Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Relative difficulty: Challenging
THEME: A to Z - five theme answers begin with "A" and end with "Z"
I could not finish this puzzle. The SE corner was a complete and utter disaster. I have not hated a puzzle like I hated this one in a good, long while. It was like it was giving me the finger the whole time I was doing it. Having @#$#@ass lying steroid-using* loser ALEX RODRIGUEZ down the middle of my puzzle was just the icing on the cake. To keep vitriol to a minimum today, I'm actually not going to say much. I don't think the puzzle is worth it. I just want to know who test-solved this thing and thought "Yeah, this feels like Tuesday"? If FERULE (47D: Punishing rod) is the price of executing your precious theme, then your precious theme is not worth executing. In fact, as a metaphorical FERULE to you ... no pictures. Wait, better: only pictures that have NOTHING to do with the puzzle. Perfect.
Now, here's the thing about my failure. There's often stuff on Tuesdays that I don't know. I'm not averse to not knowing things. Happens every day. But there were four things I didn't know in one tiny corner of the puzzle, one of which (FERULE) doesn't belong on any puzzle save Saturday. Apparently SYZYGY (46D: Alignment of the sun, earth and moon, e.g.) is a word known by many - not me. I inferred it from some kind of combination of SYNERGY and ZYZZYVA. I also inferred that the NCO in question was SFC (sergeant first class - 46A: Certain NCO), even though that's Never the NCO in question - only three instances in the entire cruciverb.com database. And still, after all this, I'm alive ... notice how all the problems are in the FERULE region. And that's where I died, not so much because of FERULE, which I was never going to get, but because I didn't know how to spell SOYUZ. I had SOYEZ, like ... I don't know SUEZ? Then thought SOYAZ ... no. And it took me a while even to look at that letter. Initially I wanted APOLLOSEVEN down there, not having been old enough to remember APOLLO SOYUZ. Anyway, I call foul. This is saying nothing of all the other crap that had to get into this puzzle to make the "theme" work. MCGUIRE (43A: New Jersey's _____ Air Force Base)? LAGRANGE (39D: Georgia city or college)? Why not just pick some random names out of an atlas? Oh, and as for the cluing of MCGUIRE. You've already got one beefed-up, steroid-addled* homerun hitter in the puzzle. Why not go for two? Oh, dang, the spelling's wrong (disgraced slugger Mark MCGWIRE spells his name ... like that). Sorry if I'm annoying Yankees fans today. It's really just misplaced frustration over my own puzzling incompetence, I know. And I know some of you think "There's no proof A-Rod did steroids." Yes ... just like there's no proof that Roger Clemens slept with a fifteen-year-old country singer (though, to be fair, Clemens did that ... or didn't do it ... when he was on the Red Sox). Everybody's Innocent! (I love the last line of this article on the subject)
After yesterday's completely unnecessary puzzle explanation in the puzzle header, today we get a "theme" that could have used an explanation (though after a few moments I figured it out).
- 17A: Semiautobiographical Bob Fosse film ("All That Jazz")
- 38A: A.L. M.V.P. in 2003, 2005 and 2007 (Alex Rodriguez)
- 60A: 1970s joint U.S./Soviet space project (Apollo Soyuz)
- 12D: Namesake of a branch of Judaism (Ashkenaz)
- 38D: The Rock (Alcatraz)
Straight to the wrap-up:
- 35D: Blood fluids (serums) - I'm no genius, and I ain't never heard of no FERULE or even SYZYGY, but I know that the plural for SERUM is SERA.
- 1D: Daisy developed by Luther Burbank (shasta) - what the hell does this even mean??? Oh, you mean an actual daisy, like a flower. I was thinking it was a rifle or something ... apparently the SHASTA daisy is "one of America's most beloved garden flowers." To me, it is a mountain in California. And a brand of soda pop (bygone?).
- 1A: No stranger to the slopes (ski bum) - good. I was really hesitant to put it in, because it seemed pretty fancy for a Tuesday. Little did I know...
- 11A: Sporty auto, for short (Jag) - had REO. Not sure what I would have done without little old GHI (13D: 4, on a keypad).
- 45A: Bogey beater (par) - normally alliterative little clues for easy answers get on my nerves, but today ... I kinda like this little guy.
- 11D: Supporter of the House of Stuart (Jacobite) - when I got this (and I knew this cold) I thought "uh oh, something's wrong. That's not a Tuesday answer, especially not when it's sitting next to ASHKENAZ..."
- 22A: Creature from the forest moon of Endor (Ewok) - took me a few seconds, as I thought first of the Witches of Endor and then of Orcs and Ents and then efts, which are salamanders ... then, finally, "Return of the Jedi."
- 37A: Highlander's textile pattern (tartan) - very Very nice to cross this with JACOBITE.
- 50A: Arizona birthplace of Cesar Chavez (Yuma) - Never saw the movie "3:10 to Yuma," but the Elmore Leonard short story on which it's based is Fantastic.
- 58A: Book after II Chronicles (Ezra) - did I mention I had ENOS here for a while. Oh yeah ... I told you the SE was a train wreck.
- 6D: Ancient land along the Dead Sea (Moab) - staying with Biblical Ignorance for the moment ... I know this, I just ... temporarily forgot it. Needed crosses.
- 8D: Resident of Japan's "second city" (Osakan) - known for their great improv comedy.
- 18D: Modern dance music originating in Detroit (techno) - that's a pretty cool answer. Detroit gets very little love these days, in the puzzle or otherwise.
- 25D: Only son of Czar Nicholas II (Alexei) - and ALEX RODRIGUEZ? Again, I cry foul. I also had ALEX IV here at first ...
- 44D: It was divided by the Iron Curtain (Europe) - you need to know this in order to understand the significance of the nickname of one of the greatest football defenses of all time - the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers' "Steel Curtain."
- 61D: Eucharist vessel (pyx) - very cute word. I know "cute" doesn't normally go with "Eucharist," but there it is.
- 57D: Hitler : Germany :: _____ : Japan (Tojo) - this name will always, in my head, be spoken derisively by Hank Hill's father, Cotton. Here he is in the episode "Shins of the Father," explaining the war injury that left him about four feet tall:
I was fourteen, just a little older than Bobby. But I knew Uncle Sam needed me, so I lied and signed up. We had beat the Nazzys in Italy, and they shipped me to the Pacific theater. A Tojo torpedo sent our troop's ship to the bottom. I could only save three of my buddies, Fatty, Stinky, and Brooklyn. They were kind of like you fellas, only one of them was from Brooklyn. Out of the sun came a Tojo Zero and put fifty bullets in my back. The blood attracted sharks. I had to give 'em Fatty. Then things took a turn for the worse. I made it to an island, but it was full of Tojos! They were spitting on the U.S. flag! So I rushed 'em, but it was a trap. They opened fire and blew my shins off. Last thing I remember, I beat 'em all to death with a big piece of Fatty. I woke up in a field hospital, and they were sewing my feet to my knees.
This needs to be in his voice for you to fully appreciate its greatness. Cotton is one of the greatest characters on TV in the past two decades. I enjoy thinking about him more than I enjoy recalling the details of this puzzle, which is now, thank god, behind me.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
*I was never serious about the steroids. When I talk Red Sox / Yankees, I often just rant (unlike when I talk puzzles, when even my most critical comments are actually carefully considered). Fans of both teams would, I think, recognize hyperbolic trash talk when they see it. A-Rod is way way beefier than he used to be even a decade ago, and I believe Canseco that he introduced A-Rod to a known steroid dealer ... and yet, as one of my smarter readers just politely pointed out:
"[...] I would argue there are many legitimate reasons not to like him, but there's not much credible evidence to suggest he had anything to do with steroids. In fact, the only "substantiated" claim came from Canseco's book, who named a trainer known as "Max". "Max" has subsequently issued a statement claiming responsibility for much of what Canseco claims about him (much of it not too flattering) but absolutely, unreservedly laughs off the notion of A Rod and steroids. There are few to none of the tell tale signs associated with steroids (a larger head, a much larger physique than otherwise [could] be readily attributable to exercise and filling out, his largest output of home runs in the season following MLB's "crackdown" on steroids. etc.) There are so many reasons not to like him as a ballplayer, and perhaps as a person. But even his bitterest enemies don't doubt he in fact works like a demon and none take steroids allegations very seriously.-RP
As for his swiping at Arroyo in the 2004 ALCS, however, there can be no excuse..."