Sunday, December 23, 2007
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: "Yule Outsourcing" - a "holiday verse" step-quote*
*[A correction, from Ms. Orange: "Today's theme is a quote/quip verse but not a stepquote. Stepquotes have seldom appeared during the Shortz era. What they were was a single unbroken quote stair-stepping its way from 1-Across to the bottom corner. They were even more unsatisfying than standard quote themes for two reasons: (1) Without line breaks between words, the end of a line could be the middle of a word, so you had to use the crossings to piece things together. (2) The corners where the quote turned were unchecked letters, so the crossings couldn't save you."]
Short entry today. Very very full day, including early Xmas celebration this morning, and an interview with local TV in the afternoon, the latter of which is making me a bit queasy. I tried to tell the guy who asked for the interview that nobody cares about a dumb crossword blog. He disagreed. And now cameras are coming to my house.
I didn't like the puzzle much at all today. I find quips and step-quotes in general very unsatisfying, and this one had the added non-bonus of being completely ungrammatical. Part IV of the "verse" is a complete non sequitur - or is at least missing a transitional phrase.
SANTA'S HAD AN EASY SEASON (23A: Start of a holiday verse)
LYING IN HIS BIG RECLINER (48A: Verse, part 2)
IF YOU ASK HIM FOR A REASON (78A: Verse, part 3)
EVERY TOY IS MADE IN CHINA (106A: End of verse)
Toys are not made in China on the condition of my asking Santa for a reason why he is a lazy fat-ass. If I ask, then presumably HE WILL TELL ME. I like the RECLINER / CHINA rhyme, though, I will say.
Lots of ugly stuff in the grid today, like ANENT (38A: About), which is painfully coupled with IN RE (50D: Memo starter). Then there's the Odd Job QUEUER (15D: Line former). The annoying inclusion of IRES (59A: Ticks off) and IRATE (12D: Heated) in the same puzzle. And the absurd BIOTA (74A: Flora and fauna) right next to IOTAS (75A: Some sorority sisters), which I'm guessing was supposed to be cute, but isn't. There was some cuteness, however, including the pairing of:
- 13D: Word repeated in "Now _____ away! _____ away! _____ away ... !" ("dash"), and
- 108D: Word left off the end of the clue at 13-Down ("all")
and the letter pairing of
- 109D: Poor grade (dee), and
- 110D: Satisfactory grade, in kindergarten (ess)
I did appreciate the attempt to get in as many Christmas-y clues as possible, without horribly forcing the issue (see clues for 8D: IND, 47D: TREE, etc.). My main complaint today is that the grid is flat-out boring. I count one "Q," one "J," and one "K." In a Sunday grid? That's a shockingly low number of "Scrabbly" letters. The only "Y's" we get are in the quip. It's sort of astonishing. The only non-Wheel of Fortune letter in the entire NW section is an "A." That "H" in 24D: HST stands out starkly against its bland surroundings.
- 1A: Literary slips (errata) - gimme! (which, coincidentally, is the name of the coffee my friend Donna gave me yesterday for Xmas. Thanks, Donna) [the coffee is called GIMME, not ERRATA ... you understood that, right?]
- 14A: Grade school administration, maybe (IQ test) - they really give these in grade school? People still put credence in that test?
- 22A: Fashion's Bartley (Luella) - mystery woman of the day. LUELLA is a great name.
- 32A: Former Japanese P.M. Shinzo (Abe) - that's what we call "ABE the hard way."
- 71A: Young amphibian (eft) - Pantheonic!
- 84A: Theodemocratic state (Iran) - nice clue for a common answer.
- 90A: Unemotional type, slangily (ice man) - really? OK. I thought this was the name of the caveman dude they found in the ice ... somewhere. Archaeology!
- 99A: Decorative gateway in Japan (torii) - definitely seen it before, but blanked on it today.
- 101D: Classic role played by Gerard Depardieu in "The Man in the Iron Mask" (Porthos) - hmmm ... how did I never see this clue?
- 114A: Source of "we three kings" ("orient") - at first I was like "?" Then I thought "O ... it's actually in the lyrics - 'we three kings of ORIENT are...'" - Here's some more ORIENTAL goodness for you.
- 6D: Fictional detective Lupin (Arsene) - befuddled, and it pains me to say that. I felt bad not knowing this, until I realized that I was thinking of Poe's "Dupin" - I don't actually know this "Lupin" guy at all.
- 18D: Blue-black berrylike fruit (sloe) - it's always SLOE.
- 66A: "The Sandbox" playwright (Albee) - it's always ALBEE.
- 33D: Univ. QB, perhaps (BMOC) - nice to see this abbrev. back in the grid. It's Terribly dated now. Do people under 30 even know what it means? I'm over 30, and it was dated when I was in college.
- 34D: Grammy and Emmy-winning soprano (Sills) - an opera name I actually know. Huzzah.
- 49D: Garfield's assassin (Odie) - just kidding: GUITEAU (which I know only from a Johnny Cash song)
- 53D: French-named city on Galveston Bay (La Porte) - more foreign-sounding cities I don't know. See yesterday's puzzle.
- 63D: What snow shovels may produce (paths) - I weirdly like this clue.
- 73D: Joint part (tenon) - word I know only from xwords (that list is Long, it seems).
- 89D: Out-elbowed? (akimbo) - fantastic clue. Goes nicely with 69D: Elbows (pokes).
Bottom of puzzle is Loaded with crosswordese, including:
RELO (95D: Move, in Realtor-speak)
AVER (96D: Swear)
DEMI (97D: Moore of "G.I. Jane")
OYER (100D: Court hearing)
and the long-dormant but apparently not dead
ONER (104D: Lulu)
Hope your day is a ONER.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld