Sunday, July 13, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: "Parting Thoughts" - long quotation representing .... somebody's ... "last request" (before dying)
I normally don't like quotation puzzles - just a bunch of filling in the blanks, no playfulness or trickery, no theme, blah - but this one is pretty damned good. I love how completely reckless the puzzle is with any notion of Sunday-morning decorum. I like my humor dark, like my chocolate, and this puzzle's central quotation delivers:
26A: Last request, part 1 etc.:
"To die quietly in my sleep / like my grandfather / not / screaming in terror / like the people in his car"
In addition to blood on the pavement, we've got, let's see, Hitler and his BIG LIE (9D: Propaganda technique introduced by Hitler in "Mein Kampf"), slavery (81D: Slaves => THRALLS), and over in the SW corner, we have a big fat joint (89D: Marijuana cigarette, slangily). Is SPLIFF a word that people who are over 40 / never listen to rap music know??? I laughed out loud when I got it. It makes the whole puzzle better, man. Like ... REFERS (87A: Alludes (to)) looks like REEFERS. Good for Matt Ginsberg for taking the puzzle out of the safety zone. He's made a puzzle for highbrows and HOMEGIRLs alike (5D: 'Hood inhabitant). In fact, if you are a highbrow HOMEGIRL, you should have torched this puzzle.
Q: "Who does da HOMEGIRL like to hang out with?"
A: "DAHOMEY" (53D: Benin, until 1975)
Here's some stuff I didn't like (I don't always have reasons):
- 93D: Ecological groupings (biotas)
- 82D: Spinachlike plant (orach) - I like that this is one letter away from constructor Tony ORBACH's last name. Other than that, I don't like it at all. I've been in Many kinds of grocery stores and never seen it. Don't like that that "A" crosses the first "A" in EMERIL LAGASSE (61A: With 95-Across, chef whose recipes are used on the International Space Station). That "A" could have been an "E" as far as I was concerned. Luckily, the "spinACH" in the clue made me guess right.
- 25A: Poet John who wrote "Lives of X," an autobiography in verse (Ciardi) - Whoa! Who? I mean, I know him - I think he's one of the many Dante translators out there. But ... yikes, I had no idea he was famous enough to be in the grid.
- 47D: Keeper of a flame? (gas oven) - I should love this (a day after PILOT LIGHT), but something about GAS OVEN feels weirdly arbitrary to me. OK, I don't hate it. It's fine. Maybe if the clue had referred to The Bangles' "Eternal Flame," I'd have liked it better.
- 23A: Take heat from? (unarm) - I will never accept that this word is real. It's DISARM or nothing.
Some stuff I screwed up:
- 1D: Very dry (brut) - I had ARID
- 28D: One of two title roles (in the same film) for Spencer Tracy (Mr. Hyde) - I had DR. HYDE - pure idiocy on my part
- 42D: Social worker (ant) - BEE
- 108A: European carrier (Iberia) - ITALIA (!?)
- 9A: Hale-_____ (comet seen in 1997) (Bopp) - completely forgot about this BOPP. Here are some Bops I cannot forget:
- 19A: Page facing a verso (recto) - studying medieval mss. occasionally pays off
- 20A: Arthur Miller play about the Salem witch trials, with "The" ("Crucible") - not sure why, but those trials hold zero interest for me. I think Miller's play was at least in part a response to McCarthyism / HUAC.
- 31A: Animal more closely related to the mongoose than the dog (hyena) - I have many good stories about daughter and Hy-henas, but they'll have to wait for another time.
- 36A: Cabinet inits. since 1979 (HHS) - Health and Human Services, I assume
- 41A: Endorsers, typically (payees) - this one was slippery, for some reason
- 52A: Barney's buddy, in cartoondom (Fred) - They used to pitch Winstons.
- 109A: Part of many an autobiography's author credit (as told to) - excellent phrase
- 110A: Morticia, to Fester, on "The Addams Family" (niece) - Hence "UNCLE Fester"
- 113A: Clothing retailer Bauer (Eddie) - if you have been in a mall or, I don't know, get mail, you should have known this instantly.
- 114A: Erica Jong's phobia, ostensibly (flying) - funny, but too easy
- 7D: Crowd in Calais? (trois) - seen it before, still think it's clever
- 11D: What dead men don't wear, per a 1982 film title (plaid) - very memorable Steve Martin movie
- 14D: W.W. I's so-called "U-Boat Alley" (Irish Sea) - so proud of myself for guessing correctly here, with almost no crosses. History is not always my strongest suit, despite the fact that I'm married to an historian.
- 37D: Noted bunny lover (Hefner) - fabulous
- 40D: Jason's jiltee (Medea) - Hef + Jason = Playas; also, more "jiltee," please
- 46D: Pirate whose treasure is recovered in Poe's "The Gold Bug" (Kidd)
- 95D: Poe poem that ends "From grief and groan to a golden throne beside the King of Heaven" ("Lenore") - wow, a pair of Poes, after yesterday's EAP monogram. Again, more evidence of this puzzle's dark side - HARD TIMES (49D: Dickens's shortest novel) next to EVIL DOERS (50D: Bad guys) ... you see what I mean?: darkness. It's good!
- 74D: ESPN sportscaster Dick (Vitale) - seems like a nice enough guy, but I can't Stand his voice and over-the-top enthusiasm. It's freakish. Also, in general, I find guys who make careers out of obsessing about the bodies of teenage boys ... a little unsettling. The phenomenon is worse in football than in (Vitale's) basketball, somehow.
- 107D: Roger who won the Best Actor Tony for "Nicholas Nickleby" (Rees) - dude, I have NO idea who you are.
I'm out of here for many days - look for able-minded and able-bodied surrogates to keep this thing rolling in my absence. I'll be in and out intermittently for the next three weeks. Puzzlegirl, SethG, and Wade will keep things going in the interim. Either that, or they will secretly outsource the blog to India. We'll see.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS Puppies (mine is the one not wearing green)
PPS If any of you know anything about sabotaging, destroying, or otherwise @#$#ing with plagiaristic google-whore sites like this one:
please let me know. If you are practicing your hacking skills, why not start with this asshole? Doesn't even give me a link or a credit, the way other rip-off artists usually have the courtesy to do.