Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: [Bleep]-ing Business - familiar phrase (present participle + noun) is clued as if it were a type of business (see below, trust me)
I didn't like this puzzle at all, though I don't have very good reasons. The theme answers all felt horribly awkward, and not funny (as they were supposed to be, I'm guessing). Then there was the word VARLET (33A: Knight's attendant), which ... I officially despise, though this is clearly MY problem, not anyone else's. It's like an unholy cross of VALET (the word I wanted there) and VARMINT. It looks wrong wrong wrong, and even though I looked it up and it's right right right ... I still find it intolerable as a word. This puzzle was also marred, IMOO, by an ugly avalanche of crosswordese: GMEN, OMANI and ADEN, OSSO, ERMA, ALP, SNO, ATM, ETNA, plus high-end crosswordese like NISEI (22D: Some Japanese-Americans) and OMERTA (12D: Mafia code of silence - which I always want to be ORMOLU for some reason). Then there is the terrifically dull fill like, oh, TREE and STOP and EATS and CHIN and TEND and EPIC and BOOM and DEMO and SOS and NEAT and SAD and PEST and DUE and on and on. And on.
- 20A: Striptease business? (showing concern)
- 35A: Wrestling business? (holding firm)
- 53A: Comb business? (parting company)
Now I shall give credit to the best words in the puzzle:
CUSS (17A: Ornery sort) - this word must always be preceded by "ornery"
ORGY (29D: Bacchanalian revelry) - a little disturbing that it sits right next to ELF, but still, this is about the only Action in this puzzle, so I'm happy it's here...
TANG (7D: Zesty flavor) - I stand corrected. Here's some more action...
PAULEY (39A: Former "Dateline NBC" co-host Jane) - my first (and possibly only) newswoman crush. I remember her infamous departure from The Today Show. To make room for Deborah Norville! That downward spiral has only continued. I almost miss Bryant Gumble.
MISH MASH (3D: Jumble) - is this one word or two? Looks like one. This word is just fun to say. Unlike VARLET. [choke]
SONAR - only because of the clue, 51D: School locator?
LANAI (36D: The Pineapple Island) - I recently made two of my students cry laughing at my (apparent) pretension by using this word in casual conversation (referring not to the island, but to the porch). Kids today... I claim that this is a common word, but my wife claims I only think so because I watched so much "Golden Girls" growing up, which I totally, officially deny. Although I will admit that Betty White, at any age, is super hot to me.
What are EATS (40A: Beanery sign) and JOE'S (28A: Stereotypical sandwich board diner) doing in the same puzzle? One old-timey eatery sign per puzzle, please. I couldn't tell if the "diner" in the 28A clue referred to the eater or the eatery, so JOE'S gave me way more trouble than it should have. Got completely stymied by the retrospectively obvious ELF (30D: Polar drudge). "Drudge"!? Yes, they do work, but "drudge" implies mindless, arduous work done with a frown on one's face - and aren't the elves at least moderately happy? Guess I'll have to wait 'til "Fred Claus" comes out to find out. Also got super hung up on 10D: Place for an umbrella (beach), as the only word that wanted to go there was BENCH, and I briefly convinced myself that was right. My university recently installed benches with sizable fancy umbrellas all along the central promenade between the library building and the Fine Arts building. They look vaguely extraterrestrial. With all the crosswordese in this puzzle, I felt sure that I'd be able to segue here to an ALF or ETS reference and be done with this puzzle. How will I end? Oh, I just noticed that JANET (28D: A singing Jackson) intersects PAULEY at the "E," which means that if you ignore that "T," you get JANE crossing PAULEY. Beautiful.
RADIUS (5D: Figure that's squared in a common formula).
How's that for arbitrary, non sequitur endings?
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS Happy birthday, Mom!