FRIDAY, August 1, 2008 - Patrick Berry (Fictional parrot type featured in Monty Python’s “dead parrot sketch” / LIEUTENANT OF CAPONE)
Friday, August 1, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy
I don’t think any of the B-Team has exercised the trashcan privilege veto power since we’ve been driving the bus, but if anybody makes a whisper of a peep or even looks like he or she is going to say anything about 19A, you’ll be sharing a room with Oscar the Grouch.
Lots of nouns in this puzzle, clever clues, few fill-in-the-_____’s, hardly any abbreviations, no bona fide crosswordese, nothing that screams of desperation on the constructor’s part. I’m not sure how much of that is criteria for objective analysis of crossword construction, but those are my off-the-cuff scorecard categories. Good stuff, say I, if a bit on the easy side for Friday and not terribly adventurous in branching out far beyond the letters they spot you on Wheel of Fortune. (When did they start doing that, by the way? That business with the RSTLNE, I mean. In the old days, Woolery made you work for every damn letter. He knew you’d come back and thank him for it later. And you did.)
So maybe the grid overall isn’t that ambitious (for a Friday), but I do think a lot of the clues are worthy of esteem. [Updated: I've been corrected by more insightful critics who point out that the grid is in fact pretty ambitious, word-count and word-lengthwise.]
Clues Worthy of Esteem:
- 14A: Like singing in the shower (A CAPPELLA) - To some people, everything invokes a Seinfeld episode. For me, everything invokes a Barney Fife moment:
- 17A: Unwilling to get organized (ANTIUNION) - That’s a good, professional-level clue. It’s got wit, it’s accurate, it’s not too showy. As I get older and my options become more limited I’m starting to appreciate that kind of effort more and more. Just get it done quietly like a pro and let the kids have their fun.
- 20A: _____ War (“Charge of the Light Brigade” conflict) (CRIMEAN) - Tennyson anyone? (Old joke, I know.) I knew this but didn’t get it on the first pass. Memorization of the poem is forced upon British schoolchildren, according to my wife. I think it’s the one with the line “Ours is not to question why, ours is but to do and die.” [update: I didn't get that exactly right. Should be "Theirs" not ours, and "reason" not "question."]
- 22A: Fictional parrot type featured in Monty Python’s “dead parrot sketch” (NORWEGIAN BLUE) - Probably a gimme for lots of people but not me. I’ve seen parts of the sketch, I think, but never the whole thing. Before there were irritating Simpsons-quoters there were irritating Monty Python-quoters.
- 24A: 7 and 11 (PRIMES) - Another good, non-showy clue, this one with a crappy misdirection. The man never breaks a sweat.
- 32A: “Draft Dodger Rag” singer (OCHS) - Phil Ochs. I got this on the first pass and am not sure why. I used to fancy myself a folkie when I was about fourteen, but don’t think I’ve ever heard a Phil Ochs song. He hanged himself 1976 [updated from an reference to "the sixties," though 1976 was pretty much still the sixties, in my mind] but will live on forever in crosswords.
- 37A and 38A: Pack animal (BURRO) and Pack animal? (CAMEL) - Okay, maybe this is a bit showy. (“Pack” as in cigarettes.)
- 39A: 1970s American Motors car (HORNET) - Man, I miss the days when cars were named after things, tangible objects. I’m all for nouns—we need to protect our nouns and quit turning them into verbs. We have way too many verbs as it is. So don’t ask me where I “office,” because I’ve never officed in my life, and don’t ask me how something “impacted” me because nothing ever has. I’m unimpactable. I miss the Mustangs and Thunderbirds and Ramblers and Hornets and even the Gremlins and the Pacers. And then, midway upon the journey of our life, I found myself within a forest dark, for the straightforward pathway had been lost, and I found myself wondering what a “tercel” was.
- 44A: Where to find free spirits (OPEN BAR) - Another one. It’s his world. We just live in it.
- 2D: It might make you red in the face (ACNE) - This nicely crosses the answer we’re not discussing today. Right? Not discussing today? Right?
- 4D: Archetypes (EPITOMES) - Is that right? I don’t think that’s right. An epitome is just the “perfect example” of something, isn’t it? An archetype comes with lots of socio-whateveral and Freudian baggage, doesn’t it? I mispronounced “epitome” well into my twenties, by the way, at least in my mental pronunciation. Same with “superfluous.”
- 15D: Plato and Aristotle (ANCIENTS) - I don’t know what “ancients” means in the classical Greek context. Auden’s always writing about “the ancients” and “the ancient of days,” and I’m kind of a big Auden guy—I think we got a good deal in the trade for Eliot—so I figured it out easily enough, but somebody’ll have to tell me what’s behind it.
- 38D: Snapper, of a sort (CENTER) - Here’s the 145-pound center for the 1983 Graham Steers JV team. He was one mean sumbitch:
- 40D: Eggheaded experts (WONKS) - I had DORKS at first. It just worked out that way.
- 41D: Dealing with honey makers (APIAN) - Notwithstanding my recent comments down in the cheap seats about my generally ambivalent attitude toward food, I love honey. I often crave it. I don’t understand honey, I don’t know what food group it belongs to, I can’t think of any other creature whose puke we eat, but I love honey. A friend of mine named Clint has some bees, and they’re supposed to make some honey and he’s going to give me some.
Me (Wade) again tomorrow.
Additional message from Rex Parker. Blackberry users might be interested in the following announcement from Stephen Grant of Madmic Games:
Are you a crossword puzzle addict who owns a Blackberry?
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