SUNDAY, Aug. 10, 2008 - Will Nediger (YOSSARIAN'S TENTMATE, in "Catch-22" / CHARON'S WORKPLACE / VESPASIAN'S SUCCESSOR /ATHOS'S ARM)
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: "Inside Jokes" - words for jokes are found in circled squares inside long theme answers
Despite absurdities like KERF (106A: Cut made by a saw) and FORKERS (86A: Chopsticks eschewers, informally) and MOG (54D: Pet cat, in British lingo), and because of having struggled before with the tricky words TSURIS (31D: Woes, to a Yiddish speaker) and ERGOT (64A: Cereal killer), I tore this puzzle up without really trying. The top scores on this puzzle are in and around the 6 min. mark, so I'm not the only one who found it easy. The theme made the longer answers very, very easy to uncover. This puzzle seems to have been constructed solely because of the very clever title. Nice concept. Overall, the puzzle is OK. Lots of interesting fill and clues, and a highly contemporary frame of reference. The most memorable thing about the puzzle is the aforementioned absurdities, and that can't be good. But with a handful of super Scrabbly letters and a plucky attitude, this puzzle certainly had its charm. It wasn't boring. Or, rather, it was, but only in the theme answers (fine phrases, but having nothing in common besides their containing words that mean "joke").
Please note how often the circled word fails to traverse two words in the phrase in which it's embedded, and (more often) fails to touch all words in the phrase. I have had a similar puzzle (the circled square kind) criticized (by a major editor whose name is not Will) for having only one such failure in a theme answer. Admittedly, said editor is a total badass and hardass with super-high standards, which I respect. Still, any time I see circled squares that don't traverse all the words in the answer they're embedded in, I get a bit resentful.
- 23A: 21 (legal drinkinG AGe)
- 16D: High-school gym feature (eQUIPment locker)
- 37A: Way out (esCAPE Route)
- 54A: Conductors' aids (musiC RACKs) - you mean "music stands?"
- 44D: Declaration of August 14, 1941 (AtlANTIC Charter)
- 79A: Number one (toP RANKing)
- 95A: "Sire" ("your maJESTy")
- 109A: Ignore, as a problem (sweeP UNder the rug) - note: for some reason, the grid in the NYT applet (reproduced above) did not put the circled squares in 109A
Let's just dive into a list of goods, bads, stumpers, and screw-ups (mine)
- 15A: Gilberto's partner on "The Girl From Ipanema," 1964 (Getz) - why did I want METZ? I was damned lucky to come up with that "Z," intersecting (as GETZ does) another not- terribly- famous proper noun, ZAK (18D: Ringo's drummer son).
- 31A: Vespasian's successor (Titus) - There was a horrible TV show and an excellent movie, both named "TITUS." That's what I know about TITUS.
- 52A: Viva-voce vote (nay) - words can't describe how much I hate "viva-voce" in this clue. Sometimes you have to rein in that urge to alliterate. Seriously.
- 61A: Butterfly relative (crawl) - appropriate on this, let's say second day of the Summer Olympics.
- 71A: "Vissi d'arte" singer (Tosca) - opera, ends in -SCA, TOSCA, done.
- 73A: "N.Y. State of Mind" rapper (Nas) - Billy Joel fans must be going "????"
- 75A: Yossarian's tentmate in "Catch-22" (Orr) - Nooooo idea. ORR plays hockey in CrossWorld.
- 82A: Athos's arm (musket) - for a brief moment I imagined "Athos" was a lake or river. Then I imagined "arm" was, you know, a human limb.
- 84A: "Generation of healthy, happy pets" sloganeer (Alpo) - I have vowed to blog every "sloganeer" and "slangily" clue; here, I keep that promise.
- 87A: Razor handle? (Occam) - This part of puzzle was screwy, as I had PLUG for FLOG (77D: Aggressively promote), but getting the correct "O" still left me combing the men's grooming aisle for razor candidates...
- 57A: Quick expression of gratitude (thx) - mmm, email/IM shorthand. Expect it to take over your grid in the next decade. LOL was just the beginning...
- 89A: The _____ Band, with guitarist Little Steven (Little River ... I mean E Street)
- 93A: He played 2,130 consecutive games (Gehrig) - The Iron Horse
- 104A: Divine epithet (Creator) - I was imagining some kind of swear word that a god (or God) might say. "I'm sending down a flood, bitches!"
- 120A: 1967 pop sensation, with "the" (Monkees) - very easy. I like this clue because it has "pop sensation" in it.
- 3D: Beersheba's desert (Negev) - simple ... had I read the clue correctly. "How am I supposed to know what Beersheba liked to eat after dinner?"
- 7D: People who no what they like? (Puritans) - I don't get it. Oh, does it mean they don't indulge in things they like? That's ... oddly judgmental. I presume they like worshiping God. I'm no Puritan, but this seems awfully dismissive and sneering, which I didn't think the Times did toward religion.
- 10D: Brashares who wrote "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" (Ann) - just typing that clue made me queasy
- 14D: Self-title album of 1980 (Aretha) - and now, to wash the Traveling Pants out of my mouth, here is some sweet soul goodness - even when her songs are discofied, she sounds Awesome:
- 29D: Infamous 1999 computer virus with a woman's name (Melissa) - remember? Me either. I had a Mac.
- 39D: "Watermark" vocalist (Enya) - I suggest you try her nearly every time you have a "vocalist" in four letters that you don't know.
- 42D: Charon's workplace (Styx) - I'm pretty sure he had to stay there after work too.
- 48D: NuGrape competitor (Nehi) - that was easy, despite my never having seen either of these sodas. Is NEHI super-regional? When I was growing up, I thought it was fictional, since I'd only ever heard it mentioned on "M*A*S*H"
- 51D: Call letters on 1970s-'80s TV (WKRP) - speaking of good 70s TV
- 67D: Joule division (erg) - "Joule division" sounds like a band name. Well, actually, it sounds like a specific band name: Joy Division...
- 102D: Someone who just got out of a long bath, facetiously (prune) - Something about "facetiously" is making me laugh. "So you mean the person's not literally a prune, but merely resembles one in his/her wrinkled skin?! I see. How droll."
- 105D: Former shah _____ Pahlavi (Reza) - I know the name REZA from an early season of "24," and that is the only way I know REZA. I also know only one Shah. The Shah. 1979 Shah. Is this the same guy? I could look this up, but puppy needs tending to, and breakfast needs eating, coffee drinking, etc.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
P.S. Will Shortz will be hosting the Sudoku National Championship on October 25 in Philadelphia. The championship is being hosted by the Philadelphia Inquirer and there will be over $20,000 in cash prizes. Here is the relevant website. I can't stand Sudoku, but I know that I'm in the minority in the puzzling world, and I'm sure a lot of you are fans, or know people who are, so go ahead, spread the disease, I mean word.
My suggestion for next year's American Crossword Puzzle Tournament: Cool(er) gear. Last year's offerings were pathetic - maybe Emily could design something. Hers were the only T-shirts I bought at the 2008 Tournament.