Wednesday, February 6, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "F is H" (70A: Angle (and a three-word hint to this puzzle's theme)) - four long theme answers are familiar phrases which have had their initial "F"s changed to "H"s. Resulting hilarious phrases are then clued.
Listening to Stevie Wonder this morning. Feeling remarkably good.
This puzzle gave me more trouble than any Wednesday puzzle in recent memory, but I'm not sure the puzzle was truly more difficult than normal. What happened was ... I fell in a horribly sticky trap, and it took me a weirdly long amount of time to crawl out. Oh, then there's the fact that I could not parse "F is H" to save my life. Here I am preaching "parsing parsing parsing" every day of my life, and I can't figure out how a four-letter answer can be a three-word answer. Grrr. Yoga does great things for your body and mind, but I am not convinced that one of its benefits is greater speed-solving skills - at least not in the hours immediately following a 90-minute practice.
My trap, my personal quicksand was ... well, let's start with happier times. Like many of you (and my wife) I began by wanting DUCK at 1A: Tub toy. Checked the Downs and DUCK did not work. The ultra-common AS IF (3D: "You wish!") came to me quickly, giving me the "A" I needed to get BOAT for 1A, and the NW went down quickly from there. MPH (5D: Speedometer's meas.) gave me the first letters I needed in the North, and the first part of the first theme answer: HOLLOW... Then (ugh) THEN I took on the NE, starting, of course, with 10A: Toaster waffle (Eggo). Easy as pie. Now the Downs - 10D: Cloud-nine state ... I was looking at E--T--- and instantly, without a pang of doubt, wrote in ELATION. This little paper jam proved very hard to clear. Couldn't get anything in the NE to work except OPTS (13D: Withdraws, with "out"). I knew that 11D: Quark-binding particle (gluon) was probably some kind of -ON (see also PION, MESON, etc.), so I wrote that part in, and so was faced with --EINS for 26A: Vast amounts. I wrote in - very tentatively, wincingly even - SKEINS. I think those are units of yarn, but the word seemed distantly related to SCADS, so I put it in. THEN, I looked at the "K"-word, 27D: .45 or .22, took a second to decide if KALIBER was an acceptable spelling, decided no, and then backtracked over All My Mistakes - SKEINS = OCEANS, ELATION = ECSTASY - and eventually patched up a very ugly, ragged, scribbly NE. Harummphh. Self-authored disaster. My least-favorite kind of disaster.
- 18A: Exec with no ideas? (hollow suit) - my initial reaction: "WTF?" - My ear was completely tin last night.
- 28A: Headhunter posses? (hiring squads)
- 48A: First rule of lion taming? (heed the kitty) - when my cat's tail is swishing madly, yeah, you better HEED THE KITTY ... or lose a limb.
- 61A: "Rapunzel" and others? (hairy tales) - this answer grosses me out for some reason.
As my wife can tell you, I said "@#$# you" out loud, at the puzzle, several times last night. Meanwhile, she plodded through it very efficiently, without the histrionic falderal of her husband. She's getting faster and faster. It's alarming. I mean, great! Good job, HON (38A: Sweetie)! Where did I curse the puzzle? Well, there was the ELATION / ECSTASY snafu (above). Then there was GLUON, which is a perfectly fine answer - it's just that the -ON family are vermin, and they appear to be breeding at an alarming rate. How many more of them can I expect to see in the future? Perhaps my most vociferous curse came when finally figured out what the hell FIS meant at 45A: Hi-_____. I had confidently put RES in this place - a common crossword answer (HI-RES = "high-resolution" monitor). But then SIDEWALK (40D: Hopscotch site) took out my "E," leaving me -IS. HI-DIS? HI-...SIS!? When I got the "F" from 25D: "Whoops!" ("I goofed") - a nice answers, by the way - I looked at FIS and kept saying "HI-FIS" aloud, only I said it with a short "I" sound in "FIS" (rhymes with "kiss"). The result was nonsense. Then I made the "I" long. HI-FI. High Fidelity. Stereo systems. [sound of me uttering profanity].
Assorted goodness / badness:
- 15A: Detective Vance (Philo) - I have several S.S. Van Dine paperbacks. His mysteries feature detective PHILO Vance, but my brain could come up only with MILO. For an assessment of Van Dine that rivals Twain's assessment of Fenimore Cooper, see Raymond Chandler's "Simple Art of Murder," where Chandler refers to Vance as "the most asinine character in detective fiction."
- 22A: Like Beethoven's Symphony No. 8 (In F) - as is usual with these type of clues, I put in IN- and waited for the cross.
- 32A: Blue blood, for short (aristo) - I may have used profanity here as well. Wife and I agree that this answer sucks.
- 33A: It begins with "http" (URL) - yes, look up. See it. That address in your web browser. AH SO... (14A: Facetious "I see"). Speaking of AH SO, what's with all the facetiousness today. I mean, AS IF! I BET! (35D: "Oh, sure!") HA HA (28D: "Very funny!"). This is a lot of snark to take from one puzzle.
- 54A: Mrs. Huxtable of 1980s-'90s TV (Clair) - spelled it CLARE to begin with. I watched this show regularly in the mid-80s, so this was a gimme. Oh, "this show" is "The Cosby Show," which almost single-handedly brought the moribund sitcom genre back to life and turned NBC Thursdays into the juggernaut that it was for nearly 20 years. "Family Ties" and "Cheers" preceded "The Cosby Show," but Cosby provided the foundation that made those other two shows (particularly "Cheers") into the long-running break-out hits they eventually became.
- 57A: Five Pillars faith (Islam) - not sure if I've seen this clue before. I like it.
- 65A: Gaelic tongue (Erse) - your old-skool crosswordese of the day.
- 4D: Hotdogger's dare ("Top this!") - I, of course, had "TOP THAT!" Grrr.
- 8D: One's hand and knees (all fours) - I think I literally looked at my hands and knees. I at least wiggled them. Took me Way too long to grasp this. That missing initial preposition ("on") in the clue phrase makes a huge difference.
- 29D: Camaro _____-Z (IROC) - in a parallel universe, we are at war in this nation. In another such universe, this is the autobiography of a mythical bird.
- 47D: Dismissal, slangily (kiss off) - best answer of the day, by far. Plus - "slangily!"
- 49D: Professor 'iggins ('enry) - this makes my teeth hurt.
- 54D: "Mask" star, 1985 (Cher) - Like "The Cosby Show," "Mask" is in my mid-80s sweet spot. Gimme!
- 56D: Suffix with Saturn (-alia) - best "suffix" I've seen in a long time.
- 58D: 1953 Leslie Caron film ("Lili") - I get "Gigi," "Lulu," and "LILI" confused as answers all the time.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS More crossword-inspired art. Very cool.