Saturday, July 28, 2007
[NOTE: printed grid has typo in it. 5D and 27A should be PINE TAR and ELY, respectively]
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
TH-TH-TH-THEME: "Th-Th-Th-That's All Folks!" - familiar phrases have unvoiced "TH" sound added to end, creating new silly phrases, which are then clued
So ... there's a "TH" on the end. Hmm. OK. That's ... an idea. The title is misleading, in that there are no repeated "TH" sounds, there's no stuttering, and the "TH" sounds come at the end of the phrases, not the beginning.
- 23A: Somebody else's soaking dentures? (not one's cup of TEETH)
- 37A: Ghost in a battery? (cathode WRAITH)
- 16D: Good eating and living? (highway to HEALTH) - insofar as this is a play on an AC/DC song, I like this one
- 62A: Avoid being captured by guitarist Richards? (escape KEITH) - the first theme answer I got; the one that gave me the "..." reaction with which I opened this commentary
- 70A: Baby twins? (double YOUTH)
- 92A: Sherlock at the Space Needle? (Seattle SLEUTH)
- 43D: Very detailed scope? (thorough BREADTH)
- 109A: Billionaire's last dollar? (bottom of the WEALTH) - tried to make BARRELTH into a word
The phrases created by this theme are often amusing, but as far as theme concepts go, this one's pretty slight. The non-theme fill is at best just OK, and at worst awkward or tortured or otherwise forced. Even when I found something to love, something to hate came along right afterward to ruin it all. Case in point:
9A: Just folks? (ma and pa) - loved it. The puzzle had an impressive array of rarely seen double-A's, including this one, AAHS (89A: Joyous sounds) and AARP (90A: Org. with the motto "The power to make it better"). There's also the even more rarely seen double-Y in 102A: Poet Omar (Khayyam). But MA AND PA was ruined for me by its parallel neighbor...
21A: Athlete's slump (off year) - now I can't deny that an OFF YEAR falls under the category of "slump," but it's a Very, Very specific kind of slump. A YEAR-LONG slump is a hell of a slump. Most slumps don't fall into that category. And non-athletes can have OFF YEARs as well, so ugh. Worse, though, were two crosses that ran through both MA AND PA and OFF YEAR...
- 12D: "The Eyes of _____" (public TV science show) (Nye)
- 15D: Nirvana attainer (Arhat)
I had OFF -EA- for a long time because None of the letters I might put in there made any sense. NYE is ... how have I never heard of said show? What does that title even mean? (note: when I ask questions, feel free to answer, but do so in the Comments section, and Read Previous Comments to make sure others haven't already answered. Thank you). And as for Arhat. Yikes. I guess I know far less about Nirvana than I thought. That's the most made-up-looking answer in the grid.
Three things I liked:
9D: Farm animal, in kidspeak (moo cow) - somewhat tainted by its proximity to the whole OFF YEAR / NYE / ARHAT debacle, but admirably colloquial and daring enough for me to give it thumbs up.
42D: Some residents, by census classification (POSSLQS) - holy moly, not sure where I pulled this from. Definitely needed the Q, that's for sure. Persons of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters, in case you were wondering. Seems a Dumb classification, as gay folks somehow don't count, and yet opposite-sex roommates do? Hmm. Whatever, it looks Great in the grid.
48D: Wife, colloquially (missis) - up there with MA AND PA for folksy goodness. I should take to calling my wife the MISSIS. If she, er, doesn't mind.
Just noticed that AMORE (58A: Love, in Livorno) and RAHAL (64A: 1986 Indy 500 winner), which sit one atop the other, form a kind of crooked AMORAL, which runs through HIGHWAY TO HEALTH. Now that I'm writing it out, it seems much less meaningful. AMORAL ... HELL. There's something there. There are also two "Star Wars"-related answers today, 79A: Skywalker portrayer (Hamill) and 106D: Fictional princess (Leia).
Mysteries and annoyances:
- 27A: Aviation pioneer Eugene (Ely) - really? this nobody? with ELIS (44A: Their mascot is Handsome Dan) already in the puzzle? OK.
- 42A: Wing: Prefix (pter-) - wanted ALEO (?!), got PTER, which I know as a prefix only from PTERODACTYL.
- 53A: Actress Barbara (Bain) - ??? starred on "Space: 1999" with Martin Landau, or so I read.
- 5D: Batter's material (pine tar) - I had, no foolin', PINATAS ... til the Bitter End.
- 20D: Change, as a manuscript, in Britain (subedit) - ugh. Not a word I've ever seen or heard.
- 34D: Thor Heyerdahl craft (Ra I) - I KNEW this, but Only because of previously being mystified by it and imagining that its name was "Rai."
- 39D: Egyptian god of wisdom (Thoth) - I know this only from reading the current "Conan the Barbarian" comic books (published by Dark Horse, very good).
- 82D: "Call Me Irresponsible" lyricist (Cahn) - I cannot keep LAHRs and LEHRs and HAHNs and COHNs and CAHNs straight at all, never ever, not to save my life. Damned penultimate "H"!
- 103D: Rook's spot on a chessboard (A-one) - nobody doesn't like chess notation!
In short, I was UNAWED (94D: Not impressed) by this puzzle, despite its occasional enjoyable moments. See you tomorrow.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld