Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: Military Movie Stuff - terms related to film that contain words that double as ranks in the army; in the answer, the "ranks" are abbreviated, as they would be in one's military title
Cute theme, I guess. My question: what is with the 10-letter Acrosses that are Not theme answers? They threw me off badly at first. I was trying to figure out what in the world BUYER'S GUIDE (19A: Consumer Reports offering) could have to do with PVT SCREENING (which I had as BRA[SS]CREENING at first, figuring, to my horror, that I was dealing with some kind of "SS" rebus...)? Those 10-letter answers Really Really want to be themed. I feel as if there should be some rule for the number of letters a non-theme answer can have relative to a theme answer, especially if it's running in the same direction as the theme answers. Maybe a minimum of two letters shorter ... just an idea. I think the puzzle seems weak to me because I look at both of those 10-letter answers and they seem like good places for theme answers - they seem like missed opportunities, somehow. Oh, for the record, the other 10-letter answer - SMOKE SIGNAL (64A: Means of visual communication).
- 21A: Film showing for V.I.P.'s, in the army (Pvt. screening)
- 41A: Big studio release, in the army? (Maj. motion picture)
- 59A: Common ticket category, in the army? (Gen. admission)
Bonus theme tie-ins - MATINEES (28D: Shows with lower-priced seats, usually) and FLOPS (1D: Lays an egg) and (stretching it) NO SHOW (50D: Standby's salvation).
The NW was slightly rough for me, in that I had BOMBS and FAILS before I ever had FLOPS at 1D. Thought I had no idea about the Ogden Nash clue (15A: Priest in an Ogden Nash verse - LAMA), until I remembered that that verse was the topic of a puzzle not long ago; something about a three-L'd LLLAMA ... oh yeah, there was a horrible pun on "Three-Alarmer." I have to stop having puzzle flashbacks. Completely clueless about 18A: "Little Shop of Horrors" dentist (Orin). Ooh, I just noticed that 1D: Lays an egg is next to 2D: Maggot, e.g. (larva) - nice, disgusting juxtaposition. SAY AH, indeed (24A: Doctor's request).
More of today's question marks:
- 5A: Presidential middle name (Abram) - that's James ABRAM Garfield
- 23A: Ludd, the original Luddite (Ned) - I love the word "Luddite." It's just fun to say. In other -UDD news, I have a student at Elmira named "Fudd."
- 27A: Carte blanche offer ("Name it!") - man this threw me for a loop. I had N-MEI- and couldn't think of a damn thing. Then I thought maybe "Carte blanche" was literal - that there was a white menu out there with actual items on it that I didn't know about: "I'd like an order of NO MEIN, please."
- 31D: "Pagliacci" clown (Tonio) - ah, my infamous opera ignorance. I thought "Pagliacci" was the clown. TONIO sounds like a bad 90's R&B act. Coolio meets Tony, Toni, Toné.
- 22D: _____ Canyon (Pueblo cultural area) (Chaco) - no idea. Just ... none.
- 56D: Florida congressman Crenshaw (Ander) - is this fair game? WTF? If he didn't sleep with interns or seek sex in a Minneapolis airport bathroom stall, how can I be expected to know him?
- 6D: Smurf-colored (blue) - possibly the best way to clue BLUE that I know of. Most nefarious way of cluing BLUE - [Like Babe, e.g.]
- 20D: Demarcation affected by warming (snow line) - not a term I hear much, but I got it almost instantly and like it a lot.
- 42D: Cousin of a hammerhead (mako) - got in instantly. MAKO is your go-to answer if your answer is a 4-letter word for a kind of shark.
Enjoy Thanksgiving Eve,
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld