TUESDAY, Dec. 2, 2008 - Matt Ginsberg ("McHale's Navy" craft / Ford and Bush adviser Scowcroft / Classic British Jaguar)
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: Sound of ... - 19 different sounds, which together create one big DIN (41A: All the sounds in this puzzle together?)
20 theme answers. Wow. And in a Tuesday puzzle. Wow. And the whole thing still manages to be almost a perfect Tuesday level of difficulty. Just wow. Unexpected, and a lot of fun. Let me get the one unfun part out of the way. What the !@$@ was going on in the SE corner?! Everything was cool and then [insert needle skipping/scratching sound effect here]. ETAPE!? (53D: Day's march) I know the word from two places - one is from French class, where I had a text called "Les Grandes Etapes de la Civilisation Française." There, ETAPES simply means something like "stages." I later encountered the word in a military context when I was trying to fill my own crossword grid. I found the word so painful that I rewrote the grid to get rid of it (my proofreader agreed - ugh). It's not a Tuesday word. The greater offense, however, which may be so great that I actually admire it, is that ETAPE crosses its fraternal twin ETYPE! (66A: Classic British Jaguar) Never heard of that make of car (also, aren't all Jaguars "British"?). Usually the Jag in the puzzle is the XJC or XLT or LMNOPX something. XJE! Not knowing Nasser's first name (GAMAL - 63A: Egypt's Nasser) didn't help me any down there. The NW had its own wackiness (EGGER? - 3D: Ham-and-_____ (incompetent sort)), but the SE pretty much stands on its own in this puzzle - a Thursday corner lost in a Tuesday puzzle.
Otherwise, fantasticness. Some of the sounds felt a *little* off (e.g. what happened to the other half of the doorbell sound - 31D: ... a doorbell (dong)), and some didn't seem to be sounds (PING and PONG are PING PONG sounds? I guess that makes sense, but I think I always figured the name was created to have a fake Chinese sound to it - also SPLATTER seems more a physical act than a sound). There are just so many. I thought maybe OOMPH (23D: Get-up-and-go) would get clued as a sound, e.g. [... guy getting punched in the stomach] ... though perhaps there's no "M" in that sound. The sounds aren't exactly symmetrical, though all of the four longest answers, as well as the central Across answer, are sounds, which at least gives the theme some structure.
Oh, and one clue quibble: I don't think of a second serve as a REDO (29D: Second serve, for example). Second serve has a very precise meaning in tennis - you are allowed two shots at getting the ball in play. While the second serve might seem like a REDO, no tennis player would think of it that way. You REDO a let serve. A second serve is just your second serve. Not a REDO of your first.
Oh, and one further thing: NACRES (25D: Mother-of-pearls).
- 10A: Sound of ... an explosion (BOOM)
- 15A: ... thunder (CLAP)
- 18A: ... a mother with noisy kids (HUSH)
- 22A: ... a toy train (CHOO CHOO)
- 24A: ... a raindrop in a puddle (KERPLUNK) - hmmm, seems slightly off. My raindrop would've KERPLOPPED, I think.
- 32A: ... a table tennis ball (with 45-Across) (PING / PONG) - symmetrical; nice
- 39A: ... brakes (SCREECH)
- 42A: ... a basketball through a basket (SWISH)
- 50A: ... a knock on a door (RAP)
- 51A: ... Road Runner (BEEP BEEP)
- 55A: ... grease in a deep fryer (SPLATTER)
- 65A: ... a porker (OINK)
- 6D: ... a surprised German (ACH) - my favorite clue by far
- 7D: ... a hen (CLUCK)
- 11D: ... a circusgoer (OOOH)
- 31D: ... doorbell (DONG)
- 32D: ... a cheater in class (PSST)
- 56D: ... a person sitting down (PLOP)
Some stuff I thought was cool: PT BOATS (45D: "McHale's Navy" craft) and APOGEE. It's true we have carnage in the SE corner, but in some ways that carnage is redeemed by the great fill it's supporting, namely, these two words. I love the word APOGEE for reasons I don't understand, and PT BOATS gets you that great initial consonant pile-up. Plus it gets you a reference to "McHale's Navy," which, crossing a Road Runner clue, scratches my TV itch very nicely. I laughed out loud at A CAT (35A: Not enough room to swing _____), both for the vivid image of the clue, and for the conscientious avoidance of the expected (and now reviled) [One-_____ (ball game)] clue. STRAFED is a great answer (43D: Attacked from above); I only wish it could have been tied to a sound (RAT-A-TAT, BANG, etc)
- 1A: Ships' complements (crews) - could've linked this PT BOATS
- 16A: One of Scotland's Inner Hebrides (Iona) - confused IONE and IONA, which I do All The Time. IONA is the Scottish island, and IONE is the actress, whose last name is SKYE, which is also ... a Scottish island. You can see my confusion.
- 46A: Dermal art (tattoos) - I love it when plurals aren't clearly marked in the clue (see also 45D). I also love that we get the full word today instead of the more common TAT(S).
- 60A: Count _____ of Lemony Snicket books (Olaf) - OK, this has officially become a common clue, and I need to remember this jackass's name.
- 33D: Place name before and after City (Iowa) - clever, and tricky
- 34D: "Bonne _____" (French wish at bedtime) ("nuit") - more French to go with your ETAPE
- 39D: Little ham? (shoat) - great word, but how was it Not tied to OINK!?
- 51D: Ford and Bush adviser Scowcroft (Brent) - just saw him interviewed, I think, on Fareed Zakaria GPS, which is by far the best politics / news show on television. By Far.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld