FOUR. In a row. That hasn't happened in the A.L. in forty years (Dodgers did it in the N.L. very recently) and has only happened five times in the history of Major League Baseball. Sadly, this resulted in only a total of four runs (a single grand SLAM - 29A: Shut loudly - could have done that), which was only enough to take a one-run lead, which we promptly lost ... but then we got it back but then the Yankees threatened but then the Sox brought in the best closer in all of baseball, creating a NO-WIN (25D: Hopeless, as a situation) situation for the Yanks (though, truth be told, the Yanks could have gone ahead with one swing of the bat).
I'm fairly certain that if I'd tried hard, I could have worked MESS, SPIKE, SIGNS, FOE, EKED, and AMOK into the above write-up as well.
Before I forget, allow me to say that PINKY TUSCADERO makes me happier than any theme answer has made me in a good, long while.
5D: Deep gap (chasm)
15A: Worm's place, on a fishing line (hook)
Last night's starting Yankee pitcher was CHASE Wright, and no, CHASE is not the same as CHASM, but it's close, and the kid certainly got the HOOK after the third inning, making CHASM / HOOK a favorite intersection of mine this morning. I also like the nearby POD (7D: Pea holder) because the "P" abuts an "A," giving you an L-shaped "A-Pod" which is like A-ROD, but missing something (like, say, the chance to get a hit when it mattered last night ... burn!). The last baseball-related thing I will say today is that I long for the day when a player named "Alexander Orta" enters the league so that I can revel in the experience of calling him A-ORTA (6D: Main artery) every chance I get.
I don't think there's a lot more to comment on in this grid. PINKY creates some interesting crosses, including a rarely seen Monday "Var." in NARKS (38D: Drug agents: Var.) and the somewhat oddly spelled (and deliciously pop cultural) ELLY (39D: _____ May of "The Beverly Hillbillies"). DEISM is slightly high-end for a Monday. Why is it "Basic?" The clue makes it sound like the answer should be a generic term (TENET, say) rather than a specific -ISM. The term LUX is familiar to me from crosswords, but I couldn't define it for you, I don't think. I mean, it's Latin for light. That would be my definition. I appreciate the "Z" in the NW (where GRAZES - 9D: Barely injures in passing - meets AZURE - 22A: Sky-blue); unthemed Scrabbliness is always appreciated. Nice pairing of ODORS and REEKS (both clued as [Stinks]), especially as REEKS sits next to both OGRES (who REEK, or so I'm told) and an OGRE-related movie answer - 51D: Murphy who's heard in "Shrek" (Eddie).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld