Friday, June 27, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
This was everything a Friday should be - tough but not back-breaking, with lots of inventive and colorful words and phrases, from TIKI TORCH (1A: Luau lighting) to LOMA LINDA (61A: San Bernardino suburb - having lived in Southern California for a while helped here). Lots of linking answers, with mutually referential radio code word clues (47D: Radio code word before 43-Down - ROMEO - and 43D: Radio code word after 47-Down - SIERRA), a luau theme (HULA - 37A: Activity near a 1-Across - pointing back to TIKI TORCH), the clever pairing of JENNY and CRAIG (36A: With 46-Across, program pitched by Queen Latifah - ironically, a big, fat gimme). As you know, normally I don't much care for clues that refer me to other clues, but here's the thing(s): HULA referred me back to an answer I already had in place, so no problem; and ROMEO and SIERRA were right next to each other (or nearly so), so no having to leap back and forth between different parts of the puzzle. JENNY CRAIG was just easy.
There were, however, six answers that I flat-out didn't know. That's pretty high for a Friday (or any day); luckily for me, many of them were short and gettable from crosses:
- 20A: Gernreich who invented the monokini (Rudi) - I'm sure he's a national hero of whatever nation he's from; I'm guessing Germania. Go Spain.
- 58A: Repetition mark, in music (segno) - by far the most outerspacey-lookin' word in the whole puzzle for me. My brain desperately wants to change that "e" to an "i"
- 27A: Footballer Ford (Len) - uh, OK. Who? Aha, he was a defensive end for the Browns back when they won things (i.e. in the 1950s).
- 29D: "Le Comte _____" (Rossini opera) ("Ory") - OK, I take back the comment about SEGNO being the weirdest answer in the grid. This answer beats it.
- 39D: Pining pantomime persona (Pierrot) - no idea. Zero. I had seen the name "PIERROT" before, which explains how I filled in missing letters - inference.
- 54D: Francis _____, signer of the Articles of Confederation (Dana) - honey, did you know this? I sure didn't. But I never saw any of these little Downs in the SE - got 'em all with Acrosses.
What did I love? Well, AMISH BUGGY for one (26D: Sight in Lancaster County, PA) - was that a seed answer, or one that arose out of necessity. It's nice. I had AMISH and sat on it for a while, because the only phrase I could think of was AMISH COUNTRY (despite the fact that there are "Look out for BUGGY" traffic signs between here and Ithaca that I see on a regular basis). I generally despise the post 9-11 phenomenon that is the NEWSCRAWL (32D: Ticker with headlines), but it sure makes a good puzzle answer. I wish I could press some button to make it go away when I'm watching the news. I don't like it any better at ESPN. Loved the colloquial DON'T SHOUT (17A: "Tone it down!") and TURN TO MUSH (12D: Get all sentimental). Don't agree that a "potential player" "must" pass a SCREEN TEST (24D: What a potential player must pass). And while it's nice to see IRENE CARA getting puzzle work again (15A: Singer who plays herself in "D.C. Cab"), anyone who has seen "Fame" has got to be disturbed by seeing Ms. Cara's name here in such close proximity to SCREEN TEST. IRENE CARA played "Coco" in "Fame," and Coco's "SCREEN TEST" ... didn't go so well. I'll let someone else explain. Here's IRENE CARA in what appears to be an early, failed experiment at music-video-making. It's like a child got hold of the video effects machine.
- 16A: "Any fool can make _____, and every fool will mind it": Thoreau ("a rule") - sounds more Seussish than your average Thoreau quote.
- 22A: Legendary abductee (Helen) - spot-on. She is legend, she was abducted (or so most say)
- 23A: "Per Ardua ad _____" (Royal Air Force motto) ("astra") - usually ASTRA gets clued via Kansas's state motto "Ad ASTRA per aspera"
- 40A: Crew leader (bosun) - Thank you, Mr. Berglund - my 11th grade English teacher, who taught me "The Tempest," and forced me to learn every damned word in the play. BOSUN was one of them - it's right in the beginning, I think.
- 32A: Bellies up to (nears) - Love the way the clue sounds, but it's got a pretty narrow frame of reference to be used as a clue for the very very general NEARS.
- 34A: Schedule maker: Abbr. (mgr.) - see also the same clue at 42A, where the answer is I.R.S.
- 38A: Workup locales: Abbr. (ERs) - somehow "workup" sounds a whole lot less urgent than "ERS" does.
- 60A: Billet-doux suggestion (tryst) - a gimme for me, but history tells me that Many of my readers (or potential readers) do not know what "billet-doux" means, so ... maybe not so easy.
- 6D: Canyon tones (ochres) - please enjoy these canyon tones:
- 7D: "The Phantom of the Opera" suitor (Raoul) - whoops, should have added this to the "stuff I didn't know" list.
- 8D: Neanderthal (crude) - wow, an adjective. Didn't see that coming.
- 9D: With respectful humility (hat in hand) - great, original answer
- 10D: Loungewear (caftans) - What are these again? Hmmm, some kind of loose-fitting robe / tunic / muu-muu
- 22D: "_____ Cardboard Lover" (Norma Shearer film) ("Her") - this should win some kind of award for "Most Elaborate Clue for a Possessive Pronoun"
- 40D: Give up on, in slang (bag) - this reminds me only of the line "Bag your face" in the 1981 (!?) "song" "Valley Girl" - if the IRENE CARA video didn't take you back, THIS will (not necessarily in a good way). "Solid Gold"! 7th grade!
- 53D: Cherokee Strip city (Enid) - western ... four letters ... yeah, it's probably enid. Maybe OREM or RENO, but probably ENID. ENID is DINE backwards, I just realized.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld