TUESDAY, Sep. 2, 2008 - Stanley Newman (12th-15th century European tongue / Equivalent of 20 fins / Dudley Do-Right's org.)
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "Travelin' MAN" - five 15-letter answers feature the letter string MAN, which begins at the far left of the first theme answer and then moves three spaces to the right in each successive answer
It took me a little bit of post-solution thought to figure out what the hell the theme answers had to do with one another. While I was solving, I kept waiting for that theme-revealing clue, but it never came. Eventually I saw all the MANs (MEN?) and noticed the pattern. This is certainly an oddball puzzle, but a. it's Tuesday, so you have to give it a little leeway (we're always happy when Tuesday manages just to get across the room without falling on his face), and b. it's by Stan Newman, editor of the Newsday crossword and puzzling legend, so you know his fill is tight. No one but no one except Stan Newman is going to have the balls to throw MIDDLE LOW GERMAN at you on a Tuesday. Or to put UNARMS (50D: Deprives of weapons) right alongside UNMET (56D: Not yet realized) and then casually walk away like nothing even happened. I like my Tuesdays reasonably easy AND out of left field, and this satisfies both those requirements.
- 17A: Newspaper V.I.P.'s (MANaging editors)
- 23A: Laundry pen, e.g. (perMANent marker) - I am not familiar with this particular "pen." I thought it was a pen that you might get on your clothes, thus requiring that they be laundered, but Will told me otherwise.
- 39A: Exodus 20 subject (Ten ComMANdments)
- 51A: User's guide (reference MANual)
- 62A: 12th-15th century European tongue (Middle Low GerMAN)
Note also that "MAN" never stars as itself in any of the answers. That is, there are lots of MANs, but no men.
The puzzle evoked both Virgil and Dante for me ... it's like seasonal allergies with me. September comes around and I see Virgil and Dante everywhere, largely because I'm teaching and thus rereading them for the umpteenth times. Today's puzzle had 61A: Division of an epic poem (canto) - Inferno has 34 cantos, a number whose significance I could go into for a while but I have to save something for the kids - and 52A: One who's persona non grata at home (exile) relates both to Dante (a political and spiritual exile) and Virgil's Aeneas, who frequently speaks of himself and his fellow surviving Trojans as EXILEs, as he travels the Mediterranean looking for their new homeland.
"Now that it pleased the gods to crush the power of Asia
and Priam's innocent people, now proud Troy had fallen -
Neptune's city a total ruin smoking on the ground -
signs from the high gods drive us on, exiles now,
searching earth for a home in some neglected land."
-Aeneas, recounting his journey for Dido and the Carthaginian court at the beginning of Aeneid III (tr. Fagles - an absolutely killer translation)
- 1A: Dudley Do-Right's org. (RCMP) - Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The "RCMP" could occasionally be seen on a big banner at the entrance to a wooden fort that functioned as "RCMP" headquarters. This clip bears a surprising resemblance to the first season of "Rescue Me," which I just finished watching.
- 9A: "Lost" airer (ABC-TV) - "airer" is one of those common/horrid clue words. And everyone still calls ABC-TV just "ABC."
- 14A: Airline that flew humanitarian Operation Solomon (El Al) - one of a billion clues for this crossword common airline. EL AL has a King David Lounge as well. I learned that from xwords.
- 49A: Half of Mork's sitcom sign-off (Nanu) - I love "Mork & Mindy," but I want to see *half* of a catchphrase only very, very rarely. I feel like I'm seeing NANU more and more.
- 59A: It might be stuck in a log (axe) - I had a several-second hesitation at the "X" here. No good reason.
- 2D: County north of Limerick (Clare) - in Ireland, one of three foreign countries the Republican nominee for Vice President has been to in her life (Kuwait and Germany are the others).
- 9D: Avia alternative (Adidas) - I think that's back-to-back days for ADIDAS. That's the kind of coincidence that makes anti-commercial solvers ("What are these brand names doing in my grid?!") get very grumpy and suspicious.
- 47D: Threat ender (or else) - usually we just get the ELSE.
- 55D: Equivalent of 20 fins (C-note) - olde-tymey slang is always welcome. "Fin" is one of my favorites.
- 63D: Person who's always feeling down in the mouth?: Abbr. (DDS) - OK that's pretty good. At first I didn't get the "feeling down" part, but then ... I did.
- 65D: Modern dashboard attachment, for short (GPS) - one of the few changes made in this puzzle from first typeset draft to final draft was in this clue, where "windshield" was (rightly) changed to "dashboard."
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS Here's a free crossword for your solving pleasure - enjoy: