Monday, November 26, 2007
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: H-CK - every theme answer begins with this letter combination, with the vowel in the second spacing changing, in alphabetical order, as you move through the puzzle
Another fine birthday puzzle for me. Last year I got a Manny Nosowsky Sunday puzzle - this year, an Andrea Carla Michaels Monday. I finished this one much more quickly, but not without a similar amount of joy. Part of that joy comes from the genuinely entertaining fill; the other part of that joy comes from Smashing my old solving time record by a full 20 seconds. 3:21!!! No idea how that happened. There always seems to be some luck involved (i.e. never even looked at the clue for HUCKABEES - just filled it in from existing crosses - and knew HOCKNEY from just the -EY only because, well, I like art, etc.). All my first guesses ended up being correct, and the only answer that even mildly held me up was 33D: Flax-colored (golden) - and I wasn't held up long. As someone who a year ago was happy to solve a Monday in under 6 minutes, I can tell you that lots of practice, over time, will in fact make you a better solver. All the studying in the world cannot beat the simple act of doing puzzles, over and over. This is also true of GRE / SAT - type tests, but I digress.
- 17A: Bean-filled bag moved with the foot (HACKy-sack)
- 25A: Comedy club razzer (HECKler)
- 37A: Like some hams (HICKory smoked)
- 52A: Pop artist David (HOCKney)
- 61A: 2004 film "I Heart _____" ("HUCKabees")
I am curious about the length of theme clues. It seems odd to me that two of the theme answers are very short (seven letters) and positioned directly across from other NON-theme seven-letter answers - e.g. HECKLER's across from MISS YOU (23A: Postcard sentiment) and HOCKNEY's across from ROMANIA (54A: Bucharest's land). I'm not saying this is illegal, but it seems quite uncommon for theme answers to be matched in length by non-theme answers running in the same direction. I'm somehow less bothered by the Longer non-theme answers running Down - all of which are at least good and two of which are gorgeous, by the way:
- 11D: Oil conveyor (pipeline) - good
- 12D: Abated (lessened) - good
- 37D: 3-D picture (hologram) - gorgeous
- 38D: "You don't say!," after "Well" ("I declare!") - gorgeous
There are many multiple-word phrases in this puzzle. I especially like the juxtaposition of EARN A (63A: _____ living) and A MESS (66A: What _____!" ("It's so dirty!"), with their reversed placement of the indefinite article. I also especially like the near-juxtaposition of BOK (4D: _____ choy (Chinese green))and WOK (8D: Chinese cooking vessel).
Lastly, today, I'm going to point out some words that are XWORD 101 words. Stuff that you should know if you want to zip through crosswords, including stuff that I learned Only from doing crosswords:
- 14A: Creme-filled cookie (Oreo) - but you knew that
- 15A: Wine: Prefix (Oeno-) - comes up not infrequently
- 20A: Honor bestowed by Queen Eliz. (OBE) - Order of the British Empire - learned it from xwords
- 26D: Early MGM rival (RKO)
- 55D: Schindler of "Schindler's List" (Oskar) - even if you know the name, you are likely to spell it with a "C" if you've never thought about its spelling before. Very helpful to know about the "K."
- 39D: Actor Calhoun (Rory) - he actually doesn't come up a hell of a lot; I just like his name because it reminds me of the time Mr. Burns likened one of his many greyhound puppies to this actor:
Burns: There you are...there you go, little fellow...and you.
[one of the puppies stands on its hind legs]
[gasps] Smithers, look: he's standing up. I've never seen
anything so adorable! Do you know who it reminds me of?
Burns: No, no, no, a person. You know who I mean.
Smithers: Snoop Doggy Dogg? Bob Barker? David Brenner?
Burns: No, no! The person who's always standing and walking.
Smithers: Rory Calhoun?
Burns: That's it!
Lastly, after watching a little "SportsCenter" this morning, I had a revelation, which I would like to express in the form of a birthday wish: I would like ESPN to promote correspondent WENDI NIX to a position prominent enough to render her crossword-worthy.
That is all.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld