WEDNESDAY, Sep. 24, 2008 - Lynn Lempel (Frequent Jacques Brel song subject / Jim Beam quaffs / One of the "dumbest dumb animals")
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: GEORGE BURNS quotation re: the HUMMINGBIRD and why it is one of the "dumbest dumb animals": "IT'S REALLY TIME HE / LEARNED THE WORDS"
Not a quote puzzle fan, but this one cleaned up nicely, and was very easy to tease out. I adore the long Downs in this puzzle - SIR GALAHAD (29D: "Le Morte d'Arthur" figure) and HOLY TERROR make a nice yin/yang. Lancelot's nauseatingly perfect child meets [Imp plus], which is a phrase I'm going to use All The Time now to describe any disgustingly ill-behaved brat. "Imp plus." "I'm sorry, what did you say about my child?" "Dimples. He has cute dimples." Traction was quick to arrive in this puzzle, as 6A: Battle to remember, with "the" (Alamo) and 11A: "And _____!" ("how!") were both gimmes, giving me (and possibly you) the first letters to eight consecutive Downs - can't ask for more than that.
I already told you all the theme answers, so, what else?
There are a couple of nice juxtapositions in the puzzle - words that create compelling phrases simply by virtue of grid proximity. ORIOLE BUMMERS (5D: Orange-and-black fliers + 4D: Lousy breaks) are a way of describing those days on which the Red Sox come to Baltimore (I know, I was there, it was a bloodbath - but at least you guys have Michael Stipe ... wait, what's his name? Michael Bean? Michael ... Phelps! How soon we (I) forget). I especially like SAMOA SAM at 20- and 21-Across (Polynesian land + Walton who founded Wal-Mart). I imagine that Wal-Mart has purchased the entire country and turned it into a distribution center / SAM Walton's personal kingdom. If only artist Emily Cureton were still doing her daily xword drawings, maybe she could give me a nice pic of SAM in a lava-lava. Or, failing that, a MARMOT ROBOT (9D: Rockies rodent + 25A: Unpaid factory worker).
Speaking of Emily, who just last week decided to call a halt to her daily NYT crossword drawing project - I'll be publishing a substantial interview with her this Friday, in which she talks art, crosswords, and future plans. So look for it. She gives a good interview. You won't be disappointed.
FORE! (45A: Driver's warning)
- 1A: Empty-head sort (bimbo) - a great word that you don't hear much anymore. Can't we have a non-sexist culture and still retain the rights to "BIMBO?" (and "DAME" and "GAMS" and "BROAD" ... please?)
- 14A: Frequent Jacques Brel subject (amour) - "sujet" might have been more appropriate. Brel's name sounds like a mouthwash, but is actually probably closer to a shampoo ("Prell") than to any other personal hygiene product.
- 16A: Work by Gray or Spenser (ode) - Spenser wrote an ODE? Wow, I missed that. Saw Gray's name and wanted "elegy."
- 22A: Some Jim Beam quaffs (rye) - how many different types of Jim Beam are there? I learned the word "rye" (non-bread form) from "American Pie." Here's Don McLean on "IMUS in the Morning" (2D):
- 34A: Corn locale (toe) - IOWA wouldn't fit.
- 41A: Award for Best Novel won three times by Dick Francis (Edgar) - gimme. "Hey, he's the horses guy." True. His novels were on the bookshelves of many different family members in the 1970s and 80s. Very distinctive design.
- 50A: Tropical vine (Liana) - Hey, LIANA, you're in the puzzle (Rob, go tell her). Here is another LIANA:
- 56A: Goddess of home and family (Vesta) - I teach in Vestal.
- 67A: Wilderness walks (treks) - the clue doesn't quite suggest the arduousness that the answer implies.
- 68A: Conical home (tepee) - Good clue! :)
- 6D: Taiwanese-born director Lee (Ang) - maybe my favorite mainstream, big budget-type director. His range is mind-blowing.
- 12D: Jon's comics canine (Odie) - I really like "Garfield minus Garfield," But there are no Odie strips there. I went back several months, and nothing. Anyway, I recommend the blog - great evidence of how quickly one can go from concept to blog to book deal with Ballantine inside of 8 months (see also recent publication of the the blog-to-book project "Stuff White People Like," which just got a Rave review in The Atlantic).
- 22D: Home of the Galleria Borghese (Roma) - four letters? Italiany sounding? No problem.
- 26D: Something to drool over? (bib) - first off, there's been a lot of drool in the puzzle lately. Second, ODIE drools, so that's a nice tie-in to 12D.
- 38D: "Fantastic Mr. Fox" author (Dahl) - know this only because I have a youngish daughter. Never read this when I was a kid.
- 43D: Protein-producing substance (RNA) - have learned to associate "protein" with RNA.
- 60D: Clock setting at 0 degrees longitude: Abbr. (GMT) - Greenwich Mean Time. Which reminds me - I really need a new watch. Or watches. My Krusty the Clown watch is a little bulky / bright teal to wear with most outfits.
- 52D: Bloodhound feature (jowl) - bloodhounds will forever make me think of "Best in Show"
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld