MONDAY, Dec. 22, 2008 - Lynn Lempel (Holder of an unfair trial / Othello's undoer / Sidewalk santa worker, e.g.)
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: HOP TO IT (38A: "Get going!," and a hint for the starts of 17-, 24-, 51- and 62-Across) - all theme answers are phrases that start with something that HOPs.
This was oddly thorny for a Monday. In fact, I have "oddly thorny" scrawled across my original copy of this puzzle. It's a fine puzzle, but it took somewhat more effort than a Monday puzzle usually takes. Start with the sheer number of theme answers (5) - that's a reasonably high theme density, which tends to force the puzzle into odd words and less-than-predictable fill. This is not bad at all; it just results in some fill - particularly the mid-range stuff - that I wasn't for on a Monday. Throw in some deliberately tricky cluing, and you have the recipe for a slightly slower-than-average Monday outing. For instance, I thought the "stage" in 4D: Middle school stage, commonly was an actual place, like a set where the drama club might put on shows. GYM? CAFETERIA? Needed several letters before PUBERTY came into view. TEMP was not at all intuitive to me at 1A: Sidewalk Santa worker, e.g. Clue makes Santa sound like a hooker. Then there was the non-plural LINT at 27D: Bits of fluff, the non-slangy YES for the slangy 36D: "Right on!" and the always irksome NATCH (53D: "But of course!"), which I always want to be something else, initially (NO PROB?). Further, I drink HERBAL TEA, not HERB TEA, though I recognize the latter as an acceptable phrase (45D: Chamomile product). TEHEE does not sound like a 68A: Giggly laugh. Is that first "e" short? Look, just because someone somewhere decided you could spell TEPEE that way doesn't mean you can, by extension, do the same e-extraction with TEHEE.
Theme answers are tough (for a Monday), but splendid:
- 17A: First in a John Updike novel series ("Rabbit, Run")
- 24A: Batsman at a wicket, say (cricket player) - first read it as "Batman at a wicket," which is something I guarantee you you would never see.
- 51A: Holder of an unfair trial (kangaroo court) - wonderful phrase
- 62A: Umbrellalike fungus (toadstool) - this is one word, which ever-so-slightly throws off the consistency of the theme (all the other hoppers being stand-alone words). Not enough for serious grumbling, though.
- 5A: Bugler's bedtime tune (Taps) - also a Tom Cruise movie from the early 80s.
- 14A: Felipe or Moises of baseball (Alou) - Crossword Lingo 101. Some words survived from the Maleska era, and this is one of them (of course, it helps that the ALOUs also survive and continue to have a presence in Major League Baseball)
- 49A: Long-necked waders (egret) - if it "wades," it's an EGRET. Or an IBIS. Maybe a HERON.
- 10D: Numbers yet to be crunched (raw data) - my favorite answer, along with MOB SCENES (3D: Crowded, frenzied gatherings)
- 8D: House mate? (Senate) - another example of decent trickiness.
- 25D: Queenly role for Liz (Cleo) - Remember Miss CLEO?
- 40D: Othello's undoer (Iago) - Othello's under the what now? Oh, UNDOER. I ... see. You could argue that Othello undoes himself. He certainly kills himself.
- 43D: Household downsizing event (tag sale) - is that word, "downsizing," applicable to the unloading of crap from your basement? Speaking of basements, I'm not allowed to go into mine at the moment. Something Christmas-related is going on down there. Had to stay out of the house for hours on Saturday for a similar reason. Man, this surprise better be good. I'll report back to you on Thursday.
- 50D: Boring routines (ruts) - I had ROTE. Made sense to me at the time.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld