Monday, February 11, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "Job Opening" (59A: Want ad heading ... or a hint to the starts of 17-, 25-, 38- and 49-Across) - first word of all theme answers can be followed in a familiar phrase by the word "JOB"
BLOW THE MAN DOWN
HAND IN GLOVE
Whew. OK, I just had to get those potential theme answers out of my system. Now, on with the commentary. Since I cannot for the life of me get the NYT applet to work this morning - thereby allowing me to fill in and then print a fresh, crisp, completed grid - you all are going to have to settle this morning for ... a HAND job. [Hey, don't blame me; blame the puzzle]
I don't remember much about this puzzle. Did it quickly last night. Here's what I remember: it took me about an average amount of time to do, and I liked some of the non-theme fill, particularly certain symmetrical and otherwise paired answers. Oh, and there's some pretty "hoity-toity" (that's me quoting myself from last night) fill in the east. All in all, a fine Monday puzzle.
- 17A: Snoop (NOSE around)
- 25A: Felix and Oscar (ODD couple)
- 38A: Carouse (PAINT the town red) - my favorite theme answer
- 49A: Symbol of purity (SNOW White) - don't like the clue ("symbol?"), but maybe the clue is exaggerating the purity issue to draw a sharp contrast with SNOW'S rhyming counterpart, BLOW (interestingly, both SNOW and BLOW are slang words for cocaine).
I tripped on my shoelaces right away with this one. Never seen a black border around an OBIT (1A: Black-bordered news item), but guessed OBIT anyway, but then 1D: To have and to hold (own) had to be WED, right? So I second-guessed OBIT. Absolutely hate the 1D clue. It's out of the damned wedding vows, and I don't OWN my wife. Second, I OWN many things that I don't "hold." As misdirection goes, this clue is crappy. But it's not as if all this held me up much. It's Monday, after all. North was a little easier, and I ended up getting HECHE (5A: Anne of "Wag the Dog") and ECLAT (15A: Fanfare) without ever seeing the clues. Pulled a similar no-look move at the tail-end of CANOED (27D: Went by dugout). Was missing a letter or two at the end, took one look at the word, and decided it was CANOED. The middle of the puzzle was probably the thorniest for me, as ZITHER (43A: Boxed stringed instrument) took a couple passes to get (despite the fact that one of my star students plays the ZITHER professionally), and I never know how I'm supposed to spell MATZOH (29D: Passover bread). Today, I opted for MATZAH. [failure buzzer sound]
Thought the stacked pair of DICTUM (47A: Judicial assertion) over TROPE (54A: Figure of speech) was pretty high-end for a Monday. Not illegal, just ... fancy. There were several other pairs I liked. Note the symmetry for TEE (42A: Golf peg) and OFF (35A: Down, usually, on a light switch), which together form a phrase that means "to make IRATE" (65A: More than steamed). Very, very nice. Adding to all this symmetrical anger are the (again) symmetrical pair of MAD AT (23D: Furious with) and FED UP (37D: At the end of one's patience). So, a testy puzzle, but an elegant one. One last pair worth mentioning: NUDIE (50D: Peep show flick) and O-RING (51D: Circular gasket) - now, I know these don't really go together, but man, the proximity of NUDIE somehow makes O-RING sound a whole lot dirtier than it is. Oh, then, to counteract the porniness of NUDIE / O-RING, in the opposite corner of the puzzle, we have the wholesome pairing of 12D: "_____ Love," 1957 #1 hit by 13-Down ("April") and 13D: Singer Pat (Boone).
- 56A: Mutual of _____ (Omaha) - Nebraska, where Obama Krushed Clinton this past weekend, winning 68% of the vote. Unfortunately for Obama, only about 12 people actually live in Nebraska, and Texas and Ohio still loom heavily on the horizon.
- 20A: Steak that a dog might end up with (T-bone) - I don't eat meat, so maybe someone can tell me why I'd give the T-bone to my dog? What am I, a Rockefeller? Or are T-bones dirt cheap?
- 32A: 1980s video game with a maze (Pac Man) - icon of my adolescence.
- 67A: Brain readings, for short (EEGs) - "Electroencephalogram" - measures electrical activity of the brain; EKGs (or ECGs - Electrocardiograms) measure the electrical activity of the heart. I have, sadly, been known to confuse them in puzzles.
- 69A: Safecracker (yegg) - as I've said before, one of my very favorite words.
- 4D: Men's fashion accessory (tie tac) - I've never understood why the "K" got dropped on "TAC." Wife got completely stumped by this answer. Well, not completely - she worked it out. She had it right, just didn't understand it (also didn't understand CANOED, though - she asked me what it meant, saying the word with stress on the first syllable and a long "O" sound).
- 11D: CliffsNotes version (recap) - this is bad, if not utterly wrong. CliffsNotes summarize. As novels (and other works of literature) do not happen in real time, they cannot be RECAPped. You would RECAP a sports event or the news, things that occur over discrete periods of time. A novel is always there. Always present. You summarize; you do not "RECAP." I understand that RECAP is simply short for "RECAPitulate," and an argument can be made that a summary is in essence the same thing as a RECAPitulation. I'm saying that the way RECAP is used colloquially in this country makes it a completely inapt (inapt!) description for a summary of a literary work.
- 24D: Pitcher of milk? (Elsie) - wife tried to get EWER to work somehow...
- 26D: John Donne's "_____ Be Not Proud" ("Death") - I teach it every semester.
- 39D: Take-home pay (net wages) - something about this phrase feels off. I had NET and wanted only PAY to follow. But PAY is in the clue. And wouldn't fit.
- 63D: Respond to a really bad joke, maybe (gag) - OK, look, puzzle, if you want me to refrain from making "BLOW job" jokes in reference to today's theme, you cannot give me GAG as the final answer. I'm only human.
Breakfast test = Failure. My apologies.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld