MONDAY, Nov. 17, 2008 - Paula Gamache (Caveat on a party invitation: Abbr. / Football referees, informally / Place to begin to connect the dots)
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: Pleading - theme answers are phrases that begin with synonyms for "plead"
A super-easy puzzle - a nice, conventional transition back into the puzzling week after yesterday's amazing (and televised) feat of construction by Merl Reagle. This is about the most basic, straightforward, no-nonsense, vanilla theme I've seen in the NYT in a good long while. Overall, I don't think the non-theme fill quite compensates for the theme's lacklusterness. GASBAG (36A: Big talker) is kinda nice, as is POINT A (64A: Place to begin to connect the dots), but the rest I could take or leave. But as I say, people gotta come down off that Sunday puzzle somehow, and this one should help people find their footing, regain their bearings, etc.
- 20A: Demand legal restitution after injury (SUE for damages)
- 33A: Seek compassionate treatment (BEG for mercy)
- 41A: What drought victims might do (PRAY for rain)
- 56A: Take unnecessary risks (ASK for trouble)
I suppose I should give the puzzle a little more credit for having all the theme answers be in the same verb-"for"-noun structure. Done and done.
I squawked at a couple of answers in this puzzle, but not very loudly. IN A SNARL just felt off to me, even when I googled it and saw that it's not terribly uncommon, particularly in relation to traffic. I squawked a bit more at BYO (39D: Caveat on a party invitation: Abbr.), which feels like it's missing a letter, namely "B" (as in "beer"); apparently it's a general term for restaurants that allow you to bring in your own alcohol ... I guess I can accept that.
Two one-named singers in the puzzle today. EMINEM (16A: "8 Mile" rapper) raps more than he sings (though the distinction is not at all clear cut, in that pitch matters much of the time in rap). He should do a duet with SADE (18A: One-named singer of "Smooth Operator") - an odd combination that I might actually like to hear. This is what Sade sounds like:
And this is EMINEM - with (the non-classical) Dido, who, like SADE, is a singer, so maybe a SADE/EMINEM duet is feasible (this is a creepy video about a deeply troubled guy):
The two performers do share one thing: they both appear in crosswords with reasonable frequency. Another frequent grid denizen: AMANA (31A: Kitchenaid alternative). Its commercial-name counterpart in today's puzzle, NIKON (24A: Pentax competitor), on the other hand, hardly ever appears in the puzzle. "K"s are murder on puzzle frequency - unless you are KOS or TKO. Those appear a lot. Lastly, where crosswordese is concerned, we have one from the vaults: EMS (13D: Bad _____ (German spa)). I learned this in the olden days (P.S. - Pre-Shortz). Nowadays, EMS is likely to me clued either as the plural of the letter "M" or as an abbrev. of Emergency Medical Services. Speaking of one from the vault - here's a MONO (22D: Like the earliest Beatles recordings) recording for your Monday enjoyment:
- 69A: They generally run east-west in Manhattan: Abbr. (sts.) - as opposed to AVES.
- 6D: Expense account no-no (padding) - a nice clue/answer pairing, though I was looking for something specific and PADDING seems general. There is no way I'm going to be able to explain exactly what I mean right now, so I'm not even going to try. OK, I'll try. I was thinking a concrete act or thing, like, let's say, HOOKER. I was not thinking the general act of misusing an expense account. There. At least I tried.
- 10D: Almost any part of the Michelin Man (tire) - wow ... first, he's made of TIREs? HA ha, I didn't really pick up on that. Second, why are the TIREs white? Third, how many "parts" does he have, and which *aren't* made of TIREs, and do I even want an answer to that last question?
- 42D: Western gambling mecca (Reno) - ONER, NERO, ORNE, ERNO ... just playin' around. RENO is also known as "The Biggest Little City in the World," which sounds (unfortunately, but perhaps not coincidentally) like "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas."
- 48D: "The Simpsons" storekeeper (Apu) - nowhere to be seen in last night's xword episode, sadly.
- 49D: Football referees, informally (zebras) - a cool clue and a vibrant answer that gives us a nice zingy "Z"
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld