Saturday, May 5, 2007
Relative difficulty: Medium
Another solid (and, in parts, fantastic) DQ offering. I did it this morning over tea, breakfast, and ESPN highlights. Once again, DQ spans the globe to bring you the constant variety of crossword fill - the thrill of VENEER (31A: False front), the agony of DESOTOS (44D: Adventurer and Airstream) ... and a creamy center which I believe is some combination of SODA POP (20A: Slice, e.g.) and BABY FAT (55A: It's usually lost before reaching school age). I know it's kind of tasteless to suggest that BABY FAT might be delicious, but don't worry. I'm not suggesting people should eat good children. Just BRATS (51A: Nannies' nightmares). BASTE (51D: Thrash) and salt TO TASTE (2D: As you like it). I know it sounds NASTy (53A: He bought Vogue in 1909), but (as any gourmet will tell you), IT'S BEST (65A: "We made the right choice"). You might also try roasting, for a SMOKIER (64A: Less clear) flavor, and then serve with SALAT (52D: Dinner course in Dresden) and NEAR BEER (36D: Prohibition-era offering). Or swap out the bacon in your BLT (11D: Short order). But whatever you do, you will surely want to hit the OPEN BAR (24D: Feature of some political parties?) afterwards; trust me on that.
[Hmmm. That ended up more Hannibal Lechter than Jonathan Swift. Sorry 'bout that]
This puzzle sparkles from the first clue, with STEPHEN COLBERT (1A: With 8-Across, comic named one of Time's "100 most influential people" in 2006) looking very fair and balanced at the top of the grid (seven letters on the Left, seven letters on the Right). There are three other full names in the grid (so much more exciting than last name only). They are:
- 18A: Entertainer whose last name is the past tense of a synonym of his first name (Rip Torn)
- 39D: 2002 FIFA World Player of the Year (Mia Hamm)
- 63A: Henry Wade's opponent in a famous court case (Jane Roe)
I love RIP TORN, but you'd be surprised how often I get him confused with RIP TAYLOR.
Today's puzzle is aggressively manly, with 1D: "The first network for men" sloganeer, once (Spike TV) and 26D: Virile type (man's man). The first of these is preposterous - "the first network for men" was Every Network Before Lifetime (I would also have accepted ESPN). The second, MAN'S MAN ... let's just say it has always seemed paradoxical to me that this phrase is supposed to refer to a particularly virile straight man. There are jokes I want to make here (at least one really good one), but I feel I have exhausted my allotted supply of tastelessness for the day. So ... moving on.
Have you ever seen an "X" in the grid surrounded on all sides by only consonants? Probably not, and neither had I, until today, when I had the great pleasure of witnessing BMXBIKES (38A: X Games racers) crossing XMRADIO (40D: "Oprah & Friends" airer). BMXBIKES adds to the puzzle's manly quotient, and I like that the BIKES are running over Oprah, as if to prove their disdain for all things non-phallic.
The greatest clues in the puzzle, IMOO, are:
20A: Slice, e.g. (soda pop) - this took me So Much Longer than it should have. I was stuck in the world of golf and could come up with only BAD SHOT (which is a good wrong answer, you have to admit). Speaking of SODA POP, a very kind reader finally fulfilled my request for a picture of a can of RONDO, the citrus soda from the late 70s that I remember enjoying after soccer matches, but the existence of which I could only barely prove. Here is the can I remember so well [and here is the very manly Rondo commercial that Jack mentions in today's Comments. Why does the one dude seem to spit his Rondo out like it's post-workout mouthwash? Anyway, thanks Jack!]:
Back to the other great clues:
8D: Systems of rotating wheels? (carpools) - this one sounds like it will be manly, but then ... No, it's a trap! I thought for sure that the answer would have something to do with cogitation - you know, wheels turning = metaphor for thinking ... this is what a Saturday puzzle will do to you: send you off on preposterous flights of fancy (which often end up no more fanciful than the lines of reasoning for actual answers).
45D: Boss's address? (E Street) - this answer is also fairly manly. The Boss is surely a MAN'S MAN. But (and again I refer you to my above-mentioned sense of the phrase's apparent paradoxicality) what type of men are you supposed to be appealing to when this is how you present yourself visually on the cover of your seminal (!) album?:
Other interesting features of this puzzle include 15A: Versatile weapon (poleaxe), which, thanks to my D&D days, came to me with just the "P" in place, and 14D: Nudist's lack (tan line), which I've seen clued this way before, and yet still I spent some time searching for a word that signified clothing. Technically, a nudist could have a TAN LINE if he or she were wearing, say, flip-flops, or a fanny pack (yes, chew on that visual for a while, why don't you). I did not know several answers, including 57A: Nova Scotia's Bras _____ Lake (Dor ... D'or?) and 13D: Decoration behind an altar (reredos). I also had never heard A TO B in the context in which it's clued: 21D: Travel route with no points in-between. Would you really call something an "A-TO-B route?" Interesting. I have heard of LA DANSE (58A: 1909 Matisse painting), though I feel slightly guilty that I've never been a big Matisse fan. Something about his work just seems too ... simple. And bright. It's got a fruity happiness to it that doesn't quite square with my sensibilities somehow. I always thought that cows ULULATEd (60A: Hoot), but I guess they LOW and ... owls ULULATE? Owls should LOW, for anagrammatic reasons if for nothing else. I'm happy to take any occasion I can to remember "Caddyshack" - 9D: "Caddyshack" studio (Orion) - which is a MAN'S MAN's movie if there ever was one. Lastly, in the category of "crazy letter combos worth knowing," there ROK (32D: Longtime U.S. ally) - the wackier twin of the more crossword-common ROC - and B'NAI, which today I learned means 55D: Sons of, in Hebrew.
I'm off to celebrate Free Comic Book Day with Sahra at my local comic book store - my friend and former graduate student Jordan is on the cover of our paper's Life section today as a representative of local comic geekdom (he works at my local store). Go to any participating store (there are thousands nationwide) and choose from a wide variety of free comics created specially for this annual occasion. Details here.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld