Friday, May 23, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
This is a decent puzzle. I don't have strong feelings about it. Beyond LEIBNIZ (51A: Philosopher who coined the phrase "the best of all possible worlds") and perhaps JUJITSU (35A: Literally, "art of softness"), there aren't many memorable parts - I expect Friday and Saturday puzzles to burst with sizzling words and phrases, and there aren't many today. There are, however, a lot of colloquial phrases, which normally I love, but today's felt pretty ordinary and occasionally a little flimsy. I am sure that a "buyer" might in fact say "MAY I SEE?" (26D: Potential buyer's question), but doesn't this just open up anything anyone might say to anyone? Potential donut-eater's question: ANY GLAZED LEFT? Confused manager's question: WHO'S UP? Potential driver's question: AM I TOO DRUNK? Etc. Then there's a phrase like SO THEN ... (15A: "Anyway, after that..."), which also seems to push the limits of phrase solidity. ON LATE (43D: Like postmidnight TV shows) is a common enough expression, but still lacks a certain answer-worthiness - I think you could get away with it in a puzzle without a lot of half-baked phrases, but this one's kind of loaded with them. Then there's the other end of the odd-phrase spectrum - the movie quote from a movie that (while good, and memorable for many reasons) is not iconic enough to quote from in a puzzle: "IS IT SAFE?" (18A: Memorable "Marathon Man" query). I remember the running, and especially the drilling, but not this question. I'm sure it's central to the film, I'm just saying I've *seen* the film and *I* don't remember it. The majority of people solving today will Not have seen this film (that's a guess, but probably not a bad one). I want so badly to love IS IT SAFE?, since I normally dig pop cultury stuff like that - but no luck. The puzzle all fits together fine, nothing about it is terrible or even particularly bad - it just left me a little cold.
Again, I loved LEIBNIZ. I thought that quotation about "the best of all possible" worlds was from Voltaire's "Candide" - maybe something Dr. Pangloss would have said. Took me a while to get LEIBNIZ - needed the "Z" from ZONE (52D: Man-to-man alternative), which is a kind of basketball defense, in case you didn't know. The top of the puzzle has some wonderful whimsical elements (and I rarely use "wonderful" and "whimsical" in such close proximity to each other). WHOVILLE (7A: Dr. Seuss story setting) is where all the WHOS live in "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." As for MR. TOAD, whom I've seen in my puzzle before - clued in relation to his WILD RIDE @ Disney World/Land - I loved the clue for him today; if you want to make me happy, just use the word "fop" (17A: Fop in "The Wind in the Willows"). Also loved the clue on HEAP (5D: Bucket of bolts). Perfect.
Crappy TV provided two gimmes for me today. I got IVS for 11D: "Grey's Anatomy" hookups despite my never having seen more than 5 minutes of the show. I guess the clue was trying to be cute about the fact that people on that show have sex indiscriminately (different meaning of "hookup"). I like to think of "Grey's Anatomy" as "E.R. - XTREME!" or "E.R. Nights" or "E.R. Ice" or "Dry" or "One" or some other tag that screams "Ersatz." Patrick Dempsey is handsome, though, I will give you that. He was good in "Enchanted," though not nearly as good as Amy Adams (but then few people are). I know Patrick Dempsey from "Can't Buy Me Love," but I grew up so deep in the 80s that they are only now beginning to extricate me. The other TV clue that saddened me was 30D: Three-time Emmy-winning game show host (Sajak). You get Emmys for that? Wow. Wow. Scorsese has to wait til he's practically dead to win an Oscar, but Sajaks using Emmys for paperweights. OK.
- 19A: Réunion, for one (ile) - I guess there's an island named "Réunion" that nobody told me about. Now I know.
- 20A: One of a French literary trio (Porthos) - sticking with French for a moment ... the other mouseketeers, in case you ever need to know them, are ATHOS and ARAMIS (also a cologne from the 70s/80s, if I remember correctly).
- 22A: National Do Not Call Registry org. (FTC) - alphabet soup! I had FCC here for a bit.
- 23A: 1987 Costner role (Ness) - "The Untouchables" might be my favorite Costner film, even over "Bull Durham." Once he hits the 90s, it's all downhill.
- 25A: Like a wet blanket (no fun) - I wavered on this one, but came down on the side of liking it. It's concise - feels like an actual, self-contained expression.
- 30A: Reddish-brown gems (sards) - ugliest-sounding gems of them all, which I'm sure I've said before, but here it is again.
- 31A: "If you shoot at mimes, should you use a silencer?," e.g. (one-liner) - hey, NOT FUNNY fits too.
- 34A: Celebratory cry ("We did it!") - again, wavered, then decided it was OK. Seems like you could switch out the pronoun for any other pronoun ... but WE DID IT probably comes in second, validity-wise, to I DID IT, so fine.
- 40A: Popular teen hangout, once (soda shop) - so proud of myself, and happy, in a "Happy Days" kind of way, when I wrote in MALT SHOP! I also had WAVES for TIDES (28D: Destroyers of many castles) and SENS for VETS (10D: Kerry and McCain, e.g.).
- 49A: Where you can find hammers and anvils (ear) - what is it with ear anatomy and the puzzle? It's got so many parts that are also names for other things (I guess they probably get their names from those other things, e.g. drum).
- 54A: 1989 film set in an inner-city high school ("Lean On Me") - Morgan Freeman and a baseball bat.
- 1D: It was shipwrecked in 1964 somewhere in the South Pacific (S.S. Minnow) - Can you clue a fictional shipwreck as if it happened in real time (1964)? I guess you can.
- 4D: Le Duc _____ (Nobel Peace Prize refuser) (Tho) - I prefer this THO to the abbreviation of "though" THO.
- 9D: Constellation with the star Betelgeuse (Orion) - You could have stopped this clue at "Constellation" for all the good the rest of the clue did me.
- 21D: Doctor often seen on writers' bookshelves (Roget) - never owned a thesaurus in my life. Always thought of them as crutches (though I can see how they could be useful in any number of pinches).
- 35D: Title girl in a 1958 hit by the Playmates (Jo-Ann) - wow, this song is Painful. I listened to "oldies" stations all through high school and never ran into this song.
- 38D: Popular boxing venue (UPS Store) - Oh, that's right, they have STOREs now. "Boxing venue." Cute.
- 40D: Military construction crew (Seabees) - I'd like to thank the puzzle for introducing me to these folks. Really helped in the "Oklahoma" portion of the grid, which I had real trouble getting into from the SW. Ended up having to come at it from the SE.
- 44D: Furniture cover (primer) - at some point in some furniture's lives. . . yes.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld