SUNDAY, Dec. 21, 2008 - Elizabeth Gorski (Bug-B-Gon maker / Towers' attachments / Book in which destruction of Samaria is foreseen)
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: "Laughing All the Way" - A Christmas-themed puzzle with a 21-HO rebus right down the middle (10D: Greeting from 74-Down) [74D = JOLLY ST. NICK]
A lovely and easy holiday puzzle, with a nice wink to crossword fans at 2D: 2008 documentary about the national debt ("I.O.U.S.A."). That documentary was directed by the same guy who made Wordplay, namely Patrick Creadon. I'm pretty sure Patrick made that movie with the sole intention of creating a crossword answer that would endure forever. At 80% vowels, I expect to see IOUSA in the puzzle again. And again. But back to the theme - damn, that's a lot of HOs. A 21-HO salute. This is an interesting variation on the "SPIDER-MAN" theme we saw a while back (in a puzzle also created by Elizabeth Gorski), where the the same letter ("I") drove right down the center of the puzzle, in that case representing the strand of web at the bottom of which dangled the SPIDER. Here it's a bunch of HOs, which I see as representative of JOLLY ST NICK HO-HOing all the way down the chimney - the 21-foot chimney. The HOs made the whole middle of the puzzle very easy. I forget how I tumbled to the theme - probably IDA(HO) (21A: Potato source). You have no idea how hard it is not to make HO jokes. I mean, I've got "easy" and, I don't know, "tumbled" in there, and yet not one obvious reference to prostitution. I'm proud of myself. I like the assortment of theme answers here, with "SANTA BABY" being the cherry on the sundae. I also like that there are a number of non-theme answers that yet feel related to the theme, e.g. RIP (13D: Open indelicately), BUNDLES UP (50A: Gets ready to go out in the cold), etc.
- 69A: Cry when a surprise guest arrives ("Look w[HO]'s here!")
- 3D: December 25 answer to 69-Across (Kris Kringle)
- 10D: Greeting from 74-Down ("HO HO HO" x 7)
- 17D: Song whose subject is encouraged to "hurry down the chimney tonight" ("Santa Baby")
- 74D: December 25 answer to 69-Across (Jolly St. Nick)
- 84D: Father _____ (Christmas)
One downside to this puzzle - an almost obscene number of plurals, many of them ... words that are not found naturally in plural form, e.g. names like NYES (102A: TV's Science Guy and others) and SETONS (80A: Elizabeth Ann). Consider this random and incomplete assortment of other plurals:
AMARETTOS (127A: Fruitcake flavorings)
COHOS (64A: Pacific salmon) - that one actually hurts a little
SNAKES (132A: Plumbers' drain openers)
The king of all bad ones today, though, is APPLIERS (91D: Paintbrushes and such). Odd Job + plural = wince. But it's hard to get mad at a bunch of plurals, however terrible a few of them are, when the theme is so festive and cleverly expressed, and the overall feel of the fill is really quite smooth. The NW corner is good example of what I would call ordinary greatness. You wouldn't stop to admire much up there, but it's really an interesting, quirky little corner, with a lot of verve and life and energy. It's nice not to have the corners of the puzzle be treated as an afterthought - to able to fill them with some pleasure. Care for the corners = a mark of good constructing.
- 23A: Like some chocolat (Suisse) - just perfect; I feel the same way about 16D: Mild chili designation (one-alarm)
- 36A: N.F.L. coach with a perfect 17-0 record in 1972 (Shula) - gimme for sports fans, possibly agony for everyone else.
- 53A: Book in which the destruction of Samaria is foreseen (HOsea) - haven't read it yet
- 56A: Violent behavior in British slang (aggro) - learned from puzzles. It's a skateboarding term too, I understand
- 59A: Oktoberfest souvenir (stein) - you get souvenirs?
- 68A: "Hooked on Classics" record company (K-Tel) - ahh, childhood.
- 77A: Having bristles (setal) - prickly. Not a commonly used adjective in the RP household.
- 82A: With 83-Down, early learning aid (ABC / book) - ... ???
- 116A: Bug-B-Gon maker (OrtHO) - oh man, we have many bugs we would like to B Gon at the moment. Fruit fly explosion of major proportions. And even with major clean-up and fruitlessness, we're still besieged. It's winter! Why aren't they dead!?
- 129A: Throat soother (troche) - truly a new word to me
- 130A: Boot camp pals (messmates) - to quote Rusty from National Lampoon's Vacation, "Is that made up? That sounds made up."
- 1D: Banquo in Verdi's "Macbeth," e.g. (basso) - I might start trying opera soon. If it's Shakespeare, then at least I'll understand the basic story.
- 7D: Basketry palm (nipa) - what?!! Where is my raffia? My osier?
- 28D: Apollo's birthplace (Delos) - a holy sanctuary of the ancient Greek world. See if you can recognize what's represented by the statue atop this Delian pedestal. I'll give you a hint - the statue was erected ca. 300 BC.
- 30D: Towers' attachments (repos) - should have included this among the bad plurals. Cute fake-out with the non-architectural "towers" here
- 33D: Grape graspers (tendrils) - I ... guess. "Graspers?"
- 42D: Country singer McCann (Lila) - never heard of her. I started playing this ...
... and thought, "I know that song." Sure enough ... Sheena!
- 55D: "Burma Looks Ahead" author (U Nu) - Orwell? Is it Orwell? No, it's Captain Palindromicus!
- 63D: Mass production figure? (altar boy) - sounds Marxist, but no. Catholic.
- 75D: Anoint with sacred oil, old-style (anele) - now that's how we anointed back in the day!
- 107D: Subject for Galileo (Saturn) - for NDE:
- 109D: Leaves for a buffet? (cress) - again with the buffet?! And do buffets really have CRESS? CRESS sounds a tad fancy for any "buffet" I've ever been affiliated with.
- 112D: Joe Jackson's "_____ Really Going Out With Him?" ("Is She") - this guy had a Huge influence on my musical tastes as a kid. I have his Live Album from 1986, which I played over and over and over in my young adulthood. It has three different versions of this song on it. Here's a recent live version:
- 113D: Phoebe of "Gremlins" (Cates) - she was in that? Wow. You may remember her and her toplessness from "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." I know I do.
- 115D: Single-named supermodel (Emme) - Captain Palindromicus has a pretty female sidekick. Awesome.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld