Saturday, April 5, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "Sound Moves" [or "Could You Reword That, Please?," if you're doing the puzzle in the NYT Magazine] - familiar phrases are rewritten to form wacky phrases that sound the same as the original phrases but mean something completely different. Wacky phrases are then clued, wackily.
April 6, my sister's birthday. Happy Birthday, Amy! You are scarily old to me now, which is sad, because you are (still!) several years younger than I am.
As for this puzzle: I had an error. That's what I have to say about this puzzle. Never heard of TAPPETS (28A: Motor levers) and SUPR seemed as good an abbreviation as any for "superintendent" (10D: Apt. overseer) so I had TAPPERS / SUPR. I never even considered the "T." Only other letter I was entertaining was "E." So ... that's not good. Flat out mistake. You hate to see that.
Otherwise, I thought the puzzle was just OK. I was not a huge fan of the theme - the wacky phrases were often insufficiently wacky to make the whole conceit work. I had to muck around a lot even to get CLAY MAN EXEMPTION, and things didn't improve much from there. I'm not sure how the title relates to the theme? "Sound Moves?" What sound is moving? Further, MOVING is in one of the theme answers, which threw me, as you usually don't see title words (or versions thereof) in the grid, especially in the theme answers. So ... I didn't think the puzzle was terrible. Just meh. My wife, however, may still be gnashing her teeth. I think I'd need two hands to count the number of times she said "I *really* don't like this theme" last night. Maybe she'll wake up feeling more charitable.
- 23A: Tax break for Gumby? (clay man exemption)
- 35A: Blessing for a shipboard romance? (sea love approval)
- 56A: Perhaps doesn't believe witty Rogers? (may doubt a Will) - this is the one that really got under my wife's skin, in a bad way ...
- 76A: End-game maneuvers? (key pawn moving)
- 92A: Excavate in the white cliffs? (mine Dover matter)
- 110A: Drab Oriental fabric (gray toile of China)
- 16D: Sketch sewing-kit stores? (draw pin centers) - what in the world is a DROP-IN CENTER? Seems to be a place that provides relief for the homeless, but I can't really tell clearly from a quick Google search.
- 46D: Clown's parade memoir? (my laughter mile) - I think this one's my favorite.
Two words (excluding TAPPETS) completely threw me today. SIMNEL (17D: British fruitcake) and DE STIJL (104A: 1910s-'20s Dutch art movement). The first one, as a word, just looks horrible. What other words even look like that? SIMNEL? It's ugly to the point of repulsive. Sounds bad, looks bad. I checked the crosses a billion times before letting that one go (wife knew it, but she's Kiwi, and they just know some of that British @#$# without really knowing why). DE STIJL was unknown to me until I parsed it correctly (two words), but even then I couldn't have defined it for you. Turns out one of the movements exponents is Piet Mondrian, whose work is very familiar to me (and most of you, probably). Simplified composition, pure abstraction, primary colors (and black and white). I think I had a bedspread in the 80s that was reminiscent of DE STIJL.
- 1A: Rocker Ocasek and others (Rics) - gimme. He's the monstrously tall and gaunt lead singer of The Cars.
- 5A: Dwellers along the Dnieper River (Slavs) - "dwellers" ... that's like "denizens," i.e super crosswordy.
- 10A: "A _____, petal and a thorn (Emily Dickinson poem) ("sepal") - this word's hard enough without its being buried in an Emily Dickinson poem. But since my sister wrote her senior thesis on Dickinson, and it is my sister's birthday, after all, I'll give this clue/answer my SEA LOVE APPROVAL.
- 18A: 1969 self-titled jazz album (Ella) - one of the most common names in all crossword-dom. A beautiful name, nonetheless.
- 19A: United We Stand America founder (Perot) - I knew this instantly. How is that possible?
- 34A: Primitive wind instruments (pan pipes) - Damn, the plural! How did I miss the plural? I had PAN FLUTE here for a while. Oh Zamfir, why do you haunt me so?
- 43A: Architect whose epitaph says "Reader, if you seek his monument, look around you" (Wren) - in St. Paul's cathedral, where Wren is buried.
- 47A: World's longest wooden roller coaster, at Kings Island (The Beast) - noooo idea. It's a good name, though. I like it. And for some of you (... honey) it functions as a nice title for the puzzle.
- 55A: Bridge writer Culbertson (Ely) - why must "Bridge writers" (a marginal field of endeavor if there ever was one) have such crossworthy names. GOREN? ELY? By the way, the song of the year for me, now, is "Eli's Comin'," as performed by Three Dog Night. Between the Super Bowl and the crossword, I've had that damned song in my head for Months. I can't even see the word ELI (and variants) without hearing the song in my head. "You better better hide your heart!"
- 64A: "On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer" poet (Keats) - gimme for all English majors. Take that, you pampered math/science types, with your ENOLS and TRIVALENTS and TORI and what not.
- 65A: Tribe originally from the Deep South (Choctaw) - family lore had us with CHOCTAW ancestors on my mother's side, for a while. Until genealogical research by my mom proved it false. Now I forget which tribe it really was, so in my head - still CHOCTAW!
- 75A: Enough to hold a lotta iPod tunes (gig) - "lotta," ouch. I guess that was the slang that was supposed to tip you to the slang of GIG (as in "GIGabyte").
- 83A: Zero interest (no desire) - I keep reading this as NODE SIRE.
- 85A: Choice marbles (taws) - whoa, haven't see this word in ages. AGATES and STEELIES I've seen recently. But TAWS has been absent for a while.
- 88A: "Hands Across the Sea" composer (Sousa) - and you thought "Hands Across America" was a failure ...
- 99A: "A Little Bitty Tear" singer, 1962 (Burl Ives) - When I see his name, I think ... Santa.
- 103A: Current gauge (ammeter) - another word that just looks - wrong. It's desperately searching for a proper prefix. SPEEDOMETER and TACHOMETER are laughing at it.
- 108A: Like many "Survivor" contestants (isled) - that's just horrible. "Oh no, don't ISLE me!"
- 119A: Plant swelling (edema) - yes, plants get them too.
- 120A: Communism battler, with "the" (West) - pretty elaborate clue for a simple word.
- 8D: What people are saying, briefly (vox pop) - really? This is a legitimate phrase? "Yo, dude, what's the VOX POP?" That's like the nerdiest version of "The 411" I've ever seen. It's the Latin Club version of street slang.
- 14D: Leader with a goatee (Lenin) - "Goatee" makes me think of Murray, the goateed band manager on the HBO show "Flight of the Conchords," which we are currently watching on DVD, and which I must insist you all see. It's about a two-man band from NZ trying (and failing, completely) to make it in the U.S. They have one fan. All attempts to explain this show will not do it justice. It is uncomfortably hilarious. No laff trak, thank god.
- 25D: Prime minister raised in Milwaukee (Meir) - now there's an epitaph. Classy.
- 37D: Expressed wonder (ahed) - the spelling on that is Killing me ...
- 38D: Hops drier (oast) - one of my favorite little crossword words. Decapitated "toast."
- 39D: "Apologia pro _____ Sua" ("vita") - John Henry Newman's defense of his faith against what he saw as an attack on Roman Catholic doctrine by Charles Kingsley. Also a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge:
The poet in his lone yet genial hour
Gives to his eyes a magnifying power:
Or rather he emancipates his eyes
From the black shapeless accidents of size--
In unctuous cones of kindling coal,
Or smoke upwreathing from the pipe's trim bole,
His gifted ken can see
Phantoms of sublimity.
- 45D: Crooked (illegit) - again, it hurts. Had ILLEGAL, like every right-thinking person.
- 48D: Twaddle (bosh) - BOSH is also an NBA star.
- 53D: Toweling-off place (bath mat) - true enough. I like this answer a lot. Looks cool in the grid, and it's fairly unusual as 7-letter answers go.
- 67D: Where private messages may be sent? (APOs) - Army Post Offices. Get it? "Private?" Uh huh. Yeah. Cheeky.
- 76D: 1990-'91 war site (Kuwait) - took me an Embarrassingly long time. I had KOSOVO here at first.
- 86D: "The House of the Spirits" author, 1982 (Allende) - thank god for her, because I was a little shaky down there in the SW.
- 89D: _____ law (early legal code) (Salic) - don't why I know this. I just do. Wikipedia tells me this intersting fact ... oid:
The most well-known tenet of Salic law is agnatic succession, the rule excluding females from the inheritance of a throne or fief.
- 97D: Figure skater Sokolova and others (Elenas) - I'm going to have to compile an "ELENAS of the World" list. They seem to be multiplying like flesh-eating bacteria.
- 100D: Steakhouse shunner (vegan) - I don't eat meat, but I eat seafood (occasionally), so I could still go to a steakhouse and have a meal. But I don't. NODE SIRE. The Bloomin' Onion is a pleasure I'll just have to wait til the afterlife to experience. [Cue the choir of angels]:
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld