Thursday, October 11, 2007
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: "Falling Stars" (61A: Wishful things? ... or a literal description of 16-, 17-, 32-, 44- and 60-Across) - theme answers are the names of movie stars, the ends of whose names "fall" 90 degrees to the "south" (thus merging with Down answers)
This is a very inventive theme, though the assortment of "stars" is pretty rag-tag. REX HARRISON, for instance, stands out like a sore thumb for being the only "star" who is no longer one. But his name is REX, so it's cool. I had trouble getting started with the puzzle because I ran into MEGR first at 16A, and figured I was dealing with a rebus puzzle - but why would you rebus RYAN? How far could you possibly get with that as your rebus fill? Once I got GEORGE CLOONEY, though, the theme became clear and I flew through the puzzle fairly quickly. Despite my reasonable time (around 8, I think), I thought this puzzle fairly challenging for a Thursday. There are lots of words that are esoteric: easy enough for constant crossworders, but tricky for others (or so I imagine). Anyway, I'll start with the theme answers, then move on to the tough(-ish) stuff, and then ... who knows? Maybe I'll close with a dance or a knock-knock joke.
- 17A: People's 2006 Sexiest Man Alive (George Cloo / ney)
- 16A: "You've Got Mail" actress (Meg R / yan)
- 32A: Julius Caesar portrayer, 1963 (Rex Harris / on)
- 44A: Frat Pack actor (Ben Stille / r) - this is the first time I've ever heard the term "Frat Pack"; dear god, Stiller's old enough to be a member of the original "Brat Pack" - he could have kids in a "frat." I'm just saying he's old, is all. At least as old as I am (yesterday I calculated that my hypothetical first child would be a freshman in college right now. Disconcerting...)
- 60A: R & B singer with a hit 1990s sitcom (Bran / dy) - can't get enough of those "Moesha" references. Bring 'em on.
The tough stuff:
- 12D: Shoelace tip (aglet) - reasonably common crossword fill, but just not an everyday word to most people. Even though Google says it's rarer, AIGLET is the spelling I know better.
- 13D: Presidential candidate who said "No one can earn a million dollars honestly" (Bryan) - as in William Jennings. Might have been tough for me without MEG RYAN's help.
- 46A: Tasty (sapid) - got it quickly, but only because I've seen it in the puzzle before. Not a word I use, or see in non-xword contexts, ever.
- 43D: Palm type (sago) - eeks! Had SAGE ... thought SAGO was a kind of lily ... and it is. Confusing. [actually, it's SEGO lily - thanks for the correction, Orangey]
- 69A: Points on a crescent moon (cusps) - I know this word in relation to zodiacal signs. I honestly didn't know that that's what you call the pointy parts of the crescent.
- 38A: Chevrolet model (Aveo) - ???
- 39A: Big exporter of coconut cream and coconut oil (Samoa) - strange but guessable with a cross or two.
- 56D: Windfall (plum) - having hard time using this one in a sentence...
- 50D: "From the Earth to the Moon" author (Verne) - wasn't this the title of a miniseries about the moon landing? I nearly slapped my forehead and said "D'oh!" when I saw the 19th-century answer.
- 64A: City along the Chisholm Trail (Enid) - you know you are a crossword junkie when ENID is your go-to 4-letter Western-sounding answer.
- 20A: City southeast of 64-Across (Ada) - also, a novel by Nabokov.
- 30D: Like many cared-for lawns (limed) - I don't care for "cared-for" as an adjective. I got this fairly easily, even though I'm not sure what liming does for a lawn. I know we have never LIMED ours (right, honey? ... Sandy is the lawn person in our family ... much to her occasional chagrin).
- 26A: Cage for hawks (mew) - eluded me. Needed -EW before I finally recalled the word. Wanted the answer to relate to basketball ... you know, "cager" means basketball player ... the Hawks are an NBA team ... I swear it makes sense.
- 40D: Historic Umbrian town (Assisi) - As in, St. Francis of ...
ALLE in all, an enjoyable. Only a dollop of crosswordese: OVA, EWER, ESTERS (18D: Some organic compounds). And only a couple of ugh-inducing answers: 31D: Measure again, as a movie's length (retime) and 49D: Like an eyeball (orbed) ... :(
Lastly, a round of applause for the nerdy long Down answers BROAD AXES (3D: Timber hewers) - which came to me easily with just BR- in place, thank you Dungeons & Dragons - and HELP DESKS (35D: Computer technicians' positions) - which reminds me of this new series "Chuck," which is not that good, and yet I can't stop watching. Chuck works at a HELP DESK at a big box electronics store. He also has had all of the government's most important secrets uploaded into his brain via some video stream he witnessed after opening an email attachment from his former college roommate ... did I mention it's a comedy? I'm not proud.
Two final notes: first, in case you hadn't noticed (this is for people in the six-weeks-from-now future) there is a link in my sidebar to take you directly to the syndicated puzzle. Google makes it insanely hard to find old puzzles sometimes (Google is very kind to my fellow bloggers and very, very temperamental with me). So now, one click, whoop, there it is. Second, I am updating Pop Sensation every day now (now that it has a small but steady readership), so check it out, link to it, tell a friend, etc.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld