Thursday, May 22, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: O-MEN (38D: Sign ... or a description of the answers to the six starred clues?) - 6 guys with O's - and no other vowels - in their names
This theme raised from ho-hum to semi-interesting by the sheer number of O-MEN that get crammed into the grid. I'm imagining the master list contained a good deal more than 6 names - it's hard to get the whole intersecting theme answer thing to work out just right. The MEN in question vary in popularity, from the marginal TOM POSTON and ROB MORROW ("Numb3rs," ugh) to the legendary DON KNOTTS and BJORN BORG, giving the grid a quirky overall personality that's actually kind of charming. I finished this one quickly, and was irked, if not ired, to see the heretofore unknown to me COTS UP at 50D: Misbehaves. I'd already had to suffer through one word I didn't now - PALTER (44A: Be deceitful) - so COTS UP really stuck in my craw ... until I changed it to CUTS UP, which makes much more (i.e. some) sense. I had no idea that a TUN (57A: 252-gallon unit) was a specific unit of measure. I thought it was just, like, a giant URN for wine.
- 17A: *Five-time Wimbledon winner (Bjorn Borg)
- 24A: *"Numb3rs star" (Rob Morrow)
- 51A: *Harpers Ferry raider (John Brown)
- 64A: *"Newhart" actor (Tom Poston)
- 3D: *Famed restaurateur (Toots Shor) - one of my very favorite xword names. I was born too late for his name to mean anything to me, but I learned of him in a puzzle a little over a year ago, and I've loved him ever since.
- 36D: *Co-star of "The Andy Griffith Show" (Don Knotts)
Any theme-heavy puzzle is going to have a few groaners. I'll point them out without castigation. First, ESTAB. (15A: Founded: Abbr.). You see ESTD. a lot in puzzles, clued often as an abbrev. on building cornerstones. ESTAB ... is a bit long and ugly for an abbrev. Then there's EMER (67A: Part of E.M.T.), which is acceptable, though you'd steer around this kind of thing if you had any choice. NEGEB (8D: Region of Israel: Var.) is one of the more painful Var.iants I've run across. Are there other V-to-B Var.iants? Maybe NEGEB is a common spelling to some, but I've only ever seen NEGEV. The answer that hurt the most was probably UTWO (68A: Classic spy plane), which took me many seconds just to parse correctly. U2. I'm really against spelling out numbers in a letter+number phrase when you'd never (outside the grid) see it written that way. The GEIGHT? UBFORTY? I don't know... Finally there's KNOT (62D: Speed unit). In a puzzle with - and right next to - KNOTTS. . . . [cough]
- 9A: Party to a Highland fling? (lass) - had no idea what this clue was about, or why it was trying to be so fancy. Is a "Highland fling" something that has a specific meaning? Is it a whiskey drink? Hmmm, it's just a dance ... which makes me wonder why the clue is question-mark-worthy.
- 23A: Reggae relative (ska) - I love SKA almost as much as SHOR. I think I love all three-letter words with K's in them: AUK, ASK, KEA, etc.
- 29A: Card game whose name is called out during play (Uno) - was I supposed to guess GIN here? I didn't.
- 47A: Howard in shorts (Moe) - too clever. Creepy clever. Please don't force me to contemplate the Three Stooges in their underwear.
- 7D: Silent film star (Harpo) - Marx Bros. and Three Stooges in same puzzle. This puzzle screams "lonely man over 50." (I kid ...)
- 69A: Catfish Row denizen (Bess) - mmm, denizen ... from the musical (Wikipedia says "opera") "Porgy & Bess." I don't know it well. But one thing I do know: Nina Simone rules.
- 11D: "The _____ Report" (1998 reading) (Starr) - wanted HITE but it wouldn't fit. Not sure which "Report" has more sex.
- 25D: Haircut that's short on the top and sides and long in back (mullet) - I believe the phrase is "Business up front, party in the back."
- 27D: Orly : Paris :: Gardermoen : _____ (Oslo) - piece of cake. Even if you don't know it, you really only need one cross or so to eliminate most plausible 4-letter European cities.
- 53D: "Sun Valley Serenade" star, 1941 (Henie) - the ice-skater? This one was a total mystery to me.
- 54D: One of an old drive-in double feature, maybe (oater) - Can't get enough of this word. OATERs were popular in TOOTS SHOR's day.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld