Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: -ZZY - four theme answers all feature "celebrities" with first names ending in -ZZY
Not the most imaginative theme in the world, but it gets you a lot of Z's, which makes for some inventive crosses. Didn't we have a double-double-Z theme not too long ago, with answers like FUZZY WUZZY and (gag) HUZZAH HUZZAH? This seems to be of a lower order of difficulty, but there are still a lot of answers that make it a pleasing puzzle overall.
The theme answers:
17A: Pitcher of baseball's Gas House Gang (Dizzy Dean)
30A: Golf's 1984 U.S. Open winner (Fuzzy Zoeller)
44A: Patriarch on an MTV reality show (Ozzy Osbourne)
60A: The Fresh Prince's partner DJ (Jazzy Jeff)
Strangely, DIZZY DEAN - the first of these that I got - did not give me the theme, and if memory serves, I ended up in the far SE, with JAZZY JEFF, before I got another theme answer and figured out what the theme was. Not sure how I traversed the grid without picking up either FUZZY or OZZY, but there it is. I think I didn't know the former and didn't see the clue for the latter until very late. My favorite answer is JAZZY JEFF, both because it's the most out-of-left-field (all the other answers are famous in their own right, while JAZZY is famous primarily as a sidekick), and because you get not only two "Z"s but two "J"s. FUZZY ZOELLER gets an honorable mention for its triple-Z factor. Speaking of "honorable mention," a former student of mine just won "honorable mention" in the Atlantic Monthly's student writing contest, and I'm exceedingly proud of her. She doesn't attend college here anymore, sadly (for me). She now attends a University whose initials are seen not infrequently in crosswords. Hint: this school is not in Durham.
Today's puzzle had me very frustrated at one point because - well, normally I solve all early-week puzzles in an unbroken chain of answers, working off crosses rather than jumping around to empty parts of the grid. But yesterday I hit a point where I couldn't continue in that fashion. Three different Down clues, unknown to me, kept me from being able to work my way out of the top of the puzzle and into the middle. I had to reboot over in the "Maryland" portion of the puzzle somewhere (thank you, WENDY - 28D: "Peter Pan" heroine). It's a rare Tuesday puzzle that can freeze me like that. The three Downs that kept me stuck:
- 8D: Exotic dancer Lola (Montez) - Mistress of King Ludwig I of Bavaria who somehow ends up performing exotic (i.e. underwear-free) dances for Australian miners... "Whatever Lola wants / Lola gets" ... yeah, that's her.
- 18D: Syrian/Lebanese religious group (Druze) - this sounds familiar, but I can't tell you what it means without looking it up... OK, I just read the first part of this "article" and I still don't fully understand. The opening paragraph under "History" reads: "Analogous with Jews, Druze are an ancient people who preexist modern constructs of identity. In some ways, Druze are a nation, an ethnicity, a tribal kinship, a religion, and so on, and in some ways not really any of these." Thanks for the help, Wikipedia!
- 22D: _____ y plata (oro) - my Spidey-sense tells me that this is an old crossword standard. I'm well aware that ORO is Spanish for "gold," but this expression slipped my mind.
57A: With "cum" and 32-Down, a diploma phrase (magna / laude) - You had me at "cum"
63A: How the confident solve (in pen) - little shout-out to all the hard-core solvers. Nice touch. I always think of the phrase as IN INK, but this'll do. I solve in pencil. I'm pretty damned confident.
2D: Theater awards since 1956 (Obies) - this is just to remind me that the Pantheon needs updating. I don't believe this word has ever been considered, but I don't see how you can expect to solve crosswords efficiently without it.
25D: Russian autocrat: Var. (tzar) - good to see the variant spelling of this word get some play. TSAR and CZAR are the other spellings I know. There seems to have been a marked uptick in "Var."-containing clues this year compared to last. That's just an impression - I haven't counted.
39D: Pouty look (moue) - makes a return to the grid. Appeared recently. It's a weird word I wouldn't use. Looks like a typo for MOUSE. MOUE gets you a nice, unusual three-vowel combo.
43D: Baseball's David, nicknamed "Big Papi" (Ortiz) - "I love it when you call me 'Big Papi!'" After Saint Manny, Ortiz is my second favorite player on the Red Sox. I call him "Grimace," as he looks eerily like the amorphous, purple, shake-loving McDonald's muppet of the same name. See also yesterday's discussion of his future, genetically engineered, and as-yet fictional baseball-playing son, A-ORTA.
The other day, in Barnes & Noble, I saw a special deck of UNO dedicated entirely to David Ortiz. All I can say is that better be in my stocking come ("cum" ... "cwm") Christmas time.
Off to teach.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld