Saturday, March 15, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "Getting a Little R and R" - 2 "R"s are added to familiar phrases, resulting in wacky new phrases, which are clued
I'm normally a big Liz Gorski fan, but this puzzle left me kind of cold. The title makes the trick too obvious, and then the trick itself ... isn't much of one. Maybe if the theme answers were funnier or more clever, I'd feel differently, but most of them seem awkward, or are clued awkwardly. Even my favorite one - HOMER AWAY FROM HOMER - is marred by having an unadded "R" (the "R" in FROM). Only one other theme answer has one (PORKER FARCES). That's not a violation of the theme, by any means, but it somehow makes it less elegant, in my eyes. There also seemed to be a lot of subpar and forced fill throughout the grid. A very doable puzzle, with a few entertaining moments, but overall, a bit below my Gorski expectations.
- 23A: Broad comedies involving hogs? (porker farces)
- 34A: Beautifully illustrated report of a computer failure? (pretty crash account)
- 51A: Cake maker's boast? (torte brag)
- 61A: French director's comment about his submission to a film festival? ("I gave it my Brest short") - that's kind of cute, except I think you would probably, colloquially, refer to the festival as "them" and not "it" (grammar notwithstanding)
- 74A: Bird call on a farm? (crow chirp) - this has no zing or interest in either the clue or the answer (birds might in fact be on farms, and while crows don't chirp, they caw, and that's close). Conversely, its origin phrase (the one to which R's have been added) is gross and does not pass my breakfast test (thank goodness it's not anywhere near breakfast time right now).
- 89A: A Simpson without access to his volume of the "Odyssey"? (Homer away from Homer) - as I've said, wonderful.
- 106A: Former Tennessee senator's Halloween costumes? (Frist frights) - hmmm, a costume is a FRIGHT? OK, I guess...
- 15D: Opening remarks at a coffee makers' convention? (drip intro) - like many of these, this one doesn't quite make sense to me. The DRIP isn't being INTROduced ... the convention is. DRIP = convention? I'm confused.
- 71D: Where a dope unloads a ship? (moron pier) - [Where a dork docks?] would make the PIER more ... his. If you're just an unloader, is it really your pier? If you follow...
The placement of the two Down theme answers was really weird, right next to an answer just as long but non-themed. Not bad. Just odd.
Here's some of the stuff that I thought was icky:
- 26A: N.H.L.s Tikkanen (Esa) - lots of uncommon, exotic names / words used to fill little holes in the puzzle. One is no big deal - ESA is a perfectly good name - but then there's ...
- 73A: "Peer Gynt" mother (Ase) - anagram!
- 13D: South American tuber (oca)
- 2D: Narrative writing (epos) - intersecting ESA!
Then there's words that just rub me the wrong way:
- 114A: Body-sculpting undergarment (shaper) - which garment is that?
- 53A: Short-legged, thick-set horse (cob) - corn yes, horse no
- 93D: Fabrics that shimmer (moires) - I've already copped to being bad at fabrics, but this one sounds more made-up than all your PONGEES and FOULARDS combined
Then there's words that seem completely alien to me:
- 11D: Redcoat's ally (Hessian) - resident of the German state of Hesse; I had no idea, and no idea that these guys were allies of the Brits during the Revolutionary War. Wow.
- 88A: Lobster claw (chela) - That's a hard "ch" sound (as in "chemistry"). The more I look at this weird word, the stranger it seems. This same word can also refer to a "Hindu disciple of a swami," according to answers.com.
Other answers of note:
- 27A: Entertainment center at many a sports bar (LCD TV) - you hear the term "flat screen" a lot, but not LCD. Not as much, anyway. Seems an appropriate answer, just not as in-the-language. Things you might say about a sports bar: "They've got HDTV!"? yes "They've got huge flat-screens!"? Yes. "They've got LCD TV!"? I don't know.
- 30A: Movement that inspired '60s fashion (op art) - this I did not know. Dress patterns designed to make you dizzy and pass out?
- 28A: Where bluejackets go (asea) - what is a bluejacket? Someone enlisted in the British or US Navy. Good to know, I guess. But look at these answers - LCD, OPART, ASEA ... you can see why I think this is sub-Gorski. There's Lots of this kind of tired fill.
- 31A: Good viewing spot for a canyon (aerie) - the canyon can't "view" anything. Do you mean "good spot from which to view a canyon?" I guess so ... if you are a bird.
- 49A: All-time top-selling Atari video game (Asteroids) - really? Wow. I'm surprised. It's so dated. My step-brother was a master of Asteroids back in about 1980. The big, stand-up video game, not the home console version. I have no idea which version this clue refers to.
- 69A: Ang Thong resident (Thai) - ah, who can forget the Ang Thong Song?
- 79A: They're developed on a muscleman (pectorals) - technically true, but that muscleman would surely call them PECS.
- 83A: Nebraska county with an Indian name (Otoe) - my favorite Native American tribe name, but after Friday's puzzle, all it makes me think is: OTOE, Spaghettios!
- 94A: Rocker Morissette (Alanis) - I've never been the biggest fan, though I like this song a lot, and this is kind of genius (though if you are unfamiliar with the original, this parody will seem completely insane).
- 104A: Most heterogeneous (motliest) - now this word I like. A lot.
- 4D: Cartoonist Browne (Dik) - Ugh. A name only a crossword constructor could love. I can never remember the consonant that starts the word.
- 24D: Banking initialism (FDIC) - "initialism!" Nice to see this word start to get some play.
- 58D: _____ Boy, classic figure in Japanese anime (Astro) - Osamu Tezuka is a comics god. I am teaching his Ode to Kirihito next month. His Buddha (8 volumes) is one of the greatest works of comics art of all time. I may have said this before, but it bears repeating.
- 72D: Words on a deathbed, maybe ("Promise me ...") - this creeps me out no end.
- 78D: Tree in bloom in a Van Gogh painting (pear) - never heard of this, so must find it ... now. Here we go:
- 81D: Photocopier option: Abbr. (ltr.) - took me forEver; had L-R and thought "LAR." (as in LARge)???
- 82D: Fraternity members (guys) - arbitrary! Any group of men are GUYS. And by the way, we call them frat BOYS. (And sorority GIRLS, so, you know, the infantilization thing evens out)
I'm nearly back to completely healthy, so my only companion for the next week will be the Mountain of Work I've amassed since I got sick. Ugh. I guess it's better than being sick. Somewhat.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld