Sunday, November 25, 2007
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "Two out of Three" - all theme answers are composed of words that share "two out of three" letters
This should have been way easier than it was. I mean, once you figure out the theme, then you have a huge advantage in solving theme answers, as with only a couple crosses, you can figure out how to fill in 2/3 of the squares. And yet a couple of answers really slowed me down, mainly because of inelegant phrasing. My one error was in a theme answer as well (stupid error - left a dumb, bad first guess in place and never went back to fix it). Overall, I thought the puzzle entertaining and ambitious, with a couple of answers that seemed to stretch the concept of viability - let's call them "inventive failures"
- 24A: Nonsense about a cocktail? (Rob Roy rot) - first theme answer I got. It works beautifully.
- 25A: Warning about Mel Gibson on a wrestling surface? (Mad Max man may mar mat) - funny, and yet I couldn't figure out the "MAN" part and didn't know where "MAY" went, so I had to wait for some crosses.
- 41A: Major book about a leader of the lighter industry? (big Bic biz bio) - this one doesn't read right to me at all. BIZ feels redundant, and there's no word for a person about whom a BIO would be written, so I had BIG BIC BI- BIO, and kept having to come back to it (the cross, 44D: Frenzied situation (zoo), was not immediately apparent to me).
- 67A: Hound, typically? (foe for fox) - true enough
- 90A: Why horses are attracted to a witch's headgear? (hag has hay hat) - by Far my favorite theme answer - it makes perfect sense, it's funny, and it reads like a real sentence.
- 106A: Why guitar-loving Cooke was blue when his gal named her favorite instrument? (sad Sam saw Sal say 'sax') - aargh. This one took some time (comparatively). I think my brain could not accept that one could SEE someone SAY something. Got SAD SAM and SAX easily - the others, less so.
- 112A: Witticism about a wrinkly little dog? (pug pup pun) - the PUP part is sort of buried here, in that a PUG is already a "little dog" - this is an observation, not really a complaint.
- 3D: A nitwit like the loud noise? (dip did dig din) - don't like the verb DID here. DIP DUG DIN is much better (though obviously useless to the constructor in this situation). I had DIM instead of DIP. Dumb.
- 63D: Complicate commercials for woodworking tools? (add adz ads ado) - this is a wholesale disaster, so much so that I almost admire it.
So the theme was entertaining if not always elegant. The non-theme fill, however, was almost uniformly fantastic. Lots and lots of noteworthy clues/answers. So let's begin.
Sometimes it helps to have been born in the late 60's. Yesterday, MEL'S DINER was a pop cultural gimme for me (though it drove tons of people to Google, according to sitemeter). Today, another slew of delicious 80's meat.
- MAD MAX (see theme answers, above)
- NES (121A: 1980s video game console, in brief) - didn't own one, but sure knew what they were
- YURI (27D: 1980s Soviet leader Andropov) - why his name stuck, I don't know.
- LUKA (97A: 1987 Suzanne Vega hit) - all Kinds of high school graduation-year flashbacks ...
- 5A: Rigging technicians (grips) - I asked Sandy if she knew how TRIPS could be an answer for this clue. She said "could it be GRIPS?" Yes, yes it could. If I'd read the cross more closely, I'd have seen that the singer in question was not TORME but GORME (5D: "Eydie Swings the Blues" singer).
- 18A: Fashion's Tahari (Elie) - fashion seems to be the go-to field for odd four-letter women's names
- 51A: Snow leopard (ounce) - yikes. Some part of my brain knew this was correct once I got it, but it's a fairly vicious way to clue a standard unit of measurement.
- 53A: Capital of Honshu (Yen) - ditto a standard unit of currency.
- 59A: Margaret famous for painting waiflike children with big eyes (Keane) - also the name of Nancy Drew's creator (so much more palatable than this Keane's horrific paintings) [ugh, I'm wrong - Nancy Drew's creator is KEENE. KEANE created "Family Circus" / sang "Somewhere Only We Know"]
- 62A: Japanned metal (tole) - :(
- 69A: Subject of the film "An Unreasonable Man" (Nader) - once I got it, it seemed vaguely familiar...
- 72A: He spent 29 years in the Knesset (Eban) - always forgetting how to spell this guy's name - I know him Only from crosswords.
- 93A: Something "realise" lacks (zed) - I guess, but it also lacks a DEE, a BEE, blue eyes, facial hair, tickets to opening day at Fenway, etc.
- 118A: Tannin source (acacia) - as if one ACACIA in a week isn't brutal enough. This version is even more vicious than the last. I had ---TEA for a while.
- 56D: Italian saint Philip _____ (Neri) - no clue
- 35D: Red-shelled fruit: Var. (lichee) - spelling this is always an adventure
- 100D: Clinton's first defense secretary (Aspin) - spelled his name like the tree at first
- 13A: Diamond points (bases) - I miss baseball already
- 22A: Between green and black, say (ripe) - took me a while. In fact, it took me until after I'd completed the puzzle and realized my error (the aforementioned DIM for DIP) - I'm lucky I ever found the error, given that RIME is a perfectly serviceable word.
- 50A: Like most jigsaw puzzles (die-cut) - I just love the word, for no particular reason.
- 55A: Work with intaglio (etch) - nice to learn a word one day (INTAGLIO was in the puzzle recently) and profit from it the next.
- 57A: Fixes a soundtrack (redubs) - had REDOES and then thought "that's too stupid." Correct.
- 71A: Sportscaster Dierdorf (Dan) - I feel he played for the Kansas City Chiefs and is a big guy with a beard - off to Google ... Damn! He was a Cardinal, and the only facial hair he sported was an aggressive mustache. Maybe I was thinking of Dan Fouts...
- 84A: Half of an animation duo (Hanna) - of course my first thought was JERRY or TOM or ITCHY or SCRATCHY or YOGI or BOO BOO ... and then I realized I was on the wrong end of the "camera."
- 87A: "_____ Unleashed!" (cartoon volume) ("Odie") - I'm almost ashamed at how fast I got this.
- 96A: Chang and Eng's homeland (Siam) - I love defunct geographical names - more PERSIA! More CEYLON! More NEW AMSTERDAM, I say.
- 115A: Flame battler, at times (Canuck) - so good is this clue that I actually considered the possibility that CANUCK might mean "firefighter" before I considered that the "Flame" in question might be a hockey player.
- 19D: Some crosstown trips (taxi rides) - gorgeous
- 43D: Making a curling motion with the forefinger, maybe (beckoning) - the clue's a little too long, but I like it nonetheless.
- 81D: Shoppe adjective (Olde) - brilliant
- 92D: "Symphonie Fantastique" need (tuba) - here's a hint for all aspiring crossword solvers - learn everything you can about this piece of music. It won't go away (not that I want it to - it's, well, fantastic).
- 101D: "_____ is just pink trying to be purple": Whistler ("Mauve") - the best clue quotation I've seen in a good long while.
- 104D: Rider of the steed Babieca (El Cid) - Heston! As a medievalist, I'm vaguely embarrassed at how long it too me to get this. It's all about the parsing.
- 111D: Her sidekick was Gabrielle (Xena) - another "fact" I know only from crosswords.
A few bad things:
- 20A: Web-based education (e-learning) - one of the more ostentatious examples of the horrific E-prefixing trend.
- 65D: Wrote a novel, e.g. (prosed) - [wincing ... more wincing]
- 85D: William Petersen series ("CSI") - hate this show. Amuses me that "William Petersen" means Nothing to me. He's the star of the most popular drama on TV and ... nothing.
I can't believe that this is the first Trip Payne puzzle I've ever blogged, but it's true. Trip was featured in the movie "Wordplay." There is a link to his personal puzzle page in my sidebar.
Happy end of Thanksgiving weekend,
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld