Monday, January 7, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "BIG BANG" (64A: Theory of the universe, or a hint to the starts of 17-Across and 7-, 10-, 35- and 40-Down) - all theme answers start with a loud sound (like "BANG")
Once again, Lynn Lempel shows why she is one of the best early-week constructors on the planet. Lots of vibrant 7+-letter fill and a theme that really covers the grid, yielding genuinely appealing answers. Almost all of the theme answers are simply fun to say aloud. Go ahead. Do it. How can you resist the allure of a word like CLAPTRAP? And 10 non-theme answers of 7 letters long? Really impressive. And yet still Monday-level. The whole puzzle was a real pleasure. I see an EPEE here and an REO there, but there's really very little humdrum fill, and it's completely negligible largely because the theme and the longer non-theme fill is so widespread and sparkling.
- 17A: High hit behind the catcher, say (POP foul) - I heard on "Mike & Mike in the Morning" this morning that late last night, Roger Clemens filed a slander lawsuit against the trainer who claimed that he injected Clemens with steroids. Clemens gave a very unconvincing and desperate-sounding interview on "60 Minutes" last night. I'd like to thank POP FOUL for allowing me the little opening I needed to bring this up.
- 7D: Prosperous place (BOOM town) - My dad tried to force us to stop watching MTV when I was 12 because he'd caught a glimpse of a BOOMTOWN Rats music video (for "Up All Night") and he thought it was morally degenerate. He claimed later that it had shown a snake slithering between a naked woman's legs. This claim proved false - the "naked woman" turned out to be (Sir) Bob Geldof. In truth, a naked woman would have been Much less disturbing.
- 10D: Extreme effort at weight loss (CRASH diet) - don't do it
- 35D: Skilled marksman (CRACK shot) - I finished Cormac McCarthy's "The Road," which I liked, in general, but one of the most unconvincing things about the book was the fact that the Father is the CRACKest of CRACK shots on the planet. I think he fires weapons twice, under extreme conditions, and both times with impossible, Jack-Bauer-esque accuracy.
- 40D: Baloney (CLAPtrap) - one of my favorite words that I never have occasion to use is SATRAP: "Governor of a province in ancient Persia," but more generally "ruler" or "subordinate official / henchman," i.e. one enforcing the will of a ruler. Clearly I have decided to turn Monday into "Tangential Knowledge Day"
Here are some other clues and answers of note:
- 1A: Peeling knives (parers) - On MSNBC this morning, they can't stop talking about "the long knives." "The long knives" are coming out in New Hampshire, they say. This is a weird expression to use in the context of a N.H. primary, considering "The Night of the Long Knives" (whence the expression comes, I think) was a Nazi purge in which over 80 people were executed for political reasons. I think a better expression for what's happening in N.H. would be "the night of the paring knives."
- 13A: Kansas city where Dwight Eisenhower grew up (Abilene) - As I filled this in, I winced and thought "er ... isn't ABILENE in Texas?" And the answer is, of course, yes. There's more than one ABILENE.
- 39A: Spotty (erratic)
- 41A: Tidy savings (nest egg) - nice central pairing of these two answers. I have been disturbed of late at how ERRATIC our NEST EGG seems to be lately.
- 67A: Scene at a natural history museum (diorama) - This word will always be associated with "shoe box" in my mind, as this is how we made our DIORAMAs in grade school.
- 70A: One doing leg. work (rep.) - I read this as "leg" (the word) not "leg." (the abbrev.), and still got REP easily.
- 14D: Twisty-horned antelope (eland) - watched most of a PBS special on desert lions last night, and there was many an ORYX to be seen, and of course, being a crossword geek, my mind was flipping through all the African antelope-like creatures I could think of. ELAND was number 1. ORIBI was number 2. And so on.
- 25D: Vientiane native (Laotian) - you often see LAO in the puzzle, but LAOTIAN is unusual. My wife got this answer easily because she's just been reading Tom Parker Bowles's "Year of Eating Dangerously" - Laos was apparently one of his favorite destinations, even though (because?) he ate bee pupae.
- 34D: Air France destination (Orly) - I feel like this airport should show up more often than it does.
- 50D: Symbols of meekness (lambs) - I am an occasionally fish-eating vegetarian, except when I go to New Zealand, where I subsist almost solely on animal flesh. My logic - everything's upside-down Down There. Luckily for my scruples, I have been only once, though I am going again this summer (which is to say, winter). Used to hate LAMB (growing up), but the LAMB I had in NZ was Extraordinary.
- 65D: Card game with knocking (gin) - I prefer drinking it to playing it. In NZ, every evening at 5pm sharp, my brother-in-law would declare "gin time" and we'd have gin-and-tonics. It's like Shangri-La down there, seriously.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
Today's other crosswords:
- LAT 4:01 (C) - Pancho Harrison
- CS 9:44 (C) - KLAAAAAAAAAHN! @#!#$
- NYS 5:33 (C) - Ogden Porter, "A Few Choice Words" ("Rent" and "The Producers" - ugh; and what in the world is a 24D? Hasn't appeared in any puzzle I've seen since I began blogging...)
- Newsday 3:45 (C) - Sally R. Stein, "Let it Snow"