Thursday, February 14, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "Hearts" - a "Heart" rebus puzzle, where the word (or picture of a) "heart" is inserted into various squares throughout the puzzle.
Happy Valentine's Day. I would be lying if I said that this puzzle was anything other than disappointing. First, we have had a "heart" rebus before, and not too long ago. But that's OK. There are always new and exciting ways to execute themes that have been tried before (see yesterday's "SOUP to NUTS" for a good example). The bigger problem here was that the execution was kind of weak. The puzzle just felt sloppy, especially given that it's a. a holiday puzzle, and b. constructed by a reliable pro. My two main complaints:
1. Symme ... try? Now, I realize that 180-degree rotational symmetry was abandoned to make the "heart"s form a kind of heart shape, and I would applaud such creative daring ... if this wasn't Precisely The Same Conceit As Last Year's (much more elaborate) Valentine's Day Puzzle.
2. The word "heart" means "heart" in almost every theme answer today. Almost. The vast majority are compound words featuring "heart." But then there's the legal but horribly jarring buried non-"heart"-sounding "heart" in NOW [heart] HIS. [Heart] HS is also pretty horrible, but at least the vowel sound in that case is consistent with the "heart" in the other theme answers. NOW HEART HIS! NOW HEART HIS! Again, a totally legitimate move - burying a word like that. But in this puzzle, where only one other theme answer gets anything like that kind of treatment... it felt inelegant and jarring.
- 22A: Brave one (lion HEART)
- 4D: Gave up (lost HEART)
- 9D: Symbol of generosity (open HEART)
- 25A: Palm reader's reading (HEART line)
- 37A: Intinsically (at HEART)
- 39D: Alabama nickname (HEART of Dixie)
- 40A: "Listen up!" ("Now HEART his!") - ... [cough]
- 24D: Depresses (disHEARTens)
- 11D: Michael Redgrave war movie, with "The" ("Captive HEART")
- 42A: Ending with soft or light (HEARTed)
- 55A: Was sympathetic (had a HEART)
- 56D: Middle of the country (HEART land)
- 58A: Exam measurement unit (HEART beat)
- 58D: Genuine (HEART felt)
- 65A: Jilter (HEART breaker)
- 65D: Family gathering places (HEARThs)
One last gripe before I get to the Miscellaneous part of my write-up: REDEAR!?!?!?!?! (6D: Inflammatory ailment) What the @#$# is REDEAR? I've never heard of this "ailment" in my life. Is it like an ear infection? Hang on ... OK, here's the definition I got off of some medical site:
Red ear syndrome: An unusual type of head pain in which the ear becomes red and burning. Attacks may be brought on by triggers such as touching the ear, heat, chewing, drinking, coughing, sneezing, and neck movement. May be associated with migraine, irritation of the third cervical root, temporomandibular joint dysfunction, or thalamic syndrome. It may also occur without obvious structural cause.
I still say "???" Did anyone not start with the Far More Common (and in-the-language) RED EYE? I wanted several times to change EYE to EAR, but a. there's no such thing as RED EAR (or so I reasoned), and b. that would make the answer to 23A: Running around be ADO, and that's just silly (so much for my reasoning).
- 1A: Words ending many riddles (am I) - interesting way to clue this. Nice not to have to go to French all the time for this letter string.
- 8A: Montmartre : Paris :: Arbat : _____ (Moscow) - no idea. Total guess off the "M"
- 17A: On a lounge chair, maybe (poolside) - again, interesting. The "E" here is where the other "HEART" would have been had the puzzle theme had perfect 180-degree rotational symmetry.
- 20A: O'Toole of "Cat People" (Annette) - oddly, the first thing I put in the grid. I say "oddly" because I've never seen the movie, and know only two O'Tooles, so I went to this answer figuring one of them would have to be right. Not Peter, so ANNETTE. This helped me get the cleverly clued 5D: Life lines? (obit) very quickly (I got Killed by an OBIT clue at last year's tournament)
- 29A: "The Canterbury Tales" pilgrim (Friar) - had the "E" from incorrect REDEYE where the first "R" was supposed to go here, so even though I wrote a chapter of my dissertation on the "FRIAR's Tale," it took me a while to get this answer.
- 36A: Australian ranch pest (emu) - there's a fact I didn't know about EMUs.
- 43A: Great Leap Forward figure (Mao) - his countryman General TSO (35D: General on a menus) sits across the grid.
- 45A: There are eight of these before "Baby" in Elvis's "A Big Hunk o' Love" (nos) - coincidentally, NOS was in the syndicated puzzle yesterday (Jan. 2), only it was spelled (to many people's consternation) "NOES." Apparently there are no rules on how to pluralize "NO."
- 46D: Native-born Israeli (Sabra) - unknown to me. Maybe I've heard of this before, but if so, I'd forgotten. Almost made me doubt the "S" in "NOS."
- 49A: Bub (sonny) - I don't consider these equivalent At All.
- 2D: Cult figure (Moonie) - I thought the Reverend MOON was the "cult figure" and a MOONIE was his follower. Maybe the term "figure" is being used very, very loosely here. Maybe MOON is an appropriate figure for a Valentine's Day puzzle - he is famous for the mass pseudo-weddings called "Blessing Ceremonies," including one at Madison Square Garden in 1982 that involved 2075 couples.
- 10D: Fresh as a daisy, e.g. (simile) - clever. Very good.
- 13D: _____ Accords, 1998 Israeli-Palestinian agreement (Wye) - I think I've heard this phrase, "WYE Accords," on TV, but I've surely never seen it spelled.
- 18D: Three-time U.S. Open champ (Lendl) - the player I loved to hate growing up.
- 37D: Asian domestic (amah) - Old Skool crosswordese, just like her pal ERLE (62D: _____ Stanley Gardner).
- 60D: Tolkien race (Ents) - when you see this clue, the answer is either ENTS or ORCS.
Good day to you.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
Today's other puzzles:
- LAT (C) 7:09 - Linda Tay Stevens: another Valentine's Day theme. Clever, though the theme answers are kind of a stretch and the theme-indicating clue is astonishingly dry and non-specific.