Thursday, September 20, 2007
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "The Old Man and the Sea" - rebus puzzle in which each of the words in that title are positioned, in order, symmetrically throughout the grid; central 15-letter answer is ERNEST HEMINGWAY, clued by way of reference to the title in question (35A: Author of a 1952 novel published in full in Life).
I love this puzzle. Love it. One of the most provocative and ambitious and imaginative Thursday rebuses I've seen in a long time. Maybe it's the English professor in me ... but I doubt it, as I've never actually read "The Old Man and the Sea" (what self-respecting English professor's going to admit that?). Very fortuitous that the title is composed of six three-letter words, all of them rebus-able - also convenient that ERNEST HEMINGWAY is a puzzle-friendly 15 letters long. I had the MAN square in the NE and then, of course, went looking for other squares I could shove MAN into. Worked from the NE down through ERNEST HEMINGWAY to the SW, where I got a little stuck. Then discovered that an entirely different word was shoved into one square down there: AND. At that point my brain went "MAN + ERNEST HEMINGWAY + AND = THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA" - and I was on my way.
THE - 1D: Peloponnesian War participant (A[THE]ns) + 14A: Longtime Vicki Lawrence character ([THE]lma) [yesterday, JOEY Lawrence, today, Vicki Lawrence ...]
OLD - 15A: Burn slowly (sm[OLD]er) + 7D: Gave up one's hand (f[OLD]ed)
MAN - 16A: One of the Munsters (Her[MAN]) + 13D: Flow out (e[MAN]ate)
AND - 45D: Odd jobs (err[AND]s) + 58A: Like llamas ([AND]ean)
THE - 59A: Truck stop sign ("Ea[T HE]re") + 50D: Old Testament book (Es[THE]r) - for whatever reason, this was the hardest for me to uncover ...
SEA - 60A: Unpleasant feeling (nau[SEA]) + 53D: Move to first class, e.g. (re-[SEA]t)
Two embarrassing moments. One, I had an error. I thought EYSS sounded way better as a Germanic last name ("EdelwEYSS??") than the correct WYSS at 34D: "The Swiss Family Robinson" author Johann. If I'd only known the relationship between Austin and Dallas better, I'd have been OK (32A: Dallas-to-Austin dir. - SSW). Embarrassing moment two was when my first entry in the grid was Andrew SHUE (10A: Andrew of "Melrose Place"). Didn't know a lot of the highbrow stuff in the puzzle, but the cast of a crappy 90s melodrama? No problem. Oh, and one more bad screw-up on my part: had ROONEY then CARNEY for the (in retrospect, obvious) CAGNEY (43D: Oscar winner for "Yankee Doodle Dandy").
Some things I didn't know:
- 19A: Baryshnikov's birthplace (Riga)
- 22A: Pioneer in I.Q. testing (Binet)
- 26A: Home of Sao Miguel Island (Azores)
- 11D: German poet who wrote "Don't send a poet to London" (Heine) - I know this guy only from crosswords...
- 30A: British general in the American Revolution (Howe) - when talk goes to war and generals and what not, my eyes glaze over...
- 3D: Dr. Skoda of "Law & Order" (Emil) - will Never understand the popularity of this soporific show
- 6D: Some chain hotels (Omnis) - ??? Oh I see, it's a brand name.
- 37D: South American monkey (titi) - I think I "know" this in the sense that there's a part of my brain that maintains a store of familiar-sounding 3- and 4-letter words for things one might find in a crossword. I know I've seen TITI before (tee hee).
Love the dated slang of BOFFO (5A: Terrif), though it took me a while to get. I didn't know that -FER was considered a suffix in the expression "Twofer" (8D: Suffix with "two"). I got it instantly, but if I'd ever used the expression (unlikely) I think I'd have hyphenated it...? Who knows? I always think of a FLASK as a liquor-containing vessel that a drunk / sophisticated gentleman of the west / private eye keeps under his tattered coat / waistcoat / trench coat - not as a 29A: Lab container. You might take a swig from a FLASK while enjoying a CLARO (31A: Light-colored stogie) - wouldn't know, never smoked a cigar in my life. See SITAR in the puzzle a lot but never stopped to give much thought to what shape it is (42A: Pear-shaped instrument).
Clues and answers I love: CHUTES is a very good answer for 43A: Rodeo sights - one that had me baffled for a bit; I wanted CLOWNS. Also loved the clue for AHEM: 26A: Faux cough. Perfect description of that word- which- is- not- a- word- but- more- a- sound. Impressive that the puzzle manages to incorporate both B-SIDES (5D: Elvis's "Hound Dog" and "Anyway You Want Me") and B-GIRL (48D: Old nightclub employee) into the puzzle - both cool retro answers. Great clue on the otherwise unremarkable BISON (22D: Animal on the backs of three state quarters). Lastly, the very familiar GIULIANI is hidden (temporarily) behind one of his (to my mind) lesser-known accomplishments (38D: Politician who wrote the book "Leadership"). His name is freaky-looking, in that vowels unnaturally outnumber consonants 5 to 3. Hmmm, I guess OBAMA's ratio is nearly as bad. Not sure yet how this issue will affect my voting.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld