TUESDAY, Jul. 22, 2008 - Lynn Lempel (LIKE SOME TICKETS AND WESTERN PIONEERS / HEADGEAR FIT FOR A QUEEN)
Monday, July 21, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: Add an "N" after an "S" - in familiar phrases, resulting in wacky phrases, which are clued
Do not try this at home. Only the best constructors should risk such a tired, worn-out type of theme (in this case, addaletter). Ms. Lempel fills her grids with smooth peanut-buttery goodness. No owies, no cracked teeth to deal with. Gorgeous. Smooth. Perhaps not memorable, but about as good a Tuesday as I've seen for a while (see Wade's comments last Wednesday about Tuesday - the black sheep of the crossword family ... speaking of which, I saw a black sheep today ... but back to puzzle). Five theme answers, some of them amusing. A couple of cool features (including fraternal twins THEDA (6A: Film vixen Bara) and THETA (31A: Letter between eta and iota). Can't ask for much more from my Tuesday.
- 18A: Competitive noshers' event? (sNack race)
- 23A: One cured of a sleep disorder? (sNore loser)
- 35A: Sarcastic comment? (sNide line)
- 48A: Brushoff from the Ottomans? (Turkey sNub) - best of the lot
- 53A: Terrible-twos tantrums? (baby sNits)
Speaking of terrible-twos - have I mentioned that we've spent the past three days in the presence of a not-quite-two-year-old? It's true. Check it out:
The tall one is our daughter, while the short one is my wife's ... sister. It's true. In a way. Wife's stepmom adopted Brittany because Brittany's mom (in the extended family) couldn't take care of her. So my wife has a sister over forty years younger than she is. A stocky, curious, beaming, adorable sister, I might add.
Today was much more WINTRY (4D: Cold and raw) down here in NZ than it has been of late, which basically means that it rained aggressively for a few hours. Now it's semi-lovely again, and still far warmer than our winters back home. Did you know there's a kind of OWL (59A: Round-faced flier) called the "morepork"? I pointed to its picture in a NZ bird book and asked my wife "You know what this owl wants?" My wife grinned at me like I was an 8-year-old in need of being humored.
I love the art of ROY Lichtenstein (58D: Pop artist Lichtenstein), but today ROY is kinda freaking me out. Like ... he's only in the puzzle once, but because of the weird R-O-Y traffic jam up in the NW, it feels like he's all over the place.
- 17A: "2, 4, 6, 8 - Who do we appreciate?," e.g. (chant) - wanted CHEER. Last time I heard this CHANT chanted to its conclusion, I was 11 years old and on a soccer field.
- 22A: Iraq's second-largest city (Mosul) - amazing what a war will do to the puzzle viability of a city.
- 33A: Pupil surrounder (iris) - OK, we need a word for the horrible "-er" words that appear only in xword clues (i.e. "surrounder"). I am going to make a push soon for the use of SPOOR as substitute for "crosswordese." SPOOR is perfect for a number of reasons - it's crosswordese itself (or at least borderline). And, like crosswordese, it helps you reach your goal but it's basically shit.
- 37A: Glad rival in the kitchen (Ziploc) - second time we've seen this answer this month, I think. It's a great little 6-letter word. Later in the week, this clue would not have included "in the kitchen."
- 57A: Hole-making tool (auger) - not a word I ever use. Where "hole-making" is concerned, I tend to rely on the AWL. I confuse AUGER and AUGUR (unsurprisingly).
- 60A: Daisylike bloom (aster) - Beautiful spoor. Suffixing "-like" to words is also a very crossword cluey thing to do.
- 61A: Low-tech office recorder (steno) - I started watching "Mad Men" (TV show) on the plane over from S.F. I think there are STENOs on that show (it's set in the advertising world of the early 60s).
- 64A: On edge (testy) / 48D: On edge (tense) - traveling while sick can make you either one of these. Somehow, we have all survived with a minimum of testiness.
- 2D: Biofuel option (ethanol) - Still seems like a mythical fuel to me. If we use all the arable land to feed cattle and cars ... what are we going to, you know, eat? Besides cattle. And maybe cars.
- 5D: French composer Erik (Satie) - gorgeous music. I like to plug him every chance I get.
- 9D: Remodeler's planning (decor) - I had COLOR :(
- 44A: Newspaper columnist Goodman (Ellen) - I know her name. I don't know why.
- 11D: Like some tickets and Western pioneers (scalped) - one of the more outlandish clues in recent memory. Gruesome. Funny.
- 19D: Fraternity recruit (rushee) - one of those idiotic words that ends -ee when it should end -er. My college roommate rushed a frat. Didn't that make him a rusher?
- 21D: Church official (cleric) - I had something else here at first, and now I have no idea what that could have been.
- 23D: Parts of P.O. labels (sts.) - possibly the worst thing in the grid.
- 24D: Roman poet banished by Augustus (Ovid) - banished to Tomi on the Black Sea for "crimen et carmen" (crime and song). He somehow degraded the emperor's daughter ... it's all very hazy. I love Ovid this much (my hands are spread Wide apart).
- 25D: Acapulco agreement ("Si, señor") - more outlandishness. Good stuff.
- 31D: Sherpa shelter (tent) - such a simple answer; yet I had YURT.
- 34D: Headgear fit for a queen (diadem) - TIARAS would have fit
- 36D: Tap mishap (leak) - I was imagining Fred Astaire taking a terrible spill
- 37D: Last of 26 (zee) - down here: ZED
- 49D: Moonshine ingredient (yeast) - Not what I would have guessed. Had no idea this was true. You know what also contains yeast: VEGEMITE (delicious). I'm a total convert. We'll be bringing big jars back with us to the states. Vegemite and manuka honey and apples are all I've been eating for breakfast here. Dreamy.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS following up on the video SethG posted yesterday, re: crazy NZ potato chip flavors, here is a photo of my daughter enjoying one of the featured brands, which she stumbled onto completely by chance in her kids' meal box at a local cafe:
PPS A New Zealand music triptych. I had some silverbeet tonight (it's like swiss chard, I think). Anyhoo, it reminded me of an album of the same name by The Bats, a Dunedin-based group I listened to a Lot in grad school (thanks, Kathy):
Split Enz featured Tim and Neil Finn. Neil went on to found Crowded House (a hugely underrated band - "Temple of Low Men" is one of my favorite albums, ever). Their songwriting is wry and thoughtful and sometimes funny, and their sense of melody is unparalleled in pop music. Here's an early Split Enz video - "Six Months in a Leaky Boat" (it's got a LONG nautical intro - be patient):
And here's Neil doing "Don't Dream It's Over" live:
And here's Anna Coddington, who seems to be the Next Big Thing in NZ pop music. Here's a radio interview and in-studio performance. I find her incredibly charming (in the interview there are references to Bic Runga and Anika Moa, both very big singer-songwriters down here).