Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "Helpful person's line" = clue for three theme answers, which are all phrases a helpful person might utter after, well, helping someone
This took me longer than your average Tuesday, I think. Missed the first two Acrosses and so my first entry was ZONED (9A: Districted), and then I built off of that. I think it's generally slower going when you work the puzzle in a (generally) right to left direction - always getting the back end of Across answers, which is a lot less helpful (generally) than the front end. For instance, had the THANK ME part of 17A: Helpful person's line ("No need to thank me") and all I could think of was "Aren't you going to thank me?" or "Shouldn't you thank me?" or "Feel free to thank me," all of which are less "helpful" than "ungracious" or "a$$holish." So I went in a vaguely clockwise pattern on this one, starting in the NE and ending in the NW - not sure when I did the far north. It got done.
Remaining theme answers:
- 32A: With 42-Across, helpful person's line ("Glad to be of / assistance")
- 61A: Helpful person's line ("It was my pleasure")
I had a hard time with the theme answers because I kept wanting to give the helpful person lines from when she was actually being helpful, e.g. "Might I be of assistance?" That was my first stab at 32A. Didn't help that the "T" in MIGHT was right - from the lovely EXPATS (18D: Sojourners abroad, for short). Also had "It'd be my pleasure" at 61A.
Did not like DUMB at 1A: Inane, mainly because that's a highly colloquial use of DUMB, which I was not expecting from the Times today, especially given that the clue is not colloquial at all. Wife loved DUMB, but only because she got it right away (like many of you, I'm sure). Sometimes, I think too much. Wife also enjoyed and readily answered 56A: Spode ensembles (tea sets), but she's from a tea-drinking, Brit-loving country, so she would. I'd heard of "Spode," but could not place it at all and needed the entire back end of this answer before I could guess it. Never heard of the word "Kriegsmarine," but 2A: Kriegsmarine vessel (U-boat) was easy enough with a cross or two. U-BOAT is very nearly Crossword Pantheon material. I remember the 1989 Bay Area earthquake well (I was in Scotland and found out about it from a newsstand sign - low tech!), but had no idea there was any place called LOMA Prieta involved (26D: 1989's _____ Prieta earthquake). Being rather unhandy, I've only vaguely heard of PVC (62D: Piping compound, briefly), though I am well aware of the shopping channel QVC, which would be a great puzzle entry. Realized after reading 15A: Payload delivery org. (NASA) that I had no clear idea what "payload" meant. I associate it with ads for pick-up trucks, for some reason. Very thrown at first by the idea of a fowl ending in -AB. Then recalled a bird called a SQUAB (53D: Fowl entree). No idea what this bird looks like - let's find out... Gross. Baby pigeon. Here's one uncooked:
And here's where you can go for advice on how to start your own squab business. Good luck!
There were some good names in today's puzzle, including SATCHMO (8D: "Hello, Dolly!" jazzman), ZSA ZSA (9D: One of the Gabors), and LULU (33D: "To Sir With Love" singer, 1967). Not-so-great names include ... well, just ALEC (41A: Writer Waugh), the Waugh that Time would have Completely Forgotten were it not for crosswords. I hear and use the word CLIQUE (60A: Coterie) often enough, but it looks startlingly fancy when written out. This may be the first fall (near fall) when I have actually noticed ASTERs (27A: Autumn bloomer). The crossword was right all along - they do bloom in the fall. They're all over the local woods right now, in at least two colors. Off-putting entries in today's puzzle include DEET (13D: It's repellent - it sure is) and JOHNS (23A: Vice squad arrestees, perhaps), and SEEDY (55D: Not yet gentrified) - that last clue is funny because it assumes that all SEEDY places are just yuppie habitats in the making. I'm pretty sure some SEEDY places are just SEEDY and destined to stay that way. Lastly, I've never ordered an "adult" film from my hotel room, but if I saw one entitled "STELLA (40D: _____ Artois beer) SAYS YES (43D: Agrees) to NUDISM" (38A: Philosophy of bare existence?), I must say I'd be tempted.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld