Monday, April 14, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: THWART - near synonyms for "thwart" used as last word in each theme answer
I was going to use PREVENT as the theme descriptor, but then I thought of THWART, and how can you not love that word? THWART! It's a perfectly serviceable, ordinary word and a disgusting sound effect all in one. "What's that thing on the witch's cheek? It's TH'WART!" And ... back to the puzzle - an original Monday theme, with my only problem being PICNIC HAMPER (33A: Outdoor meal deterrent?). I put my laundry in a HAMPER. My lunch? No. As any red-blooded American, and Yogi Bear, can tell you, the correct term is PICNIC BASKET (and "PICNIC" must have three syllables). Apparently the fancy schmancy term is HAMPER, but let's do a little Google comparison:
- ["picnic hamper"] = 89,800 hits (so clearly, it's a thing ... not made up ... OK)
- ["picnic basket"] = 1,200,000 hits (winner, by TKO(S) - 43D: Some boxing results - Basket!)
Again, I completely accept HAMPER as a valid entity, but that answer stands out like a very sore thumb against the far more in-the-language theme answers of
AUCTION BLOCK (20A: Bidding impediment?)
REALITY CHECK (44A: Truth obstruction?), and
ALUMINUM FOIL (58A: Metallic element's obstacle?)
I added to my own trouble in the HAMPER section of the puzzle by writing in I SAW where I MET was supposed to go (30D: "_____ a man with seven wives"). This meant that 39A: Book after Daniel (Hosea) looked like it ended in -AA, so I knew something was amiss, but I was flying around the grid to worry about it too much - I figured it would all come out in the wash, as it often does. Not too thrilled to see two suffixes in the puzzle - one should be the limit (he said, arbitrarily). -EER (65D: Suffix with musket) and -IST (30A: Suffix with vocal) really should platoon. Also - two gas brands? I guess ESSO (38A: Gas brand with the slogan "Put a tiger in your tank") gets jealous when any other brand tries to weasel its way into the grid and steal any of its glory, as AMOCO (5D: BP gas brand) attempted to do today.
- 1A: Vampire's tooth (fang) - I caved in and bought "Sharp Teeth" yesterday. It's about werewolves (not vampires), and I love werewolves more than any other monster, and yet every werewolf story I read and nearly ever werewolf movie I see ssssssuuuuuuuuuucks. Pardon my French. Anyway, I heard this book reviewed on NPR, and then a reader recommended it, and then I saw the book has a cool design (I am big on books not looking soul-crushingly generic), so I bought it. It's in free verse. I'm going to love it or I'm going to vomit. We'll see.
- 5A: Playing marble (agate) - Hey, look: a Marbles glossary. AGATE and TAW are especially useful for crossworders, but there's some other choice stuff in the glossary that you might see someday. Who knows?
- 27A: Streisand film about a Jewish girl masquerading as a boy ("Yentl") - I wrote a long entry here, but it's been redacted. In its place, you get this: YIPE (23D: "Eek!").
- 47D: Actor John of "Full House" (Stamos) - the epitome of 90s TV hotness, or so "Full House" would have us believe. STAMOS went on to be famous for being married to model/actress Rebecca Romijn, and of course "Full House" is most famous for spawning the careers of the Olsen Twins.
- 51A: Lawn care brand (Ortho) - ORTHO AMOCO ESSO TORO (8D: Bullring bull). It's like a little commercial song, TORO being a brand of snowblower.70A: Nautilus captain (Nemo) - Crossword captain. He beats AHAB hands down.
- 73A: Photo often taken after an accident (X-ray) - gruesome. Kind of a downer, like much of this puzzle: NAUSEA (49D: Pregnancy symptom, frequently), "No PETS allowed" (41D: No _____ allowed (sign)), UGLI (21D: Aptly named tropical fruit), etc.
- 6D: Crime boss known as the Teflon Don (Gotti) - Do you think the inventors of Teflon foresaw their product becoming a moniker for inhuman indestructibility (see also Reagan, the Teflon President - Very interesting story about how Reagan got that name here).
- 35D: Wrestling move (hold) - "Wrestling" now makes me think almost exclusively of Puzzlegirl (frequent commenter at this site), which is one of the weirdest word-association tics I've developed since starting this blog (I think it's 'cause she is the only adult I've ever heard express excitement for college wrestling. Go Hawkeyes?).
- 48D: Dahl or Francis (Arlene) - ah, today, for once, we don't have to choose. I doubt we will ever see another crossworthy ARLENE ... unless that name goes retro and we start seeing a spate of trendy folks doing for ARLENE what recent trendy folks have done for ABIGAIL, i.e. bring it back from the dead by giving the name to their kids.
And look for a very entertaining first-ever READER MAIL section this Sunday.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld