Friday, April 18, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (except for one square in the NW)
OK, I need backup. I need someone, somewhere in the world to confirm that NABES (1A: Films are shown in them) is an absolutely @#$@#'ing insane word from another era that has Not Seen The Light Of Day in my lifetime (1969 onward). Even trying to find a definition on Google was tough. Google doesn't seem to know it's a word (usually you can click on a word that you search in the upper right corner of the results page, but NABE and NABES offer no such option). The first search for NABES yielded a site telling me that if you unscramble the letters, you get BEANS. Thanks. I had to go "below the fold" (i.e. I had to scroll down) on my search for NABE to find the Merriam-Webster site, which yielded this:
- by shortening & alteration from neighborhood
Never ever ever ever heard it used at all ever anywhere. I went through the alphabet many times, with BABES being the only actual word I could get. Do they show films in BABES? I doubt it. The entire puzzling experience was completely ruined for me by this answer. Because the "N" in NET LEASES (1D: Certain rental arrangements) ... meant nothing to me. Could just as easily have been JET LEASES or even PET LEASES for all I knew. What's worse - NABES is part of a "film" two-fer - we also get the intersecting SLO-MO (5D: Films can be shown in it). So ... is that supposed to make it OK? Supposed to make me like it? Wow. NABES. I'm just ... NABES? Someone please tell me when the last time this word was used by anyone anywhere. Please. It was bad enough when I had to accept that RIALTO could be a generic name for a theater. I refuse to accept the 21st-century validity of NABES.
It's a shame that this puzzle is fatally marred, because there were some wonderful moments before the final fiery crash. Loved the many, many multi-word phrases, especially the perfectly colloquial STEP ASIDE (6A: "This is how it's really done ..."). I started with a nice little gimme in the NE: ABE (10D: Former Japanese P.M. Shinzo). Then I filled in a few more answers here and there, most notably my homeboy DONNE (13D: "Holy Sonnets" poet). Finally settled into that NE corner and moved through the puzzle from there in a mostly clockwise fashion. First snag was the front end of SANIBEL (38A: Florida island). I gave myself SANIBEL as an option, but I couldn't make anything work initially, so I backed off it. Thought MIRABEL ... but then left it and went into the SE corner. If only I could have remembered the pesky NOL (39D: Cambodia's Lon _____), I might have made quicker work of the puzzle's middle and moved right over to the west side.
One of the highlights of the middle of the puzzle is not only having a throwback movie answer from my teen years - ROB LOWE (28A: "About Last Night ..." co-star, 1986) - but having a nearly ready-made tongue twister sitting there all in a heap. Try to say ROB LOWE LOB ROBE six times really fast. It's hard, really hard. Your family will wonder what's wrong and possibly want to call the hospital when they hear you, so forewarn them. (LOB = 30D: High return, ROBE = 33A: Angel's garb)
- 20A: Jazz singer Carmen (McRae) - I love the way her name is spelled. I cannot explain why it's so beautiful to me. If Charlotte RAE were Irish and black and sang jazz and were named Carmen, this is who she would be. (PS, Carmen MCRAE is fabulous - here's a great clip, in case you've never seen/heard her before)
- 22A: You can see right through it (pane) - got this instantly, but I Challenge. There are reasonably opaque panes of glass that you cannot, in fact, see through. Not clearly anyway.
- 27A: Its closing duet is "O terra, addio" (Aida) - "See you later, earth!" I think that's what Major Tom said to Ground Control, too.
- 47A: Rival rival (Alpo) - no idea this was a dog food. Tried AVIS here at first.
- 51A: Exam takers now, exam givers later (pre-meds) - yes, this is good. Especially like the change in the meaning of "exam" within the clue.
- 54A: Weekly World News newsmaker (alien) - see Emily's drawing of John Philip Sousa (which I posted in yesterday's write-up) ... oh heck, here it is again, just because I know most of you are too lazy to go back and look at it:
- 57A: Site of Mackinac Island (Lake Huron) - I knew it was in one of those Lakes up there, but I had A GUT instead of A RIB at 54D: Bust _____ (laugh hard), and couldn't figure out what LAKE --GON could be. Bust A RIB ... is pretty weak.
- 60A: Grammy-winning Baker (Anita) - auspiciously, I had her playing on my iTunes much of yesterday. I absolutely love her 1986 album "Rapture." Her voice is miraculous. I was probably the only teenage boy who adored Anita Baker. I remember driving to school in my beat-up '77 Toyota Sport Coupe (it was maroon and my sister called it "The Sport Poop") and singing "Sweet Love" along with ANITA at the top of my teenage lungs. Good times.
- 3D: Quit meddling (butted out) - during the NABES debacle, I second-guessed all my Downs, including this one. Went through whole alphabet: "... RUTTED OUT? GUTTED OUT? CUTTED OUT? That almost sounds like something ...."
- 7D: Main ingredient in tekka maki (tuna) - never heard of "tekka maki," but TUNA was not hard to piece together. TEKKA MAKI ... now that would be brutal in the grid. Though probably no more brutal than NABES was for me today. NABES even sounds horrid. So nasally. Ugh.
- 26D: "The Seven Year Itch" co-star (Ewell) - Over the years, I have found it handy, crossword-wise, to know this guy's name.
- 29D: Ocean blue (briny) - finally stopped looking for words meaning "blue" and went to words for the ocean that olde timey sailors (or TARS) might use. "Ocean blue" is also a song by ABC (coincidentally, like "About Last Night..." and ANITA Baker's "Sweet Love," from the mid-80s).
- 34D: Americana symbols (apple pies) - symbols you can EAT! (4D: Put away one's groceries). My favorite kind.
- 36D: Bygone Montreal event (Expos game) - easily my favorite answer in the puzzle. It's a multi-word phrase that refers to a defunct baseball team, and it has an "X." What more could I ask for?
- 44D: "_____ Woman" (1972 #1 song) ("I am") - This answer makes me want to say hi to my mom. Hi mom! Here's a video - about which I have one word: cows (literally, cows). This is possibly the worst video ever. If you turn off the sound, it's like watching a medical film about a woman whose arms do not move in concert with her legs when she walks. I did not know until this second that Helen Reddy was an Aussie.
- 58D: Barkley was his V.P. (HST) - it seems very sad to me that before this second, I could not have named Truman's Veep.
- 61D: Colt's fans? (NRA) - great, great clue. Should have been in yesterday's puzzle.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld