Sunday, April 13, 2008
Relative difficulty: Super easy
THEME: "How Insulting!" - DIS is added to familiar phrases, creating wacky phrases, which are clued
Happy Sunday, readers - and a special hello to the thousands of you reading this in syndication (i.e. one week behind ... that's right, I'm looking at you, Vancouver, Calgary, and [insert your town's name here]!). I'm using this lovely (actually kinda rainy) spring day to make my first ever "Please Support This Site" pitch. I spend untold hours writing and maintaining this site, and have done so for over 18 months now, happily, without any remuneration. [Cue swelling violin music ... roll pictures of cute pets] This site has grown over the past year and a half into a shockingly large online crossword community, with thousands of readers coming here every day for answers, solving tips, useful crossword links, and (I hope) entertainment. In the coming year, I will be investing in the site, professionalizing its design, adding links and content, and generally making it more useful to you all.
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Now, your puzzle:
This puzzle was so easy ("How easy was it!?") ... it was so easy that the only joke I can think of here is a sexual one so I'll just say Very easy (easy "for me," I should say - no offense meant to those who got bogged down or otherwise struggled in places). The easiest Sunday NYT I've ever done. Without really trying, I ended up with my fastest Sunday time ever, and I could have been a minute or two faster, I think, if I hadn't had some typing fumbles and a slight bit of trouble getting the same traction in the bottom of the puzzle that I had in the top (which I solved in, I believe, negative four minutes). I expect to hear a lot of people say they had personal best times today. This is why difficulty Friday and Saturday puzzles are good for you - after you've been through those ordeals, you are good and ready to Punish a Sunday puzzle. Take that, Lord's Day!
- 22A: Foul weather condition? (DISgusting winds)
- 30A: Some moralizing about getting off a balance beam? (Sermon on the DISmount) - this was the first theme answer I got; should've / could've been made a Little bit harder by changing "getting off a balance beam" to "a gymnastics feat" or something equally generic.
- 38A: "Do your thing, Jack the Ripper"? ("Go DISfigure") - This one half creeps me out and half makes me laugh. I didn't know enthusiasm for carving up women passed the breakfast test. At least when you look at the grid, you can choose to read this as GOD IS FIGURE, whatever that means.
- 59A: Sophistication of clubs like Sam's and BJ's? (DIScounter culture)
- 68A: Concerns of someone who's choking? (food and DISlodging) - first disfigurement, now asphyxiation? Nice.
- 88A: Her Royal Daunter? (DISMay Queen) - possibly the toughest of the bunch. I would not have put "Daunt" and DISMAY as synonyms, though I'm sure they're in a thesaurus listing together somewhere.
- 96A: Coleslaw-loving children? (Cabbage DISPatch Kids) - my favorite by far, both for the great 80s pop culture reference, and for the image of children devouring cabbage with glee.
- 111A: Find chewing gum under a desk, perhaps? (duck and DIScover)
Lots of interesting names in the puzzle today. ERIC Bana (45A: Actor Bana of "Munich") gets used for his first name, which is a switch. "Coming Home" star is not VOIGHT or FONDA but Bruce DERN (52D: "Coming Home" co-star). I had Judy Garland's real name as GUMP for a while, as GUMM looks absurd (73D: Judy Garland's real last name). Do other names, or any words, end "-UMM?" And then there's a bevy of ENIDs, which is a sight you rarely see (31D: Bagnold, Blyton, Markey, etc.). Plural first names are about as cheap an entry as you can get, but the absurdity of multiple ENIDs somehow mitigates the problem for me here.
Looking the puzzle over just now, I realize that at least part of the reason the puzzle was so easy was that the grid is made up overwhelmingly of letters from the RLSTN group and vowels. The non-theme answers in particular are astonishingly free of Scrabbly letters - a lonely "J" and "K" are hiding up there a gaggle of E's, N's, and T's in the NE. And CAPRI (96D: Banana liqueur drink shaken over ice) looks positively sizzling next to the other answers in that PALLID (91D: Sans a healthy glow) SW corner. Sometimes, fun theme entries are enough to carry a puzzle, and as easy puzzles go, this is certainly more than competent. Not surprising, as Cathy Millhauser is an old pro whose puzzles have frequently been featured at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament.
- 1A: Polish Peace Nobelist (Walesa) - a gimme, and the key to the NW. I polished off all 6 Downs up there one after the other without stopping or even hesitating, which almost Never happens on a Sunday.
- 20D: Where "I shot a man" in Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" (Reno) - should've read "Where 'I shot a man ... just to watch him die.'" More in keeping with the whole GO DISFIGURE theme. Johnny Cash rules. Here's an early performance. So Great.
- 25A: 1980s U.N. ambassador Kirkpatrick (Jeane) - Now "Kirkpatrick" is a name that would look good in the grid. Three K's!
- 37A: Saloon door sign (Gents) - a spot-on clue.
- 77A: March master (Sousa) - first thought: ST. PAT.
- 78A: Fraction of a min. (msec) - very uncertain about this at first. I think I've had NSEC before, and PARSEC, but MSEC? Never seen it.
- 87A: Bruce who played Watson (Nigel) - I had two major "How Did I Know That?" moments. One was here, and the other was at 91A: Eucharist plate (paten). Got the latter off the "N" and was stunned when what felt like a made-up word ended up being exactly right.
- 105A: Player of filmdom's Mr. Chips (Donat) - he's back in your Sunday puzzle, so you may as well remember his name.
- 107A: Welsh rabbit ingredient (ale) - here's a lesson: read the clues. I had STEPS-VER at 79D: Efficiency device (step-saver) and without looking at the clue assumed it had to be STEPS OVER. That gave me OLE at 107A. Perfectly good word, so I didn't look at that clue either. I am clearly not good enough to be flying blind like that.
- 114A: Passage practices (rites) - horribly awkward phrasing.
- 115A: Chihuahua drink (agua)
- 116A: Prominent Chihuahua feature (ear) - cute ... ish.
- 3D: Crosses the international date line from east to west (loses a day) - great clue / answer. I will LOSE A DAY this July when we go to NZ. Last time we went to NZ, I "lost" Christmas. Completely.
- 7D: 1979 film parodied in "Spaceballs" ("Alien") - wow, I thought only "Star Wars" was parodied in this. If I've seen "Spaceballs," it's been 20+ years.
- 12D: Swiss dish of grated and fried potatoes (rosti) - one of the only head-turners in this whole puzzle. Never ever heard of it. Sounds good.
- 32D: Postal creed word (nor) - went through the weather hazards (ice?) until realizing the answer was a simple conjunction.
- 34D: Rock's _____ Pop (Iggy)
- 35D: Popular pop (cola) - a pair of pops. The former beats the latter pretty badly. Here is Iggy Pop. I like how he has to be carried to the mike at the beginning.
- 39D: '50s teen star (Fabian) - I know of him from "Laverne & Shirley"
- 43D: Tommie _____, 1966 A.L. Rookie of the Year (Agee) - wanted AMES, don't know why.
- 53D: Stacking contest cookie (Oreo) - the only OREO-stacking videos I could find were of poor quality, or had drunk guys shouting profanity, so here is cup-stacking, which my nephew is Way into now. Apparently it's a competitive thing, and young kids are particularly good at it. Watch.
- 59D: Sideless wagon (dray) - had DORY, which I think is a ship. At least I was in the vehicle ballpark.
- 70D: Venetian V.I.P. of yore (doge) - ah, yore. Everyone's favorite time period.
- 71D: Wannabe's model (idol) - that's an oddly disparaging clue. Can't you IDOLize someone without actually wanting to be him/her?
- 87D: Like a relative notified in an emergency, maybe (nearest) - don't like this. Wanted NEAR KIN, which also would not have been good.
- 90D: Preserves fruits (quinces) - I like that this clue looks like a verb phrase.
- 92D: Remove by cutting (ablate) - a very ugly word.
- 94D: Honshu metropolis (Osaka) - On a purely aesthetic level, I Love (the word) OSAKA. Dramatic off-center "K" among other, lesser, supporting letters. Feels good to say, too.
- 97D: Old Norse works (eddas) - had SAGAS at first, like a chump.
- 100D: Oral flourishes (tadas) - "Oral" threw me. Badly. I was grossed out imagining what the answer here could possibly be.
- 103D: "Once You _____ Stranger" (1969 thriller) ("Kiss a") - saw "Kiss of Death" (1947) last night for the first time. It's Amazing. Richard Widmark as Tommy Udo is a performance everyone should see at least once. That guy is the greatest film noir actor of them all.
- 108D: TV host known for his mandibular prognathism (Leno) - i.e. his chin is big.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld