Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: Rhymes with "SWAYZE" (or, "Theme? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Theme")
Before I begin today's write-up, two things. Well, three. First, I'm reminding you to register for the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. I'll probably do this several more times between now and late February. There is a link in my sidebar (see all the red lettering over there?) that will take you (eventually) to the necessary forms. Second, for those of you who have been missing Emily's drawings lately, those too are available through a link in my sidebar (under "Crossword Sites"). She has given me permission to reprint any drawings I like, and I will undoubtedly do this from time to time, but if you like her stuff, just make a point of going to her site every day after you read my write-up (or before, I suppose). Third, I must thank a certain reader in San Diego who - I found out only yesterday - sent me the kindest, most thoughtful Christmas gift as a token of his appreciation for this site. That gift: a gift card to IHOP! So sweet. Honestly, it was quite touching. I got it only yesterday because it was sent to my office, which I've steered clear of for nearly a month now (our winter break is Long). Anyway, San Diego reader, your thank-you card is already in the mail, but I wanted to acknowledge your generosity as soon as possible, in case you somehow imagined that I was enjoying pancakes at your expense without so much as a thank-you. Now on to the puzzle...
I loved this puzzle. It was a bit too easy, and the non-theme fill was not as inspired as Hook puzzles often are, but something about the brazen looseness of the theme makes me very happy. Is there something connecting these long answers beyond the fact that they could be used to make a limerick? "There once was an actor named SWAYZE," etc. I especially like the final theme answer, as it has an "everything-but-the-kitchen-sink" feel, like "how many damn '-AZY' words do you think I can fit in here...?" Overall, the puzzle was light, fun, playful, and entertaining, even if it took far too little time to do.
- 20A: "She's Like the Wind" singer, 1988 (Patrick Swayze) - I feel as if Mr. Hook is taunting me, trying to get a most horrible late-80s pop song stuck in my my head. Thankfully, the only part of this song I remember is "She's like the wind...," which I think is the first line of the song and possibly the last line of the chorus. I beg you all not to fill me in here. PATRICK SWAYZE is (far) better known as the co-star of the movie "Dirty Dancing" (1987).
- 36A: Aster (Michaelmas daisy) - I had no idea that this was another name for "aster." What I love most about this clue is that it takes an exceedingly common bit of fill ("aster") and uses it as a clue for a very unusual, even gaudy answer.
- 55A: Like some days of summer, in song ("lazy, hazy, crazy") - I don't think I know this song, but I inferred the answer easily enough.
Let's take a little tour of the puzzle:
- 9A: Some Spanish Surrealist paintings (Mirós) - I don't think of him as a surrealist, but I guess I'm wrong. He was included in a surrealist exhibition I saw in Edinburgh a few years ago. I guess you were supposed to enter DALIS here and be frustrated at your presumption, but I already had the "M" before I saw the clue, so that didn't happen.
- 24A: C's in shop class? (clamps) - I learned what a "C-clamp" is ... from crosswords. It's true. It's one of the handier tools for crossword constructors, for whatever reason. Good way to refer to the letter "CEE" ... gets you an odd opening "CC" if you want it ...
- 43A: Part of the Dept. of Homeland Security since 2003 (FEMA) - their very name reeks of incompetence now.
- 35A: Soul singer Corinne Bailey ____ (Rae) - welcome to the RAE family, Corinne. Say hello to Charlotte RAE, explorer John RAE, and "Quest for Fire" star RAE Dawn Chong.
- 49A: Hadrian's predecessor (Trajan) - I like that his name looks like a typo.
- 51A: Musical based on a T. H. White novel ("Camelot") - really wanted "SPAM-A-LOT."
- 58A: She said "Don't get mad, get everything!" (Ivana) - as in "Trump," as in ugh.
- 62A: To say in Spanish? (decir) - weird clue. It's literal (but for missing quot. marks around 'to say') and yet it's got a question mark. Usually "?" clues are misdirective somehow. Can't see that here.
- 63A: La Cittá Eterna (Roma) - Not sure if I've heard this phrase before, but it makes sense.
- 1D: Michael of R.E.M. (Stipe) - had a reader wonder aloud yesterday when she'd get the R.E.M. clue she's been longing for (after the barrage of recent rap references). And here it is. STIPE is not new to the puzzle, though his band's name is far more common.
- 3D: Travis who sang "T-R-O-U-B-L-E" (Tritt) - I love STIPE and TRITT up here together in the "Seattle" portion of the puzzle. They should sing a duet. No one would see that coming.
- 7D: Willa Cather's "One of _____" ("Ours") - don't know it, but had the O--S before I ever read the clue, so it was an easy guess. I think one of the things that separates good from very good and very good from great solvers is their guessing instincts. The more puzzles you do, the better they get.
- 9D: Its motto is "Manly deeds, womanly words" (Maryland) - what a bunch of Marys. . . I love this motto, and I especially love that the state keeps it despite its being all kinds of embarrassing.
- 10D: Resort island near Majorca (Ibiza) - one of the Balearic Islands, along with Mallorca and Menorca. IBIZA is a very popular European tourist destination.
- 11D: Longtime "Hollywood Squares" regular (Rose Marie) - she was also a "Dick Van Dyke Show" regular.
- 25D: Cellular biology material (plasm) - this word is creeping me out this morning. I really want to put an "A" on the end of it.
- 33D: Winter carnival structure (ice palace) - is this a thing? I mean ... are PALACEs in particular a common ice sculpture subject, or could his have been ICE anything? ICE CASTLE comes to mind. ICE TEPEE? ICE ... well, you get the picture.
- 38D: Sister magazine of Jet (Ebony) - They are sisters and synonyms. This only just occurred to me, as, growing up, I imagined that JET had some kind of aeronautic or space-age frame of reference. Not until I read the Donne line "cloistered in these living walls of jet" (from "The Flea") did I know that JET meant "black." Now I've known that for a while, but somehow never applied that knowledge to the magazine title. And now I have. Fascinating.
- 50D: Title girl with a gun in a 1989 Aerosmith hit (Janie) - must you keep bringing me back to the late 80's, Mr. Hook. Thankfully, this time (unlike with the SWAYZE clue, above), the referenced song is Much more pleasant to remember, despite its highly disturbing lyrical content.
- 53D: A high flier may fly in it (ozone) - that's pretty damned high. What flies in the OZONE? I thought planes flew well beneath it, while most spacecraft flew through it. For future reference, you might like to know that O-ZONE is also the name of a Moldovian (?!) pop trio. I learned on a recent "Daily Show" that Moldova is, according to scientific studies, the Least Happy Place on Earth.
- 54D: English drama critic Kenneth (Tynan) - the only answer today that I flat-out didn't know.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS Emily has an artist friend / colleague who does her own version of NYT puzzle-related art every day. See it here.
Today's other puzzles:
- NYS untimed (C) - "And the Nominees Are ..." by "Roger DePont" - RECOMMENDED: a fun, super-current puzzle, which, you will see, was clearly written in something under a day.
- CS untimed (P) - "Lingo" by Patrick Jordan
- LAT untimed (P) - Venzke and Daily - RECOMMENDED: four colorful 15-letter theme answers, with a thematically-related "K"-laden throw-in to boot. Nice.