Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Relative difficulty: EZ-Medium
THEME: Spoken Letters - familiar phrases where first word is represented by two letters, which, when spoken, sound like that word
I think a good measure of a theme's shakiness is how difficult it is to describe. This is one of those puzzles where the "theme" is obvious, but how to explain it concisely is not. I hope I succeeded.
I am sure I am not the first person to ask this, but ... Robert Zimmerman? The Robert Zimmerman? It's an honor, sir. I wasn't entirely thrilled with the theme, but ... this puzzle does have some Dylanesque subtlety - check out the BASSO / TASSO pairing (30A: Low man and 46A: "Jerusalem Delivered" poet). And in symmetrical positions no less. And who else but Dylan could get away with using a craptacular word like KNURLS (26A: Thumbscrew ridges)? No one. See, by putting it in symmetrical relationship to FUNGUS (52A: Dry rot, e.g.), he is winking at you, letting you know that he knows that it's an icky word. Genius. Even the Across pairs on the 6th and 10th lines seem to work together some how. NCAA TITLE (27A: Final Four org. and 29A: Dom or earl) is a self-standing phrase, and OLDEN EDEN (48A: Of yore and 50A: Fall setting), aside from almost rhyming, captures a sense of a Paradise Lost, an object of yearning and nostalgia. O yes, this has the poet's stamp all over it.
- 17A: Good-looking, briefly (EZ on the eyes)
- 11D: Winter hazards, briefly (IC streets) - sadly, this is the first theme answer I bumped into, and it took me forever to figure out why ICY wouldn't fit. At least "EZ" is an abbreviation you've seen before. "IC?" I mean ... you just need one more letter to make it a real word. Grumble grumble.
- 32D: Student writing competition, briefly (SA contest)
- 64A: Risky person to do business with, briefly (CD character)
- 39A: Oh-so-cute carnival prizes, briefly (QP dolls)
Had slight trouble at the LAZAR / ERNO crossing (2D: Agent Swifty and 23A: Inventor Rubik) first because "Swifty LAZAR" is a name I barely know (it's just a phrase in my brain ... no idea where it came from) and second because ... well, no, ERNO has to be ERNO. So I guess what really happened here is I wasn't entirely sure about LAZAR, but ERNO confirmed that I was correct in my guess. Had MEAT for MAYO, of course (8D: Deli supply). Can't believe I somehow remembered the insanely spelled UINTA mountains this time (53D: _____ Mountains, home of King's Peak). EOS (36D: Aurora, to the Greeks) was easy, as I am reading Homer's Odyssey right now, and I'm pretty sure she's in there somewhere. Two good longish words: LITANIES (59A: Prayer wheel inscriptions), which I only ever hear used in secular contexts, and ANARCHY (47D: Possible result of a natural disaster) - which has a great, unsettling clue.
Lastly, I must assert, contend, aver, and insist that Taylor Hicks, despite having won a national talent competition, is nobody's IDOL (33A: Taylor Hicks, e.g.).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld