WEDNESDAY, Oct. 29, 2008 - Steven L. Zisser (Trireme tool / Jerry's sitcom neighbor / Glen Bell's fast food / John who played Gomez Addams)
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Relative difficulty: (incredibly) Easy
THEME: (Not-so-) Great Vowel (Sound) Shift - theme clues require that you read them with "OH" instead of expected "OW" sound in the words that contain "-OWER"
It's possible that this puzzle was even easier than yesterday's, and yesterday's was easy for a Tuesday. Weird. I'm sure things will turn around later in the week. Puzzle difficulty levels have a way of evening out. Here, the constructor takes a common cluing ploy - the -OWER head fake, where the reader assumes an "OW" pronunciation for the vowel sound when an "OH" sound was intended - and turns it into a puzzle-sustaining theme. I'm lukewarm on the idea, especially considering the execution here. Something about the two plural answers bugs me, especially TEAMS OF HORSES, which feels quite forced.
- 16A: Meteor shower (planetarium)
- 22A: Country bowers (fiddle players)
- 46A: Farm towers (teams of horses)
- 56A: South American flower (Amazon River)
I almost want to side with the proper noun-haters today, as the puzzle feels particularly awash in names. We have the matching plural name clues 26A: Fife and Frank (Barneys) and 25D: Bundy and Kaline (Als), and then a bijillion others, most of which I'm too tired to mention. Three of the first five Across clues are names - COSMO (1A: Jerry's sitcom neighbor), ASTIN (13A: John who played Gomez Addams), and the puzzle-friendly Charles READE (14A: "The Cloister and the Hearth" novelist), who is making a very unusual mid-week appearance. I tend to think of him as more of a Fri/Sat guy. That's certainly how I learned his name (ASTIN I learned early-week, and was roundly, publicly mocked for not knowing his name). You know the puzzle is contemporary-minded when NES is clued as "old" (40D: Super _____ (old game product)). "MYST" (21D: Computer game set on an island) is as old as Super NES, but somehow it escaped the "old" moniker (perhaps because versions of it were being made through 2005). I quit playing video games in the mid-90s when it became clear that ... you know how some people have problems with alcohol and sex and drugs and what not? For me, it's video games. I mean, maybe I could enjoy them in moderation, but I doubt it. And my family almost certainly doesn't want to find out.
To clean the COSMO out of my brain and let the (Andy) Kaufman in, I'm going to listen to "Man on the Moon" by R.E.M. (9D: Band with the 1993 hit "Man on the Moon") now, even though it's possibly the worst song on the (fantastic) album "Automatic for the People" (bonus: this song has "ASP" in it):
- 21A: In romance poetry, a frequent rhyme for June (moon) - hmmm, surprised I didn't catch the "MOON" / "Man on the Moon" word repetition here. Yikes. Sorry, Will. R.E.M. has a million clue-worthy songs, and we go with the one that's got MOON in the title. HA ha.
- 29A: Suffix with reflex (-ology) - parts of your feet (esp. the soles) are supposed to correspond to your various body parts. It's like ... a pretentious foot rub.
- 37A: Org. in "Michael Collins" (I.R.A.) - I may have said this, but "Michael Collins" is the worst movie name ever. I remember when it came out, I though "Why not call it 'Stanley Berger' or 'Peter Jones'" - I think the movie-makers thought the public (I) would be far more Irish history savvy than we (I) were (was).
- 43A: Square thing (meal) - MEAL gets clued via its alleged "square"-ness a lot. A Lot. I'm just sayin'.
- 59A: Trireme tool (oar) - "Trireme" being one of those words I somehow managed to learn *before* starting to do puzzles. It's stood me in good stead (did I get that phrase right? Feels Wrong)
- 5D: 1969 Three Dog Night hit ("One") - I'd play it, but I already featured it on a very recent write-up, so (lucky you), you get this instead:
His lower register is Amazing - RAWLS! (14D: "Lady Love" singer Lou)
- 17D: Like Felix Unger's room (tidy) - "Unger" sounds so dirty that I hesitated here. "Is Felix the TIDY one?" Yes.
- 26D: Gaucho's weapon (bola) - it has balls
- 46D: Glen Bell's fast food (tacos) - this one blew me away. You mean the "Bell" in "Taco Bell" is an actual guy. I thought it was just the thing they rang in the old (Mexican) country to let you know that your TACOS were ready. Holy Crap. Glen Bell. Did Not see that coming.
- 48D: Cowboy who rode Champion (Autry) - there are no more famous cowboys. I know this guy only from legend (like ... Hopalong Cassidy and ... the guy who rode Trigger)
- 53D: Richard of "Bee Season" (Gere) - really? "Bee Season?" That was a movie? OK, next person who puts GERE in his / her puzzle, I dare you to go deeper than "Bee Season." I want the bottom of GERE's oeuvre. Get on imdb and get to work.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld