Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: DAILY PLANET (57A: Publication that is the key to this puzzle's theme) - three theme answers begin with last names of characters who work at the Daily Planet (in the "Superman" universe)
I stared at the puzzle for what felt like an eternity after I'd completed it, trying to figure out what the hell the theme meant. My confusion stemmed from the fact that there are two non-theme answers that are longer than two of the theme answers, so (naturally?) I thought they were theme answers. I'm used to the longest answers in the puzzle being themed. So here I was, trying to figureout what ELIZABETH I (3D: 1998 role for Cate Blanchett), LANE CHANGES, KENT STATE, WHITE LIES, and ADAM AND EVE (31D: Genesis duo) had in common. Finally KENT set off a "Superman" bell in my head, and then I saw LANE (Lois) and WHITE (Perry) and I realized that the long Downs weren't theme answers at all. Thankfully, none of this confusion had any effect on my ability to solve this puzzle quickly (and happily).
Though I read comics now (a lot - I start teaching a course on Comics in about, oh, 7 days), I did not read them growing up. I have a vague memory of my mother's buying me a "Howard the Duck" comic back in the late 70s (do you remember this, mom?), and I liked comic strips ("Garfield," "Peanuts," later "Bloom County") but I didn't start reading comics in earnest until I was a full-grown adult. Thus the "Superman" mythology has always been a little vague in my head - my ideas of it came largely from the Christopher Reeve movies. To me, the Daily Planet was a restaurant in the Tower District of Fresno, CA, where I grew up. I had no idea (I'm not kidding) that it was an allusion to a fictional paper. It was only recently, in fact, that I learned that Perry WHITE was the editor of the Daily Planet. I'd never paid attention to his name. I'm much more partial to Batman these days, for a host of reasons I won't get into. But I will admit that there was a time when my wife and I devoured the first four seasons or so of "Smallville." It's a time of our lives that we're ... not proud of.
- 21A: They require signals (lane changes)
- 28A: Ohio university whose team is the Golden Flashes (Kent State) - took me Far too long to get this - I blame KARNAK. I also blame this clue's lack of a reference to a Neil Young song.
- 47A: Fibs (white lies)
This puzzle was super duper easy, with only KARNAK (6D: Egyptian temple site) presenting any kind of obstacle to a quick solving experience. EUBIE (2D: Blake of jazz) was probably a bit challenging for some solvers, but I had the EU- before I ever saw the clue, and while I couldn't pick EUBIE Blake out of a line-up, his name came to me instantly. I'm listening to Mozart right now, but I should probably switch to Beethoven in honor of the two clues he gets today: 25A: Number of operas composed by Beethoven (one - "Fidelio") and 29D: Beethoven dedicatee (Elise). There - I just switched. As some astute reader remarked a few days ago, there are exceptions to the "90+% of everything is crap" rule which I (via Theodore Sturgeon, I think) set forth a few days ago. One of those exceptions is Beethoven.
- 34A: Fancy flapjacks (crepes) - hmmm. Seems a stretch, as technically a "flapjack" is
1. Biscuit made from fat, sugar, rolled oats and syrup.
2. A thick pancake.
And a CREPE is neither of those.
- 37A: Comstock _____ (Lode) - as part of our ongoing series, "#$#% Rex Should Have Known But Didn't," allow me to present "Comstock LODE." Had the "O" and my only thought was: SOUP.
- 40A: Slacks material (chino) - "slacks" is one of the ugliest words in the English language, and one of my very least favorite words. The very word reeks of chafing polyester. I'm sure there are very nice "slacks" in the world, but I don't think I can even type the word one more time without making myself sick.
- 44A: P P P, in Greek (rhos) - this is called "I Give Up"-style cluing.
- 51A: Beehive State native (Ute) - So proud of myself for knowing what state this referred to. So angry at myself for doing an eyeskip and attributing this clue to 52A, where I had a terminal "A": "What's a native of Utah that's three letters ending in 'A'?," I exclaimed to myself, in my head. Answer: nothing.
- 63A: Tunesmith's org. (ASCAP) - "Tunesmith" is up there with "slangily" in terms of "words you will rarely if ever see except in crossword clues."
- 36D: Haul, slangily (schlep) - Had SCHLEP in another puzzle yesterday. It's got that nice opening four-consonant combo. It's an ugly-sounding word, but still doesn't bother me half as much as "slacks."
- 33D: Israel's Abba (Eban) - File it away if you didn't know it. EBAN is one of my many crossword friends.
- 42D: Rap's Dr. _____ (Dre) - "Bow wow wow yippy yo yippy yay" - DRE is probably the most common rap name in the puzzle world right now (though ICE-T has legitimate grid cred as well).
- 56D: Doers of drudgery (peons) - Add "doers" to the list of nauseating words. We have a section in our local paper called something like "Doers in the Tier" - nope, here it is: "Doer's Profile." The word looks part German, part profane ... as if it refers to someone who wants to do something unspeakable to female deer. If I ever write a book cataloging my worst nightmares, it will be called "Doers in Slacks."
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld