Thursday, April 5, 2007
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: Fake Autobiography Titles - Celebrity names have "I" added to their front to make new, odd phrases, which are then clued as possible autobiography titles, e.g. 17A: "A County in la Nazione: Autobiography of a 'Godfather' Star" (Italia Shire => I, TALIA SHIRE)
This theme was simultaneously complex and simple. Complex in that the clue has double reference - to the made-up phrase and the possible autobiography title - and simple in that all of the answers were easy to get, with one possible exception. The other theme clues and answers were:
- 35A: "Mark of a Big Movie: Autobiography of a Western Author" (IMAX Brand => I, MAX BRAND)
- 25D: "Sick Noggin: Autobiography of a Mail-Order Pioneer" (Ill Bean => I, L.L. BEAN)
- 58A: "Unyielding Sweetheart: Autobiography of a Big-League Pitcher" (Iron Darling => I, RON DARLING)
OK, the first of those might be hard if you don't collect old paperbacks the way I do, and the last of those might be hard if you haven't followed baseball semi-closely the past 29 years the way I have. Still, the crosses were not that hard, so you could your way through the puzzle with little hindrance. Though not challenging, this theme was very clever and a lot of fun to flesh out.
I have to be quick about it today, as Sahra is home from school and needs some looking after. Plus, we leave for Mexico tomorrow and I have to deal with taxes, the house-sitter, packing, etc. I have an army of guest bloggers set to fill in for me while I'm gone. I'll announce the slate later today.
1A: Supreme leader (Ross) - great clue; I had to sit on it a few seconds before the answer came to me. Seems like it oughta be SUPREMES (plural) leader, but I guess she did lead one Supreme ... and also another. A stretch, but we'll allow it.
11A: "Top Gun" target (Mig) - "Gonna take ya Riiight Innnntooo theeee DANger ZONE!" I went to this movie on possibly the world's most hilarious double date (and possibly the only actual double date of my life). I had a sweaty-palms crush on a boring girl whom I could barely talk to, so somehow my best friend and I arranged that we would all three (along with another girl) go out to a movie together. So not a date, date, because I had no guts and would never have asked anyone out. But a de facto date. Anyway, it was fun in an entirely asexual way, we never went out as a group or as couples again, and 15 years later I found out that my best friend in high school was gay. At the time, I had no idea, but looking back: duh. I tried to look him up recently, but he has the world's most common name and ... I mean, a brilliant Chinese guy named [name withheld] who went to Berkeley ... yeah, that narrows it down to somewhere in the thousands, probably. Anyway, "Top Gun." Good times.
20A: "Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C." star (Nabors) - ah, the golden-throated dork. Golly, Sarge. I think I have an old Maxwell House coffee promotional vinyl album featuring Barbra Streisand and Jim Nabors... the question, then, is WHY do I have it? Seriously, I'd like to know.
50A: Airline since 1948 (El Al) - You should know this. If you want to have any future in crossword solving, you have to develop the EL AL Reflex. All airline clues are EL AL by default. The 1948 part here (a big giveaway) is almost redundant. Airline = El Al unless it simply doesn't fit or is clued to a country that is clearly not Israel.
57A: Bulldog booster (Eli) - Yet another Reflex you must develop. ELI is short for ELIHU Yale, the college's first benefactor. Read this if you like stories about the early 18th century that have Cotton Mather in them.
6D: Sister of Helios (Eos) - Goddess of the Dawn. Not Pantheon material, but she is occasionally brought in in specialized situations, kind of like a submarine-throwing left-hander. Pitch to David Ortiz, and then you're out of there. I swear that that analogy works, on some level.
1D: Pointer for gold seekers? (rainbow) - this took me a while; I couldn't unravel the questionmarkiness of the clue. I was thinking grizzled prospectors, not leprechauns. Also briefly thought this was a dog clue.
3D: Work of art (stabile) - honestly ... I don't know what this is!!! PIETA, yes, STABILE ... uh, no. I'll look it up now. Here is the britannica.com definition:
type of stationary abstract sculpture, developed by the 20th-century American artist Alexander Calder and usually characterized by simple forms executed in sheet metal; the term, coined in reference to Calder's work by Jean Arp in 1931 (compare mobile), was later applied to similar works by other artists.
Ah, so it's like a MOBILE, only it doesn't MOBE. So it's STAB(I)LE. Gotcha. ARP is a good crossword name to know (often clued in reference to Dada). CALDER's not a bad one to know either (that's his STABILE, right).
39D: "Sidereus Nuncius" author (Galileo) - good example of how an nutso-looking clue can psych you (read: me) out. I had the GAL- part and was still flummoxed. I wanted it to be GALEN, but that wasn't long enough. GALEN? What the hell? I went for the much more obscure answer when the common was practically biting me in the nose. It happens.
40D: Countertop choice (granite) - so literal that I totally missed it. I was thinking AMANA or some other brand name, or possibly an appliance (considered GRINDER at one point (?)).
45D: Arctic transports (sledges) - Oh what fun it is to ride! Raise your hand if you had SLEIGHS. Here is Wikipedia's first sentence in the definition for "sled":
A sled, sledge or sleigh is a vehicle with runners for sliding instead of wheels for rolling.
Come on - they all mean the same thing? Can't we get rid of two of them, then?
47D: Oscar Wilde play (Salome) - also, Strauss opera based on that play. Nice write-up of the Salome controversy here. Salaciousness aplenty, including incestuous desire, lascivious dancing, and attention lavished on a severed head. Remains one of the few operas I really, really want to see.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld