Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: Things you "DRAW" (67A: Something you can do to the starts of 17-, 21-, 37-, 53- and 60-Across)
One of those themes that I did not get until it was all over. In fact, I had finished without ever seeing the clue that linked the theme answers all together, so for the first few moments after I finished, I stared at the long answers trying to figure out what I was missing. It's a nice theme, with my only quibble being exceedingly minor. You can certainly DRAW all the words in question, but for some reason, in my head, all the phrases begin "DRAW A" except the one involving curtain, for which I want "DRAW THE..." Weird. Anyway, fine work, though because of the high density of theme squares, there are some iffy moments where not terribly desirable answers had to be forced into the grid because not a lot else would work (see below).
- 17A: Hotel offering (BATH towel)
- 21A: Bow-taking occasion (CURTAIN call)
- 37A: Poker face (BLANK expression)
- 53A: Cinema offering (PICTURE show)
- 60A: Flintlock need (GUN powder)
When you overlap long theme answers like this, you increase the likelihood you'll have to rely on abbreviations or partials (e.g. "OB LA" - 8D: Syllables before "di" or "da" in a Beatles song) or generally ugly fill to get the job done. I think Barry mostly does the best with the hand he's dealt himself (he pulls the theme overlap in the south off a little better than he does the one in the north). The biggest construction challenge, and the place where the puzzle feels weakest, is in the SW, where the gorgeous KENTUCKY (38D: Home of Mammoth Cave) gets you into some scary territory in the crosses, with a terminal "C" word over a terminal "K" word; that may seem innocuous, but go ahead and try to take out the answers that are there and put in new ones. It's rough, and even the passable results are not pleasing. CHOO (55D: When repeated, a train sound), IDNO (54D: Fig. on a driver's license), and ROOTY (65A: Like ground around a tree) are all kind of icky, and in such high density their ickiness is only magnified. ROOTY took me forever to get because the only place I can accept seeing that word is in the IHOP special "ROOTY Tooty Fresh 'N' Fruity." To this corner's credit, it has Jack PAAR (53D: Jack who quipped "A funny thing happened to my mother one day: Me") and the lovely ANOUK Aimée (62A: Actress Aimee).
The biggest stumbling block for me, however, was the damn Lawrence Welk clue (64A: With "and" and 47-Down, Lawrence Welk's intro), which is clumsily executed (parts out of order, an "and" inserted in the middle), and which I therefore handled very clumsily. I figured A ONE was followed by AND A, and I knew that "A" was right, so ... despite the fact that I really wanted the (correct) PETITES for 49A: Dress store section, I had PENITES. It was only after I forced "T" in there and let the chips fall where they may that my initial misreading of the clue became evident to me. One more example of why I don't like the "See some other clue" variety of clue.
- 9A: Valuable violin (Amati) - STRAD is also acceptable in five letters
- 16A: French-speaking African nation (Gabon) - ooh, I like this
- 26A: Charisse of "Singin' in the Rain" (Cyd) - R.I.P.
- 43A: Armchair athlete's channel (ESPN) - one of two channels I watch in the morning (the other is a 24-hr. news network which is a bit like a heroin addiction in that I know it's bad for me but I can't stop)
- 46A: Grier of "Jackie Brown" (Pam) - "I'm a long-time woman!" - I have this promotional picture hanging on the wall right behind me - just next to Muhammad Ali's autograph - although mine doesn't have the stupid "Parental Advisory" label on it:
- 2D: Pong maker (Atari) - one of many answers that made me feel like a kid again. See also MARCIE (10D: Friend of Peppermint Patty) and EGGO (56D: Frozen waffle brand)
- 6D: Bride's worldly possessions (dowry) - this felt strange to me. I don't think I knew that a DOWRY was Everything She Has In The World. I thought it was just an amount paid in money and/or goods to the husband by the bride's family.
- 28D: Seconds and then thirds (more) - "seconds" wasn't enough for you? You need "thirds" to get MORE? How is "seconds" not MORE?
- 34D: _____ City (Baghdad district) - I laughed when I was going over the puzzle because I have no memory of seeing the parenthetical part of this clue, and I remember thinking "Wow, SADR's pretty tough for a Tuesday when you've only got [_____] City staring at you"
- 46D: Us Weekly rival (People) - you can read this crap, fine, but please don't ever ever ever complain about "the media" or how celebrity-obsessed we are and how it distracts us from issues of material importance to blah blah blah. You care about Brangelina's twins? Fine. That's your right. Just never open your mouth to make any kind of social commentary or criticism about anything ever, As YOU are the problem (not "the media," not celebrities). This "shut up" injunction also applies to liberals who smoke. It's your right, smoke away. Just keep your mouth shut about anything even vaguely environmental, you @#$#ing hypocrite. A smoking environmentalist? Really? I'm no advocate of public beatings, but ... next week: why people who talk on cell phones while driving should be literally thrown under a bus. Good day.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld