Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "C" - That's the clue for four theme answers. There are also a "C" and an inverted "C" built into the grid in black squares - style points! [Oh, and by the way, every clue starts with "C," a fact I somehow overlooked when I first posted this write-up]
I've moved into the disgusting phase of my current illness. I think I'll just leave it at that. If my typo rate is higher than normal or the things I say nuttier, please forgive; I've been up since before 4 am.
I nearly rated this puzzle "Medium-Challenging," both because there seemed a fair number of odd names that might not be familiar to many people, and because I actually froze in the south of the puzzle. The entire section sat blank for I don't know how long - probably not very long, but long enough for me to feel it. Couldn't get HONCHO (47D: Chief) or EUCLID (48D: City near Cleveland) off the HO- or EU-, respectively. Actually wrote in ERIE, PA where EUCLID was supposed to go. Then there were the Acrosses, which are highly weird at best. I don't think I understand the way the verb "hire" is being used in HIRE ON (66A: Come aboard, in a way). If I "come aboard," don't you hire ME on. Do people really say "I just HIRED ON at blahbitty blah Financial?" They very well might say that - I just find it odd that this same verb can be used transitively and intransitively. Love the potential for misdirection at 61D: Cardinals, on scoreboards (ARI). Everyone's first thought (if they have one) is probably going to be STL - I sniffed this one out quickly, though, which may be the main reason the South finally fell, as ARI gave me the "I" I "wanted" in ODISTS (69A: Cowley and Keats). I say "wanted" because I didn't really want it. ODIST is a pretty horrid word. Then there's the fact that I couldn't remember Aldrich AMES's name (55D: C.I.A. betrayer Aldrich - I could think only of ROONE, but his last name's "Arledge"), I didn't really understand the gist of 57D: Credit application figs. (SSNs) until very late, and could not even find the basic SPOT (56D: Catch sight of), even with the "S" in place - my brain wanted only ESPY. Other than that, this puzzle was no sweat.
I like the different ways the puzzle uses "C" here - two of these clues are worthy of cryptic crosswords, referring to the words in the clues themselves (car, Epcot), while the other two go outside the clue into workaday meanings of "C."
There were a couple of clues I found really odd. First there's 18D: Concentrates on a specific achievement (sets a goal). Got it easily enough, but it feels oddly forced and workmanlike to me. Maybe it's the third person singularness of it all. The whole thing just feels slightly jerry-rigged. Then there's WOE (31D: Cry of grief). First, you left off the "is me," and secondly, nobody has actually said WOE (or WOE IS ME) in grief since ... I'm gonna say Job.
Robot roll call:
- 20A: Celebrity biographer Hawes (Esme) - [Salinger dedicatee - LA Times solver? Go here] being apparently a bit too downmarket for a Times Wednesday. I have never heard of this person, and I can't be the only one.
- 27A: Curved motorcycle part (mud guard) - SPLASH GUARD on Saturday, MUD GUARD today. So ... masculine. I can only infer, from the many TV ads I have seen, that the puzzle has begun taking Cialis. Soon it will be bathing in separate tubs on a mesa with its lady friend.
- 33A: Coal scuttle (hod) - one of my very favorite little words. It belongs in some kind of cute little word museum.
- 38A: Columnist Hopper (Hedda) - always want to call her HEDY, but that's HEDY LAMARR - an entirely different entity.
- 42A: Con _____ (animatedly, in music) (moto) - Ah, so (he said, facetiously). MOTO is best known as Motorola's latest attempt to sound hip.
- 53A: Comic strip prince's son (Arn) - What's the point of leaving "Prince Valiant" out of this clue? People who do crosswords a lot are going to know it either way, those who read "Prince Valiant" (both of you) are going to know it either way. And everyone else will need crosses. Net gain - zero.
- 54A: Civil rights org. that became a governing party (ANC) - African National Congress. Had NO idea, imagining that "civil rights" was a phrase that applied only to the U.S.
- 55A: Clerk, to a bus. owner (asst.) - put it in, took it out, put it in, took it out ... that sounds way dirtier now that I've typed it out.
- 7D: Coloratura's home, with "the" (Met) - absolutely no idea what this means as of right now, though I can only imagine the MET is the METropolitan Opera House. Hang on ... aha, coloratura is a type of operatic soprano.
- 8D: Consequence of a solo homer (one run) - thought it might be ONE RBI, so left last two letters blank at first.
- 19A: Cosmos legend (Pele) - he was legendary when I was a kid - perhaps the only soccer player most Americans knew by name. He went on to star in the 1981 movie "Victory" with Sylvester Stallone and Michael Caine (!?), about prisoners in a German P.O.W. camp ... playing soccer, somehow. I don't know. Never saw it. Do people under 30 have any idea who PELE is? Or who the "Cosmos" were, for that matter (short-lived NY professional soccer team, 1971-1984).
- 9D: Cremona collectibles, for short (Strads) - do people "collect" these in the way they collect, say baseball cards or beanie babies? Seems an expensive hobby.
- 24D: Cassandra's father (Priam) - I'll take Trojan History for a billion, Alex. Cassandra was cursed to be a prophet whom no one would believe. She is taken as a war prize by Agamemnon (for whom things do not end well, in part because he doesn't listen to ... Cassandra).
- 25D: "Capitalism" rock group _____ Boingo (Oingo) - weird for so many reasons. First, "Capitalism" is not nearly their best known song, though I do admire the clue for avoiding the more obvious "Dead Man's Party" and "Weird Science." But then there's the fact that you've got the Entire Answer embedded in your clue. I'm not sure how you get around that in OINGO Boingo's case, but still, something about it feels not quite kosher. OINGO Boingo was fronted by Danny Elfman, composer of many themes and scores for movies and television, including the theme from "The Simpsons."
- 35D: Capua friends (amici) - what is this, the third Italian answer I've blogged so far? Funny, Shearer doesn't sound Italian.
- 36D: "Chimes of Freedom" songwriter (Dylan) - Bob? I know appallingly little about Bob DYLAN's career, largely because of self-righteous educated white liberal types (like myself, I guess) insisting that he's the great American poet of the 20th century, man. I actually like the DYLAN that I know. But he's no T.S. Eliot. Although ... any Dylan song is far, far more closely related to a poem than John Donne's Meditation XVII (see the as-yet-unacknowledged error in the puzzle two days ago). There are very few areas of knowledge where I will throw down with great vengeance and furious anger - John Donne is one of those areas. (I was more quoting "Pulp Fiction" than being serious there, I hope you realize)
OK, I've clearly begun drifting into loopy, uncontrolled train-of-thought land, so I'll stop now.
See you tomorrow,
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld