Sunday, January 13, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: "Baby Talk" - theme answers are familiar phrases that have their "L"s turned into "W"s, creating wacky phrases, which are then clued
I was groaning audibly (and not in a good way) from the second I got WEST WE FORGET. My only hope - maybe the the rest of the theme answers will feature different forms of "Baby Talk," like a lisp or something ... but no. "W"s for "L"s, all puzzle long. Let me suggest that the kid who says "W" for "L" is also likely to do something similar with "R" - and thus WED ASTRAY, said by an actual baby-talking kid, would pwobabwy sound more like WED ASTWAY. Or maybe that's Tweety Bird I'm thinking of. Whatever. This theme was not especially to my liking.
I had an error - though I assure you this is Not the reason I was unhappy with this puzzle. I was unhappy from the get go, well before I ever made my error. Actually, there were two squares at the end of the puzzle where I had to guess. One was the ARIANA (116A: National airline of Afghanistan) / CERIUM (100D: Metal that may ignite if scratched) intersection - though, to be honest, I was 95% sure about that guess. CERIUM certainly sounded more like a metal than any other form of that word I might put in there, and ARIANA ... I'm pretty sure I've had it in my puzzle in the past year. So I guessed "I" there and was correct. I was not so lucky at the crossing of FREEH (82A: F.B.I. director appointed by Clinton) and PHIZ (79D: Illustrator for Charles Dickens). I had heard FREEH's name a million times, and was sure that it was FREED. Louis FREED. Of course this turned the illustrator's name into more of a rapper's name (P-DIZ), but let's be honest: it was rapper's name to begin with. This intersection of two very oddly spelled proper nouns at an impossible-to-intuit "H" is a sign of weak / desperate construction, and yet - I have no one to blame but myself here, not so much for missing FREEH (god that looks wrong) but for missing PHIZ, which I am 99% sure I've seen in my puzzle before.
- 28A: The old frontier you and I don't remember? (west we forget)
- 45A: Climate that's copy-protected by law? (patent weather) - patentED weather?
- 65A: Merlin on an Imax screen? (giant wizard)
- 89A: Eyelid moistener at a museum? (Art Winkwetter) - this one hurt most of all
- 107A: Rouse a beloved English queen? (wake Victoria)
- 3D: Better half takes the stage? (wife goes on)
- 6D: Married in error? (wed astray)
- 16D: Tush made of shuttle thread? (weft behind)
- 69D: Stick one's foot in Chardonnay? (toe the wine) - that's almost good
- 75D: Development of amnesia? (memory wane)
- 81D: Fabric that needs serious mending? (sick weave)
- 23A: Like some titmice (tufted) - I really really like this clue; my first reaction was "???" Then I got it, and it's perfect.
- 27A: Mark who won the Masters and British Open in 1998 (O'Meara) - a gimme for me, but my wife knows squat about golf, so she's currently downstairs trying to slay the NW corner. I have to say, that "O" was crucial for my getting NATO (1D: Group with a secy. gen.), which I blanked on many times.
- 35A: _____ d'amore (oboe) - my wife's comment, mid-solve: "[laughter] ... well, clearly I have something wrong here." She explained her "error" to me, and I told her it wasn't an error at all. Nice that this intersects with NATALE (4D: Christmas on Capri).
- 60A: Like some grasses (awned) - this one made me wince more than any other. It just ... hurts. Made me long for the days when we'll see PWNED in the puzzle - when gamers take over the universe. PWNED already seems like more a word than AWNED.
- 72A: Like Java man (erect) - I stared at this clue for So long wondering how to say it. Was it hep cat speech?: "Like Java, man. Cool. Crazy." Was "Java man" some animated spokesman for the coffee industry? No, apparently it's an anthropological term for early man. OK.
- 87D: Bond poster (bailsman) - this hurt too, though not as bad as AWNED. Seriously, AWNED is gnawing at me this morning way worse than the whole FREEH/PHIZ phiasco. (I'm now going to put Lupe Fiasco on my iTunes just to set a mood)
- 98A: Cuddly sci-fi critter (Ewok) - I hear he's a character in "Dilbert"...
- 100A: Algonquian tongue (Cree) - wanted OTOE, as I always do. I have an itchy OTOE trigger finger.
- 105A: Mover left or right (arrow key) - good, clever. Had the ARR- and was still blinking at this one for a while.
- 110A: Nocturnal insect (earwig) - gross
- 113A: Buggy drivers (Amish) - we have buggy road signs around this area (nearer to Ithaca), but I've never seen one.
- 118A: Singer Des'_____ (Ree) - Ha ha. Insane. But I knew it, and it's bold, so I like it.
- 35D: Florida county seat (Ocala) - your all-purpose Florida city. Learn it, know it, love it.
- 48D: _____ Epstein, Red Sox G.M. starting in 2002 (Theo) - sweet. See also 67A: Fall mos. (Octs.).
- 56D: Word before and after "a" (mano) - clever. Not sure why I thought that "A" had an accent grave over it. It's a Spanish term, not a French one.
- 58D: Prell competitor (Pert) - I'm sorry, the answer I was looking for was "Head & Shoulders." Better luck next time.
- 63D: Former Israeli president Weizman (Ezer) - did not know, but the crosses worked, so I let it stand.
- 67D: Viscera (offal) - got it Right Off The Bat. Love the clue and the answer. Both horribly beautiful words.
- 88D: Suffix with buck (a-roo) - wanted -EROO. Not sure what the rule is with the A/E in this particular suffix. BUCK-A-ROO, SMACKEROO...
- 90D: Bird whose name sounds like its soft call (nene) - love it. Way to dress up crosswordese in something pretty.
- 104D: Dr. J was one (Sixer) - he sure was. The face (and 'fro) of 70s basketball.
- 106D: Part of DKNY (Karan) - notice that DONNA and KARAN are both five letters.
- 109D: "The Simpsons" bus driver (Otto) - he loves to get blotto.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
Today's other puzzles:
- You must do Henry Hook's "Cross Words" puzzle (Boston Globe) and Merl Reagle's "Spaced Out People" puzzle (Philadelphia Inquirer). Go to Ephraim's "Puzzle Pointers" page (always in my sidebar) and get them. Super clever, super fun. I laughed out loud while solving HH's puzzle at least three times, and smiled the most of the rest of the way. I recommend highly bouncy music as an accompaniment to both puzzles. Worked for me. I was using Lupe Fiasco and K-OS, but you can substitute according to your own taste.
[drawings by Emily Cureton]