Thursday, June 14, 2007
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: "ARTLESS" (38A: Ingenuous ... or like 17-, 24-, 50- and 60-Across [or, like Paul Simon's solo career?]) - four theme answers are familiar phrases which have had the letter string ART removed. New, weird phrases are then clued.
Once you figure out the theme, this puzzle is a piece of cake. The whole thing felt far more Tuesday than Thursday. I'm going to call this puzzle an anti-rebus: instead of multiple letters (or a picture, if you will) shoved into one square, you have the equivalent removed from the grid entirely.
- 17A: Con man's pay? (sting salary) - ART-less "starting salary"
- 24A: Satan? (He of Darkness) - ART-less "Heart of Darkness"
- 50A: Slapstick staples? (surprise pies) - ART-less "surprise parties"
- 60A: Parts of dollhouse dinner table settings? (mini-glasses) - ART-less "martini glasses"
That last one took me the longest to figure out; I had the MINI- and kept trying to think of a word long enough to have ART taken out of it and still be seven letters long. Interesting mini-coincidence - today's Newsday puzzle features MINI ME as one of its answers.
At first I thought the puzzle was a rebus, because I could tell from crosses that I was dealing with something OF DARKNESS for the "Satan" clue. I thought some part of PRINCE was being rebused, but then realized the rebus would have to be five letters long - either PRINC or RINCE, and neither seemed likely. Somehow between -SALARY and -OF DARKNESS, the possible preceding fill made me realize the theme, allowing me to fill in ARTLESS with no crosses. And then the puzzle was child's play. Speaking of "Child's Play" - Andrew, remind me that I have #1 and #2 of the new "Chucky" (from the movie "Child's Play") comic for you...
Super-fast featured five...
20A: Supply at a changing station (talc) - threw me for a second. Figured the answer had to be plural. Really wanted NAPS, as in Wet-NAPS, but the very fact that I have to qualify my answer should have tipped me off that it was Wrong.
40D: Fit to stand trial (sane)
46D: Snaps (loses it)
These make a nice parallel yin-yang pair in the southeast-ish part of the grid.
2D: 1930s film dog (Asta)
56D: Town ESE of Turin (Asti)
Here's a not-so-welcome pair - tiresome old world fill. ASTA is past president of the Pantheon, though, so I guess he (it's a he, right?) deserves some respect.
11D: Jailed (up the river) - it's worth noting that the puzzle does have two sets of parallel 10-letter answers in the SW and NE; this answer is my favorite of the four. Crime-related slang ("Crookspeak" or ARGOT - see last Sunday's puzzle) always makes me happy - anything Jimmy Cagney might have said in "White Heat."
55A: Clanton rival (Earp) - I don't know my Western mythology nearly well enough. I was thinking CLANTON was a make-up brand, like Clairol.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld