Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Relative difficulty: Super-Easy
THEME: Newspaper headline about a workplace mishap (long quip)
Here's the quip:
20A: Newspaper headline about a workplace mishap - MAN WHO FELL INTO
34A: Headline, part 2 - UPHOLSTERY
42A: Headline, part 3 - MACHINE NOW
51A: End of the headline - FULLY RECOVERED
Normally don't like quip puzzles, and didn't especially like this one. I was shocked at how quickly I could get through the grid even with the relative disadvantage of the quip theme (which are sometimes slow-going because you often can't get the parts of the quip until you get a hell of a lot of crosses). AIDA, OSLO, ESSO, ISLE, SOD, ESNE (41A: Feudal serf), ETA, AMINO, EDENS, ULNA, ALOES, ECRU, SOAP, CLIO, ELLA, IRE, EWES, OKRA, WOKE, ELAN, DAIS, ERECT, OHIO, METE, EGO, SRI, SLAT, ETC, etc. - it's all So Low Rent.
But THEN, there are these oddities - to my mind fairly obscure stuff - that stick out like very sore thumbs, ESPECIALLY in the "Mid-Atlantic" region of the grid. First, ILO (24A: U.N. workers' grp.)?! Never heard of it. Couldn't guess what it stood for. Turns out it's "International Labour Organisation." I can tolerate an obscure abbreviation in my puzzle, but hitting this answer after Sailing across the boring straight long flat roads of the rest of this puzzle - well, it was jarring. Next, AMIR (37A: Mideast ruler: Var.)!? My distaste for this ugly variant is mitigated only by the fact that it spared me yet Another bit of tired crosswordese: EMIR. But the worst answer in the puzzle - "worst" both because it's an insane bit of foreign couture and because it was not adequately confirmable by crosses - is TREWS (33D: Close-fitting tartan pants). I have been to Scotland several times, wrote one of my dissertation exams on Scottish literature, and yet this word has somehow never entered my vocabulary. What's more, the "W" in TREWS could (as far as I was concerned) just as easily have been a "T" - in fact, the quip reads better with a "T" in place of the "W," I think.
MAN WHO FELL INTO / UPHOLSTERY / MACHINE NOT / FULLY RECOVERED
The "NOT" part jibes with the clue for the quip - 20A: Start of a newspaper headline about a workplace mishap. The "NOT" gives a nice potential double-meaning to "mishap," I think. Is the "mishap" that the guy fell in, or that the upholstery machine didn't do its job very well? Having "NOW" there ... the quotation remains a one-dimensional pun.
So this was a criminally easy puzzle, with rare, odd, unpleasant hard bits thrown in. Like eating a rather tasteless cream pie where occasionally you bite down on a screwhead or little rocks - boring, then suddenly painful.
Besides ILO (which really wishes it were J-LO), I didn't know the abbreviation DSC (25A: Mil. decoration) - the Distinguished Service Cross. Also didn't know 12D: Broadway's _____ - Fontanne Theater (Lunt), or that ESSO meant "it" in Italian (13D: Brand name that's coincidentally Italian for "it"). I enjoyed seeing Tycho BRAHE in the puzzle (30D: Astronomer Tycho _____). He strikes me as perfect Wednesday fare, and his name is a nice, unusual combination of common letters. 46A: I, in old Rome (ego) was nicely tricky, as "I" looks like it's being used as a Roman numeral (suggesting an answer of UNA), when really it's being used as a pronoun.
I think I'm stopping now.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld