FRIDAY, Jan. 2, 2009 - Martin Ashwood-Smith (Ban succeeded him in 2007 / 1980s NBA guard Matthews / Fictional wirehair / Ouija option)
Friday, January 2, 2009
Otters are cute. You probably knew that. We got right up close to four of them yesterday at the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. They are astonishingly graceful underwater - like beautiful, sleek, adorable, giant GREASED terrier-rats (52A: Like some cookie sheets). For some reason my family is sitting / standing around the kitchen table right now discussing the relative height of men and women in the U.S. I think that signals that we are nearing the end of what we have to talk about this year. Down to the LEES (3D: Refuse). We'll have many more opportunities at family discussion in April, when we head ... abroad. More on that when it happens.
Relative difficulty: Medium
Last blog entry from vacationland. I have a two-stop red-eye tomorrow night (yes, ugh), and so PuzzleGirl will be taking over the Saturday write-up (much to my dismay - I love the late-week themelesseseseses). I'll be back for the Sunday write-up, and then Monday starts the real blogging new year. I have some plans, and some announcements, and ... oh, just lots of blog-related stuff going on. Plus, there's the small matter of the Best of 2008 Crossword Awards. More on that, and much more, starting the week of the 5th.
I have never been a big fan of grids with lots of 15-letter answers. I've long since ceased being amazed by numerous grid-spanning answers (though it definitely takes some skill to get such a grid to work out). Inevitably you get lots of short Downs of mediocre quality and limited interest. See the ERST ASTA STET run in the south, for example (53D: Formerly archaic? + 54D: Fictional wirehair + 55D: Decide to leave; that last one threw me, as I never think of STET as a verb). Lots of RLSTNE ("Wheel of Fortune," or WOF letters). SALES RESISTANCE (1A: Problem in closing?) and REAL ESTATE AGENT (63A: One who'd like to put you in your place) don't do much for me, but THE ELEVENTH HOUR (16A: Just before it's too late) and AVERSION THERAPY (34A: One way to kick a bad habit) are kind of cool. I have a certain affection for ADLAI E. STEVENSON (as an answer, not necessarily as a person). AES is a common crossword monogram, so it's nice to see him expanded to his nearly full size today (62A: Who said "A hungry man is not a free man").
Never, ever heard of "AMERICAN DREAMER" (17A: 1984 JoBeth Williams comedy/adventure film). What I love about that clue is that a whole host of people are going to be thinking "... JoBeth who?" Has she worked since the 80s? I remember liking her, vaguely, but I can't remember why? Oh, now I remember - "Poltergeist!"
My favorite part of the puzzle is the creamy middle - GOUDA ANNAN (28D: Ban succeeded him in 2007) STRUT looks just delicious, and crossing it all with MUNRO is quite inspired. Very elegant and international, with a dash of sassiness in STRUT (29D: Supporting piece). Here is a "STRUT" may be a shade past "sassy" ... verging on slutty:
My dad, just this evening, was discussing how the GOUDA (27D: City NE of Rotterdam) in GOUDA tastes nothing like what goes by that name here in the States. Creamy goodness. MUNRO (38A: Alice who wrote the short-story collection "Open Secrets") is a favorite of many women and many writers and many women writers I know. I have read exactly one short story by her, and it was really well written ... OK, one of my New Year's resolutions was not to oppress myself with reading expectations. Just read. Don't worry about what you haven't read, what order you should read stuff in, etc. I am one of the worst readers on the planet. Doesn't come naturally to me at all. I like it, but I overthink it, and that leads to bad feelings. Basically, academia has ruined me for reading, and I'm (constantly) trying to get over it. I wish I could explain this phenomenon better.
- 18A: Ouija option (yes) - I can practically smell the 80s here (the 80s being when I was a tween/teen, and thus of perfect age to get excited about this "game")
- 20A: Seventeen people, briefly (eds.) - an oldie but a goody, this Seventeen trick.
- 43A: "... ye shall _____ more vanity": Ezekiel 13:23 ("see no") - what about "SEE NO evil"? Is this biblical quotation famous? The phrase feels like it's been pried violently out of the quotation. I don't know who this kid is, but his moves are oddly mesmerizing:
- 48A: 1980s N.B.A. guard Matthews (Wes) - came to me instantly, but couldn't pick him out of a line-up. Weird how often that stuff happens to me as a solver.
- 49A: They look better when they're ripped (abs) - I'm not sure this is always true
- 56A: I have, in Le Havre (J'ai) - better clue than [_____ Alai]
- 7D: _____ and Jaron (identical-twins pop duo) (Evan) - man, I am old. WhoTF are these people!?!?! AHA (12D: Word associated with a light bulb) - behold the generic handsomeness and non-threatening melodiousness!
- 11D: First film in CinemaScope, 1953 ("The Robe") - never seen it. Is that bad? This preview is giving me a very "Star Wars" vibe, strangely:
- 23D: Rodeo trio (barrels) - Do I even want to know? I think clowns get in these when in danger of being gored. Three Barrels is a kind of brandy. VSOP - now there's a crossword answer.
- 24D: Stone, to Caesar (lapis) - wanted STELA (!?). That's what crosswords do to your brain - who actually wants STELA?
- 33D: _____ per centimeter (surface tension measure) (dynes) - news to me (the clue, not the answer, which is one of those physicsish things like ERG that you just have to know)
- 36D: V-shaped carrier (hod) - not to be confused with HUD, played by the late great Paul Newman. I read this clue, had no idea, and then never saw it again til just now. HODs carry bricks and/or mortar.
- 50D: Eliot hero (Bede) - neither SILAS nor MARNER would fit, so ... here we are.
- 60D: Jazz guitarist Farlow (Tal) - totally and completely new to me. TAL Bachman had a hit in 2000 with "She's So High." Dear lord above, why do you curse me with permanent knowledge of that fact, while allowing me to forget so much potentially useful and meaningful stuff?!