Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: JAM (56D: What 20-, 37- and 53-Across may do)
This puzzle was quite easy except for the part where I had to dig the @#$# theme answer out of its hiding place, all squirreled away down there in the deep, deep SW. I had just two words down there: ATE AT (61A: Really bothered) - which always makes me laugh because it looks like A TEAT - and ITO (57D: "Am _____ believe..."?), and nothing else would come. This was annoying not just because the theme-revealing answer was down here, but because there was a chocolate question that was not a gimme. I love chocolate - how is that possible? Perhaps it's the Chocolate Gods' way of paying me back for completely forgetting to make the pilgrimage to Jacques Torres's chocolate shop when I was in Brooklyn. I won't make that mistake twice. The clue: 64A: Chocolatier's gear (molds). The only thing my mind's eye could see was a white apron, and maybe a funny chef's hat. I decided to quit trying to hack into the corner and instead tried to figure out what the theme was by looking at the already-completed theme answers. What does a LASER PRINTER do? It ... jams. Literally, first thing I thought of. So what did I learn today. When all else fails, try actually thinking. Most disappointing revelation: the word JIVER (56A:Deceptive talker). Man, that's just a horrible word.
One quibble with the theme: printers JAM, and HARD ROCK BANDs (even wizened ones like Def Leppard) JAM, but TRAFFIC does not JAM, exactly. At least, not in common usage. You can be stuck in a TRAFFIC JAM (noun). Maybe TRAFFIC could JAM the roads ... but something about the TRAFFIC answer feels off: The PRINTER JAMmed, yes, the BAND JAMmed, yes, the RUSH HOUR TRAFFIC JAMmed ... you be the judge. We had traffic JAM here yesterday as anti-war protesters blocked traffic and tussled with police. That kind of stuff never ever Ever happens around here. Surreal. Worst part - at least two accidents in the lanes on the other side of the divided roadway from the protest. That's what slack-jawed gawking at 50 mph will get you (58D: M.p.h., e.g. - VEL). My favorite quotation from the write-up of the protest: "Pepper spray is pretty serious."
- 20A: Desktop publisher's need (laser printer)
- 37A: Commuter's woe (rush hour traffic)
- 53A: Def Leppard, for one (hard rock band) - I can't believe I brought up Def Leppard just a couple of days ago (re: "Rock of Ages"), completely out of the blue, and here they are today in my puzzle. I have to admit that in the 80s, this band was an exceedingly guilty pleasure to me. Should I put them on iTunes ... well, Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King" is on right now, and it's too epic to stop. Maybe after it's finished.
Wife was grumbling this morning as she left the house about having trouble in the NW, where "some card game I've never heard of crossed some car I've never heard of." MILLE Bornes (1D: _____ Bornes (card game)) was one of those games I played maybe a handful of times in my life, and its name went copmletely out of my head until it was forced back into my head by a crossword puzzle I did some time in the past year. IROC is another word that exists in my head only because of crosswords. So I feel my wife's pain. A little.
I like all the thematic pairings (and triplings) in this puzzle, intentional or not.
- A couple of big cats: CHEETAH (14D: Spotted speedster) and OCELOT (24A: Wild cat)
- A couple of baseball answers: ORTIZ (26D: Baseball's Big Papi) and TIE (28A: Baseball rarity - timely, as there have been at least one of these in the preseason so far, though that may have been in some game that didn't count, as I don't see it reflected in the official standings)
- Three clues from the Middle East: AGA (41A: Turkish V.I.P.), PLO (11D: Mahmoud Abbas's org.), and ARABS (32D: Most Al Jazeera viewers)
- And three kinds of automobile: IROC (13A: Sporty Camaro), AUDI (35D: Q7 maker), and REOS (55D: Model T contemporaries)
- 4A: Parasite's need (host) - gross. I like it.
- 32A: Company with a spokesduck (Aflac) - annoying. I feel sad to have lived long enough to see "spokesduck" enter the language.
- 45A: Did a glissade (slid) - the letters are all there, right inside "glissade."
- 49A: Like Duchamp's "Mona Lisa" (goateed) - most entertaining answer of the day. Had the GOA- and had to think on it a bit. That's not just any GOATEE. That's a super-waxed Dali special. Awesome.
- 59A: Fair-hiring org. (EEOC) - brain wanted OSHA, which is more common in puzzles than EEOC, but in this case happens to be completely wrong.
- 63A: Fishing boat (dory) - jeez louise, this word. I see it everywhere in my puzzles now. It's the New Black. A word I'd never heard of before xwords.
- 6D: Bollywood costume (sari) - great clue for a common word.
- 8D: Tutor of Nero (Seneca) - Just mentioned SENECA yesterday in my 17th-century lit class, so he was, weirdly, on my mind.
- 21D: Clinton's first secretary of labor (Reich) - he is tiny.
- 22D: Word with fire or water (tower) - I could have guessed words for the rest of my life and never come up with TOWER here. Thank god for crosses. [HA ha - I wrote "Table" here at first - ignoring my correct grid. That's how counter-intuitive TOWER seems to me: even my subconscious is vetoing it]
- 27D: "Vissi d'arte" opera ("Tosca") - had the -OS-, ran through my mental opera-name checklist, done. This clue could easily have read simply [Opera] and I'd have solved it as quickly.
- 29D: Way to indicate mistakes (in red) - I find that students don't care for this so much. The criticism is bad enough - red just makes them feel bludgeoned.
- 33D: Bach offering (fugue) - a word remarkable for the enormous distance between the ugliness of the way it looks/sounds and the beauty of the phenomenon it describes.
- 39D: More or less vertical, at sea (apeak) - wanna throw me off: go nautical. Yipes.
- 49D: The Cratchits' Christmas dinner (goose) - Inventive clue. God bless us every one. Except the goose; him, we eat.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS, I'm getting a lot of mail about [Hawkeye's home] = IOWA, with people insisting that Hawkeye Pierce was from Maine ... my answer: this clue has Nothing to Do with "M*A*S*H." A "Hawkeye" is a person from Iowa, just as a "Buckeye" is from Ohio and a "Sooner" is from Oklahoma.