SUNDAY, Dec. 14, 2008 - Trip Payne ("Stormy" seabird / Viracocha worshiper / Hairstylist Jose / Shoulder frill / Humorist George)
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: "Name That Phrase" - Initials of the phrases in the theme answers spell out the first name of the famous people mentioned in their clues
Well, this was puzzling (for a couple minutes) and then very easy. Once you grasp the theme, the puzzle really offers no resistance. No wait, I retract that: LOVE-IN-A-MIST resisted me plenty. What in the world ...? Some kind of flower, I gather. The other theme answers were ultra-common phrases, except perhaps "THE EVIL DEAD," which is a movie I'm guessing many solvers have not seen. I haven't seen it either, but am very familiar with it. I have friends who are in to campy horror classics (of which this is one). It took me several passes at theme answers before I figured out what the hell was going on. My first answer was ROLLING IN THE AISLES, and it was so literal, so plausible as a straight answer, that I didn't know what to make of it. "Rita Rudner is funny ... so people laugh ... and then ...?" Then came the Otis Redding answer - "OF THEE I SING"; I'd never heard of it, but it related to singing, and Otis Redding was a singer, so I still hadn't realized the answers had no necessary correlation to the people in question. Then I hit the Vic Damone clue, which made me stop dead. Who cares what Vic Damone likes for dessert? What's going on? What's missing from all these clues? First names. OK, so the answers ... AHA (84D: "The light has dawned!"). VANILLA ICE CREAM - V, I, C = VIC. No problems thereafter.
- 25A: Like Rudner's audience after a good joke? (Rolling In The Aisles)
- 33A: Treat for Damone? (Vanilla Ice Cream)
- 52A: Where Paul stays when performing in New York? (Lower East Side)
- 69A: Comes in dramatically, like West? (Makes An Entrance)
- 95A: McAn's favorite novel? ("The House Of Mirth")
- 106A: Odds of Alda winning an Oscar? (As Likely As Not)
- 129A: Putting in a row, like Sampras's rackets? (Placing End To End)
- 139A: Court case where Ripken is one of many plaintiffs? (Class Action Lawsuit)
- 3D: Horror film enjoyed by Turner? ("The Evil Dead")
- 12D: Musical that inspired Redding? ("Of Thee I Sing")
- 87D: Flower typically given to Neeson? (Love-In-A-Mist)
- 92D: How Goldin and her rivals finish in photography competitions? (Neck And Neck)
The toughest part for me was in a section that has since been reclued to make it much easier. The change? Originally, URE was clued [Scottish singer Midge]. URE (136A: Suffix with fail) running into IN ESSE (126D: Really existing) running into IDA (126A: Gilbert and Sullivan princess) gave me very minor fits. Otherwise, nothing tough. For some reason, when I solved this one, I made a point of noting the first and last squares I filled in. First square: The "B" in BALSAS (7D: Trees with soft wood). Last square: the "T" in ESTEE (94D: Cosmetics magnate Lauder).
"THE EVIL DEAD" was one of several potentially troublesome pop culture answers today. I could not recall neither the name of the "Heroes" actress in question (62A: "Heroes" actress Larter => ALI), nor the author of "The Neverending Story" (91A: "The Neverending Story" author => ENDE). Never heard of "MARCO Millions" (83A: "_____ Millions" (Eugene O'Neill play)). Though I've seen his name before, still not sure who George ADE is (38D: Humorist George). Turn-of-the-century writer, best known, it seems, for "Fables in Slang" (1899). Does anyone under 35 know / remember José EBER?? (35D: Hairstylist Jose). He was, as far as I'm concerned, the first celebrity stylist (I think there are dozens now). Apparently he's still around and appearing on TV and whatnot. Here is a dated infomercial of some sort featuring Faye Dunaway:
Before we go to the wrap-up, some important crossword names. Well, four of them standards, one of them brand new (as clued). Every constant solver should have ESTEE, EERO (71D: Tulip chair designer Saarinen) and ADA (100D: Mathematician Lovelace). TERI is omnipresent too (138D: Actress Polo). But the great name of the day has to be TODD (109D: Sarah Palin's husband). I love that he and his snow "machine" and elk hunting and Alaskan Independence Party are famous enough for the puzzle. TODD! I wonder how long he'll be viable. I'm going to bet on "forever." Another good name that I can't see often enough: KOOL (107D: The Gang's leader).
- 28A: "Stormy" seabird (petrel) - had No idea what the "Stormy" part was all about. I figured maybe the bird was mentioned in the lyrics to the following song, and I just couldn't remember where:
Weird side note - I get "Stormy" slightly confused with "Spooky," and I just found out that it's likely because they are both by the same long-forgotten band: Classics IV (!?):
- 40A: Volkswagen coupe convertible (Eos) - goddess of the dawn! Weird.
- 20A: Eponym of a North Carolina "-ville" (Ashe) - how much do you have to hate Arthur ASHE to write a clue like this?
- 80A: Largest U.S. movie theater chain (Regal) - oddly, or aptly, I had ROYAL to start.
- 101A: Tyrrhenian Sea port (Salerno) - Lots of common letters. Surprised I don't see it more often. It's spicy.
- 102A: Dict. tag on "tzar" (var.) - love this clue / answer. It's just fun to say. "DICT TAG ON TZAR!" Sounds like some crazy space language.
- 115A: Patron saint of goldsmiths (Eloi) - how much do you have to hate the ELOI of "The Time Machine" to write a clue like this?
- 1D: Boxer's approval (wag) - ugh, wanted ARF.
- 6D: Fish with toxic blood (eel) - all of them? That can't be right.
- 8D: _____ curiae (friends of the court) (amici) - i.e. Latin for "friends"; I thought it could also be [Actor Don], but no, he's AMECHE.
- 17D: Home of the world's largest aquarium (Atlanta) - who knew? It's not even on an ocean.
- 26D: Viracocha worshiper (Inca) - never heard of the god in question, but got answer easily from a cross or two.
- 36D: P.D.A. part: Abbr. (asst.) - I am in the market. If you want to sell me on one in particular, make your pitch.
- 57D: Shoulder frill (epaulet) - clue makes it sound so ... cheap. "Frill" is not a word that inspires admiration. Unless you are a drag queen. I would admire "frill" on a drag queen. I would admire EPAULETS on a drag queen. Maybe this clue is about a drag queen.
- 78D: Standard partner (Poor) - as in the financial research publishing company.
- 131D: Physicist Schrodinger (Erwin) - news to me, as most physicists are
- 132D: Trotter fodder (oats) - [Trotter fodder] sounds like the first line of soldiers you send out, knowing they will be mercilessly trampled by horses.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld