Saturday, February 23, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: "Winners Circles," or THE OSCAR (1A: Theme of this puzzle) - 8 theme answers are Oscar winners that have the names of other Oscar winners embedded inside them (in the circled squares)
I would say that this puzzle provided a welcome relief from the brutalization I had to endure on Friday and Saturday, except I actually completed Friday's and Saturday's puzzles with no errors. The same cannot be said for today's. I @#$#d this one up. A single letter, where mysterious fish meets character played by Hot British actress. A vowel (of course - it's always an innocuous-seeming vowel).
- 33A: Fish in fish and chips (plaice)
- 13D: Detective superintendent Jane of TV's "Prime Suspect" (Tennison)
His LORDSHIP (84D: Term of respect abroad) Alfred Lord Tennyson wants to know what the bloody hell you've done to his name, Jane!? As for PLAICE - I wanted COD (98A: Mail order option, for short). And wasn't there a mystery fish in yesterday's puzzle. Yes! TAI, which was a kind of "bream," which is a bottom-feeding river fish of which I'd never heard. If only I were an ichthyologist. (True story: at summer camp in 1983 I had a counselor named ... well, I don't know what his actual name was, but everyone called him "Icky" because he was majoring in Ichthyology ... which sounds made-up. Can you major in that?).
The theme is quite elegantly expressed, and all the Oscar winners are very well known, especially the non-embedded answers (you know, the long ones, the full ones ... sometimes the themes make it hard to get my language precise). None of the theme answers caused any problems and I was even able to get a few of them with no help from crosses.
- 23A: Film (1954), actress (2003) ("ON THE WATERFRONT")
- 37A: Director (2003), actor (1962) (PETER JACKSON)
- 61A: Film (1992), actor (1958) ("UNFORGIVEN")
- 71A: Actor (1934), actor (1995) (CLARK GABLE)
- 94A: Actress (1986), director (1962) (MARLEE MATLIN)
- 112A: Actress (1983), supporting actor (1999) (SHIRLEY MACLAINE)
- 17D: Film (1993), actress (1987) ("SCHINDLER'S LIST)
- 46D: Song (1942), supporting actress (1994) ("WHITE CHRISTMAS")
Lots of sounds in the puzzle today, with OOF (10D: Response to "pow!" in cartoons), OOHS (4D: Reactions to fireworks), and the weird-feeling AWS (27A: Comments around cute babies) all right near each other up there in the NNW. I briefly wondered why people would be saying "OW" around a cute baby. A cute baby crocodile, maybe. Here's something I just noticed and don't like: ENC (48A: Abbr. at the bottom of a letter) and ENCRE (22A: French pen filler) in the same puzzle. Perhaps I should like this. You could write "ENC" at the bottom of your letter in ENCRE, though if you were using ENCRE, then you'd be in a French-speaking setting and they likely have a different abbreviation for "ENC." At any rate ... wife was not happy at having "language I don't know (ENCRE) over language I don't know (NIHIL - 25A: Nothing, to Nero)". Those are the two languages I actually do know reasonably well, so I did not share her pain. As repetitions go, I guess ENC and ENCRE are not as bad as OYL (78A: Olive _____) and OIL (91A: Venezuelan export).
Here are some things I didn't know:
- 15A: Is afflicted with sigmatism (lisps) - like many of you (probably), I read this as "stigmatism" and wanted something to do with eyes.
- 35A: Isabel Allende's "_____ of My Soul" ("Inés") - Pretty. Also, my grandmother's name (Inez).
- 53A: Granny, in Gelsenkirchen (oma) - ...? My ignorance of all things German continues to plague me.
- 89A: Lead role in "La Cage aux Folles" (Renato)
- 5D: N.F.L. guard Chris (Snee) - I imagine that his teammate and rival guard is named SNICK and the coach has to decide which one to play.
- 68A: "The Age of Anxiety" author (Auden) - see, I know this, and yet when I see this title all I can think is "Self-Help Book."
- 70A: Philosopher Kung Fu-_____ (Tse) - needed all the crosses for this one.
- 111A: Soil improver (humus) - I like it with pita bread or on a nice falafel.
- 44D: Basutoland, today (Lesotho) - gettable from crosses, but Basutoland was unheard of by me before today.
- 47D: Capital known as the Venice of the East (Bangkok) - are there canals there? Is that it? Yes, it appears so:
- 86D: "... as old as yonder _____": James Joyce ("elm") - is this quotation famous? My ignorance of Joyce goes nicely with me semi-ignorance of Auden, above.
- 109D: Girl in Tennessee Williams's "Summer and Smoke" (Alma) - A literary ignorance trifecta. Beautiful. Ironic and beautiful.
Good stuff / bad stuff (mostly good):
- 20A: Emphatic refusal ("No no no no") - whaddya think? Good or bad? (A: so bad it's good)
- 55A: China's largest ethnic group (Han) - this is only good because I knew it. Nice to have friends who are Chinese scholars.
- 57A: Nineveh's kingdom (Assyria) - JONAH (see Friday's puzzle) got sent here. He did not want to go.
- 64A: Follower of weekend news, briefly (SNL) - they are currently looking for someone who can do a convincing Barack Obama imitation. It's either that, or poor Kenan Thompson's gonna have to lose 60 pounds.
- 113D: 109-Across's old radio partner (Lum) - ABNER & LUM - I know them Only from crosswords.
- 104A: Kwik-E-Mart owner on "The Simpsons" (Apu) - they need better ways to clue him. How about [Father of octuplets on "The Simpsons"]?
- 33D: Villa in Mexico (Pancho) - this one had me tricked for a while, as I looked for a Spanish word for ... well, VILLA.
- 50D: Informal eating place (dinette) - reminds me of game show prizes circa 1978.
- 71D: Reunion gatherers (clan) - no final "s" for the plural. Tricky. Mildly.
- 121A: Forensic experts (debaters) - again, tricky. I wanted ... I don't know, whatever that guy on "C.S.I." does. Or that chick on "Bones." Remember "Bones?" Of course you don't.
- 98D: Tibetan or Afghan (canine) - get it? They're dogs. Not Asians. Nice. Back-to-back days for "Afghan" in the clues. Good for it.
A final shout-out to the crossword stalwarts Milo O'SHEA (82A: Milo of "Ulysses"), the oddly-clued EWER (24D: Household item with a neck), and the always lovely NENE (29D: One flying over Hawaii)
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld