Friday, April 25, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
I'm normally far more on Mike's wavelength than I was today, but I still enjoyed this puzzle a lot. Cannot say that I enjoyed the anchor / marquee answers: PENNY WISE AND / POUND FOOLISH (30A: With 36-Across, shortsighted) but that's just me; I'm not big on aphorisms, and cutesiness makes me hurl. Luckily for me, that bland bit of wisdom was crossed by the far more interesting answers THE BORN LOSER (7D: Long-running Art and Chip Sansom comic strip) and MAXWELL SMART (21D: Fictional secret agent). I have not seen, heard, or thought of "THE BORN LOSER" since some time in the 80's, though apparently it still exists (not in my local paper, it doesn't). Stared at "THE BOR-" for some time thinking "... but ... I teach a course on Comics ... why don't I know this?" As for MAXWELL SMART, I only wish I had been old enough to see "Get Smart" when I was on in prime time - it went off the air before I turned 1. I know it was on in syndication when I was a kid, but I didn't watch it much. Writing about it is making me want to find and watch back episodes. Did you know it was created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry? You probably did. I did not.
I had two serious Google moments in this puzzle (I Googled after I was done, not before). The first was with 30D: Iloilo's island (Panay) - I remember being super-vexed by ILOILO twice in one week back in late 2006 or early 2007, so I knew I was going to be in the Philippines, but island? Oh no, that's far too specific for me. All the crosses for PANAY looked good - the only uncertainty was the second "A," from ETTA (38A: Editorial cartoonist Hulme). But I let it ride, and that paid off. "Iloilo" is hard to read in newsprint (and in Across Lite) in that capital "I" and lowercase "l" look identical. Of course all clues start with capital letters, so there shouldn't be any confusion ... and yet, try telling that to my eyes. I'm guessing a lot of people don't even know what to Google. LLOILO's island? IIOILO's island? Next problem: the requisite botany bruiser, RACEME (18A: Simple inflorescence, as in a lily of the valley). That "C" was the very last thing to go in the grid, as I stared at 11D: Need to get hitched: Abbr. wondering "???" At first I thought the answer would be a verb phrase, like ... AM PREGNANT or WANT TO BECOME A CITIZEN (only shorter). Then I remember what I needed to get hitched: a LICense. RACEME looked horrible to me, but all the crosses made sense, so it stayed.
Most inventive clue of the day - and one I got shocking quickly because it involved one of my favorite words in the English language - was 48A: Two strikes? (carom). Had the "M" and thought "no ... it can't be. That's too good." Wrote it in and the letters panned out. Sweet. Never heard of NAVY PIER (53A: Landmark on the Chicago shoreline) but it was easy enough to guess. As with nearly all Mike Nothnagel puzzles, there was some sweet 80s pop culture pandering going on. Today, two iconic early 80s figures (one a song, the other an actor) made their presence felt. DER is such a boring little German article, but when it's clued via the consummate one-hit wonder, "DER Kommissar" by After the Fire, I cannot help but love it (22A: "_____ Kommissar" (1983 pop hit)). Man they do not make videos like this anymore (sadly). Tarantulas! Surreal. Early MTV seared itself onto my soul when I was what they now call a "tween," and try as I might, I will never, ever forget the songs on heavy rotation back then (back when MTV actually played music videos). Then there's the second-most-famous actor featured in "Bachelor Party" - Adrian ZMED (46A: "T.J. Hooker" actor Adrian). Funny that he's clued via "T.J. Hooker," in that he was only the third most famous actor from that show (dwarfed in fame and popularity by both William Shatner and Heather Locklear). I'm pretty sure this is the first and last time Adrian ZMED will ever be this close to UMA Thurman (40A: She played Fantine in "Les Miserables," 1998).
- 1A: Tournament organizer's concerns (brackets) - had TOP SEEDS, which got me ECG (6D: Thing that keeps track of the beat?: Abbr.), which kept TOP SEEDS in longer than it deserved. In fact, the whole NW was a huge false start for me, with multiple wrong answers. Had LESS for INAS (23A: Much often follows it) - forgetting for a moment what follows means. Strangely, VISTA (19A: Outlook) came to me immediately, and once I erased LESS, I was able to fix the whole ugly NW pretty quickly.
- 9D: Cheerleaders' doings (splits) - "doings" = unattractive word.
- 15A: Hombre-to-be (muchacho) - had EKG instead of ECG at first, which allowed me no shot at this word. Spanish word meaning "boy" ... with a "K" in it?
- 5D: _____ Sea (arm of the Arctic Ocean) (Kara) - would have been way easier for me had it been clued [Captain Thrace of "Battlestar Galactica"]. I always think of her as a lieutenant, but apparently her rank changed when I wasn't paying attention.
- 24A: Future star athlete who debuted with the Rangers in 1989 (Sosa) - "Future" belongs Nowhere Near This Clue. SOSA is a star athlete. The very concept of "debut" implies that his stardom is in the future. Horrible. That's like [Future singer/actress born Frances Ethel Gumm]. No no no.
- 25A: Food described in Exodus (matzo) - tanked this by writing in, without hesitation, MANNA.
- 29A: He was succeeded by archdeacon Hilarius (Leo I) - total guess. Most xword popes are LEOs or PIUSes.
- 47A: Its logo is a goateed man in an apron (KFC) - had RFC when I thought PEEKS AT was PEERS AT (36D: Views through a keyhole).
- 56A: Rushing home? (gridiron) - had the IRON part and still hesitated. considered FRAT IRON. I never "rushed" a fraternity, so what do I know? FRAT IRON seemed plausible for about 2 seconds.
- 9D: Dinar earner (Serb) - wrote in, without hesitation, ARAB. Ugh.
- 24D: Sequel title starter ("Son of...") - no one starts sequels that way anymore, so maybe someday soon we can add "Bygone" to that clue.
- 32D: Response facilitator: Abbr. (SASE) - Yes, that sounds like the way a SASE would be described in bizspeak. "We need to streamline our response facilitators and incentivize our ..." I can't go on, not even in jest.
- 37D: Gunpowder alternatives (oolongs) - mmm, tea clues. Sweet. Gunpowder green tea is lovely. Smoky. Good stuff. Gets its name from the little pellet-like forms the leaves take during processing.
- 41D: Streaker with a tail (meteor) - rather easy for a Friday.
- 52D: Irene's Roman counterpart (pax) - Peace. IRENE is Greek and gets Way more action than PAX, puzzle-wise.
- 50D: 1995-2001 House Judiciary Committee chairman (Hyde) - this guy also played one of Sam's grandfathers in "Sixteen Candles." At least that's who Hyde looks like to me - can't find any good pictures of that actor in that movie. Dang! Wait, here's Hyde:
Now I'll add dialogue - "Dong ... where is my ... aut-o-mo-biiile?"
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld