Sunday, June 22, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: "Chain Reaction" - theme clues are part of a long word chain that links all theme answers. Chain is composed of two-word phrases that interlock - FOOD COURT, COURT CASE, CASE CLOSED, etc.
Got a frantic email from the a senior editor at a Major publication last night asking me to explain the theme of today's puzzle. He'd finished but was still at a loss. I think my explanation and his subsequent message indicating he'd figured it out crossed in the mail. At any rate, I wonder if other people experienced similar bafflement. I got the theme easily, but I have to say that if I had started with 25A: CIRCUIT BOARD _____ ROOM SERVICE (foot locker) instead of 23A: FOOD COURT _____ CIRCUIT BOARD (case closed), I would have been completely flummoxed. What in the world is a "BOARD FOOT??????" OMG, when I google I get a glossary of lumber terms.
A unit of cubic measure for lumber, equal to one foot square by one inch thick.
Am I alone in not knowing this??? All the other two-word phrases in this chain are very familiar, common, in- the- (nonlumberjack)- language phrases, that BOARD FOOT stands out like a thumb that is sore after you tried to drive a nail through a BOARD FOOT and hit your thumb instead. Terrible. Otherwise, this puzzle's theme is clever, and tricky in that you have to build the answer from crosses - it's unlikely you could just look at the blanks in the clue and get it. This made it hard to blow through the grid. On Sundays, I like to go crashing into open parts of the puzzle when I solve those big theme answers. But today's weren't big at all (every one = 10 letters), and movement from one section to another was more deliberate and purposeful than more standard Sunday puzzles. This does not mean the puzzle was difficult - for all that the theme slowed me down a bit, there was nowhere in the grid that I ever got stuck.
FOOD COURT CASE CLOSED (23A) CIRCUIT BOARD FOOT LOCKER (25A) ROOM SERVICE ROAD HAZARD (43A) LIGHT TOUCH SCREEN DOOR (55A) BELL PEPPER SPRAY PAINT (73A) BRUSH FIRE WALL STREET (82A) SMART CAR POOL PLAYER (104A) PIANO BAR GRAPH PAPER (106A) TRAIL HEAD MASTER CARD (36D) COUNTER TOP DOLLAR SIGN (46D)
In AcrossLite format, "TRAILHEAD" and "COUNTERTOP" are written as single words, which looks and feels like an error, though I guess that's technically how you write those words. I'm not sure how I feel about this inconsistency.
There were some great crosswordy words in today's puzzle, like ACRE (1A: Third Crusade site), which I always like to see in its non-unit-of-land costume, and OCELOT (57A: Pet animal of Salvador Dali), the clue to which provided me with OCELOT trivia I will not soon forget. The crossword zoo continues with the EFT (69A: Young newt) and ORANGS (71A: Long-armed Sumatrans) and CAGER, which is not an animal, but is clued as such (70D: Bull or Buck, e.g.). All these animals (and CAGER) are words that become familiar and unremarkable to you over time if you do enough crossword puzzles.
I'm calling foul on 26D: Place for an opinion (op-ed), for reasons I don't think I even have to explain. [I was mistaken - OP in OP-ED does not stand for "opinion," so I hereby retract this foul call. My apologies]
Best answers in the puzzle: FREELOAD (58A: Sponge), WHEELIE (82D: Something to pop), and CALIBER (88A: Bore). Most mystifying word (to me): AMOLE (44D: Soap plant).
- 5A: Citadel trainee (plebe) - my (negative) feelings about this word are on record. Just gives me a weird feeling in my face when I say it. Ditto SELVAGE (65A: Fabric border). There's just something vaguely sickening about the words. They sound like disease symptoms.
- 30A: Like some sacrifices (supreme) - oh I don't like this. How about [Like some Pizza Hut pizzas]?
- 60A: Sylvia Plath poem that begins "I know the bottom, she says. I know it with my great tap root" ("Elm") - that "L" was an out and out guess. The "root" part helped.
- 81A: "Father _____," hit 1990s British sitcom ("Ted") - o man, thank god this was just three letters with easy crosses. You started losing me at "1990s," and by the time you got to "sitcom," I was absolutely lost. If my wife and I are doing cryptics in "The Listener" (NZ), and she's reading the clue, as soon as I hear "Who played...?" I groan audibly and then shout "Next!" Non-American TV is a (near) complete mystery to me. One exception is "Kath & Kim," which is soon to appear in a U.S. version - please dear god make the Australian version available in the US on DVD right now! You ... DVD gods! It's better than 99.9% of what's currently on our stupid networks.
- 86A: French word before deux or nous (entre) - knew the nous, not the deux.
- 100A: Julia who starred in "Sabrina," 1995 (Ormond) - I only just this second realized that I have her confused in my head with Juliette Binoche.
- 110A: Tennessee teammate (Titan) - "mate" ... of whom? Team member, maybe.
- 2D: Prince Albert, for one (coat) - for a while I had COOT and really really wanted to keep it.
- 3D: Gift that might cut (rose) - yeah, I guess. Do thorns "cut" or "prick?"
- 6D: Dweller along the Mekong (Lao) - mmm, "dweller" ... crosswordesey.
- 4D: Newly developed, as technology (emergent) - I'm torn between loving this for its modernity and hating it for its businessspeakiness.
- 14D: Played the enchantress (allured) - How can you have "enchantress" and ODYSSEY (95A: Tale of a trip to Ithaca) in your puzzle and not link them! Circe!
- 41D: Vikki who sang "It Must Be Him" (Carr) - Here it is. Is this from a show? ... it's pretty bad, lyrically.
- 52D: Cut decoratively (sculpt) - do not like "cut" here ... too deliberately and unclevely misdirective.
- 63D: Calyx part (sepal) - another great xword word.
- 64D: They were seen at Black Power meetings (afros) - they sure were. They were seen on all kinds of black people, and a few misguided white people. Aretha rocked a nice 'fro back in the day:
- 75D: "Syriana" actress Amanda (Peet) - nice to see she's getting into non-crappy films. She shares a name with the purveyor of my mom's favorite brand of coffee.
- 80D: It's in front of a mizzen (main mast) - eeks. Sailing. Thankfully the answer is not overly technical, or I'd have been lost.
- 83D: Write on a BlackBerry, maybe (text) - I'm not sure I'll ever become a texter. I may have missed that train. Too much fussy button-pushing on a small contraption, and for what? I'll just call you. Or better yet, send you a letter - mmm, snail mail - I love snail mail more than ever now, since it's so rare that anything worth reading (besides my magazine subscriptions) ever comes in the mail. Getting hand-written cards / letters is weirdly a huge thrill.
- 93D: Garcon's handout (carte) - when's the last time anyone called the waiter that in non-ironic fashion outside of France? I mean, it means "boy." Are we still calling the "help" "boy?"
- 94D: Bordello patrons (Johns) - I'd have preferred "Hooker" or "Whorehouse," but Bordello will do.
- 97D: Channel for interior decorators (HGTV) - if that's true, that's a pretty small target audience...
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS I had an incredibly delightful time out on Quaker yesterday with reader Dave Eckert and his family (Picture!). Everyone was so kind and generous and genuinely fun to talk to. Dave's father was a newspaperman Back In The Day and I stood there in rapt attention as he told me stories about The International Herald Tribune and Katharine Graham ... and he kept saying "Oh, I'm talking too much" and I was like "Are you kidding ... tell me more!" Oh, and he is somehow also a musical theater producer. Just the most fascinating guy I've met in a long time. They grilled vegetables for me because they knew I was a "vegetarian" (which, to them, was somewhere on the exotic spectrum between "Nigerian" and "extra-terrestrial"). It was adorable. And the vegetables were really good. And I sneaked a taste of chicken, but don't tell anyone. Boat ride on the lake at sunset with Dave and his wife and (wife and I both agreed) supremely impressive daughter (smart, funny, beautiful). The whole evening was ridiculously enjoyable. And I had no connection to these people besides the fact that Dave comments on my blog from time to time. I'm really grateful for the kindness and hospitality of you and your family, Dave. Thanks a lot.