Wednesday, July 4, 2007
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: U.S.A. - "Notepad" indicates that if you shade in 35A: July 4th message to America ("Happy Birthday") and every square where any of the letter in HAPPY BIRTHDAY appears, you will get 3 lines and 3 letters - turns out that the letters you get are U.S.A. I have no idea what the lines are supposed to be.
A rather clumsy July 4th stunt puzzle. Was it supposed to be a metaphor for American foreign policy? If so, I loved it. Otherwise, not so much (with apologies to Patrick Blindauer, who is good puzzle constructor and fine human being).
Maybe someone can tell me where "Notepad" is in the applet (on-line). And by someone I mean ONE person, in the Comments section, not a million people sending me e-mails or saying things in Comments that many, many people have Already Said. I absolutely love that my readers write me and fill me in on things, or correct me - just make sure that whatever you are telling me hasn't already been completely covered (i.e. if you want to write in - which I encourage - you might actually Read The Comments to make sure your comment still has relevance).
I'm a little sore this morning because I spent most of yesterday afternoon and evening at our friends'/neighbors' house being repeatedly assaulted by bean bags and pine cones and other assorted objects in what the children involved likely imagined as a game of "Kill the Giant" (or perhaps "Hurt the Dorky Grown-Up Who Thinks He's Still a Kid" or, more likely, "Smear the Queer"). I think it was 7 boys against 1 man (me). Only two people ended up crying, and none of them was me, so that's good. I hit John Henry (7) in the face with a pine cone - and then when I was tending to him to make sure he wasn't blind, rather than abide by the Geneva Convention, the other kids wailed on me, soaking me with water and knocking my glasses clean off my head. Later, this one kid (whom I kept calling "helmet boy," as he never bothered to remove his bicycle helmet) pointed this long foam rocket launcher thingie right at me, from about 6 feet away. I told him in a calm voice that if he pulled the trigger, I was going to chase him down and beat him with the foam bat I was holding. He pulled the trigger. You can guess what happened next. Let's just say ... I don't lie: when I say I will do something, I do it. Have you ever had an 8-yr-old boy call you "child abuser" at the top of his lungs? It's not an experience I would willingly relive. Luckily, all the adults (particularly the moms) totally backed me up. And I didn't really beat the kid. I just ... sort of whacked him once, after running him down, which he seemed really, really surprised that I could (and would) do.
The Puzzle? Oh yeah. First of all, what are the "stripes" supposed to represent? I asked Amy, and she suggested that they might be the three branches of government, but I think she was being generous (and/or facetious). The fact that one of the lines goes through the "S" just makes the whole grid look messy and ridiculous.
There are no Theme Answers beyond HAPPY BIRTHDAY.
The two other "Stripes" are-
- 18A: Knocking sound (rat-a-tat-tat) - this is a machine gun strafing sound, in my book
- 55A: Memorable title film role of 1971 (Dirty Harry) - arguably, these two stripes ARE thematic. U.S.A. stands for violent revenge. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, punk!
Before I even bothered looking at the "Notepad," I really disliked much of the fill I was encountering. Turns out that every bit of fill I didn't like was directly involved in the "Notepad" stunt, i.e. crappy and/or insane words were used in order to get the USA/3 Stripe picture at the end.
2D: Having a gap (hiatal) - o my god this hurt (though not as bad as a HIATAL hernia - which is the Only Phrase In Which Hiatal Is Ever Used, as far as I can tell). The NW was incredibly bad for me, as LINA (13A: Wertmüller who directed "Seven Beauties") wanted to be LENA (which is actually in the puzzle at 26D: Horne who sang "Stormy Weather") and LANA and LOLA and LENI and anything but what it was supposed to be, and I thought 29A: Classic Mercedes-Benz roadsters were SES - no, SE is a model of Toyota Camry, I think. The Mercedes are SLS. Further, never heard of 20A: Solid alcohol (sterol), so I was well and truly screwed in the NW for a while. Oh, and the NW is where you find the shaded letter "U," the western half of which is 5/6 of HIATAL.
I had no problem with the "S"-related fill, except 43A: How many teens got to movies (on dates), which seemed a stretch.
The "A" was almost as bad a the "U" for creating crappy fill. Actually, now that I look at it, the only truly crappy answer down there is 46D: Denmark's _____ Islands (Faeroe) - an answer made much, much worse by the fact that these islands have an annual whale-slaughtering festival, the very gory details of which are available here. What the hell?
My writing timer just went off, which is good because I don't have much else to say. Here's some fill I liked - AVES (19D: Greetings of long ago - Latin! So much better than cluing this answer as an abbreviation for "Avenues"), KOOLS (50A: Mentholated cigarettes - I'm a sucker for a wacky "K"), and WESSON (48D: Big name in oil) - best clue/answer pairing in the whole damned grid; makes me think of Florence Henderson (aka Mrs. Brady) and her Wesson commercials of the 70s/80s: Wessonality! - now THAT is some crossword fill I would love to see. Has it been used? If not, consider this a challenge.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld