MONDAY, Jan. 26, 2009 - T Powell / N Salomon ("My sweetie" in a 1957 hit for the Bobbettes / Aura, informally / Instrument with 30+ strings)
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "Bad idea!" - same clue used for three long theme answers
Word of the Day: KIBITZER - (n.) an outsider or nonparticipant who looks on and may offer unwanted advice or comment esp. at a card game; verb "KIBITZ" means "to act as a KIBITZER" (W3I)
This is a fine Monday puzzle with a good dose of Scrabbly letters and some surprising and lively fill. The KIBITZ (44A: Offer advice from around a card table) / ZITHER (45D: Instrument with 30+ strings) crossing is particularly nice. I had no idea "MR. LEE" was Monday fare, esp. as a full title and not just a partial "MR. _____" (37A: "My sweetie" in a 1957 hit for the Bobbettes). I know the song well from my high school "I Give Up On Contemporary Music" years of 1985-87, which also happened to coincide with the release of the movie "Stand By Me," which featured "MR. LEE" on its soundtrack. It's a great, catchy, snappy, growly little number.
- 20A: "Bad idea!" ("Let's not go there!")
- 38A: "Bad idea!" ("You must be joking!")
- 52A: "Bad idea!" ("I didn't hear that!")
This grid makes me realize how much easier a 14/15/14 theme grid is to construct than a 14/13/14. Imagine black squares where the "Y" and "G" are in 38A. You can't segment the grid as neatly in that scenario and have to run at least two adjacent 8s from top to middle and middle to bottom in two of the corners. In this puzzle, you've got a single 10-ltr Down in the NW and another in the SE, and then a single 8 in the NE and another in the SW. Grids get far harder to fill (smoothly) when you are forced to run 8+-ltr Downs side-by-side through two theme answers. The only reason I say all this is because on its surface, it would seem that a 14/15/14 grid is more challenging to construct than a 14/13/14 because of the additional squares involved, but I don't think that's true. This observation has nothing to do with the quality of the current puzzle and everything with my trying to understand the harsh mistress that is the 15x15 puzzle grid.
- 30A: Sunken ship's locale (seabed) - a nice answer. "Locale" refuses to take a break.
- 41A: "_____ River" (song from "Show Boat") ("Ol' Man") - Speaking of "River," River Phoenix was in "Stand By Me" (see nostalgic music memories, above)
- 58A: Couturier Christian (Dior) - alliteration! DIOR and YSL are the big fashion icons in puzzleworld.
- 10D: Two-by-two vessel (Noah's Ark) - love the answer; not sure about the clue.
- 26D: Undercooked meat danger (E. coli) - I refuse to put this answer in any puzzle I might construct. Not too crazy about EBOLI either [I know that EBOLA is the disease and EBOLI is the Italian place name in the Carlo Levi title "Christ Stopped at EBOLI" - 6 of one, as far as I'm concerned, fill-wise]. If I got really, really desperate, I would use E COLI, but deliberately putting E COLI in something I make ... doesn't seem right.
- 29D: Aura, informally (vibes) - I get a weird VIBE (singular) from this clue because of the singular / plural disparity ... although I can imagine switching "aura" and VIBES out in a sentence, so it's technically legit.
- 35D: Beachgoer's acquisition (sun tan) - unless you are me, in which case you either burn or stay white because you were lathered in sun block and / or stayed in the shade. Stupid family history of skin cancer!
- 49D: Cello feature (F hole) - this sounds dirty. Also, I didn't know it. Also, my wife had an error here because she sort of misread the clue at 48A: Babe in the woods (naif) ans something having to do with wood nymphs, and even though wood nymphs are DRYADS, and even though NAIAD is spelled thusly, she wrote in NAID.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld