Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: "Turn the completed grid into a greeting card!" - see below
I don't understand this puzzle. I mean, I completed it, the grid is correct, but I don't get it. I can circle letters to spell out ... anyone's name? Can't I do that in most puzzles? I mean, OK, this puzzle is a pangram (has every letter in the alphabet in it), but I've seen pangrams before, many times. Big deal. That's your theme? If I got this "greeting card" for my birthday, I would be gravely disappointed. "You shouldn't have ... seriously."
The only trouble I had in this puzzle was in the far SW, where I had never heard of CRAY (61A: Big name in supercomputers), and thought the cluing on DOCK (50D: Where to tie one on?) was oddly clued - enough to make me worry that DOCK wasn't right. Do not like the "one" in this clue. Sometimes the play on words is too tempting, I guess. Anyway, I guessed correctly. My wife had real trouble in the west, with ARRIVE staying well out of view for a long time because of a couple of initially wrong answers: ILL for ILA (21A: Wharf workers org.) and, most aggravatingly for her, GUY for GUV (40A: Fellow, in British slang). Now, when I got GUV, I laughed out loud, mainly because GUV'nah is a Britishism that Bart Simpson occasionally uses when he affects his 19th-century Cockney bootblack persona. I'm pretty sure John Oliver has used it in some kind of British parody on "The Daily Show." Wife, however, was unamused, as GUV implies to her not a "fellow," but specifically a social superior. I can't speak to the nuances of meaning in this word, as I am still laughing. "Shine your shoes, GUV'nuh!?"
Theme answers (such as they are):
- 16A: Step 1: Highlight this answer (Happy Birthday to)
- 27A: Step 2: With 43- and 55-Across, do this in the grid (scrambled or not) ... it works for almost anyone [unless your name is ZYZZYVA] (Circle letters to)
- 43A: See 27-Across (spell out the name)
- 55A: See 27-Across (of your recipient)
- 5A: 12-time Pro Bowl pick Junior _____ (Seau) - I'll have all you non-sports fans know that as soon as I wrote this in (a gimme for me) I felt a pang of sympathy for you all. He is very famous if you follow football, not so much if you don't. That's what happens when you are a defensive player without a major shoe deal or related ad campaign.
- 15A: Europe/Asia boundary river (Ural) - Europe and Asia have always seems like the most ill-defined continents. Using the URAL as a boundary puts far western Kazakhstan in Europe and the rest of it in Asia.
- 36A: Diamond of note (Neil) - Oh I love him the way people love comfort food. Everything about his music makes me happy, like a little kid with no worries, even the depressing "Solitary Man." I cut my teeth on the 70s stuff: "Sweet Caroline," "Cracklin' Rose," "Kentucky Woman," etc. I don't care that his hair is insane and his clothes sometimes look like Elvis cast-offs and his lyrics are often sappy and loopy - "I am, I said / To no one there / And no one heard at all not / Even the chair." Genius. (OMG, here you can watch him getting it on with Shirley Bassey - hot / funny)
- 53A: The heart in "I Love New York" signs, e.g. (rebus) - weird that you have to clue this using the word "Love," which is simply not a part of that sign. There should be a heart symbol in this clue.
- 64A: Prime coffee-growing in Hawaii (Kona) - I miss Hawaii. That's the only place I want to be right now. Yesterday was a beautiful, crazy-warm day. Today - snow on the ground. :(
- 66A: North Sea feeder (Elbe) - this is usually YSER. Nobody ever expects ... ELBE!
- 3D: Feature of Alfred E. Neuman's smile (gap) - Alfred E. Neuman, like Neil Diamond, was a major part of my 70s childhood.
- 5D: Feature of many an office chair (swivel) - this will sound weird, but I wasn't aware that a SWIVEL was a thing. I thought it was just a verb. Is there a part of the chair that's the SWIVEL, or the motion itself the thing?
- 9D: Eighth note (quaver) - no idea about this one. Wikipedia says this is "British or 'classical' terminology," where "eighth note" is "American of 'German' terminology" - You'd think you musical types could just get together and decide on a proper name for the thing, for god's sake.
- 17D: End-of-ramp directive (yield) - I like this clue. It's ... precise.
- 31D: Louise's cinematic partner (Thelma) - For reasons I cannot fathom, the first thing "Louise" made me think of was Estelle Parsons in "Bonnie and Clyde" (she won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Blanche Barrow). How did I get from Louise to Estelle? Louise ... Estelle ... maybe the old-fashionedness of the names. No idea.
- 37D: Nerve appendage (axon) - had the "X," otherwise would have been lost. Had no idea "appendage" was a word one could use in relation to a nerve.
- 41D: Root who won the 1912 Nobel Peace Prize (Elihu) - one of those names that made me freak out the first time I saw it - it seemed obscure / ridiculous - and now is a total gimme. Other ELIHUs of note include ELIHU Yale, first benefactor of Yale University, and ... nope, that's all my ELIHUs.
- 45D: 1977 James Brolin thriller with the tagline "What EVIL drives ..." ("The Car") - by far the best, most entertaining clue of the day. I have never heard of this movie. Seems to be part of the murderous moving vehicle genre, which includes "Duel" and "Christine" and Stephen King's one and only foray into movie-directing, "Maximum Overdrive."
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS Here's an added bonus for the "... and that AIN'T HAY" haters / lovers. From my vintage paperback collection (actually, this image is stolen from the internets, but I do own this book):
Such a hot cover... everything about it is amazing, from Charon rowing a fat joint across the Acheron in his coffin-ship, to the come-hither look of the sexy smoke spectre. Fabulous.