Tuesday, May 1, 2007
Relative Difficulty: Medium
THEME: "Bending the Rules" (38A: Title of this puzzle) - circles form various L-shaped patterns on the grid, with each "L" containing a word that can precede "rule" to form a common phrase
First, the NYT puzzle website appears to have a slick new look to it. Blue, and more easily readable and navigable. Second, it's May 1, which seems impossible. Third, I heard yesterday that "One Life to Live" actor Ty Treadway (fakest name ever) has been tapped to host the much anticipated / dreaded "Let's Play Crosswords" game show that will start airing god knows when. Please check out his smirky mug and then try to convince me that watching his show will be a pleasing experience.
This puzzle was super-inventive - a nice feat of construction. I wasn't that fond of all the rules (HOME and HOUSE? ... GENERAL?) but GROUND, GOLDEN, and (especially) SLIDE all seemed very fresh. I really wish they'd been able to fit INFIELD FLY in there somewhere, but that's probably asking a lot.
1A: Drink garnishes (zests) - hmmm. Rinds, maybe. Olives. Onions. I think of a drink garnish as ornamental, but isn't ZEST a fine shaving of the outer skin of a fruit? Maybe I'm just not drinking enough. That can be fixed.
10D: Like some relations (sexual) - dang. Saucy. I had SEXUAL and then changed it because it seemed impossibly good. Also, that "X" was making no sense, as I had ARK for 8D: Heavenly altar, and so the end of 17A: Antic brother (Groucho Marx) looked like this: ...OMKRX, which made me think I was dealing with yet another typewriter keyboard theme for a little while. I changed ARK to ARA (very late, as I barely know ARA) once GROUCHO MARX became indisputable. Though I tanked ARA, I did get the other "heavenly" answer up in the puzzle's north section: 6D: Praise from a choir ("Gloria").
4D: Rolled along (trundled) - wow, that's a great word, and I can't say as I've ever seen it in the grid before.
2D: Violinist Zimbalist (Efrem)
15A: Lash of bygone westerns (Larue) - these guys aren't Pantheon material, but they are reasonably common nonetheless. Get to know them!
29A: Order in the court ("All rise") - fantastic clue / answer pairing
11D: Place to pick up valuable nuggets (gold field) - not a phrase I have ever heard. Gold comes in fields, now? Is that what that horrible Sting song is about?
40D: 1970s TV's "The _____ Show" ("Gong") - before humiliating and shameless Reality TV, there was ... "The Gong Show." It was the "American Idol" of its day. Just replace Paula Abdul with Jaye P. Morgan, and there you are.
58D: "The Match Game" host Rayburn (Gene) - "Gong Show"-era greatness. Along with Dawson's "Family Feud" and "Lingo" (when it was hostessed by that aggressively British chick with the huge rack), "Match Game" is my favorite game show of all time. BETTY WHITE! Everyone smoked and drank right on camera. Dawson was ripped half the time, and still he was the smartest guy on the stage by far.
49D: Equine color (sorrel) - along with ROAN, the horse colors you need to know to succeed at crosswords.
50D: Milquetoast (wuss) - I had WIMP, but WUSS is much better. Less common, more insulting and ambiguous in its implications - the word appears to be a hybrid of WIMP and ... I'll let you guess. Let's just say that WUSS is a shortened form of WUSSY.
68A: Coffee for bedtime (decaf) - this clue is insane. There is no coffee explicitly designed for "bedtime." "Sanka: The Bedtime Coffee" (TM). ??? "Our coffee helps you get to sleep faster, stay asleep longer, and wake feeling refreshed." That's some unnatural coffee right there. Pharmaceutical coffee.
52A: Like many Chas Addams characters (ghoulish) - Hey, you know who starred on "The Addams Family?" John Astin, that's who. See, I know who he is now. Are you happy!? (note to befuddled new readers - I previously made claims about his relative obscurity and was hounded and jeered by readers, including my best friend)
64D: Alternative spelling: Abbr. (Var.) - yes, I prefer you in my grid to in my clues, VAR.
This puzzle is a little heavy on the crosswordese, with STET, ESSO, ELIE, EDEN, SSE, and ABAB. HAN (62A: Chinese dynasty), OTC (66A: Non-Rx), ODETS (71A: Clifford who co-wrote [get it? ... CO-wrote ... see puzzle authors] "The Sweet Smell of Success"), and EDO (65D: Tokyo, once) are all words I learned from doing crosswords. Something about the stacking of INANE and FERAL is pleasing to me. I'm trying to imagine someone/thing being both INANE and FERAL. Maybe a HYENA, or an Alabama cheerleader yelling "Gimme AN A" (43A: What Alabama cheerleaders say to "gimme" four times). You may be asking, "Is there no END TO this?" (45A). Thankfully for all of us, there is.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld