FRIDAY, Nov. 21, 2008 - Patrick Berry (King who had an audience with Pope Leo I / Symbol of dissent against British rule)
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
A remarkably wide-open and free-wheeling grid from Mr. Berry today. Huge white center in the middle of this one, including a 5x5 in the dead center and sizable chunks of white extending away from it in all directions. Five contiguous parallel Downs and an equal number of contiguous parallel Acrosses anchor this puzzle's astonishing center, while the corners become little alcoves for pesky answers to hide in. A tough puzzle, light on obscurity, with answers drawn from a wide variety of fields. Only two answers I'd truly never heard of - both people: THEA (40A: Singer/songwriter Gilmore) and HERNDON (24D: William _____, law partner of Abraham Lincoln). One cringe-inducing answer: DEPILATING (6D: Removing hair from, as the body) - I took "removing" adjectivally and had DEPILATORY for a good long while. And wait, one more answer I hadn't heard of - not a person (I hope) but a thing: LIBERTY POLE (16D: Symbol of dissent against British rule). Historian wife, when asked what (the !@#) a LIBERTY POLE was, answered: "I dunno ... is that the thing the LIBERTY BELL hangs from?" No, I don't think so. Side note: Google returns 2.27 million hits for "DEPILATORY" and 21.5 thousand for "DEPILATING." Also, creepily, the third hit returned on a search of "DEPILATE" is a site entitled, "Should ten-year-olds depilate?" Thankfully, the answer appears to be 'no.'
A word about PANTYGIRDLE. What the hell is it? Sculpting underwear? Wife didn't really know. "How is it different from a regular girdle?" I asked. No help. I told Will it seemed awfully dated and I therefore wasn't sure that the original clue, [Victoria's secret purchase], was entirely (or even partially) accurate. But I wouldn't know. Clearly. Anyway, I LOVE the new clue, 33A: Unmentionable, because it's insanely misdirective *and* suggests the old-fashioned status of the answer - which is to say PANTYGIRDLEs were likely far more popular when people referred to women's undergarments unironically as "unmentionables." If there is something off in my history of women's undergarments ... well, no one should be shocked. Maybe PANTYGIRDLEs are all the rage. Who knows?
More love, this time for ONE HORSE and its terribly innocuous-seeming clue, 47A: Small and insignificant. The only phrase I can think of wherein one would use "ONE HORSE" is "ONE HORSE town," but that doesn't diminish my love for this answer one bit.
And the rest...
- 7A: Garden pests in Harry Potter books (gnomes) - man, I don't remember this well at all, and thought the answer was something way more Potteresque. Mandrakes, maybe, or squibs or squabs or shrikes or skrewts or whatever those things are that are plant-like and make a racket. GNOMES? Those are ornaments.
- 15A: 1950 #1 hit for the Ames Brothers ("Rag Mop") - I guess we'll have to hear it. I will, anyway, since I can't get Frankie Valli's "Rag Doll" out of my damned head. Here's the Ames Brothers' version:
And here it is, Chipmunked:
And here's a version ... I don't know who's doing it or what is going on ... but this version kicks the Ames Brothers' version's ass all up and down the block. Watch the piano player's legs, esp. from about 1:45 on. Insane:
- 26A: They affect one's constitution (amendments) - they sure do. I haven't heard a proposed amendment in recent years that I'd want anywhere near my constitution.
- 38A: Word of dismay (oops) - "dismay" is not what I would have said. The word seems more an acknowledment of a slip up, like "my bad." I rarely hear anyone say it with "dismay."
- 41A: Table game with paddles, slangily (pong) - well, Will would know, but this still sounds off to me. PONG is an early Atari game. PING PONG is already short enough, why would anyone abbrev. it?
- 49A: King who had an audience with Pope Leo I (Attila) - don't normally think of him as a "king." He's mainly just a Hun in my head. This is one of a series of historical curiosities in the puzzle. See also QUEEN REGENT (14D: Title assumed by Margaret Tudor in 1513), HERNDON, LIBERTY POLE, ONASSIS (2D: Billionaire who bought the Greek island Skorpios), and, of course, TIE fighter (50D: _____ fighter ("Star Wars" ship)).
- 3D: "Madame Butterfly" setting (Nagasaki) - had no idea NAGASAKI was known internationally for anything more than getting blown up.
- 22D: State capital with just 42,000 people (Olympia) - drove through it many, many times during the summers of my youth. Have absolutely no memories of ever having stopped there. See also SALEM, OR.
- 28D: Russian-born Israeli leader (Meir) - Israeli leader in four letters - you have one fairly safe bet.
- 34D: Electromotive force symbol (epsilon) - really just a fancy "E"
- 37D: Label on an amplifier knob (reverb) - cool answer. Requisite "Spinal Tap" video:
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld