Sunday, September 2, 2007
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: "Put It In Writing" - "IT" is inserted into familiar titles to create a new, silly title, which is clued
[updated / completed 11:00 a.m.]
I liked the puzzle a lot, despite the fact that the theme was Way too easy to get. Once I figured it out (early), I played a little game with myself to see how many crosses I would need to get a theme answer. So I just worked my way down the puzzle, and as soon as I had a few letters in a theme answer, I'd read the clue to see if I could get it. I never needed more than four letters to get a theme answer. Hadn't even heard of one of the authors, but the title was predictable / familiar enough that I got it quickly. Luckily, the theme answers are (mostly) funny enough that I can excuse the super-easiness.
- 23A: Quentin Tarantino paperback about a minister's stories? ("Pulpit Fiction")
- 29A: Randy Shilts expose of an outlaw musician? ("And the Bandit Played On")
- 57A: Susan Howatch novel about protesting clergy? ("Sit-ins of the Fathers") - this is the author I did not know
- 82A: Marlo Thomas storybook about liberated vampires? ("Free to Bite You and Me") - by far the best fake title
- 107A: Grimm Brothers story about a sorry leader, with "The"? ("Pitied Piper of Hamelin")
- 121A: Shakespearean play about a monarch who writes bad checks? ("Kiting Henry IV")
We have breakfast guests coming over in exactly ten minutes. So I'm posting this now, and will complete it in late morning. I love you guys, but chocolate chip pancakes (and houseguests, I suppose) win out.
And I'm back.
It's a very right-wing puzzle, or Republican at any rate, with Bush (27A: State where Geo. W. Bush was born) and Nixon (80A: Old presidential inits.) and former press secretary ARI Fleischer (40D: Former White House press secretary Fleischer) all making appearances in one way or another. Then there's ABU Ghraib (2D: _____ Ghraib, Iraqi prison), which puts recent Republican policy in a not-so-nice context. I don't think I've seen ABU Ghraib referenced in the puzzle before. It's not very breakfast-tabley, but it's certainly in-the-news enough to be a valid entry.
Had my greatest challenge in the "Utah" region of the puzzle, where lots of unknown names and terms went colliding into each other. I had SSGT for MSGT (52D: Certain NCO) - as of right now, I don't know what MSGT stands for - aha, Master Sergeant. Anyway, changed "S" to "M" when ALARUS made no sense at 51A: Warning signal, once (alarum). MSGT intersected the very unknown (to me) OTOMIS (67A: Mexican Indians), which I was certain was wrong when I first clicked "Done" on the applet. Thankfully, the answer clearly ended in "S," because that "S" was the first letter in a name I did not know: 70D: "Elephant Boy" boy (Sabu), which parallels yet another answer I didn't know / don't understand - 79D: Canon alternative (Mita). Oh, it's a copier brand? OK.
There are very cool vocabulary words in this puzzle, including one of my favorite words in the English language: EPIGONE (119A: Copycat). I use this word when talking about any group of slavish or unimaginative imitators (started using it to describe Chaucer's immediate poetic successors, but it works in lots of contexts). Another fabulous fancy word is PICAYUNE (89A: Piddling) - had that -YUN- run and thought "???" then saw the clue and thought "Damn ... that's hot." It sits above a less pretty word, ERGOT (95A: Rye malady), which longtime readers will recognize as a word I first learned from doing a puzzle about 6 months ago. Lastly, as far as cool vocabulary words go, there's OBLATE, which (because I'm a medievalist by training) I always associate with religious orders, but here's another meaning for my edification (20A: Squeezed at the ends, as leaves).
Clues that gave me pause, confused me, or annoyed me:
- 22A: Some unwritten rules (oral law) - I have never heard this phrase. I pieced it together from just a few letters, but it's not a term I'm familiar with.
- 53A: Triangular kerchief (fichu) - Nutso word which I've seen before. Had that final "U" and thought "uh oh," but when I got the initial "F" the word came to me instantly.
- 128A: Second _____ (banana) - yes, I suppose, though [Top _____] would have been a little more in-the-language (according to Google, almost precisely 3x more in the language).
- 4D: Red-______ sapsucker (naped) - yikes. Did not know this. NOSED? NAKED? Nope.
- 6D: Peevish (tetchy) - are you sure this isn't just a hick pronunciation of "touchy," which can also mean "peevish?"
- 8D: Believer's goal (Mecca) - I was thinking in Way more abstract terms, like NIRVANA or the equivalent.
- 24D: Bloom of Paris (fleur) - tricky cluing; it's just French for "flower"
- 86D: Leandro's love (Ero) - Italian version of "Hero and Leander," a poem I know pretty well and teach often. Lacking the initial "H," this one fooled me a bit.
Impressive clues and answers:
- 1A: Heart of a bus. district (Main St.) - I love the two-wordness, where one word is an abbr. I don't know why. I just do.
- 76A: Disney movie with a hacker hero ("Tron") - You gotta go back 25 years for this one. Raise your hand if, in desperation, you entered NEMO or LILO.
- 29D: Little League issue (age limit) - some of those kids look very very post-pubescent. It always seems like cheating when this 5'10" kid with the first traces of a mustache comes out and starts throwing heat at these 4'10" skinny kids who are swimming in their batting helmets. This is a long way of saying, yes, the AGE LIMIT is an issue.
- 65D: Hunter of literature (Thompson) - a very talented, funny writer. Slightly insane. His name really needs its middle initial to feel complete.
- 45D: Joyce Carol Oates novel ("Them") - another literary clue; also, a movie about killer ants!
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
P.S. Congratulations to Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz for no-hitting the Orioles last night - in only his second major league start (!). After having their asses handed to them by the Yankees, and then losing another ugly one to the Orioles on Friday, the Red Sox really really needed this. He's only 23! Hopefully the Red Sox won't trade this great young pitcher to the Rangers for a redundant closer who screws up team chemistry and nearly single-handedly drives the season into the ground.