TUESDAY, Nov. 18, 2008 - Richard Chisholm (The Cowardly Lion's Kansas counterpart / Ohio political dynasty / Sporty 1980s Pontiac)
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: TWO HOUSES (59A: What 17-, 23-, 34-, 40- and 47-Across are each composed of) - theme answers are each made up of two words, both of which can precede "HOUSE" in a (reasonably) common phrase
Never heard of a BLOCK House. "BLOCK house" appears to have several meanings. It's the name of a specific fort built in Delaware in the 17th century as a defense against the local Indians. It's also "A brokerage whose major concern is finding potential buyers and sellers of block trades" (answers.com). The main meaning appears to be an isolated fort built as a defensive stronghold (like the Delaware "Block House"). Thankfully, I didn't need to know what a BLOCK House was in order to solve the puzzle. It would have been cool if TWO HOUSES were a real phrase ... sooooo close to the opening two words of "Romeo and Juliet":
Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;
Whole misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents' strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
And the continuance of their parents' rage,
Which, but their children's end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage;
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.
If only there was such a thing as a BRICK WHORE - now there's a theme answer:
- 17A: Police stop (road block)
- 23A: Remedy for failed courses, maybe (summer school)
- 34A: Cardinal vis-a-vis Illinois, Indiana or Ohio (state bird)
- 40A: Military capability (fire power)
- 47A: Wheeled toy (doll carriage)
I actually found the NW corner a bit tough - which, on a Tuesday, is to say that it wasn't a breeze. The clue on 1A: Touch base again (tag up) sounds like figurative speech meaning "get in touch with again," so I didn't put anything down at first, and I instinctively wanted a RE- word. ADLAI (13A: 1940s-'50s politico Stevenson) was, like ETNA in the SW (54D: 11,000-foot Italian peak), FAY in the W (37A: Wray of "King Kong"), etc.) a gimme, but GLEAM (3D: Glimmer) wanted to be GLINT, and I needed many crosses to get PIONEER (5D: NASA program that explored the outer planets). I haven't seen (or thought about) a Pontiac FIERO since the 80s (16A: Sporty 1980s Pontiac), but it came back from the past without too much effort. The weirdest moment in this corner was seeing 1D: Ohio political dynasty and instantly, half-jokingly, writing in TAFTS (the correct answer, it turns out). I guess my brain has finally hard-wired the TAFT/Ohio connection. Didn't know the TAFTS were a "dynasty," though I would finally subscribe to HBO if they would do a series called "The Tafts" in the style of TV's "Dynasty."
Assorted other answers:
- 27A: Lacking pizazz (anemic) - Why oh why is PIZAZZ spellable with either three or four Z's? M-W online has this three-Z version listed as a variant. ANEMIC is a nice, interesting answer as is NO SLOUCH (38D: A pretty capable person), which somehow seems related (opposed) to ANEMIC.
- 67A: Fair Deal president, for short (HST) - "Deal" part had me writing in "FDR" without thinking. "New Deal," "Fair Deal," "Great Society" - conservatives hate (or at least dislike) all of these because they expanded the role of the Federal Government in American life. I just now wondered where the promise of a "chicken in every pot" came from, and found out it was Hoover. I guess these were magical, non-governmental, and possibly invisible chickens he was talking about.
- 12D: The Cowardly Lion's Kansas counterpart (Zeke) - HA ha. I complained about the original clue, and got this - which (to me) is just as obscure. Probably less obscure to others, though. Originally clued as cager Isiah Thomas's nickname.
- 32D: Follower, as in espionage (tail) - great cluing here
- 48D: Old Apple computers (Lisas) - really, one of the worst imaginable computer names. I'm of the belief that you do not give hardware people names. The name "Lisa" is lovely (and Lisa Simpson is my hero), but on a computer? No.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld