Thursday, January 3, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: Famous folks who CARRY UMBRELLAS (56A: What 16- and 37-Across and 11- and 24-Down were all known to do)
A breath of fresh air. A truly original and entertaining production by a legendary constructor who rarely disappoints. As is typical when solving a Henry Hook puzzle, I began by scanning the clues and thinking "???" and then I settled in and chipped away at it, and steadily it took shape, with many moments of "aha"-inspiring revelation. The cluing on this puzzle is pitch-perfect. Somewhat rough, but in a clever, not sadistic way. There were only a small few answers that made me wince, and those were more than made up for by elegant, and frequently interrelated, fill.
- 16A: Ad icon since 1914 (Morton Salt girl)
- 11D: Caretaker for the Banks household (Mary Poppins) - I'm not ashamed to admit that "Banks family" had me struggling to remember the butler's name from "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." OK, I'm a little ashamed. The butler's name was Geoffrey. Geoffrey Butler. It's true.
- 37A: Oswald Cobblepot's nom de crime (Penguin) - I love this for so many reasons, only one of which is its Batman-tasticness. The French phrase makes for a wonderfully absurd combination with the already absurd name "Oswald Cobblepot." My first pass at this clue had me scanning quickly and thinking the answer had to do with some alias of Lee Harvey Oswald.
- 24D: Churchill predecessor (Chamberlain)
- 13A: Pleasure seeker (roué)
- 47D: Grimace (moue)
Now I know these are pronounced differently, but their similarity, quaintness, Frenchness, and insane final triple-vowelness make them an interrelated pair in my head. They are two of my favorite crossword words, and they go great together.
- 25A: Crow's nest? (teepee)
- 28A: Rebel yell (wahoo!)
First, the cluing on TEEPEE is great. Crow = native American tribe. Second, WAHOO is the name of the Cleveland Indians', er, mascot. So the fact that these follow one on the heels of the other makes them a thematically interrelated pair to me, even if the WAHOO part is less than, let's say, respectful. I had WHOOP! for [Rebel yell] at first. And now I have Billy Idol in my head. Plus, the PEE in TEEPEE intersects WEE (21D: Itty-bitty), to give you an intersecting PEE WEE. Bonus wordplay.
- 37D: Untarnished (pure) - and what's the MORTON SALT slogan? "When it rains it pours" - damn, I was getting it confused with the Ivory Soap slogan: "99 44/100% PURE." Nevermind.
- 1D: Half a huge cost? (arm)
- 42D: Half a huge cost? (leg)
More thoughtful harmonizing of puzzle elements. I remember a rebus that had ARMs and LEGs in it not too long ago. Brilliant.
Some other stuff:
- 19A: Acupressure technique (shiatsu) - always looks good in the grid
- 20A: Tree sacred to the Druids (yew) - not sure I knew that. Druids always make me think of "Spinal Tap."
- 22A: Regular at Kelsey's Bar, on TV (Archie) - Bunker. I'd forgotten the name of the bar
- 43A: Backsplash component (tile) - "Backsplash" is the tiled part of the wall above a counter in a kitchen. An interesting way to clue ho-hum TILE.
- 48A: Recipient of a 1937 wooden Oscar (Bergen) - Snerd's handler
- 51A: _____ Paradise, protagonist of "On the Road" (Sal) - Actually didn't know this. I have studiously avoided all things Beat for my whole life. Not sure why.
- 63A: Roast setting (dais) - had SPIT, then thought "No - LUAU"
- 67A: First batter to hit a home run against every major League Baseball team (Sosa) - gimme. This guy is probably the most important player in the last 25 years, crossword wise. AROD is going to give him a run for his money, though. I'm leaving out the ALOUS, because no single one of them has the power of a SOSA or AROD (though as a family, they are indestructible)
- 17D: Allegheny + Monongahela (Ohio) - don't see the "+" sign in clues very often. NICE (14A: Respectable)
- 29D: Bottled spirit (jinni) - gave me a little trouble. Is this not a "Var." of GENIE?
- 30D: Element whose name roughly means "lazy" (argon) - from Wikipedia: "Greek αργόν meaning "the lazy one," in reference to its chemical inactivity"
- 44D: Literary monogram (GBS) - Shaw! Anything that's not TSE or RLS is welcome. I think Shaw's monogram typically comes in fourth behind Eliot, Stevenson, and Poe.
- 55D: Everglades denizen (ibis) - "Denizen!" The fact that this answer was not CROC pleases me.
- 59D: Seven-faced doctor of film (Lao) - stumped me. Thank god for crosses.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
Today's other puzzles:
NYS 8:58 (C) - RECOMMENDED: Alan Arbesfeld, "Strange Signs from Above"
LAT 6:10 (C) - ["TV Spouses"]
CS 3:56 (C) - "Seeing Stars"
Jonesin' 9:07 (P) - "For the Bards"
Universal 5:36 (P) - "Contradictions"