Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Solving time: untimed
THEME: Tilt / Lean / Tip - three theme answers, running diagonally from NW to SE, beginning at 1, 7, and 37, and containing the above words, respectively
Loved the theme, especially because the long diag - 1 Diag: Face imaginary enemies (tilt at windmills) - comes from one of my favorite books, Don Quixote. I should say that it's one of my favorite partially-read books, as I never managed to get through the whole damned thing, but the parts I did read were rich. I also like that Quixote and Quigley (puzzle author) both start with Q's. I wanted to find theme-related words in the grid, like SLANT or LIST or ANGLE, but no luck. Started looking at the grid as if it were a Word Search - nothing. There are the ironic entries EVEN (12D: Tied up) and FLAT (4D: Showing no growth), but beyond that, I couldn't find much theme-iness beyond the diags. Oh, wait, there's LSTS (7D: D-Day craft), which is one letter away from LISTS, which would be theme-y. Yes, that'll do.
I'm getting started about an hour later than usual this a.m. - sidetracked by "24" this morning, which somehow managed to sneak in PLOT between episodes: "Previously on "24" ... stuff that was Not On Last Week's episode!" How could I have missed Jack's torturing his brother? I am quite worried about my sanity lately, so anything to help my comprehension of this situation would be greatly appreciated. Was there a second hour that I failed to DVR last week?
1A: Base runner's stats (thefts)
Colorful, but a terrible answer, as THEFT is total slang. No "stat" book anywhere has a listing for THEFTS. They list STEALS, which the puzzle author surely knows, and was surely happy about, given that STEALS, like THEFTS, is six letters long. Cheap trickery. Beneath BEQ. Not that it was too hard to suss out. Just annoying. This represents my only real complaint about this puzzle - other than that I'd rather not be reminded of the existence of "CSI" - one of the most useless shows on TV. CSI is almost recuperated, however, by the complementary DNA TEST elsewhere in the grid (43A: Crime lab job).
3D: Greece, to modern Greeks (Ellas)
19A: Cousin of a raccoon (coati)
OK, I was wrong, I have one other little complaint: this intersection. I am neither a modern Greek, nor a raccoon (which I just wrote as "craccoon," which, I believe, is raccoon's other, drug-addicted cousin), and thus had to guess wildly at the intersecting letter here - an "A," which I had as an "O" - giving me the correct-seeming ELLOS but the silly, schoolyard-sounding COOTI. I figured that was where the concept of COOTIES came from. When I got an "incorrect" message from the applet, I thought the final "I" in COOTI might be wrong, but couldn't think of what could go in the "I"'s place in the cross: TITIAN RED (5D: Brownish orange). TITYAN ... TIT CAN ... TIT MAN ... all answers were coming up absurd, so I changed the second "O" in COOTI to the next most plausible vowel, and voilà, COATI. COATI is the name my sister gave to an article of clothing of mine (I feel as if I've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating). COATI can't decide if it's a COAT or a shirt, it's made out of something Highly Synthetic, and it's colored a bright red + black lumberjack plaid. My sister might spell it COATEE - we've never had occasion to write its name down.
16A: Manta ray (sea devil) - is this different from a sting ray? Why "devil"? Is this the beast that killed Steve Irwin?
61D: W.W. II inits. (ETO) - OK, I "know" this, but I don't know if I KNOW it - I'm going to guess "European Theater of Operations"??? Oh good, Wikipedia says I'm right, and that's good enough for me. I get ETO confused with EDO, former name of Tokyo.
52D: English Channel port (Poole) - actually, I "knew" this one too, but I don't know how. I think there is some special fund of crossword lore in my brain that is getting better and better stocked over time.
37D: Communications syst. for the deaf (TTY) - as of right now - no idea what this stands for. I'll guess ... Talk To You. Damn, it's "Teletypewriter." TTY looks like a chatroom abbreviation.
Speaking of TTY, there were an Awful lot of abbreviations in this grid. I count twelve. Is that a lot? Or am I just noticing them today for some reason? I'm including ST. LO (48A: Town near Caen), which technically includes an abbreviation (of "Saint"), though you almost never seen it written out fully, so maybe that shouldn't count. ST LO should be in the Pantheon. It is going right on the list of next year's nominees.
35D: Headline? (totem pole) - Great clue, great answer, and especially great due to its alliterative rotational symmetrical relationship to 5D: Brownish orange (Titian red).
27A: How tuna salad may be served (on toast) - I don't know why I like it ... I just do!
62A: Spray alternative (roll-on) - who doesn't enjoy a good deodorant clue?
47D: Rapper who co-starred in "The Italian Job" (Mos Def) - I can only hope that stodgy solvers everywhere are crying over this one. I hope all the PFUI-lovers choke on MOS DEF.
51D: Two-dimensional world? (atlas) - I just really like the clue
I always forget the word PITON (58A: Rock climber's tool), perhaps because they make me think of another climbing device, CRAMPONS, which is far, far too close to TAMPONS for me to want to dwell on. Who decides how to spell sheep sounds and baby sounds? (9D: Cote sound (baa) and 54A: Cry from a crib (waah)) The first seems set in stone, but the second seems completely arbitrary. Where does the "H" come from? And aren't doves, not sheep, more often associated with "cotes." I had COO written in BAA's place at first. Yes, [cote dove] beats [cote sheep] in a Google search by something like 100K hits. So I made a mistake. Oh well ... THEM'S the breaks! (49D: "_____ the breaks").
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld