Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: MIDTERM (40A: Kind of exam, with a hint to the answers to the four starred clues) - letter string TERM can be found in the MIDdle of each of the four theme answers
One of the most enjoyable Tuesday puzzles I've solved in a long time. A simple but elegant theme with lively theme answers, a bonus theme element - all theme answers start with "M" - and non-theme fill that is as good as I've ever seen in a Tuesday puzzle. I just used the word "theme" five times in one sentence. Top that. On second thought, please don't. Got completely frozen right out of the box at 1A: Like a cold fish. Took the clue literally and couldn't get, I don't know, let's say CLAMMY, to fit. Immediately went to work on the Downs and had the answer in no time. "Cold fish" = metaphor for an ALOOF somebody or other). Not sure how that metaphor came into being. An actual "cold fish" is something more than ALOOF. It's likely dead. Or else still in the ocean / river, and thus ... yes, I guess that's pretty ALOOF. Anyway ... got the front end of the first theme answer and off I went.
- 17A: *Myopic cartoon fellow (MisTER Magoo) - I guess that he was offensive to some blind people. Watch this ... and remind me, who's supposed to be offended??? (hint: look for character named "Charlie")
- 11D: *Plan hatcher (masTERMind)
- 30D: *Some ticket issuers (meTERMaids)
- 65A: *Popular tune around Halloween ("MonsTER Mash")
This puzzle is generally refreshingly free of tedious, common fill. OK, so there's an OBI here (64A: Japanese band) and an IRE there (43A: U2's home: Abbr.) ... and an OREO there too (37D: Treat that's sometimes dunked), but come on: ZAMBEZI! (26A: Victoria Falls river). That's magical. RUTGERS! (49A: Home of the Scarlet Knights); GUM DROP! (53A: Soft, colorful candy); SANDMAN! (48D: Sleep inducer of song). That's poetry compared to most Tuesday fill. Even weird plurals like DEEP ENDS (41D: Diving board locales) and words you'd rarely use like OUTWAIT (4D: Be more patient than) and the twin Disney chiefs OVITZ and EISNER (12D and 47A: Former Disney chief Michael) somehow all work here. Points off for the weak phrases SAME AS, I SEE, IN A, and AS IT, but points back on for the entertaining WATTS (22A: Charlie of the Stones), GENA (21A: Rowlands of "Gloria" - I love that movie; Gena Rowlands is a badass - the kid's a little insufferable, but Gena Rowlands = awesome), TREMOR (50D: Richter scale blip), DINGO (34D: Dog from Down Under) and the so-bad-it's-good KITER (32D: Passer of bad checks). More points on for including one of my favorite artists (42D: Muralist Joan => MIRO) and for resurrecting ASTA (24A: Film terrier).
This puzzle has some good mid-range crosswordy vocabulary, which is worth reviewing:
- 14A: Lash _____ of old westerns (La Rue)
- 53D: Crystal-lined rock (geode)
- 56D: Program file extension (exe)
I learned all these from xwords (yes, even GEODE, don't yell at me). Ooh, there's also AEON, which is a very familiar word to most of you, probably, but also probably not so familiar to many of you when clued via this particular Charlize Theron movie: 55A: "_____ Flux" (Charlize Theron film). This is the second time I've seen AEON clued this way, so get used to it. Also, this movie would make a good clue for FLUX, which is a word I can't see enough, frankly. Probably also good to remember that the Indianapolis Colts play in the RCA Dome (67D: _____ Dome (Colts' longtime home)), and that every other clue involving "start" or "cost" or "pay" or "play" is some version of ANTES (73A: Start-up costs, of sorts).
- 15A: Bring shame to (abash) - had ABASE, which seems reasonable to me. Sadly, SEOW ME is not a phrase (10D: "Prove it!" => SHOW ME)
- 20A: Garbage hauler (scow) - one of my favorite boats. Or is it a ship? [wink]
- 31A: Boots, gloves, mask, etc. (ski wear) - hands up for SKI GEAR. Anyone? Contemplated briefly the possibility that AGAPE could serve as an answer for 27D: On top of things (aware).
- 18D: Mil. unit (rgt.) - needed all my crosses here, though I see now that it stands for "regiment." Not a common xword abbreviation at all.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld