("TREASURE ISLAND" ILLUSTRATOR, 1911 / TOWN AT THE EIGHTH MILE OF THE BOSTON MARATHON) - SUNDAY, Jul. 6, 2008 - Brendan Emmett Quigley
Sunday, July 6, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: "What the H?" - puns involving changing W-words to WH-words
Thorny as all hell, but too often in an irksome way. As I told fellow blogger Orange last night, I am going to honor this puzzle by naming a crossword constructing principle after one of its elements. I call it:
The NATICK Principle. And here it is: If you include a proper noun in your grid that you cannot reasonably expect more than 1/4 of the solving public to have heard of, you must cross that noun with reasonably common words and phrases or very common names.
Question for the day: does NC WYETH (1D: "Treasure Island" illustrator, 1911) pass the "very common names" test? Answer, NO. I mean, if the cross had been inside the name WYETH, fine, I'd have guessed it, as there is Another Famous Artist Named WYETH (Andrew, same family). But once we're into initials, forget about it. This guy is not W.C. Fields or E.E. Cummings. N.C.? The only N.C. I know is NC-17. Criminy. Look, I don't mind stuff I don't know (I see it every day), and I don't really mind stuff I don't know crossing other stuff I don't know, but only if there's some way for me to make a reasonable guess. If you don't know the lesser Wyeth or (choke) NATICK (1A: Town at the eighth mile of the Boston Marathon), that far NW letter could be anything, any consonant and at least two vowels. And I'm not even getting into the adjacent CARROL (19A: Charlie Chan player J. _____ Nash). Come on. That NW corner is just dickish. Not clever (à la Walden), or evil (à la Klahn). Just dickish.
The theme answers - I don't know. Felt very sub-BEQ. And what is "weatherwise"? - it's a random adverb, right? I mean ... what is it, except some word a weatherperson might use to describe what kind of day it is? Or can someone be "weather wise"? "You know much about the weather, master." Not terribly familiar with the term "editorial we," but I'm guessing it's like the Royal We, only ... used by an editor. When speaking for the paper as a whole.
- 22A: V.I.P. in a limo? (wheeled authority)
- 36A: Stories about halting horses? (tales of whoa) - cute. I thought "halting" meant "lame" or "limping," and so the clue made me very sad until I got the answer
- 58A: Causes of meteorological phenomena? (weather whys)
- 77A: Iceland? (Isle of White) - white from ice? or white from all the white people?
- 98A: Barrier Ahab stands behind? (whaling wall) ... saying his "whaling adverb," THAR!
- 115A: Cry after writing a particularly fun column? (the editorial "wheeeeeee!" [just two e's, actually])
- 16D: 45, e.g.? (whirled record)
- 57D: Where ax murderers' weapons are on display? (whacks museum) - ax murderers? Yikes. Golf and lumberjacking were just too tame, I guess.
What else? Well, a lot. There was much that I liked about this puzzle, but before I get to that, here's what I did not like: SNEERY (56D: Derisive), ARISTO (87D: Blue blood, informally - I never like it, no matter how many times I see it), ITEMED (45A: Detailed, old-style), and "ED TV" (30A: 1999 film with the tagline "Fame. Be careful. It's out there") - actually, I'm torn on this one; while I like the absurd, dated (pre-reality TV!) pop culture on this one, I do not like recalling most Matthew McCaughnehoweveryouspellhisname movies ("Dazed and Confused" excepted).
OK, the fun stuff - allow me to list it:
- 7A: 1971 Tom Jones hit ("She's a Lady") - how much do I love that this was the Very first thing I put in the grid. No crosses. Turn it up!
- 27A: Singer Winehouse (Amy) - she's like a talented Britney Spears, this one.
- 42A: 1954 event code-named Castle Bravo (H Test) - never sure how to keep these letter-tests straight.
- 43A: Swedish Chemistry Nobelist Tiselius (Arne) - wow. No idea.
- 56A: Certain guy, in personals (SWM) - single white male. The airport code of my local airport is BGM, which always makes me laff whenever I see it / think about it.
- 60A: "Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are _____!" (hit 1978 album) ("Devo") - awesome. I love these guys. O man, this is an Early video:
- 61A: Eponymous German brewer Eberhard (Anheuser) - crazy-looking clue, familiar answer.
- 63A: Says, in teenspeak (goes) - perfect. Sadly, no longer just "teen" speak. Those "teens" who started speaking this way ... are now my age (20 years past my teens).
- 70A: Missile's course (vector) - stumped me briefly. Wanted something simple like ARC.
- 82A: French-Belgian border river (Lys) - if you say so
- 83A: Start of a sign on a gate (beware) - great clue
- 94A: MDX and RDX maker (Acura) - luckily, I had most of the letters in place before I ever saw the clue.
- 102A: Literally, "back to back" (do-si-do) - in what language? DOS is "back" in French ...
- 107A: Long-distance swimmer Diana (Nyad) - good name for a swimmer.
- 108A: Something little girls may play (dress-up) - I can tell you that it's not just little girls. Boys are more than happy to play this until they start getting the idea that it's something only girls do.
- 2D: Showed delight over (aahed at) - had OOHED AT, which seemed reasonable.
- 8D: Residence on the Rhein (Haus) - had the "H" and then had a complete mind-block, with HERR blocking any other German word I could think of. Finally remembered the term HAUSFRAU. My good friend and erstwhile roommate in grad school was (is) a German historian, so I really should know more German, if only from osmosis.
- 17D: Connecticut town where "The Stepford Wives" was filmed (Darien) - OK, this is how NATICK should have gone down. Had no idea about DARIEN, but pieced it together from reasonably gettable crosses.
- 21D: Sen. McCaskill of Missouri (Claire) - I think she's adorable. I hope that doesn't sound patronizing and disrespectful. I just really really like her. If someone asked me "Which senator do you have the biggest crush on?," I would not hesitate to say "CLAIRE McCaskill."
- 31D: Clergy attire (vestments) - not sure why, but I like this word this morning.
- 49D: Slogan holder, often (tee) - great clue. Infuriated me for a while (thought the "H" from the theme answer went in that second slot, and so had THE ...!?)
- 54D: 1887 Chekhov play ("Ivanov") - no idea. Still got it. From crosses. That's the idea. Here, the NATICK Principle is in full effect.
- 60D: 1973 Helen Reddy #1 hit ("Delta Dawn") - I wish this were in every puzzle. Here's Tanya Tucker (it was the title song on her debut album - she was 13!)
- 67D: Ray, e.g., in brief (AL'er) - the kind of stuff you just have to put up with, esp. in a Sunday.
- 71D: Phnom Penh money (Riel) - I gave a lesson in the RIAL/RIEL distinction not too long ago, and Still spelled this wrong, initially.
- 73D: Bygone station (Mir) - tripped me. "Station" could have been many things. Space station did not occur to me for a while.
- 91D: Pourer's comment ("say when") - greatness. Very nice colloquial expression.
- 109D: Fen-_____ (banned diet aid) (Phen) - Do they sell Fen-PHEN in Phnom Penh?
- 116D: Season for les vacances (été) - I like my clues all-foreign, or all-English. This hybrid stuff is for les oiseaux.
- 118D: Third-century dynasty (Wei) - thought maybe WEN, but that's a cyst (ew), then thought WII, but that's a video game console.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld