Bygone McDonald's Mascot! - THURSDAY, Oct. 23, 2008 - Patrick Blindauer (Product once pitched by Pele / Study for astronomes)
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: ANTS (55D: "Marchers" through the answers to the five starred clues) - five 7-letter theme answers contain the letter string "ANT," which shifts its place one square to the right with each successive theme answer. Thus "ANT" starts the first theme answer (ANTACID) and concludes the last one (ENCHANT)
Cute and undifficult. If anything is tricky about this puzzle, it's the fact that - if you tend to solve the puzzle from the NW down - you probably didn't notice any theme at all until you hit the very far SE corner. One annoying, or distracting thing, is that the longest Acrosses are not involved in the theme, a phenomenon you very very rarely see in a puzzle. Thankfully, one of those answers is the Very awesome PARTY FOUL (44A: Spilling one's drink at a shindig, for one), so I don't really care. I had this puzzle tagged as "Medium" difficulty, but when I resolved it last night, I couldn't see any significant difficulty. From my perspective, there's exactly one "WTF" word - POTASH (43D: White, granular powder), which sounds like some kind of Eastern European casserole. Now I'm sure I'll hear from the many of you who work in labs: "Oh, we use POTASH all the time. Why, just yesterday I was TARING some POTASH, when ..." etc. Here is my proposed use for the word POTASH - a contraction for "Poor White Trash." Now you can be cruel and demeaning to the underprivileged, and no one will be the wiser. "You're gonna buy that? That is soooo POTASH." "What?" "Nothing."
- 14A: *Settler in a pharmacy (ANTacid) - "Settler" killed me. I was imagining a Pilgrim, or something that "settles" to the bottom of a bottle, like that whadyacallit pouchy thing they put in pill bottles - desiccant!! DesiccANT!
- 21A: *"_____ Island" ("FANTasy") - best way to clue "FANTASY," IMOO
- 37A: *B'way hit beginning in '88 ("PhANTom") - never saw it. I really Really don't care for musicals. "Cats," "Les Miz," "Miss Saigon," "PHANTOM" .... no no no no.
- 48A: *Where Delta Air Lines is headquartered (AtlANTa)
- 61A: *Cast a spell over (enchANT)
Hurray for these answers:
- PARTY FOUL
- SPINOUT (23D: Indy 500 mishap)
- TELL-ALL (56A: Like juicy biographies)
These answers are flashy and sassy and colloquial and dynamic. They really liven up the joint. I would say the same about SPEEDEE (60A: Bygone McDonald's mascot), but he is so "bygone" that he's pretty well out of popular consciousness (for those under, say, 50). He's like a mythological character. I barely believe he existed. His name is sure cool, though.
- 40A: Sir Richard who co-founded the Spectator (Steele) - essentially, an 18th-century blog. Published daily, and meant as a provocation to discussion of topical and philosophical issues of the day. I just now got completely wrapped up in one of the essays I found on Google Book Search. The whole project is fascinating. Here's the beginning of an essay from 1711:
ANIMATION THAN BOOKS.
A MAN who publishes his works in a volume, has an
infinite advantage over one who communicates his
writings to the world in loose tracts and single pieces.
We do not expect to meet with any thing in a bulky volume,
till after some heavy preamble, and several words
of course, to prepare the reader for what follows. Nay,
authors have established it as a kind of rule, That a man
ought to be dull sometimes ; as the most severe reader
makes allowances for many rests and nodding-places in
a voluminous writer. This gave occasion to the famous
Greek proverb which I have chosen for my motto,
"That a great book is a great evil."
On the contrary, those who publish their thoughts in
distinct sheets, and as it were by piece-meal, have none
of these advantages. We must immediately fall into our
subject, and treat every part of it in a lively manner, or
our papers are thrown by as dull and insipid.
- 47A: Italian bone (osso) - I assume meat-eaters know this from OSSO buco.
- 53A: Product once pitched by Pele (Viagra) - I guess Pele's better than Bob Dole...
- 13D: "Nightmare _____," 1997 Disney animated series ("Ned") - wow. Never heard of it.
- 27D: The "Working Girl" girl and others (Tesses) - the painfulest answer in the puzzle. "Too Many Tesses" would be a great (read: terrible) name for some teen chicklittish (man, that sounds pornographic) novel. It's hard for me to hate on "Working Girl," though. It's quintessentially 80s, and Melanie Griffith, despite many fashion impediments, is très hot:
- 41D: Study for astronomes (etoiles) - wow, you pretty much have to know some French for this one.
- 49D: _____-dernier (penultimate: Fr.) (avant) - whoa ... more rough French. [_____-garde] was apparently too Monday for this puzzle.
- 59D: Little Joe's pa on "Bonanza" (Ben) - Cartwright, I assume. Way before my (TV) time.
- 25D: Actress Mary Martin's actor son (Larry Hagman) - Great answer. HAGMAN reminds me simultaneously of my friend Greg (from VA) and Wade (from TX). I have no idea where either association comes from. Maybe Wade can offer an explanation.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS I am a crossword clue in the most recent Simon & Schuster Mega Crossword Puzzle Book (#3). Puzzle 71, "Plane Speaking" - 28A: Crossword blogger Parker (Rex). I've known about this for almost a year (stupid publishing lag time!), so it's cool finally to see it in print. Thanks, John Samson.