Sunday, May 6, 2007
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "Making Amends" - long theme answers simply have an "A" added to them to make strange new phrases, which are then clued.
Sorry I'm so late posting today. Had a 7:30 a.m. doctor's appt. (yes, on a Sunday). Not an emergency, just some stupid imaging. So I went to bed early and got up early and now here I am. This puzzle was ... OK. Once you picked up on the theme, it was quite easy to get long theme answers with only a couple crosses in place. My grid had this weird look for a while where it was largely empty except for a couple of long, grid-crossing entries that I managed to get. Here are the theme answers:
- 20A: Where smart shoppers shop? (mensAwear departments) - the answer wherein I figured out the theme. Got the answer off the first five letters.
- 34A: Plight of an overcrowded orchestra? (three men in a tubA) - this just makes no sense. I submit that no matter how crowded an orchestra got, you would never see THREE MEN IN A TUBA. Whatever happened to verisimilitude!?
- 52A: Introduction to opera? (first AidA kit) - this almost makes up for the TUBA answer. Genius. SERGEI (12D: Composer Prokofiev) completes the classical music trifecta in the upper half of the grid.
- 68A: Locale of Hoosier beaches (IndianA Ocean) - uninspired
- 83A: Bit of winter exercise? (a walk in the parkA) - nice
- 101A: Geraldo rehearses his show? (a RiverA runs through it) - clever, but it forced me to think of Geraldo, so points off...
- 1D: Dish for an Italian racing champ? (checkered pastA) - I had CHECKERED and was still in "????"-land. Only phrase I could think of was CHECKERED CAB.
- 48D: Sandwich that can never be finished? (bottomless pitA) - my finest puzzle moment: I got this answer with only the final "A" in place.
New Comic Book Day was a great success. I'm really impressed with the generally high quality of stuff they give out, including special editions of work by Charles Schulz (who shares a birthday with me) and Lynda Barry (My Hero), as well as lesser known "alternative" comics writers. There was plenty of superhero action too, and Sahra picked up a Mickey Mouse and a "L'il Archie" book. I read and teach this stuff and am always trying to convince non-converts of the astonishing breadth of vision and artistic innovation one can find in contemporary comics (and older stuff too - it's just that, like crosswords, comics are in a kind of Golden Age right now). As there is no comics content in today's puzzle (not even KRAZY KAT!), I will stop with the comics talk and go back to the puzzle.
63A: _____ "Inferno" ... is officially the lamest way DANTE has ever been clued (actual answer is DANTE'S). It's weird ... would you clue VIRGIL'S as [_____ "Aeneid"]? I will admit that somehow, colloquially, DANTE'S "Inferno" is an in-the-language phrase in a way that other such possessive formulations are not. And yet I hate it. Wanted answer to be DISCO. Speaking of, during my MRI this morning, I had a choice of music, and my options included the soundtrack to "Saturday Night Fever." I nearly went with the "Grease" soundtrack (you know how I love Sandy), but in the end I played it safe, went with an unspecified "Beatles" disc and it was exactly what I needed. Short, poppy, passionate, simple, familiar, great. Perfect MRI music, IMOO (except for "Yesterday," which should not be allowed anywhere near a medical setting).
18A: Team supporter's suction cup-mounted sign (fan wave) - This one bugged me almost as much as CATSLEW, only this one's worse because it's the actual answer. I actually started second-guessing some of my crosses, including crossword standard EVA (11D: Stowe girl), but in the end, I just crossed my fingers and went with it. I was expecting this item to be a cut-out of an actual hand, waving, but no (or not always). A FAN WAVE looks like this:
4D: Dame Edith who was nominated for three Oscars (Evans)
1A: Tribe with a sun dance (Crees) - as with DANTE'S, I'm not fond of the "S" here...
14D: French Bluebeard (Landru) - Does not ring a bell. LANDRU crosses RAT, which was easy enough to get from the clue (32A: Tell), but which is annoying as all git out because of the repetitive appearance of RATTIER (106A: More run-down) on the other side of the grid. On the LANDRU / RAT connection, I'm going to quote Crossword Fiend here without her permission (from a private e-mail); hope she doesn't mind: "I would rather have had some fake-ass abbreviation AAT where RAT is, so LANDAU could be there instead of a French serial killer nobody's ever heard of." Amen, sister.
15D: Cultural/teaching facility (art lab) - first of all, I can barely read that clue. A slash? What is that? Are conjunctions just too elusive for you today? Second, is this some 60's term? I'm never heard of an ART LAB. I've heard of ART. And LAB. ART CARNEY. SKY LAB. Not ART LAB. Sounds Soviet.
27A: A person doing a duck walk grasps these (ankles) - yikes! I can't even picture this. I guess "doing a duck walk" is better than any alternative phrase that might go in there.
45D: Iowa and Missouri (Siouans) - I wish I actually knew something about Native American tribes instead of just making semi-blind stabs once I get a couple crosses, which is my normal M.O. (Hey, MO ... Missouri. Get it? Of course you do, it's not that clever...)
59D: Thick-bodied fish (chub) - is this where the term "CHUBby" comes from? Or vice versa? I know that one can CHUM the waters, but I don't think I know anything about CHUB. There was a rapper from the early 90's called CHUBB ROCK. Please, somebody, put him in the puzzle. Look at that first name. How can you resist? You could even use him to clue ROCK. So much better than [Chris _____] or [The _____].
64A: Lilylike plant (hosta) - this crosses CHUB at the "H," so I had to guess. I'm not really into foliage. Except for my local chinese restaurant, which is called FOLIAGE. I'm into that.
62D: Denver's _____ Gardens (Elitch) - My sister lives near Denver, and I've visited her there many times, but I've never heard of this place.
86D: Birthplace of Aaron Burr (Newark) - How ... unglamorous and forgettable.
102D: Historic Heyerdahl craft (Ra I) - really wanted KON-TIKI. Neeeever heard of RA I.
Proud of myself that I pulled LEICA (66D: German camera) from ... the bottom of the ocean of my mind. Had one of those moments where I refused to leave and come back to it because I knew that I knew it - and sure enough, a little word association, a little talking to myself, and tada, LEICA. ELIA - pen name of Charles Lamb - sneaks its way back into the grid in an odd fashion, through the rather vague 77A: "Essays of _____." Sticking with literature, I love me some Ben JONSON (93A: "Drink to me only with thine eyes" poet) but did Not know that O RARE were words that were frequently applied to him (69D: Words often applied to 93-Across). Is there a physicist of any stature who can't be clued as 93D: Eponymous physicist (Joule)? TESLA got this very same clue a while back. Where are the non-eponymous physicists? Don't really know HEDDA Hopper (110A: Hopper of Hollywood), but I know her name, and that's enough. DENNIS wouldn't fit, so HEDDA - better known for her gossip column (see tools of the trade on her head, right) than for her acting. Lastly, all hail the return of RAFFIA (44D: Basket material) to the grid. I got baffled by this answer once before. No longer. I feel like I should be keeping a running tally in the great basket-weaving material crossword face-off between RAFFIA and OSIER. You win this round, RAFFIA...
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld