Sunday, May 25, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "Spy Glass" - Actors who have played James Bond + author of James Bond series + James Bond's signature drink, the latter of which sits inside a MARTINI glass formed by connecting the circled letters in the puzzle...
Wow. This puzzle has more theme elements than I ever remember seeing in a Sunday puzzle. I only just noticed this morning that though the circled letters don't spell anything, they do have meaning - you can connect them in alphabetical order to form the obvious MARTINI glass shape (this is explained, in AcrossLite, in the Notepad, but I tend not to read Notepads unless I absolutely have to). Also, this morning, I noticed that not only does the word MARTINI sit inside the MARTINI glass, but it functions as a design element as well, indicating the level of gin + vermouth inside the glass (after a sip or two, perhaps). Incredible. I would like to praise the inclusion of JAMES in this puzzle, both for the clever way it's clued (72D: Bond common to the answers to the six starred clues) and for the fact that it is located outside of normal puzzle symmetry, i.e. there is no corresponding theme answer to balance it out in the WNW - where instead of something thematic, we find the mysterious OUSEL (46D: White-collared thrush: Var.). Symmetry is great and all, but I think the puzzle should be more willing than it normally is to include the odd asymmetrical element, especially if the rest of the puzzle works so fantastically well).
You'll never guess which answer tipped me to the theme ... OK, well, there are a finite number of possibilities, so maybe you will guess ... it was GEORGE LAZENBY. I had the -ZENBY part and thought "what ends in -ZENBY ... GEORGE LAZENBY ... no, that's silly ..." Also, I thought the actor's name was LAZERBY. Anyway, it was nice to get the theme so early and easily. I couldn't remember the last name of the recent, very good James Bond, but every other actor's name came back to me with relative ease.
- 23A: *1969 (George Lazenby)
- 48A: *1973-85 (Roger Moore)
- 68A: *1987-89 (Timothy Dalton)
- 115A: *1995-2002 (Pierce Brosnan)
- 3D: *1962-67, 1971 (Sean Connery)
- 71D: *2006- (Daniel Craig)
- 90A: Writer born May 28, 1908 (Ian Fleming) - Happy Birthday, Mr. F.
One last nice thing about this theme: MARTINI is symmetrical to ASPIRIN (97A: Offering from St. Joseph).
Had many false starts today. I wanted an ARMOIRE in my foyer, not an AREA RUG (18A: Foyer item). I had ATRIAL instead of AORTAL (41A: Relating to a blood line). I thought that maybe the TSAR issued propaganda ... right country, wrong era => TASS (1D: Old propaganda propagator). There was a tie for biggest screw-up of the day. I was happy to have seen right through the trickery in 51D: Butterfly experts, perhaps - so I wrote in SWIMMERS (instead of SWIM TEAM). This caused no end of trouble, including giving me the disturbingly mysterious --SM for 74A: Kite flier's wish (gust). Intersecting SWIM TEAM is the other disastrous misstep I had today: 63A: Powder site, maybe. This misdirection was clearly intentional, and it worked like a charm. I had KEG. My wife had KEG. God knows many of you had KEG. The answer is WIG. Oh, I should also add that I screwed up 91D: Homeland protection org. at first. Had NSA, which gave me AORONA for 102A: Mexican beer. Actual answers are, of course, NSC and CORONA.
Many answers puzzled or surprised me today. I thought a plumb line was one that hung taut, and I thought a BOB (28A: End of a plumb line) was something that floated on top of the water when Opie fished with his Pa in Mayberry. I know ASSISI as the home of St. Francis and his sister Claire, not as an embroidery-crazy burg (26A: Italian town known for its embroidery). I don't even want to tell you the various answers I contemplated for 19A: Plug in a travel kit (adapter). I'll just say that I took "travel kit" to mean "toiletry bag," and leave it at that. I did not know LUNA (6D: _____ 9, first spacecraft to land softly on the moon), though I will say it is aptly, if unimaginatively, named. Also didn't know BILL HUDSON (77D: Rock guitarist once married to Goldie Hawn), but my wife pointed out that if you know who Hawn's daughter is, the last name shouldn't pose any trouble. I'd forgotten that little bit of helpful trivia. Don't know what TOYLAND is (66D: In song, "Once you pass its borders, you can ne'er return again), but it sounds a lot like Dante's "Inferno." I thought Purcell composed "Dido & Aeneas" ... and he did ... just not the version in question: 43D: Composer of "Dido and Aeneas" (Arne). I've seen ANTOINE in my puzzle before (123A: Artist Watteau), but what the @#$# is LADY DAY (53D: March 25, in the Christian calendar)? No, wait, I retract the question. Instead, I'll tell you who LADY DAY is. Enjoy.
My wife would like to contest the validity of 52A: Subj. for bilinguals (ESL). Her contention is that you take ESL in order to become bilingual. I think "bilingual" in this clue is being stretched (acceptably) to include only marginally proficient speakers who still need help. Sorry I can't back you up, honey.
- 35A: Neighborhood next to N.Y.C.'s East Village (NoHo) - total guess, inferred from SoHo.
- 54A: Like some video, to cable customers (on demand) - a very great and contemporary answer
- 55A: Warhol's "_____ of Six Self-Portraits" ("A Set") - I believe the last time we saw A SET it was clued in relation to the number six as well. Alliteration is very hard to resist.
- 75A: Muscle mag displays (bods) - one of my least favorite words. Ever. Much prefer PECS to BODS.
- 77A: Semitic deity (Baal) - he's in "Paradise Lost," briefly, so I know him.
- 82A: Alexander Hamilton's last act (duel) - this made me laugh out loud. Is that wrong?
- 108A: Global currency org. (IMF) - International Monetary Fund
- 110A: 2003 best-selling fantasy novel by teen author Christopher Paolini ("Eragon") - in one of those weird puzzle coincidences we all have from time to time, I went to my friend's yard sale yesterday and she was getting rid of this book. So it was fresh on my mind.
- 113A: Beethoven's third (drei) - ugh, good one. I wanted ... E. EEEE? Something to do with the third letter in Beethoven's name. I'm putting on "Eroica" now. Ah, that's better.
- 119A: New Jersey city, county or river (Passaic) - I know next to nothing about N.J. but I've heard this name enough for it to be very familiar.
- 4D: Attire with supersized pockets (cargo pants) - I thought "supersized" was reserved for a bygone type of McDonald's meal.
- 8D: Chairman's supporter? (Maoist) - great clue.
- 11D: Programme airer, with "the" (Beeb) - BBC. We've seen this a few times in the past year, I think.
- 12D: Knee sock material (orlon) - god I hate this material - mainly because I keep getting myself into puzzle-constructing jams where ORLON is the only way out. I've done three or four grids and I feel like ORLON ... as well as UTES ... has been (or tried to be) in every one.
- 16D: Edwards and others: Abbr. (AFBs) - for the second day in a row, I wanted SENS and was wrong. Air Force Bases.
- 38D: "The Allegory of Love" writer, 1936 (C.S. Lewis) - I really should have known this, but KEG (for WIG) screwed me up badly.
- 81D: 1998 Sarah McLachlan hit ("Adia") - The last decade has produced a few enduring crossword answers. This is one of them (see also ALERO, ALITO, OBAMA, etc.)
- 98D: Castle and Cara (Irenes) - it saddens me to realize that IRENE Cara is no longer a gimme for many people. She's been around That Long.
- 104D: "Romanzero" poet (Heine) - the German poet with the useful crossword name. He's in puzzles all out of proportion to his world-wide fame (I see him way more than GUNTERGRASS, way more than GOETHE, etc.)
- 120D: Disco guy on "The Simpsons" (Stu) - few things make me happier, puzzle-wise, than a tertiary "Simpsons" character. Recent "Onion" puzzle had ["Me fail English? That's unpossible" quotee] as a clue (answer = RALPH Wiggum, another "Simpsons" character). I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. I used to have that exact quotation in my email signature file.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld