MONDAY, Jun. 4, 2007 - Steve Kahn

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy - Medium

THEME: R AND R (37A: Break, briefly ... or a hint to this puzzle's theme) - four theme answers are all two-word phrases where both words begin with "R"

There is something VERY unusual about the structure of today's grid - a feature that made it, for me, a little more challenging than your average Monday (though I was only slightly over my average Monday time). That feature? There are very few "corridors" in this grid. In fact, there is only one way out of both the NW and the SE quadrants, and that way is exactly one letter wide in each case (the "E" at the end of 30A: ADOBE and the "A" at the beginning of 42A: ASCOT). Most Monday grids - most grids period - offer multiple ways in and out of major sections. But this grid is oddly escape route-free. I solved this puzzle from the NW, straight down to the SW, up and across the long hallway to the NE, and then straight down to the SE - almost like I was creating a giant reverse "N." I really like this unusual grid shape. Anything that actually gets me to stop and notice a Monday puzzle's construction is impressive.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Company that clears clogged drains (Roto Rooter)
  • 58A: Friendly tournament format (round robin)
  • 11D: Silver Cloud of autodom (Rolls Royce)
  • 27D: Classic kids' show ("Romper Room")
The theme is kind of forgettable. ROCKY RACCOON would have been a welcome entry, but alas, too long. Still, solving this puzzle was fun. Felt like I was finding my way through some weird topiary maze - like in "The Shining," only less scary.

Featured Five

30A: With 48-Across, popular computer product (Adobe / Acrobat)

At first I entered APPLE where ADOBE was supposed to go, but that didn't last long. I really love this answer. It's a very contemporary answer, and a product that many of us have sitting on our computers right now, but I can't remember seeing it the in puzzle recently, if ever - especially not in its complete form. If anyone ever decides to try an "A and A" puzzle, this would be a good theme entry. I only wish "A and A" stood for something (besides, apparently, an auto recycling place in Orlando).

31D: Exhortation at a pub ("Bottoms up!")

Nice, long, colloquial answer. I especially admire that this 9-letter answer (along with another in the NE) runs right alongside a 10-letter theme answer. 8-letter answers parallel the theme answers in the other corners. Seems very adventurous for a Monday, somehow, and gives the grid a more wide-open feel than we're used to seeing in early-week puzzles.

49D: Nurse Espinosa on "Scrubs" (Carla)

An interesting way to come at this common bit of fill. Nurse Espinosa becomes only the second Thursday-night NBC workplace sitcom female character named CARLA to find her way into the grid. So congratulations to her.

12D: Bea Arthur sitcom ("Maude")

Speaking of sitcoms ... I love Bea Arthur. She is very very funny. She gets a hard time, on occasion, for being something of a mannish giant, but her comic timing is impeccable. I would say that she is the main reason I occasionally found myself, against all laws of probability, not only watching but liking "Golden Girls." I would say that, but it would be untrue, as the #1 reason I watched was my massive and undying crush on Ms. Betty White, who is my favorite TV comedy actress of all time. She also, along with Richard Dawson, made "Match Game" a thing of genius.

42D: Ross Perot, in 1992 and 1996 (also-ran)

This answer makes me so happy, because, while it's in many ways a simple statement of fact, it reads like a huge Burn to Mr. Perot. I'm pretty much sure if you asked Mr. Perot to describe what he was in 1992 and 1996, this is not the answer he'd give.

That's all. Gotta go watch the Yankees /Red Sox game. Went to a minor league baseball game today, here in Confluence, NY, which was fun even though The Local Team got blown out. I scored the game, live, in real time, in the program scorecard, just as God intended. This kept me so entertained that I totally forgot to eat popcorn and drink beer.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 9:18 AM  

Hi Rex:

Is this a debut for Steve Kahn?

If so, then this is a pretty good effort from a novice (even if the theme does fall a bit flat).

Wonder if we're ever gonna get a T and A puzzle? Somehow I highly doubt it...

Pen Girl :)

Jerome 10:51 AM  

I found this puzzle super easy. I was able to complete the entire grid using only the across clues, something I can rarely do.

Wendy 11:07 AM  

Some other niftier R and Rs would have been Ratso Rizzo, Rabble Rouser, Rubber Room (instead of the over-used Romper), Rip and Read, Robert Rauschenberg (ha), Ricky Ricardo, Relay Race, Rachael Ray ... etc.

J 11:16 AM  

Hey Rex,

Who was the first NBC Thursday night workplace sitcome character?

John G. in LA 11:50 AM  

I really enjoy your commentary but only after I solve the puzzle.
Thank you

Dan 11:53 AM  

I found this one easy too. I didn't even notice the odd layout, because I solve early-week puzzles by doing all the across clues, then all the downs, then back to acrosses with help from the down answers I filled in, etc. Since I like solving the easy puzzles for speed, I think this gives me the fastest number of squares per second, plus in Across Lite I can just keep hitting Tab instead of navigating around the puzzle.

Alex 12:15 PM  

Who was the first NBC Thursday night workplace sitcome character?

I believe that would be Carla Tortelli from Cheers.

Very smooth puzzle. I think I am getting good enough that at least on Monday's my focus is shifting to having an eye on the clock. I'm not sure I like that.

campesite 12:55 PM  

As I was completing this puzzle I thought to myself, "I bet Rex liked this puzzle." The slightly peculiar grid coupled with more clever than usual Monday clues made this easy puzzle rather enjoyable.

Anonymous 12:24 AM  

made me feel smarter that the master also got stuck on APPLE for a bit as i did (until i got ROMPERROOM) to refute my original thought.

confluence, NY. cool name for a town. cheers. -- nunyo.

RonB 10:45 AM  

Found the puzzle to be easy to solve. Also noticed the lay-out and thought Rex would object to the single links in NW and SE. Based this on prior commentary a few weeks back.

Quelle suprise!!!

Anonymous 12:36 PM  

6WL ::::

Very easy. I didn't notice the particulars of the grid layout, thank you Rex.

Wendy, not another Rachel Ray reference. Her picture is on the Triscuit box! Enough already.

I liked 23a (phone part). The answer, HANDSET, may never be mentioned again. Meantime I'm waiting for an iPhone with a rotary dial feature...

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