FRIDAY, Dec. 19, 2008 - Natan Last (Hit video game series launched in 2005 / Exuberant cry from Pinocchio / Law with many parts)
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
Here's a grid where I love the fill and do Not love many of the clues. There's this thing about cutesy, tricksy clues, where a few are fine, but too many really spoil the sauce. Starts to seem smug, and then I end up finding the whole puzzle more annoying than pleasurable. Between the mutually referential clues (MONO / STEREO) and the word redux clues ("lead" used with two different pronunciations, two books of Mormon), and the deliberately confusing uses of both "buffet" and "Law," I just started to get tired. No one clue among all these (and others) bothered me very much, but the cumulative effect was grinding. The fill, however, is outstanding - all-over awesomeness, with very little crap. I love that AIRERS (23A: Networks, e.g.) magically leaped into the grid today, when I'd just discussed its paradigmatic status as a clue-word yesterday. I mean, I would normally hate AIRERS as fill, especially following the insane-looking TARR (22A: Basher _____, one of the eleven in "Ocean's 11") and over the equally insane-looking TALCED (27A: Like a baby's bottom, often), but today it gets a serendipity pass. RELAID, sadly, has no such recourse (39D: Put down anew). But as I say, that's about it on the bad front. And that ain't not good.
The long, low-lying NW and SE corners are super-cool. I especially like the BIRDBRAIN (1A: Ding-dong) / I'M A REAL BOY (14A: Exuberant cry from Pinocchio) / GUITAR HERO (17A: Hit video game series launched in 2005) stack. All colorful, and all plausibly related to each other (at least I could imagine a story where they are). AZERBAIJANI INUNDATION (49A: Russian's neighbor + 55A: Flood) sounds like the jazz fusion band of my nightmares. Or maybe a New Age combo of some sort. That's the kind of band that would proudly rock the DIDGERIDOO (58A: Wind instrument Down Under).
Gotta move right to the wrap-up tonight, as I'm in low power mode for another few days. Gave my finals today, and now have 72 hours to grade them, calculate final grades, and turn them in. Oh, and I'm supposed to be going to prison again tomorrow night, but with a massive snow storm on its way, that little trip seems increasingly unlikely.
- 10A: Remarkably, in commercialese (xtra) - I had RAMA at some point? Maybe you can tell me what I was thinking. I also had MEIR where MONO ended up going, and CALEB where JACOB ended up going (24A: Third book of the Book of Mormon). This puzzle loves its Book of Mormon. See also ENOS (53D: Fourth book of the Book of Mormon).
- 37A: "Da Ali G Show" persona (Borat) - a guess, based on the fact that Sacha Baron Cohen plays them both. In CrossWorld, BORAT is the new OBAMA. Last year, OBAMA was the new DR. T (4D: Sullivan Travis, in a 2000 film title).
- 38A: Longtime Delaware senator William (Roth) - So boring that I will never ever remember it. [... and yet I seem to have one of his eponymous IRAs ...]
- 45A: Alternative bookstore section (occult) - I have zero interest in this bookstore section, so I have no idea why OCCULT came to me instantly, with no crosses.
- 60A: Reacts to a big buffet (sees stars) - pronounced like the "buffet" in "Warren Buffett," not the "buffet" in "Old Country Buffet." I frankly don't want to know how the people who (for some reason) eat there "react to a big buffet." I think I'd be grossed out.
- 1D: Cowboy's home, informally (Big D) - more cutesiness, though this was transparent to me. I got killed once by BIGD, in a puzzle long, long ago. Never Again.
- 7D: Wynton Marsalis's first trumpet was a gift from him (Al Hirt) - wow, cool name, cool factoid. Here's Wynton:
- 8D: Response of disbelief ("I bet") / 9D: Response to a disbeliever ("No, really") - points for getting these to appear in successive Downs.
- 11D: Quaint note opener ("To sir") - It's always "TO SIR" - where's the Love? (Here's the love ...)
- 15D: Of whom Hamlet said "He hath borne me on his back a thousand times" (Yorick) - beginning of Act V. The speech that contains the phrase "infinite jest." Here's Olivier:
- 24D: Five-time N.H.L. scoring leader of the 1990s-'00s (Jagr) - a gimme, and one that helped me turn CALEB into JACOB
- 28D: "_____ should keep himself to himself": "Treasure Island" ("A mate") - wanted "A MAN," which I knew was impossible, and yet there was the first A ... and then there was the M ... and then there was the second A COME ON!
- 34D: Nobel-winning physicist Stern (Otto) - Otto? Ot-no.
- 37D: Those who aren't super dupers? (bad liars) - great phrase
- 51D: Musical that opens with "Every Story Is a Love Story" ("Aida") - one of the most common four-letter answers there is. Thankfully, I didn't have to know anything about musicals to get this easily.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS Brendan Emmett Quigley's fantastic puzzle site gets a nice, well deserved write-up in Entertainment Weekly's pop culture blog today.