Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: An "idle question" ... (?)
Well, after yesterday's befuddling theme, today we get a straightforward quip. It's sort of cute, I guess. It's just, well..
OK, first, here's the "idle question" in question:
- 21A: Start of an idle question - IF VEGETARIANS EAT
- 42A: Middle of the question - VEGETABLES WHAT DO
- 60A: End of the question - HUMANITARIANS EAT?
My answer: many humanitarians are also vegetarians. And vegetarians eat way more than just vegetables. And non-vegetarians also eat vegetables. . . I'm sorry, did you just want me to say "humans?"
The question was very easy to get, with huge chunks of it being inferrable even before the whole thing came together; the WHAT DO part of line 2, for instance, or the EAT part of line 3 - both clear once you get the phrasing of the question from the first line. VEGETABLES was pretty easy to infer as well. And since none of the non-theme fill was very tricky, this puzzle went down fast.
Looking at the rest of the puzzle, I hardly have anything to say. The most vivid answers in the grid are 27D: Language from which "safari" comes (Swahili) and 40A: Ruby's victim (Oswald), both of which are undermined somewhat by being gimmes - though I will admit that I could actually hear my brain churning on the Ruby clue - "... searching for people named Ruby ... OK ... know it has something to do with JFK ... OK ... assassin's name was what now? ... Oh yeah, right." Whole process probably took three seconds, but I could feel myself, physically, thinking about it. It was like I was waiting for some fortune-telling machine at the fair to spit out the answer.
Since when is a 5A: Bit of broccoli a SPEAR? Asparagus comes in SPEARs. Broccoli pieces = florets. I'm pretty sure. Well, about half a million Google hits tell me that "Broccoli spears" is in fact an in-the-language phrase. I concede this one.
Some familiar and not-so-familiar names in the puzzle today. Not surprisingly, I didn't know the science-related name, but got the (high-culture) art and (low-culture) music name.
- 15A: _____ Turing, the Father of Computer Science (Alan) - I like how "Father" is capitalized, like he's God. Or a god, anyway.
- 6D: Painter Mondrian (Piet) - love his aesthetic, though it looks like any fifth-grader with a steady hand could paint what he paints. I'm pretty sure that's not true.
- 74A: "Bang Bang" singer, 1966 (Cher) - yeah! That's what I'm talkin' about! Bring on the pop culture cheese. More more more.
Used to play Canasta like crazy on cross-country family vacations, so even though I haven't played in over 20 years, 25A: Canasta plays (melds) came to me pretty quickly. Love the Double-Dogness of 51A: Rover's pal (Fido) and 13D: Hammett pooch (Asta), though having ASTA and ESTA (7D: Is, to Isabella) in the same grid is, well, a bit like having ISLE (71A: Tropical spot) and AISLE (16A: Usher's domain) in the same grid. Not so pleasing. By the way, [Usher's domain] should have been MODERN R&B or SLO JAMS. Which reminds me: PHAT (14D: Excellent, slangily)?! I wonder when the NYT will realize that the term is already dated? Considering that the puzzle still gets a lot of mileage out of NEATO, my guess is: a long time from now.
I would like all four-letter eye-related clues to be IRIS. All the time. I couldn't even tell you what a UVEA is. Lastly, I have zero idea what to make of 64D: "_____ corny ..." ("I'm as..."). Change the "C" to an "H" and the phrase might start to have some sort of meaning.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld