Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: Anatomy? - four theme answers begin with essential body components.
Did the puzzle last night, but this morning couldn't remember a thing about it. I only just now discovered (I think) what the theme was. It's a very subtly expressed theme, especially considering that no theme answer (and thus no answer in the grid) is longer than 10 letters, and two of the theme answers are Downs, so the theme does not announce itself aggressively in a visual way. The theme answers:
- 20A: Tightwads (SKINflints) - that's one word, right? Ah, yes, good.
- 56A: Really, really dumb (BONE-headed)
- 10D: Big Easy bash (FAT Tuesday) - here's how the puzzle can warp your mind: while the whole world sees "Big Easy" and thinks "New Orleans," I see "Big Easy" and think "Ernie Els's nickname," so traumatized was I by not knowing that answer on a Saturday puzzle a few months back. Luckily for me, "New Orleans" is the second thing I think of when I see "Big Easy."
- 27D: G.T.O.s, e.g. (MUSCLE cars) - got this off just the "M," knowing nothing of the theme - and I know next to Nothing about cars.
In terms of non-theme fill, there's not a lot that's remarkable. Normally I'd gripe about something like SMIT (5A: Struck, old-style) - which is ridiculously archaic and thus stands out in this puzzle like a sore THUMB. It's not even a word, really. More like 4/5 of a word. I would almost have preferred that the "S" be changed to an "E," even though that gets us the ultra common EMIT and changes the Down from SMILES (5D: Beams) to the proper name plural EMILES ([Zola and others?]), which would have been a horrible solution, but isn't a hell of a lot worse than what we've got. All I'm sayin' is that this part of the grid could have been rewritten. Surely someone could rewrite that section with SMUT instead of SMIT in there. ANYWAY, as I was saying, normally I'd gripe about this, but today, it didn't really bother me. That said, nothing really wowed me either. The non-theme fill is pretty ho-hum, except for the colorful 9-letter Downs:
- 6D: Unabomber's writing, e.g. (manifesto) - "Unabomber," HA ha. Flashback! Remember the 90's? "I'd rather not, thanks."
- 37D: Enterprise warnings (red alerts)
A few answers stood out as original or unusual to me. While I could have told you SCALAR was a word, I don't think I could have told you what it meant: 44A: Having an uninterrupted series of steps. Speaking of my ignorance, I routinely forget what the phrase "in SITU" means (puzzle had to remind me: 25A: In _____ (as found)). I always thought "Dumb DORA" (40A: "Dumb _____" (old comic strip)) was invented by "Match Game" host Gene Rayburn, but apparently she really existed (insofar as comics are "real"). I liked AD REP at 50D: One selling TV time, e.g., because it is unexpectedly gender neutral - ADMAN is a crossword standard. Lastly, while "South Park"'s STAN has been in the puzzle before, I don't know that there's a better way to clue him than today's 32D: "South Park" boy who's always crying "Oh my God, they killed Kenny!" ("You bastards!").
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld