Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: RTS (71A: Football linemen, for short, caught in 17-, 28-, 47- and 63-Across)
Wow, you can turn anything into a theme. Awesome. This theme was a little hard to uncover, as I had all of the front end of FREQUENT FLIRTER (through the "I") and almost all of PARTY AS YOU GO (just missing the "GO") and still had no idea what was going on. Eventually I solved the NE corner, saw that "RT" had been added to "FLIER," saw the "RT" in "PARTY," and things took off from there. With such a tiny amount of inserted material, the theme answers were more challenging to uncover than they might have been otherwise, but that's just as it should be on a Wednesday. The second two theme answers are not as scintillating as the first two - I didn't know that "ALPINE SKIS" were ... a thing. I didn't know skis in the Alps were any different from regular old downhill skis. And the change from MAIN CHARACTER to MARTIN CHARACTER ... isn't much of one. The theme eats up a lot of ground (57 squares), and the theme answers are connected to a really high degree (lots of Downs running through multiple theme answers). This is the second day in a row where the grid has had a weird look to it - I often talk about the puzzle in terms of "quadrants," but it's hard to orient yourself that way in this puzzle, which has its black squares arranged in such a scattershot manner. Nice change of pace.
- 17A: Singles bar habitue? (frequent fliRTer)
- 28A: Do some barhopping? (paRTy as you go)
- 47A: Dirndls? (alpine skiRTs)
- 63A: "Wild and crazy guy" on the old "S.N.L."? (MaRTin character) - what is "the old" S.N.L? The cast changes every year, so "the old" could be any S.N.L. pre-this season.
I'm in love with a few of today's medium and long Downs. I would like the word "NYQUIL" (24D: Vicks brand) to be in every puzzle - unlike the actual NYQUIL, it does not put me to sleep. Quite the opposite. ONE ACROSS was semi-clever, but far too easy - got it instantly off just the "O" in WOO (1A: Send roses, perhaps). This will sound ridiculous, but what's a CARD ROOM (10D: Hold'em venue). Every time I see people playing Texas Hold'em on TV, they aren't in a special room - they're sort of out in the open. And most casinos don't have special rooms for card-playing, do they? Ah, Wikipedia, what would I do without you?:
A cardroom (also spelled card room) is a gambling establishment that exclusively offers card games for play by the public. The term poker room is generally synonymous, since the gambling games played in such establishments are typically, and sometimes exclusively, variations of poker such as Texas hold 'em.Such rooms typically do not offer slot machines or video poker, or other table games such as craps as found in casinos. However, a casino will often use the term "cardroom" or "poker room" (usually the latter) to refer to a separate room that offers card games where players typically compete against each other, instead of against "the house."
I liked seeing OPERA STAR in the puzzle (36D: Callas or Sills), as I am currently debating whether to put one in one of my puzzles. There's a question of relative fame involved. We'll see what happens. My favorite long Down of the day is easily THANATOS (40D: Death personified, in ancient Greece), which I got instantly. Teach "Great Books" long enough, I guess some of the terms stick. Honestly, I can't tell you in what context I first learned the term THANATOS - I only know that I thought it was such a cool-looking / sounding word, that it never left my brain.
- 4A: Polo name (Marco) - this clue threw me badly. What other person could you possibly clue in such a fashion? [DiCaprio name] = LEO? No. I thought the answer would be RALPH (as in Lauren).
- 14A: "Atonement" author McEwan (Ian) - I've read nothing of his but On Chesil Beach (which I loved).
- 15A: Harvest bundle (sheaf) - I like the two S---F words so close to each other in this puzzle. See also 9A: Pooh-pooh (scoff). Something about them seems bouncy and amusing.
- 16A: Physics Nobelist Wolfgang (Pauli) - Linus PAULING called - he wants the first part of his name back. (i.e. I have no idea who this PAULI guy is)
- 20A: Twin in Genesis (Esau) - here's the thing ... new people are taking up the puzzle every day, so a clue like this is always going to be a mystery to someone out there. I'm routinely surprised by Google searches for what I think are obvious answers - but then I remember that most of what I find "obvious" is "obvious" because I've been doing puzzles with such ridiculous intensity for so many years. We talked a lot about ESAU when I taught the KJV of the bible this year. I want a t-shirt that says "ESAU Was Robbed."
- 22A: Intimate wear, informally (undies) - this answer really bothered my wife, who complained about it this morning. It's kind of infantilizing ... and thus "intimate wear" is kind of a creepy clue. Me, I'd have changed it to UNDEAD and reworked the NE. Or tried to, anyway.
- 23A: The Reds, on a scoreboard (CIN) - as in "cinnati"
- 33A: "Rockaria!" grp. (ELO) - whoa. I know a Lot of ELO songs - not this one.
- 34A: Bogart role (Queeg) - captain in "The Caine Mutiny" (based on the Wouk novel of the same name)
- 43A: Unagi or tekka maki (sushi) - you don't really have to know these terms to know the answer, do you?
- 1D: The "Judy" of Punch and Judy (wife) - At first I thought maybe she had a name or profession I didn't know about. Nope - just a repeatedly pummeled WIFE. Awesome quotation from Wikipedia:
The stereotypical view of Punch casts him as a deformed, child-murdering, wife-beating psychopath who commits appalling acts of violence and cruelty upon all those around him and escapes scot-free – this is greatly enjoyed by small children.
- 2D: Dinghy movers (oars) - first thought the clue read "dingy" ...?
- 5D: Call for attention (ahem) - and in case that doesn't work, try PSST (37D: Alternative to "Hey!")
- 7D: Certain marble (cat's eye) - also a certain Margaret Atwood novel.
- 11D: Navel designation (outie) - cute clue, but crossing UNDIES ... I declare this section to be just too cutesie (that's my "Var." spelling).
- 19D: Island shindig (luau) - I wonder how long it will take a word like "shindig" to become meaningless to people...
- 26D: Two-position switch (toggle) - great word. Sounds like Boggle, to which I was once addicted.
- 31D: Tended to by the butler, say (seen in) - tend not to like the pluperfect in my answers. Always feels a little too ... stretchy.
- 32D: "A Life for the Tsar" composer (Glinka) - Yipes. My big "?" of the day. Hasn't seen the light of day for about 7 years, according to the cruciverb database, and every clue ever used references this composition.
- 58D: Eric of "Munich" (Bana) - he's handsome. And "Munich" is a fascinating meditation on my favorite of all literary topics: revenge.
- 59D: Santa _____, University of California city (Cruz) - the fact that I puzzled over this for many seconds is hilarious on several levels. Not only do I know the school well (it was the first place that accepted me when I was applying to college), but my stepbrother graduated from there the same year I was applying. Their mascot is, famously, the banana slug.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS this is so great that I couldn't not share it. Please enjoy Bill O'Reilly losing his mind... (warning - there is profanity involved)