Sunday, April 15, 2007
Relative difficulty: Challenging
THEME: "Rube Goldberg Device" - long, long quip describing a complicated contraption
Happy Tax Day - lucky you, it's Sunday, so you've still got time.
The theme quotation is as follows:
23A: First you (PLACE CHEESE ON TO SEE-SAW)
29A: ... which ... (RAISES LIT CANDLE)
56A: ... that ... (HEATS UP TEA KETTLE)
63A: After a while the ... (WHISTLE JOLTS DOZING CAT)
76A: ... who ... (TIPS OVER AQUARIUM)
99A: ... which ... (FLOODS MOUSE HOLE)
110A: Next time ... (BUILD A BETTER MOUSETRAP)
I see that this is a Herculean feat of construction, and yet - it was not much fun to solve. I am familiar with Rube Goldberg contraptions, having played "Mousetrap" as a kid - there was a series of stamps put out by the USPS in the 90's (I think) honoring Rube Goldberg. But there is no "wow factor" (to quote "American Idol") in this quip, except, perhaps, for the final 21-letter punchline. Some of the phrasing in the quip itself seems a bit off. From a grammatical perspective, use of "that" and "which" in the cluing is inconsistent. Since they are all being used in (arguably) non-restrictive clauses, they should all be "which." Or so it seems to me. The "that/which" rule is my shakiest, and one I learned Very late (you know, for someone who teaches English). Plus "ON TO" instead of just "ON" felt weird. Further, "JOLTS" seems slightly off, and how in the world could you control for a cat to JOLT in the direction of an AQUARIUM, let alone knock it over? And yet, I understand that some concessions are typically made, and elegance lost, when constructing something so massive and grid-dominating as this theme. So, I don't know, 'B+' for effort and 'C' for execution. I will say, though, in this puzzle's defense, that it was harder than your average Sunday, which I appreciate, and it features consecutive across answers in the SE corner that read: "SEZ REX" - 108A: "_____ who?" and 109A: QB Grossman. SEZ REX would make a great new title for this blog, or a great new sign off: SO SEZ REX!
11A: Two-seaters, maybe (maitre d's) - man, this took me a while. I was thinking of bicycles or horse-drawn somethingorothers. Even after I had it filled in, it took me a few beats to get it. "What the hell is a MAITRED!?"
11D: Classic setting for detective pulp fiction (motel) - I love all things pulp fiction AND all things MOTEL ... and yet, with the "L" in place, I couldn't think of a damned thing. BARS and CASINOS and THE MANSIONS OF RICH OLD DUDES are far, far more common than MOTELs, actually. The MOTEL is more of a staple of later (post-war) detective fiction, like Touch of Evil or The Rockford Files.
102D: Asking too much of someone? (usury) - great clue. USURY = also an occasional feature of pulp fiction. And Shakespeare plays.
96D: Pitching figures (ad fees) - "Pitch" in relation to "AD" is old hat, but something about the clue here impressed me as novel (perhaps the "figures" part, which adds to the whole basebally misdirection), and I don't believe I've seen the phrase AD FEES before. It all works. Making the old new. Nice.
93A: Ship-to-shore transport (dinghy) - also, what Archie sometimes called Edith (whose name kind of reminds me of another sitcom wife, ETHEL - 6D: "I Love Lucy" neighbor)
32D: Rock singer Reznor (Trent) - not a big Nine Inch Nails fan, but love the post-1990 pop culture quality of this clue. His last name would have made better fill, but this will do.
20A: Google's domain (the web)
45A: You may put something on it at a bar (the tab)
14D: Antitheft device (The Club)
Somebody knows what I like, namely: Definite Articles Aplenty. Like that they are also all two-syllable phrases ending in "B." There's another "THE" at 22A: Sailing (on the sea). Also, to go with THE WEB, there's 79D: Internet address suffix (.edu) and 111D: Link letters (URL).
19A: Quaint opening for a note (To sir) - Does "Quaint" now mean "so dated that no one born after 1970 would ever have heard such a thing?" The only thing that ever follows TO SIR is WITH LOVE. God I love that song.
65D: Lead character on TV's "The Pretender" (Jarod) - O my god does this @#$#-ing useless has-been character have LEGS (34A: Longevity)! I literally exclaimed profanity on seeing this clue: two words, directed right at JAROD. This was an answer in a recent puzzle. Hated it then, hate it now. I mean, look at him.
You want to hit him right now, don't you?
77D: Blend (immix) - o my god that has Got to be the silliest-looking word in the English language. Stick an "X" on the front and you've got yourself a nice palindromic rap star name.
41A: Music box? (CD case) - it's called a "jewel case."
28A: Bit of athletic wear (knee sock) - My athletic socks were knee-high ... in 1977. I guess soccer players wear high socks ... anyway, this answer was totally obscured to me because the "K" was a "P" / "R" for a good long while, as the only possibly answers I could come up with for 10D: Glimpse (peek at) were PEEP AT and PEER AT.
72A: _____ soda (sal) - W... T ... F? Had to look this up. Mineo. Bando. Pizzeria guy from Do The Right Thing - all better SALs than this one.
2D: 1977 biographical Broadway play starring Anne Bancroft (Golda) - Meir, I'm guessing. I had GILDA for a while, but then again, that whole NW corner was a mess because I had ADAGE and possibly AXIOM for 1D: Stock phrase (at par), and that really threw a wrench in the system.
76D: Mississippi senator Cochran (Thad) - wow that's a dumb name. I'm tho thad to thay that, but it'th twoo. Never heard of this guy. My nieces and nephew spent a good portion of my recent Mexican vacation spelling MISSISSIPPI really fast, over and over and over.
89D: Handel's "_____ Anthems" (Chandos) - composed for the Duke of Chandos. Go figure.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS if the grid is wrong today, I apologize in advance. NYT site kept telling me it didn't know who I was, then when I got in, the grid wouldn't come up for me. So I solved in Across Lite and screen-grabbed from there