FRIDAY, Aug. 29, 2008 - Mike Nothnagel ("Step the meek fowls where ..." / _____ Bulba (literary Cossack) / Annual college event since 1935)
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
Mike Nothnagel generally does fantastic, lively late-week themeless puzzles, and this one is no exception. Despite some cluing that left me a little queasy, I loved this puzzle. The highlights for me were the two long Downs, both highly colloquial: PUT A SOCK IN IT (19D: "That's enough out of you!") and ONE TRICK PONY (9D: Person who's talented but not versatile), which is also a great Paul Simon album and song (and yet ... no performances on youtube; how can that be? He's Paul @#$ing Simon). Oh well, here's "Late in the Evening," a song off the album in question. It'll have to do ... although he's singing it here with Art, which makes it sound weird.
I thought the NW was tough, as I'd never heard of SERI (14A: Bandar _____ Begawan (capital of Brunei)), and what the hell is "morning dress?" (1D: Component of morning dress - ASCOT). British? Do you take your ASCOT off for "evening dress?" I'll never know, as the only people who ever wore ASCOTs are Don Knotts circa. "Three's Company" and Fred from "Scooby-Doo." I do like the band My Morning Jacket, though. A lot. My very very favorite album of the summer was / is "Evil Urges." Superfantastic.
Then there was some trouble in the SW, where ALOT instead of A TON (49D: Swarms) really tripped me up good. How could 51A: "No way, no how!" start with "NO!?" (A: it couldn't - really started with NOT, but I couldn't see that - NOT ON A DARE). Lastly, there was trickness in the NW, where the cluing on ORANGE BOWL threw me (17A: Annual college event since 1935). This demonstrates how little I associate College Football with actual "college." A "college event" to me is, like, a gold-fish-swallowing contest or something. Pledge week. Toga parties. OK, so all my ideas about college come from "Animal House," despite the fact that I've lived / worked at colleges every day of my life since 1987. Oh, and the BAT MOBILE would like you to know that it's offended by the pedestrian cluing (5A: Way around in comic books). "Way around?" "Way around?" Have you seen the thing? First of all it's only a "way around" for Batman, and maybe Commissioner Gordon if you believe "Batman Begins." Second, it's a pretty sweet ride. "Way around," indeed. A cab is a "way around." The metro, a bus, a pogo stick, fine. All apt. The BATMOBILE deserves better. I will say that I applaud the puzzle's recent obsession with Batman. Yesterday, WAYNE. Today, his ride. Keep that up.
- 15A: Succumbs to interrogation, perhaps (names names) - seen it, and recently. It's still good. I believe the killer clue in its last incarnation was [When doubled, sings], where the answer was just NAMES. That clue was awesome.
- 16A: "Varsity Blues" actor Scott (Caan) - I'll tell you what I told Will: "Who?" Google image search reveals him to be a young man who works on his abs.
- 18A: Exceedingly rare infant (octuplet) - tell that to Apu.
- 21A: S. E. Hinton classic ("The Outsiders") - do you have to be of a certain age to know this? The movie of this book featured many teen heart throbs of the 80s, including Matt Dillon.
- 30A: Third-degree, in math (cubic) - I was so slow to understand this. So ... if you raise a number to the third degree, you are cubing it ... am I in the ballpark?
- 34A: Looking forward to being docked? (seasick) - great clue
- 36A: Nail holder (toe) - I have griped about this use of "holder" before
- 42A: Org. at the center of the 2007 memoir "At the Center of the Storm" (CIA) - I only just noticed that the phrase "at the center" is doubled in the clue. Mmm, wordiness.
- 43A: Like Ibsen, to his countrymen (Norsk) - oh I like this. The world needs more "K"s.
- 48A: Director and star of the 1958 Best Foreign Language Film (Tati) - this puzzle has a lot of Long clues. I know because I am having to type them. I like clues that are 2 or 3 words, at least one of which is odd and the combination of which is borderline absurd. Like 7D: Real good-looker (ten) or 46D: _____ Bulba (literary Cossack) (Taras), the latter of which makes absolutely no sense to me on any level. I can barely define "Cossack," for god's sake. And maybe she's "good-looking," or a real "looker," but a "good-looker?" Hey, good-looker / Whatcha got ... cooker?
- 44D: Brand with Ohranj and Razberi varieties, briefly (Stoli) - This was highly intuitable.
- 50A: One whose motto is "The only easy day was yesterday" (Navy Seal) - again with the long clues! I think NAVY SEALs should not have a "motto." If you're such badasses, why do you need a motto? Plus, as mottos go, it's too long. It sounds like the motto for a mom's group.
- 55A: Like some nonvoters (apolitical) - Are there political nonvoters? Can you really call yourself "political" if you don't even vote?
- 56A: Ancient dweller in present-day Kurdistan (Mede) - first, easy. Second, "dweller!" Kwintessential Klue word.
- 58A: "Step the meek fowls where _____ they ranged": Emerson ("erst") - if this made you wince, and it should, just be glad you didn't get the original clue here: [Root for a while?]
- 2D: They're blown up and thrown up (beach balls) - true enough, though "thrown up" does nothing to beautify this puzzle.
- 3D: Image on Oregon's state quarter (Crater Lake) - I did not know that.
- 4D: Making waves? (sinuous) - I objected to this, but was Overruled.
- 6D: Treasured instrument (Amati) - one letter off from Amata, the wife of King Latinus in the Aeneid. Amata goes on crazy midnight howling spree after Juno sends the Fury Allecto to rile her up and get her to oppose the proposed marriage between Aeneas and Lavinia (Amata's daughter). FYI.
- 26D: Protest music pioneer (Pete Seeger) - requisite musical clip follows
- 35D: With 30-Down, locale of lots of locks (Erie / Canal) - L, L, L. I feel bad for the clue that it gets upstaged and drowned out by the [With 30-Down] intro.
- 43D: Rice product (novel) - objected to this too, and again overruled - though I appreciate the cleverness and the (largely successful) attempt at misdirection.
- 48D: Go for a few rounds? (tope) - of all the words used to describe drunkenness and its attendant activities, this is the one I like the least. It sounds exactly like TAUPE. When has being like TAUPE ever been a good thing?
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld