Monday, March 24, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: 50th anniversary of Elvis's induction into the Army
A very professional Monday puzzle by David J. Kahn, the author of this year's notorious Puzzle #5 at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (one of the greatest accomplishments of my solving life was finishing that puzzle in the time allotted without making a mistake - it was a very very close call). I found today's puzzle harder than most Mondays because theme answers were all but impossible to get without first getting ELVIS (39A: Notable Army inductee of 3/24/58), and even after that, you have to deal with plays on words and C-list movies ("G.I. Blues"?!). That said, I liked the puzzle a lot: 10 theme entries, the bulk of them Downs - that's a (hell of a) lot for a Monday puzzle, and they were all clever and entertaining. Given the gaps in my ELVIS knowledge, and the fact that I tend to skip clues that ask me to look at other clues (i.e. 9 of the 10 theme clues plus one non-theme clue), I have no idea how I finished this in an average Monday time (under 4).
- 17A: Like 39-Across fans on his induction day? (All Shook Up)
- 56A: Last movie 39-Across made before his Army stint (King Creole)
- 11D: Army officer who met 39-Across in 25-Down (Colin Powell)
- 13D: Last Army rank of 39-Across: Abbr. (Sgt.)
- 23D: Much-photographed event after 39-Across's induction (haircut)
- 25D: Where 39-Across was stationed overseas (West Germany) - this took me way way longer than it should have, in that I had WEST and remained puzzled. WEST GE- ... still thinking ... and then the geography of the Cold War came rushing back to me and I recalled that there was once a country called WEST GERMANY. Funny how fast I forgot that.
- 26D: First Army rank of 39-Across (private)
- 30D: First movie 39-Across made after his Army stint (G.I. Blues)
- 54D: Record label of 39-Across (RCA)
The non-theme fill in this puzzle was pretty good too. The long Down answers are fantastic. ALPHA TESTS (9D: Some computer software checks) gave me fits, primarily because I didn't fill in ALL SHOOK UP 'til the very end, and without that "P" I could not see ALPHA to save my life. I seriously considered ALOHA TESTS for a second. Then there's the crackling SHELLACKED (32D: Defeated soundly), which both looks and sounds fabulous. SHELLACKED is here to smack you out of your usual Monday puzzle stupor. I am currently in love with the twin pillars of ALTOONA (24D: City with a Penn State campus) and ASTORIA (29D: Waldorf-_____ Hotel). Elegant A-to-A words symmetrically supporting the puzzle. I believe that may be the first time in recorded history that ALTOONA has been referred to as "elegant."
I have criticism and a frowny faces for very few entries today. Here they are:
- 33D: Actresses Shire and Balsam (Talias) - plural names are always a downer, though on this one, I'm at least slightly ambivalent. Pro: the clue went for an actual second TALIA as opposed to the more common "et al." or "and others." Con: Who the @#$# is TALIA Balsam?
- 53D: Police hdqrs. (pcts) - I'm not sure which I hate more, the answer (which flummoxed both me and my wife - it's short for "precincts," I think) or the clue. "Hdqrs." I dare you to stare at that letter combo for more than 10 second. My theory is that you will go mad and/or blind. I believe the flatfoots call it HQ.
- 27D: Like seawater (saline) - I know this is technically correct, and yet I think of seawater as SALTY and my contact lens solution as SALINE.
- 18D: What the "H" of H.M.S. may be (His)
- 49D: What the "H" of H.M.S. may be (Her) - I didn't like the repeat here, but then I noticed the symmetry, and all of a sudden - I love it.
- 46A: Balletic bend (plié) - I just like the word "balletic"
- 52A: One who makes a good first impression? (aper) - Why just "first?" My wife was flipping between APER and ACER here. Given that the Down is the ungodly PCTS, I can see how the decision between "P" and "C" here could have been a tough one.
- 62A: Dunce cap, geometrically (cone) - Good news, class: we can humiliate Timmy and use him as a prop in our geometry lesson.
- 64A: Finger's end (nail) - I believe the actual end is the "tip."
- 4D: Openers for all doors (passkeys) - nice, interesting, k-containing long answer that I don't think I've seen much, if at all.
- 8D: "Ally McBeal" actress Lucy (Liu) - violates my "Stop referencing [that show]" rule, but at least Lucy LIU is famous enough to uncover without my having to have watched the show in question. Still, the clue should have gone through "Kill Bill," IMOO.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld