"Extra Play" - SUNDAY, Aug. 31, 2008 - Alan Arbesfeld (World capital said to have been founded by Midas / Stopping place in a Carlo Levi title)
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: "Extra Play" - "OT" (short for "overtime") is added to familiar phrase to get wacky phrases, which are clued ... wackily
My first thought on solving this puzzle was "Oh boy ... add two letters to a phrase ... this'll be fun" - my thought was being sarcastic. This is one of the oldest puzzle "themes" in the book. We saw it recently when yet another sports-related letter string was involved - "LT" or "RT," I forget which. Anyway, the thing about such a theme is that, for it to pay off, the resulting wacky answers really have to zing. They have to be stunning (in the main) for the solver (i.e. me) to feel like the theme really merits the name of "theme." Today, I thought the answers were simply adequate, with two Major exceptions: the great LOOT AND BEHOLD and the super great SCHOOL MARMOT. I wish my school had had a marmot. They're adorable.
- 23A: Plea made to a chimney sweep? ("Say it ain't soot!")
- 38A: Distribute equal amounts? (allot the same) - see, this clue/answer just Dies
- 56A: Vote involved in a 15th wedding anniversary? (crystal ballot)
- 76A: Narrow-minded affairs? (bigot business)
- 95A: Teacher's pet? (school marmot) - the banality of the clue is the best part, because you can't see the brilliance of SCHOOL MARMOT coming
- 112A: Stop to admire one's pillaging? (loot and behold)
- 17D: Sexiest bell ringer? (Bardot of Avon) - that's kind of great too, though for no good reason not having the "The" before "Bard of Avon" just feels off to me
- 62D: Part of a Beckett play? (an act of Godot)
How about the LA BREA TAROT PITS!? - I guess that's longer than any of the others, but I like it.
Here is the part of the puzzle that made me squawk the loudest: the JESSEL / INHUME corner (93D: Toastmaster of old comedy / 94D: Bury). O man, that bugged me no end. I'm told by oldsters that JESSEL is a generational thing. I take that to mean that JESSEL was INHUMEd many years ago. INHUME! Words can't explain how terrible this word is, how much it insults all wordkind by its very existence. Is it from gardening? The only way I got it was from inference - i.e. I know what EXHUME means. I even know what the root "HUM" means. And yet, if you're going to go all pretentious in your choice of synonyms for "Bury," wouldn't you go for INTER, the word people actually use? I am willing to let INHUME slide if it turns out to be a technical gardening word. Otherwise, not.
I had two scores as a test-solver for this puzzle. First, I got the clue for 65A, UNSAVED, changed. It was originally [Lost on a laptop], but I suggested that not all UNSAVED material is "Lost." I like the new [Subject to loss on a laptop] a Lot better. But I'm much prouder of having worked Lamar ODOM into the puzzle! Woo hoo! The original clue for ODOM was [Blue Moon of baseball], and though I'd seen that clue before, or one like it, I suggested that Lamar might be a nice alternative. Tough enough for many solvers (I mean, I know many of you all suck at sports ... am I right? Yes, I am), but very very contemporary. ODOM is the second-best player on the L.A. Lakers after Kobe Bryant, who is arguably the best player in the N.B.A. The Lakers were just in the N.B.A. Finals (this summer) against the Boston Celtics, in a rematch of the two great powerhouses of the 1980s. Anyway ... I was psyched to see that Will went with [N.B.A. star Lamar _____]. Bold ... risky ... daring ... but, because it was suggested by me, Brilliant. This video will show you Lamar ODOM at work, and perhaps introduce you to the word "posterize":
OK, so I forced ODOM into my wheelhouse. What else was there? Well, there was TEY (41A: "The Daughter of Time" novelist, 1951), not because I've read it (I haven't), but because, via my adventures in vintage paperback collecting, I've seen her name a lot a lot a lot. There's also the brilliant AMY Sedaris (47A: Humorist Sedaris), whose show "Strangers With Candy" was one of the best satirical shows I've ever seen (and it starred a youthfulish Stephen Colbert). I was also highly familiar with ATARI (60A: Missile Command maker), NANU (82A: When doubled, an old sitcom sign-off), BYRON (102A: Poet who wrote "She walks in beauty like the night"), UNO (14D: Game with Wild Draw Four cards - we have "Barbie" "Red Sox" "Simpsons" and "Harry Potter" versions of this game), and AESIR (105A: Race of Norse deities). And what else?
- 22A: Single advancement (one base) - I would have gone with [What a walk gets you?] or something, but this is technically correct.
- 27A: Pancho's pal (Cisco) - reminds me only of "The Frisco Kid," starring Gene Wilder, which I'm sure I've said before, but here it is again. Gene Wilder was a comic staple of my childhood.
- 37A: Jobs for some underwriters, for short (IPOs) - surely accurate, but "underwriters" is not one of the first dozen words I think of when I think IPOs (which, admittedly, is nearly never)
- 44A: "_____ Mucho" (1944 #1 hit) ("Besame") - Looked at finished grid and thought "BE SAME ... that's a Terrible answer. What was the clue?"
- 59A: Recipient of a lettera amorosa (caro) - just did a Google Image search of this and Whoa! Wall of Nudity!
- 72A: Three times a day, on an Rx (TID) - BID, TID, QID - handy letter combos. TID is Latin, "Ter in die," or THRICE (43D: Again and again?) daily.
- 93A: Peter Pan rival (Jif) - Choosy mothers think Peter Pan is a freak.
- 99A: Commercial prefix with jet (aero-) - AERO-Jet just sounds like an olde-fashionede name for the airplane. As autogyro is to helicopter, so ...
- 118A: World capital said to have been founded by King Midas (Ankara) - wow, cool trivia. I had no idea.
- 3D: Movie with the repeated line "To infinity, and beyond!" ("Toy Story") - biggest gimme in the whole damned puzzle. If you have been anywhere near a child (esp. a boy) between the ages of 4 and 8 in the past decade or so, you should have heard this phrase shouted (probably immediately prior to some child's leaping from some piece of furniture) a billion times by now.
- 5D: Site of many kisses (altar) - what are you doing up there, making out!? Kiss her once and then head down the aisle.
- 6D: Sound from a dungeon (moan) - a bit too gruesome for my Sunday morning, frankly.
- 8D: Around 1,000, e.g.: Abbr. (est.) - this is either brilliant or clunky, I can't decide
- 9D: Word repeated in Emily Dickinson's "_____ so much joy! _____ so much joy!" ("'Tis") - not sure I've ever seen the double-blank clue. Interesting.
- 13D: State in the Sierra Madre (Sonora) - I'm going to Costa Rica next year, which has nothing to do with this clue, really, but since I just found out yesterday, I thought this clue was about the closest thing to a prompt I was going to get today.
- 16D: Stopping place in a Carlo Levi title (Eboli) - "Carl who?" and "Sounds like a disease" and "ugh, crosswordese."
- 18D: Ancient Jewish ascetic (Essene) - few six-letter words are more custom-built for crosswords. This words appears multiple times per year.
- 121A: Theater annoyance (beeper) - people still carry these? So 80s.
- 24D: Home of the world's northernmost capital: Abbr. (Icel.) - wow that's an ugly abbr. Almost as bad as yesterday's INCR.
- 28D: "I Never Played the Game" writer (Cosell) - He was The Man when I was a kid. It's his voice I hear whenever I see the name "Muhammed Ali."
- 30D: Sanyo competitor (Aiwa) - AIWA always looks horribly made-up to me, like Panaphonic or Sorny.
- 40D: Oscar winner Jannings and others (Remys ... I mean EMILS)
- 50D: Bygone muscle cars (GTOs) - see also [Bygone non-muscle car => NEON] (actual clue: 86D: Bygone Dodge)
- 72D: "Pagliacci" clown (Tonio) - learned from xwords
- 90D: What turned-out pockets may signify ("I'm broke") - or "I'm sloppy" or "Look at my lint" or etc.
- 92D: Slicker accessory (rain hat) - again, do people still wear these? Most rain coats have hoods. The only RAIN HAT I ever see on a regular basis belongs to that Morton's salt girl, I think.
- 97D: Hungarian playwright known for "Liliom" (Molnar) - sounds like the Emperor of the planet XoTron.
- 103D: Partner in a French firm, maybe (frère) - as in "Sanford and Frère" [uh, no, 'frère' means 'brother,' not 'son' - I don't remember if Fred Sanford had a brother. Let's see ... no, but according to multiple web sources, Redd Foxx modeled Fred Sanford on his own brother, who was named ... Fred Sanford; if only this clue had Anything to do with "Sanford and Son"]
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
P.S. whoops, forgot to mention that I had NO idea who [Colonial John] was (answer = ALDEN). Insert toilet joke here.