Thursday, July 5, 2007
Relative difficulty: Medium
This has not been a great week for puzzles. Today's is an improvement over Th and W, but it still had flaws. Speaking of FLAWS, I had one Major one today. The NYT applet kept rejecting my grid, over and over and over, and I Googled just about everything, double-checking all my answers that were even remotely iffy. Nothing helped. Of course the second I emailed Crossword Fiend for help, my error sprang forth. It was hidden within an answer that was so solid in my mind that I couldn't even see its wrongness. I was so proud when 33A: The last novel featuring him was "Stopover: Tokyo" ended up being a virtual gimme that I never ever stopped to consider that I had @#$#ed up the spelling, typing MR. MOTA instead of the correct MR. MOTO. I have a MR. MOTO book on my shelves! Unh! The cross was completely plausible to me: 14D: Result of cross-fertilization within a population gave me GENE FLAW. I figured "Well, sure ... inbreeding will do that." And GENE FLAW got many Google hits. GENE FLOW (the "correct" answer) - Lord only knows what that is (I mean, besides crappy fill).
My other great wrong answer (one that I rooted out much more quickly) was at 36D: Hammer activator. First of all, I was trying to imagine "hammers" that one could "activate." Was it some arm-related answer, like WRIST or something? Was the Hammer involved MC Hammer? So I worked from crosses ... only I got the verb tense wrong on 55A: Punish publicly, perhaps (make an example of) and wrote MADE instead of MAKE. Then I got the wrong Patty/i at 60A: Rocker Patty who married John McEnroe and wrote in SMITH. So in the end, for 36D: Hammer activator, I had PIANO DEI - The Piano of God!!! "Feel his musical wrath as he brings the hammer down ... literally!"
1A: Actor whom People magazine erroneously declared dead in 1982 (Abe Vigoda) - a great clue and answer. I must have Googled his name several times during my desperate error search, as the "I" in VIGODA just seemed wrong. But it wasn't. ABE VIGODA gets whacked at the end of "The Godfather." And he was in "Barney Miller."
15A: Persian's gift (nine lives) - can I get a question mark for this clue, please? Please!? I first considered that "Persian" referred to a cat, but then decided that cats don't really give gifts, so started considering various Iranian products / delicacies...
17A: Basis of "America" ("God Save the Queen") - is "America" the song that starts "My Country 'Tis of Thee..."? Aha, it is. OK, that makes sense - all I could hear in my head was Ray Charles singing "Oh beautiful for spacious skies etc."
22A: Turkey dough? (liras)
41D: Dough must be squeezed out of them (misers)
Double "dough?" D'oh! I say no. If you're going to play the "dough" trick, play it once. Twice is overkill / laziness.
46A: He served between Hubert and Gerald (Spiro) - my SPIRO Agnew watch hangs on a bulletin board not two feet from me. One of my favorite possessions. Thanks, mom! I really should get it fixed and wear it.
50A: Pizzeria chain since 1943, informally (Uno's) - thank god for this clue. Sahra likes to eat here whenever we go to the movies, so I know this restaurant well. Really helped open up the SW corner.
52A: Val d'_____ (French ski resort) (Isere) - Looks wrong. There is a river called the YSER and so I wanted ISERE to begin with a "Y."
4D: Line of motor scooters (Vespa) - briefly considered MOPED, but then VESPA presented itself to me, in all its obviousness. Like UNO'S, this was a gimme that really helped open up a potentially tough corner.
33D: Melvin of the Orioles (Mora)
Briefly considered MOTA ... ironic, considering my MR MOTO/MOTA error, doubly so when you consider that MORA and MR. MOTO intersect at their first letters. So I wanted MOTA twice and got it ... zero times. Where's Manny MOTA when you need him?
42D: Distinctive director (auteur) - hmmm. OK. I've heard this word used in film theory, as a way of describing an approach to film criticism that treats the director as the AUTEUR or author of the movie (as opposed to a vision of film-making as a kind of collaborative "authorship" among director, writer, actors, etc.). Never thought of it as applicable to a particularly "distinctive" director, but ... I guess it makes sense.
49A: "Affiction" star, 1998 (Nolte) - can we please retire this clue for Mr. NOLTE. He's done a TON of movies, and yet "Affliction" continues to be the go-to reference. Next time, I vote for "Down and Out in Beverly Hills."
53D: Graphic artist Nolde (Emil) - not sure why "graphic" is in the clue. Most artists who draw / paint are "graphic" artists. He's an artist. And a good one. His stuff is unnervingly wild and smeary and creepy. I wish NOLDE could have been in the grid with NOLTE. They make a nice pair.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld