Sunday, April 27, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "Oops!" - 10 theme answers are words that are IMPROPERLY SPELLED (65A: Like the answers to the 10 asterisked clues, more often than any other English words, according to a 1999 study)
I liked this puzzle. It was slightly tougher for me than recent Sundays have been, likely because of all the misspelled words, which were somehow very hard for my brain to deal with. Brain No Want Bad Word. Brain Refuse To See. But here is the big (and for me, it's big) problem with this puzzle. It's certainly not the conception or the execution of the fill, both of which are just fine. The problem is, simply, that according to the wording of the theme-describing clue - 65A: Like the answers to the 10 asterisked clues, more often than any other English words, according to a 1999 study (improperly spelled) - all of the theme answers should be properly spelled. Let me explain. If you had stopped the clue at the word "clues," then the "misspelled" would refer to the state of the words themselves and thus the clue would be perfect: all the theme answers are indeed "misspelled." The problem is that the clue continues, turning "misspelled" from a state of being into an act. The theme answers are not misspelled more often than any other English words, according to a 1999 study because they are already misspelled. You can't misspell a misspelled word. Imagine that I'm trying to tell you about a word I spell incorrectly all the time. The conversation might go something like this. Wait, it has to be an e-mail conversation, or the example makes no sense:
Me: "Hey, you know what word I misspell all the time? FARSE."
You: "Uh ... do you mean you misspell FARCE all the time?"
Me: "No, I know how to spell FARCE, I'm not an idiot. I misspell FARSE - you know, like they speak in Iran."
You: "Are you sure you're not an idiot?"
Oliver Hill knows what I like - crossing D'OH (56A: "What a moron I am!") with IHOP (52D: Restaurant chain since 1958). It's like he's winking at me! I hope that today's discussion is about the merits of the puzzle and not the astonishing fact that Oliver Hill is 12 years old (slightly older - I'm exageratting for effect ...). So let's get the oohing and aahing and fawning about his youth out of our systems now, OK? Oooh. Aaaah. This kid and Messrs. Der and Last give me great hope that when I am quite old, the puzzles I solve in between gardening and napping will not suck. That's right, honey, in the distant future, I garden too. Oh, it's a magical place ...
- 26: *Long, long time (millenium)
- 32A: *Stick with a needle, maybe (innoculate)
- 34A: *Absence at a nudist colony? (embarassment)
- 44A: *Bugs (harrasses)
- 51A: *Wee (miniscule) - minuscule ... whoa, count me among those who probably would have misspelled that word. Of course it's misspelled - it sounds like it has MINI- in it!
- 82A: *Conspicuous (noticable)
- 87A: *Supplant (supercede)
- 94A: *Doggedness (perseverence) - I put the emphasis on the second syllable of this word, all because of a medieval morality play called "The Castle of Perseverance" ... OK that story went nowhere, but it is nonetheless true.
- 97A: *Oblige (accomodate)
- 107A: *Event (occurence)
The roughest part of the puzzle for me was the NW, which I just could not get in to despite having PULI (2D: Long-haired sheepdog) and SHEL (4D: Writer/illustrator Silverstein). Yes, PULI was a gimme, and yes, I occasionally watch dog shows on Animal Planet even though I will probably never own a pure breed. All the mutty dogs in the pound need me more. Still, love to watch dog shows when I'm tired and bored. If you want to see what Ron Reagan looks like when he's really in his element, the dog show is the place. It's like he found his true calling: dog show commentary. But back to the NW - LUTHERAN, really (19A: Like the carol "Away in a Manger," originally)? Different denominations have their own carols!?!?!? That is news to me. The one killer mistake I had up here was APPS for CPUS (1A: Program executors, for short). It was weirdly right in the "P" - which is why I kept it for so long. I then changed it to CPAS, but then ATIL didn't seem right for 3D: Regulated bus. (util.), so then I wrote in CPUS, and completely blanked on what it meant (central processing unit). Had to look it up after I was done. Lastly in the NW - RATIOS (6D: Photoshop options) is terrible. Don't all things have RATIOS? The ratio of my middle finger (!) to my palm is roughly 1:1. See?
At one reader's request, I am printing some MERLOT-related dialogue from the recent movie, Sideways (21A: Wine sometimes blended with Cabernet Sauvignon). Enjoy:
Jack: If they want to drink Merlot, we're drinking Merlot.Clean-up:
Miles Raymond: No, if anyone orders Merlot, I'm leaving. I am NOT drinking any @#$#ing Merlot!
- 24A: Foot, slangily (tootsy) - speaking of MISSPELLED - I'd have spelled this TOOTSIE (like the Dustin Hoffman movie, I guess)
- 31A: Half-baked (dopy) - wanted only DICY, which, now that I look at it, is MISSPELLED. "Half-baked" is both one of the greatest ice cream flavors and one of the worst movies ever conceived.
- 41A: What a Tennessee cheerleader asks for a lot? (an E) - I have So many great answers to this hypothetical question, but they are the kinds of answers that might be given by Vanderbilt or UConn fans, and are thus unprintable.
- 60A: Monterrey mister (señor) - ah, alliteration. Brightens up even the lamest clues.
- 14A: Casual attire (Levi's) - I had MUFTI.
- 62A: Suffix not seen much in London (-ize) - they have ZEDphobia over there.
- 71A: _____ choy (Chinese vegetable) - if our local Chinese restaurant is out of snow pea leaves, we get the BOK choy.
- 113A: Root used in perfumery (orris) - no idea how I knew this. Like ATTAR, it's a perfume-related word I picked up ... somewhere. It crosses the very horrible CURES (99D: Parish priests).
- 5D: Mustang competitor (Grand Am) - I had TRANS AM, which I like a hell of a lot better.
- 14D: 1950s Braves All-Star pitcher Burdette (Lew) - well that's a third-rate LEW if I've ever seen one.
- 17D: Archipelago part (islet) - what's the difference between an ISLE and an ISLET? Size? Yes, size.
- 29D: Cliff (scar) - uh ... I apparently don't scale cliffs enough, because this word, while vaguely familiar, is not ringing a bell very strongly.
- 37D: Product with TV's first advertising jingle, 1948 (Ajax) - here's a 1950s ad. It's going to be in my head the rest of the day. "You'll stop paying the elbow tax ..." (!?)
- 40D: "Illmatic" rapper (Nas) - almost as important as DRE, as far as crossword rappers go.
- 48D: They're seen in many John Constable paintings (elms) - this may sound odd, but ... John who?
- 66D: Target of many a Bart Simpson prank call (Moe) - sadly, never saw this clue. It's a gimme, and an old one, but I still don't not love it.
- 70D: Dynasty of Confucius and Lao-tzu (Chou) - never saw this clue either, thank god.
- 110D: International chain of fusion cuisine restaurants (NOBU) - wanted IHOP again. It's "international," that's for sure. And I'm sure there's something Tex-Mex on their menu, which makes them fusion. Q.E.D.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld