Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: "Whine and Dine" - three complaints a diner might make (actually, one complaint and two annoyed questions), plus WHINE AND DINE - 54A: Title of this puzzle
First, congratulations to my stepmom, who was elected to the Carmel (-by-the-Sea) City Council yesterday. Woo hoo. I'm related to Power! Soon, my family will buy a huge seaside compound and start acting like American Aristocracy! Today Carmel, tomorrow the western seaboard, and then ... let's see, Friday ... uh ... Asia? Mexico? Whatever. We're on our way.
This puzzle was supereasy, except for a patch in the west that caused me to trip and nearly fall on my ass, and then ... have you ever tripped while walking and then looked back accusatorily at the sidewalk? Well, that's how I looked at this piece of puzzle. It's not as if it took me long to sort things out, but I had this weird feeling of indignation that it took me several passes to get ATM FEE (42A: Money for money), which I hated at the time, but now accept. A couple of Downs in that same vicinity also did not come to me instantly - 37D: It has a horn: Abbr. (Afr.) [doesn't AFRica have several "horns? Or is the southernmost point the only real "horn?" - whoops - there's only one Horn of Africa - the Somali Peninsula in the east. I thought HORN was just a general term for a pointy section of land that a ship might go "around" - not sure how this all relates to the (baseball) term "around the horn"] and 38D: Apartment security feature (peephole). Something about PEEPHOLE feels completely counterintuitive. I recognize that it is a perfectly apt answer, but there's something prurient about the word. "I'm PEEPing at you..." I think the concept of a PEEP Show and PEEPing Tom have ruined the word PEEP for me. [And those marshmallow chicks don't help.] It's dirty. If anything, the PEEPer looks into your apartment from the outside. They need to rename those holes. So ... that's it. The rest of the puzzle - cake.
- 20A: "I asked for tomato bisque, not gazpacho!" (complaint #1) ("My soup is cold")
- 28A: "Has our waiter even made eye contact? (complaint #2) ("Are we invisible?")
- 47A: "What, are they growing the food? (complaint #3) ("Where's our order?") - this one gave me the most trouble, as I had WHERE'S OUR ---ER and DINNER would Not fit.
Though this puzzle was mostly easy, I did have a weird hiccup in the very beginning - not a big problem, but kind of funny (to me, at least). Here is the grid looked after I'd torched the top part of the puzzle:
Then, feeling cocky, and knowing that the theme involved "complaints," I eyeballed 28A and without ever looking at the clue, wrote in ARE WE HAVING FUN!? - that sounded like a sarcastic complaint of sorts. I guess the full question would be ARE WE HAVING FUN YET? - but I was so pleased to nail this intuitively that I didn't question it. Until none of the Downs worked. Then I looked at the clue. Always a good idea.
- 1A: "The Divine Comedy," for one (epic) - wrote in POEM, despite spending much of the past two weeks explaining the EPIC lineage of "Paradise Lost," which includes "The Divine Comedy." Thankfully, reliable EDAM (1D: Mild yellow cheese) bailed me out up there and I had the rest of NW and N done in under a minute.
- 16A: High-end Honda (Acura) - wrote it in instantly and then pulled it when I misread my own handwriting and saw (I thought) that 12D: Pal (bro) started "SR..." That "S" was actually a "B" (from TABBY - 9A: Housecat). Eventually ACURA found its way back. I had far less trouble up there than my wife, who had a catastrophic failure. Feasible alternatives at 11D: Pal and 13D: Pie hole (she had BUD and YAW, respectively) left her with BEDOW for 19A: Dizzy Gillespie's jazz (bebop). BEDOW is going to be my new name for jazz. Or mysterious music I can't identify. Or pretentiously arty music. It's got so many uses already. [this makes me happy - first Google search to result in a hit to my site today = [bedow gillespie]!]
- 18A: Book of Mormon book (Omni) - yes, the Mormons named one of their books after the first Dodge model to come with front-wheel drive.
- 39A: 14+ (UHF) - from Wikipedia, everything you need to know about this clue/answer:
- 46A: Something Elizabeth II has? (zed) - the word ZED makes me laugh out loud these days, due entirely to a single joke in "Flight of the Conchords," where band manager Murray repeatedly refers to the rock band "ZZ Top" as "Zed Zed Top." I wish I could find a clip ... but here's a song about Murray instead.
- 51A: Sevilla seasoning (sal) - Nice seasoning = SEL.
- 63A: Titan's place (silo) - it's a missile.
- 64A: A rock band's name often appears on it (drum) - bass drum, to be exact.
- 66A: Language of the Hindustan Express (Urdu) - is that a train? A talking train? Oh, no, it's a newspaper.
- 67A: Sci-fi sage (Yoda) - you should have known this instantly. The puzzle's most important little green ... man. Yesterday JABBA, today YODA. I think ALEC (Guinness) was recently in the puzzle too. He was the original Obi-Wan.
- 69A: Mulching material (peat) - wow, "mulching" is a really horrific word. Sounds like a very taboo ... activity of some kind. It's like MUNCH and BELCH had a baby and they called it MULCH.
- 2D: My Little _____ (kids' toy line) (Pony) - gimme gimme gimme. I don't think Sahra has any of these, but if she watched commercial television I'm sure she would be all over them. She loves ponies. I'm trying to get her to love chess, too. My dream is to have a very girlie, pony-and-pink-loving daughter who nonetheless can totally kick your son's ass in chess, backgammon, karate, and all things math and science. The anti-me, basically. I was joking with my wife about becoming a "Chess Dad" - "Destroy Him, Honey! Sweep the Leg!" [that's a "Karate Kid" reference - I wish Elisabeth SHUE (5A: Elisabeth of "Cocktail") had been clued via "KK" instead of the Absolute Train Wreck that is "Cockatail." My 14-year-old self thought Elisabeth SHUE was Very cute]
- 3D: Charge holders (ions) - Is "holders" an odd attempt at a misdirect? I guess it could have been AAAs, as in batteries.
- 70A: 10 C-notes (one G) - love this almost as much as I hate the "G" cross, E-MAG (59D: Webzine).
- 5D: Free local paper (Shopper) - the "Springfield SHOPPER" is the newspaper of record on "The Simpsons," so this was easy for me.
- 8D: 13th-century king of Denmark (Eric IV) - I am fairly certain that OSCAR II, the last king of a united Sweden and Norway, was in almost this Exact grid position in a puzzle earlier this year. Randomly Roman numeraled Scandinavian kings are apparently indigenous to the Great Lakes portion of the puzzle.
- 28D: Queen of Soul, familiarly (Aretha) - gimme. I could (and sometimes do) listen to her all day long.
- 55D: The Old Sod (Eire) - I've blogged about this very term before, so why did I think this was a specifically ENGLISH term??
- 56D: Robert who won a Tony for "Guys and Dolls" (Alda) - gimme, but only from doing so many damn puzzles. Father of ALAN ALDA - the more common puzzle ALDA.