TUESDAY, Dec. 9, 2008 - C.W. Stewart (Elhi grps. / Steno's staple / Ouzo flavoring / Home remedy for skin irritations)
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: CLUE (51D: Game associated with the starts of 17-, 23-, 32-, 40-, 47- and 54-Across) - those theme answers start with the last names of the players/characters in the board game: Prof. PLUM, Miss SCARLET, Betty WHITE, Mr. GREEN, Col. MUSTARD, and Mrs. PEACOCK
Yeah, I know it's not "Betty" WHITE - it's simply Mrs. WHITE. I just like calling her "Betty." This is a clever puzzle, with a high theme density and interesting theme answers. SCARLET TANAGER is so interesting, in fact, that I've never heard of it before in my life. The word "TANAGER" itself is only vaguely, vaguely familiar. The only problem I had with this puzzle was in piecing together that answer. The rest was cake. This "CLUE" theme appeared in a NY Sun puzzle a little over four years ago (thanks to Andrea for pointing that out), with two of the theme answers (PEACOCK BLUE, PLUM PUDDING) identical (cruciverb.com members can see that grid here). That puzzle's level of construction difficulty was higher, in that many of the theme answers intersected one another, but it was a Friday puzzle, so the puzzle was considerably harder overall. Today's puzzle, by contrast, has smooth, recognizable, Tuesday-level fill throughout, quite hard to do with you're pinned in by so many theme answers.
- 17A: Traditional Christmas dessert (PLUM pudding)
- 23A: Red bird with black wings and tail (SCARLET tanager)
- 32A: Traditional January event (WHITE sale)
- 40A: 1999 Tom Hanks film, with "The" ("GREEN Mile")
- 47A: Home remedy for skin irritations (MUSTARD plaster)
- 54A: Shade close to azure (PEACOCK blue)
For some reason, last night, as I was marking up this puzzle, I rewrote the NW corner. It took me about 30 seconds. My results weren't any better. In fact, they were probably worse. I put ALTARS over PORTIA. I think NIPPLES (5D: Parts of baby bottles) was just disturbing me a little and I wanted to see what I'd have to do to get rid of it. It's a perfectly good word, but it's a little ... frank, or raw, or something for my ... tastes. Anyway, sometimes it's fun to see if you can make some aspect of the puzzle you don't like go away. Also, ARYANS (1A: Indo-Europeans) isn't thrilling me either. Again, fine word, but I'd rather not contemplate ARYAN NIPPLES over breakfast.
Today's "learned it from crosswords" words are DACHA (49D: Russian villa) and NATE (28D: _____ the Great of children's books). OK, I probably learned DACHA from "Anna Karenina," but I didn't *learn* it learn it - to the point where my mind instinctively goes there. NATE will forever remind me of the wife of a famous news personality, who wrote me after I tripped on NATE a year or so ago to send me a pic of a book cover and inform me that her daughter had played NATE in a school play when she was younger. The only child I have ever struck with a baseball bat is, coincidentally, named NATE. Loooooooooong story.
- 14A: Largest city on the Illinois River (Peoria) - much maligned town I've never been to
- 19A: Conglomerate whose N.Y.S.E. symbol is the same as the company's name (ITT) - I'd prefer a much terser clue relating to Cousin ITT.
- 20A: Elhi grps. (PTAs) - I nominate this clue for "Ugliest Clue of the Year"; it looks like something that needs to go back in the over for another 15 minutes.
- 53A: Smashable tennis shot (lob) - not if it's a good one
- 66A: Area between curbs (street) - not normally how I think of STREETs
- 7D: "Say that thou _____ forsake me ...": Shak. ("didst") - I really really want specific citations. "Shak." just isn't satisfying. This is the first line of Sonnet 89. Check it out.
Say that thou didst forsake me for some fault,
And I will comment upon that offence;
Speak of my lameness, and I straight will halt,
Against thy reasons making no defence.
Thou canst not, love, disgrace me half so ill,
To set a form upon desirèd change,
As I'll my self disgrace, knowing thy will,
I will acquaintance strangle and look strange,
Be absent from thy walks and in my tongue
Thy sweet belovèd name no more shall dwell,
Lest I, too much profane, should do it wrong
And haply of our old acquaintance tell.
For thee against myself I'll vow debate,
For I must ne'er love him whom thou dost hate.
- 23D: "Language that rolls up its sleeves, spits on its hands and goes to work," per Carl Sandburg (slang) - Not all slang, Carl.
- 26D: Lens holder (rim) - don't understand? Is this in my eye, or my camera?
- 27D: Ouzo flavoring (anise) - I was too young to try this when I was in Greece (though my sisters, younger than I, surely had their fair share ... I was a painfully vice-free boy)
- 42D: Steno's staple (notepad) - "staple" threw me at first. It's an office product, so I thought ... "what do stenos call their staples...?"
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS the "Simpsons" episode "Homer and Lisa Exchange Cross Words" was nominated for Best Animated Program by the Writer's Guild of America yesterday. See all nominees in all categories here.