THURSDAY, Aug. 7, 2008 - Peter A. Collins and Joe Krozel (EPONYMOUS INSTRUMENT MAKER ROBERT / SPOOK'S EMPLOYER, WITH "THE" / RETIRED AUDI SUPERMINI)
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "GONE / WITH / THE / WIND" - see 13A: Co-star of the film whose title is hidden sequentially in 20-, 34-, 41- and 52-Across (Leigh) and 64A: Another co-star of the film hidden in this puzzle (Gable)
Hey, what's up? (Answer: me at 3:30am).
Don't know if it's the jetlag or trying to solve and write in the wee hours of morning or what, but I did Not like this puzzle much at all. A lot of my displeasure stems from frustration over the god-awful far north, which is one of the worst little sections I've seen in the puzzle in a while. There is no answer there, save possibly MOOG (6D: Eponymous instrument maker Robert), that I would ever want to see again (though I suppose AMAT is unavoidable at times - 5A: Latin lover's word?). Once I finished, I looked over the puzzle from head to toe (recommended if you're going to say something about it), and there is a bunch of stuff here to admire. At first I thought the idea of burying words like "THE" in theme answers was incredibly stupid and pointless, but GONE and WITH actually span three words each in their respective answers, and WIND is hidden beautifully in CHOCTAW INDIANS, so the end result of all this short-word hiding was pretty impressive and pleasing (not GOLDEN MEAN pleasing, but pleasing nonetheless - 60A: Aesthetically pleasing ratio of antiquity).
What wasn't pleasing - well, how about AINU (3D: Japanese aborigine) and NEBO (57D: Mountain where Moses died, in the Bible), two words whose eyes have not yet adjusted to the light after being yanked from the dank Pit of Desperation after many years in hiding / seclusion / retirement / confinement. I love the "in the Bible" part of the NEBO clue - are there other Moseses out there dying on mountains? "Oh, in the Bible! Now I understand." Really, what other frame of reference could there be? - [Mountain where Moses died, in "Grease"]?
Back to hating: From the aforementioned hideous far north section, there's the wince-inducing abbrevs. ADDN (5D: Wing: Abbr.) and CTN (22A: DHL delivery, Abbr.), the Frenchly spelled British weight TONNE (8D: British weight), and the never-before-spelled-out A-TWO (7D: Retired Audi supermini). I nearly like the droid-sounding combo of A-TWO and DO TO (15A: Inflict upon), and yet I don't. If you have never had to endure the JONAS Brothers (28D: _____ Brothers (pop trio)), please, endure them now:
They make me miss Hansen. Desperately.
Big yuck also goes out to everyone's least favorite non free-standing drink name ADE (51D: It's made in a squeeze) and "bill of LADING" (43D: Bill of _____ (shipping document)) - I had "bill of LAYING" for a while ... did you know prostitution is legal in NZ? My wife can tell you of how, in Dunedin, I made a joke about a store's name sounding like a brothel, and then she pointed out to me that the establishment was, in fact, a brothel, and then it took me about an hour to lose the astonished look on my face.
- 20A: About to collapse, say (runninG ON Empty)
- 34A: Plea from the plate ("throW IT Home!") - I had "THROW IT HERE" for far too long, ugh.
- 41A: Canine coat (tooTH Enamel)
- 52A: Some W.W. I code talkers (ChoctaW INDians) - Family legend says that I have CHOCTAW ancestors on my mother's side. Or family legend did say that, until my mother got crazy into genealogical research and found out that the CHOCTAW stuff was baloney, but somehow we're all related to Pocahontas. If that's true, then why do I hate "Colors of the Wind" so much?
- 1A: Quatrain form (ABAA) - more yuck. Something this arbitrary (AABB? ABAB? ABBA?) shouldn't lead off your puzzle, if it can be avoided. Especially when you go from there right into the uninspiring AMAT and MSGS (9A: BlackBerry output: Abbr.)
- 24A: Amu _____, Asian river (Darya) - with Syr Darya, a primary feeder of the crosstastic (and always shrinking) ARAL Sea.
- 27A: Singles players (DJs) - cleverish, as was LIV (44A: Apt name for a fiftyish Roman woman?)
- 51A: Bull Halsey in W.W. II, e.g.: Abbr. (Adm.) - the phrase "Admiral Halsey" sounds familiar, yet that "D" in ADM was the last letter to fall in this section.
- 62A: German-built auto (Opel) - another thing about NZ - so many damned makes and models of cars that just Never make it here, e.g. the Nissan HOMY.
- 65A: Beatles song that begins "Is there anybody going to listen to my story" ("Girl") - Least imaginative chorus in a Beatles song.
- 4D: Spook's employer, with "The" (Agency) - very nice
- 9D: Giant tusk holders (mammoths) - "holders?" Really? Is Prince Charles a [Giant ear holder]?
- 10D: Items unlikely to be stored on the top shelf (step stools) - for no good reason, this was horribly elusive for me ... and I had the STEP part! I could think only of the phrase STEP LADDER and ... that was that, really.
- 18D: Anniversary gift for the year after pottery (tin) - does anyone follow these rules? My wood anniversary is coming up next month (!). Perhaps you all would like to get me a "personalized photo cube" or (much better yet) a "celtic love spoon."
- 26D: Object of a hunt in a 1984 best seller (Red October) - never read it / saw it. Sean Connery and submarines, if I recall.
- 31D: What a server may serve (e-mail) - I had USERS; man, I really botched the far east quite badly.
- 48D: 1965 Yardbirds hit ("I'm a Man") - yes I am, and I can't help but love you so. No no no. Whoops. Wrong song. Check out this video of the right song - it features what I believe are cheerleaders and referees freaking out on PCP while girls dance in cages and some homely white dudes muddle their way through a monotonous, droning blues riff. Music!
- 61D: Alumna identifier (née) - some alumnae, yes, OK, although my college magazine tends just to put the unmarried name of a graduate in parentheses next to her current name. NÉE just reeks of society pages and those godawful wedding announcements you see in newspapers where bride- and groom-to-be pose in horrid, awkward photos and we learn what their dads do for a living ...
- 53D: Literally, "peaceful" person (Hopi) - had no idea. Normally, when we see HOPI in the puzzle, they are dwelling in cliffs or making kachina dolls. Nice variation today. Today sees CHOCTAW and HOPI and a Sitting Bull clue all in one puzzle - 56D: Locale of Sitting Bull Coll (N Dak). Heavily Native American - and not an OTO or UTE in sight. Hurray (no offense to any actual OTOs or UTEs who might happen to be reading this)
Hope this write-up was satisfactory. It may take me time to get my sea legs back. See you all tomorrow.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld