Saturday, May 12, 2007
Relative difficulty: Challenging
Theme: "Two Times Three" - theme answers feature a repeated three-letter sequence
This was not a pleasant experience - much insane, fussy, or obscure fill, including an absolutely intolerable SE corner. The theme is really uninspired: clever, in its way, but hardly anything to build a Sunday puzzle around. I'm not even going to bother giving this puzzle that much attention [this turns out to be a lie], except to help you all (and myself) with the more obscure crap, and to offer some specific evidence for my negative assessment of this grid. Then I'll look for bright spots. I'm sure there are some here, somewhere.
Here are your theme answers:
- 23A: *What someone who looks at Medusa does (turnS TO STOne)
- 15D: *Toothless South American animal (giANT ANTeater)
- 32A: *1850 American literature classic ("The ScarLET LETter")
- 42A: *Demonstrate the method (sHOW HOW it's done)
- 70A: *Push aside (shOVE OVEr)
- 94A: *Walk in the park, say (simPLE PLEasure)
- 103A: *Put at bay (paINT INTo a corner)
- 119A: *Miami baseball list (MarLIN LINe-up)
- 55D: *Not so important (lESS ESSential - or leSS ESSEntial)
See what I mean? ... both clues and answers are very Ho + Hum.
Groan after groan:
Here's a square I had wrong, for highly uninteresting reasons. I had an "E" where the "O" should be:
76D: Start of Idaho's motto (esto)
93A: John who hosted TV's "Talk Soup" (Henson)
First off, with all apologies to my grandmother and my entire mother's side of the family (happy Mother's Day to all of you, by the way), Idaho's motto is absurd: "Esto Perpetua" ("May it endure forever!"). Actually, it's no better or worse than any other state motto, probably. I had ESTE, which means "east" in Spanish; even if I could justify the Spanishness (works for Montana!), I'd have to explain what the hell EAST is doing in a motto for the decidedly Western state of Idaho. PS John Henson is a total nobody [some disagree - see Comments]. He is in this puzzle only because JIM would, I suppose, be too obvious. But seriously, you pick "Talk Soup" over "The Muppet Show?" Bad call. If you're going to go obscure, why not go with this rugby player (whatdya say, ladies?) or this African-American Arctic explorer, BOTH of whom rate higher with Google than John HENSON.
Here is the disastrous, illegal, stupefyingly bad SE corner:
- 108A: Appointees confirmed by Cong. (Ambs.) - a made-up abbrev. if I've ever seen one. Horrible. See also ATH. (102A: High-school dept. - I literally had to run through all possible departments I'd ever heard of in search of what ATH. could be an abbrev. of. Oh, ATHletics. OK. In America we call it PHYS ED.)
- 110D: Synthetic gem (boule) - What + Ever. I love how JOULE is a homonym of JEWEL and so seems like it should be right ... and believe me, I considered it. Neither wife nor I had a @#$# clue what BOULE was, although I will say that "B" was the only letter I considered there besides "J" ... and possibly "R" (!?).
- 111D: Film extras, for short (supes) - OK this is where I lose it. SUPES is a standard abbreviation for SUPERMAN. Extras are called #$#!-ing EXTRAS! SUPES, my ass. Short for "Supernumerary actor," are you @#$#-ing kidding me?!
21A: Strong draft horses (Belgians)
all the Belgians in the world and you give me some kind of horse? Oh, "strong" draft horses? I'm sorry, are there "weak" draft horses? They're @#$-ing DRAFT horses, they pull shit, of Course they are "strong." Why not clue this, I don't know, [Poirot and others]? Anything would be better than this clue-trying-desperately-to-be-tough.
25A: Act of putting into circulation (issuance) - ack, choke, no. Nobody uses this. See also HEEDER (43D: Attentive one).
12A: Copper head? (Abe) - as of right now, I have NO idea what the hell this means? I had CEE for the longest time. [addendum ... in the middle of asking Linda G what this clue was all about - as I was typing the question - I got it. Pennies are "copper" - "copper"-plated, actually - and ABE's "head" is on the penny ... I no longer hate this clue / answer; it's clever ... although ABE is the kind of name abbreviation that is normally signaled in the clue - no signal here. But I'll let it slide.]
67D: "_____ the Magician" (old radio series) (Chandu) - I'm guessing the process of including this gem went something like this: (imaginary constructor to his imaginary friend) "I can't get this far East part of the grid to work. I keep changing things around, but there's always something wrong. I mean, look at this - everything's cool, except I've got this totally made-up word here, CHANDU. Man, I wish that was a word." "Dude, you should Google it. Maybe it is a word." "Pfff, you're high. CHANDU is so not a word." Etc. Eventually one of them dares the other to Google, possibly as part of a bet involving drinking, and voila, my dreams come true.
Nobodies on Parade:
74D: Gustav Klimt's "Portrait of _____ Bloch-Bauer I" (Adele) - I almost have to admire how deep into hell our puzzle authors had to go to retrieve these clues and answers.
66D: "Misty" composer Garner (Erroll) - because Mssrs. MORRIS and FLYNN know how to spell their names properly.
122A: British composer Robert (Steadman) - is this Oprah's man-friend I keep hearing so much about?
84A: Boxer Trinidad (Tito) - The only TITOs I know are Yugoslavian presidents or Jacksons. I thought the boxer's name was FELIX? And now my sources are telling me that TITO is FELIX's nickname. [cough] Moving on...
61A: Mary of "Where Eagles Dare" (Ure) - OK, am I being Punk'd? Where's Ashton Kutcher? Is the ghost of Maleska guest-editing today? WTF?
So much to dislike. I gotta speed this up. OK, ANSE (40A: Faulkner hero)? For the rationale for this answer's inclusion in the grid, I refer you to my discussion of CHANDU, above. I've read "As I Lay Dying" and I didn't remember this guy's "name."
100D: Memory trace (engram) is unknown to me and sounds like something that might be required of an aspiring Scientologist (no offense to the great religion of Scientology, which I'm sure has many non-insane, non-celebrity members).
Do we need LEV. (121D: Pentateuch book: Abbr.) and ELEV. (51A: Your highness?: Abbr.) both in the grid? And both abbreviations? Ugh. (To be fair, the ELEV. clue is almost cute)
45D: Defeatees' comment ("we lost") - first of all, every answer I wanted here was profane. Second, "defeatees'"?????? Are you trying to piss me off with these tortured word concoctions?
24D: Kyrgyzstan city (Osh) - if you can name any city in this untypable country, you are way ahead of me.
And finally, the last thing I'll complain about: the unwelcome return of alt-spelled BRIER (78A: Kind of patch). [Brier patch] = 212,000 Google hits. [Briar patch] = over a million. Losers walk, BRIER.
Some Good Stuff:
118D: East End abode ('ome) - OME! If you're going to try to pass off an invented letter combination as a word, this is the way to do it. I should hate this, but I LOVE it. It's desperate, but in a clever, funny, and spot-on kind of way, not in a CHANDU-ANSE kind of way.
97D: "Boston Legal" Emmy winner (Shatner) - SHATNER is always welcome in any grid, any time. I'm only sorry he has to suffer down there in the infernal SE corner.
60D: Place for a star (tree top) - TREE TOP is light and airy and musical to my EARS (35D: Head set).
88A: Run down (dis) - one of the few words making this feel like an almost 21st-century puzzle
116D: Conductor _____-Pekka Salonen (Esa) - conducts the L.A. Philharmonic, I believe. You've seen him, right, Andrew? Does he do that thing you hate where his hands go down on the downbeat? Or do I have that backwards?
116A: "Hamlet" setting (Elsinore) - seen it before, don't care. "Hamlet"!
10D: Victorian roofs (mansards) - you should know that I hate almost everything Victorian (except Thomas Hardy, and only because he was a great writer whose work is mostly super-depressing and not at all quaint). And MANSARDS is a really ugly word, but it's curiously, intriguingly ugly, like a manatee or Sarah Jessica Parker.
77D: Woody's partner (Soon-Yi) - The mellifluousness of her name is beginning to outweigh the incestuous connotations of her name in my mind.
28A: "A Lonely Rage" autobiographer (Seale) - Oooh, I love "Kiss from a Rose!" Just kidding. I mean, I do love that song, strangely, but I know that this SEALE is a Black Panther, not a black pop star married to Heidi Klum.
96D: Deerstalker fold-down (ear flap) - this charming answer is almost ruined by its gangly clue. EAR FLAP reminds me more of "A Christmas Story" than it does deer ... stalking? Or is a "deerstalker" a variety of hat? Oh crap, it's the horribly ugly and pretentious Sherlock Holmes hat that no self-respecting person who is not acting in a play should Ever be seen in.
And lastly, I give you the fabulous variation on a crossword standard: 73A: TV's "_____-Team" ("The A-"). A TEAM is reasonably common fill, but going to a partial just to pick up the definite article!? Inspired.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS Pop Sensation has been updated. Today = "American Idol" + the comic "Love and Rockets"