Thursday, May 8, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: PDA (34D: Handheld computer, or holding hands) - "PDA" clues two long, compound theme answers: PUBLIC DISPLAY OF AFFECTION and PERSONAL DIGITAL ASSISTANT
I had PUBLIC DISPLAY OF AFFECTION written into the grid inside of a few seconds, which helped to make this one of the easiest Thursday puzzles I've ever done. The theme is ingenious - complete serendipity that the two theme phrases contain exactly the same number of letters, and break, as phrases, at just the right place. I like that the entire center of this grid (all nine squares) is saturated with theme squares. It's a demanding theme, grid-wise, so there's not a lot of pyrotechnics in the non-theme fill - lots of short answers, with no open spaces much greater than 4x5 in area. But for a puzzle with a lot of short fill, it still manages not to be boring. I have three favorite words in this puzzle: AQABA (36A: Red Sea's Gulf of _____), which is a very showy answer - kind of like a TULIP (42A: Dutch beauty), which AQABA sits on top of, is a showy flower (we have a single, giant tulip in our front yard, which has recently come up, and which was a major source of fascination for our daughter and the neighbor kids yesterday); KIBOSH (50D: Unwelcome end, with "the"), which I've never heard used in any way except in the expression "put the KIBOSH on" something - it's an exotic-sounding word with mysterious origins (read about it here); and CULP (1D: "I Spy" co-star), which is one of the greatest-sounding last names in acting history. It's like a sound effect - a sound you make when you are very, very guilty of something. Kind of like GULP, only ... guiltier.
- 3D: With 6-Down, 34-Down (public display of / affection)
- 11D: With 35-Down, 34-Down (personal digital / assistant)
My only real struggle in finishing this puzzle was the far north, where despite guessing (correctly) ABCS (6A: Nuts and bolts) and FARE (18A: Meter reading), I couldn't rattle off the Downs. Then I started second-guessing my Acrosses. 15A: School house (frat) was mysterious to me for way longer than it should have been, given that I have been around such houses nearly every day of my life for the past 17+ years. The real zinger in the north was CARPI (8D: Parts of arms), which are perfectly good bones, just not the ones that immediately come to mind when you first think of "arm" (even with that final "I" firmly in place, all I wanted was RADII).
- 1A: Neck attachments (capos) - learned it from xwords, and now see it all over the place (or at least anywhere people are talking about guitars).
- 17A: Free, in France (libre) - despite having studied French and thus getting this easily, LIBRE now makes me think only of the Elmore Leonard novel Cuba Libre (set during the Spanish-American War).
- 21A: They really get steamed (espressos) - great clue, right up there with 13D: Chasers in a saloon, perhaps (posse). I would definitely read a book that featured a POSSE drinking ESPRESSOS. If the POSSE were made up of hulking European gangsters, they might drink ESPRESSOS. "The Posse Drank Espressos" - there, I already have a title.
- 43A: "Hungaria" composer (Liszt) - let's listen to some (well, I'm going to...). Here we go ... Yundi Li playing Piano Concerto #1. You can listen to this version.
- 44A: Graham of rock (Nash) - I know him from Crosby, Stills, NASH and Young.
- 46A: Pitchers may hold them (ades) - ooh, my most hated of all crossword words. "What do you have in that pitcher there?" "Why, it's ADE. Want some?" "No, I do not drink non-words."
- 52A: Wheaton of "Stand By Me" (Wil) - a name that was destined to be in the grid, repeatedly. He was also an actor on "Star Trek: TNG" - which of course featured the crosswordtastic Counselor TROI.
- 54A: What a solid yellow line may indicated (no passing) - great answer. We have these lines on our (exceedingly dangerous) two-lane highways in and around rural-ish upstate NY.
- 63A: "Paint the Sky With Stars: The Best of _____" (1997 album) ("Enya") - That title makes no sense ... unless you are coaching Van Gogh, I guess.
- 68A: "It Don't Come Easy" was his first solo hit (Starr) - I love this title, in that it's a giant "@#$ You" to grammar sticklers.
- 2D: Spanner of 11 time zones (Asia) - considered USSR, but then thought that the clue would have to feature "bygone" somewhere in order for USSR even to have a hope of being correct.
- 4D: Hatch, in politics (Orrin) - If I am King of CrossWorld, ORRIN Hatch (like it or not) is one of its senators. That's right, my monarchy has a senate. Shows what you know.
- 9D: Junk ends (sterns) - whoa ... curve ball. First I wanted a suffix for "junk" (-EROO?...), then ... then I don't know what I wanted. It was somewhat later when the "junk = boat" equation dawned on me.
- 26D: Uzbek sea name (Aral) - it's not located entirely in Uzbekistan (some of it's in Kazakstan), but close enough. That's good to know (I didn't).
- 40D: Transcript preparer (steno) - I wonder how long this abbreviation will have clout. Courts have stenographers, but I usually only hear them referred to as "stenographers," not the (more mid-century secretarial) "STENOs."
- 45D: Four-baggers: Abbr. (HRs) - Manny Ramirez is on the verge of hitting his 500th of these. As far as anyone knows, or can tell by looking at him, he has never taken steroids. Marijuana? You gotta bet on "yes." But steroids, no. Man I love that guy.
- 53D: Concave lint trap? (innie) - grossing me out. Moving on...
- 56D: Cordial flavoring (anise) - why was this the only flavor that even came to mind? I don't even like this flavor.
- 61D: "Shall We Dance?" star, 2004 (Gere) - I recommend the original version of this movie - so good that I couldn't be bothered to see the remake.