MONDAY, Jan. 5, 2009 - ACME! (Strom Thurmond follower of 1948 / Auto gizmo that talks, in brief / 2000 De Niro/Stiller comedy)
Sunday, January 4, 2009
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: Three kinds of MEAT - three long theme answers all start with MEAT or a homophone thereof
This puzzle was delightful, and I'll tell you why - I realized just before sitting down to do it that Mr. Shortz had somehow neglected to give me the puzzles for this week to test-solve. Either that, or I mysteriously deleted them all. At any rate, after I got over paranoia that I was being silently black-balled, I opened the puzzle and did it fresh, at the same time as the regular puzzle-solving rabble (i.e. you). I flew through it in under 3 minutes (glad to see I could still go that fast - haven't timed myself in ages), and when I finished I immediately thought "Wow, that was a sleek, sassy little puzzle - simple, but clean, and not crammed with too much early-week junk fill. And it had DIXIECRAT (3D: Strom Thurmond follower of 1948)! Fabulous" (yes, I thought those exact words in that exact order). Then, and only then, did I look at who the puzzle author was - my beloved constructor friend and sometime blogging substitute Andrea Carla Michaels! It makes me very happy to be able to rave about one of her puzzles. I've said it before - early-week puzzles are tough to do well. This theme is not exactly memorable, but all the fill is solid and the experience of solving it was a genuine pleasure. This is all I ask from my puzzles: PLEASE PLEASE ME!
- 23A: 2000 De Niro/Stiller comedy ("MEET the Parents") - had to double-check the date, as the sequel "Meet the Fockers" also occurred to me
- 35A: Basic, as issues (MEAT and potatoes)
- 47A: What judges do in court (METE out justice) - this answer caused the only hang-up in my solving experience; I was moving so fast that I hadn't had time to register the theme, and I glanced at this clue several times, with various numbers of crosses in place, before the answer became clear
Here are some criticisms - they are minor. Did not like the back-to-back partials at A PAIN (15A: Be _____ in the neck) and AS WE (16A: "Even _____ speak ..."), though I did like that A PAIN was right up against the CACTI (5A: Desert plants). Furthermore, there seemed a slightly excessive reliance on foreign words today; in particular, there seemed to be a lot of (occasionally scary) German stuff - ESSEN (11D: German steel city), BONN (43A: West Germany's capital), and the name that slowed me down most because I you rarely see it, despite its (in)fame, ADOLF Hitler (52A: First name in W.W. II infamy). Andrea recently complained about HEBE sounding like a slur against Jews, so I have a hard time believing this is her clue, but you never know. French gets a workout too, with AMI crossing AMOUR (are they etymologically related?) and then there's Italian (ARTE), Spanish (ORO), Portuguese (SAO), and Orkan (NANU - 37D: Half of Mork's goodbye).
Andrea seems to have a real sensitivity for the way words play off one another in close proximity. Take CAPOTE APATHY (5D: Truman who wrote "Breakfast at Tiffany's" + 6D: Lack of interest). I have seen CAPOTE APATHY - it's withering. I have also read the Voyage of the Argo, so the whole southern region, with JASON (50D: Bourne of "The Bourne Identity") and PURSUE (44D: Chase) and ASTERN (45D: To the rear, on a ship), evoked the mythical pursuit of the Golden Fleece for me. Best of all, there is the actress Teri POLO (here, disguised as a 13th-century explorer - 25D: Explorer Marco), intersecting the very movie that she co-stars in - namely, "MEET THE PARENTS." Coincidence? Maybe, but I still say Andrea has a good ear and eye when it comes to the complementarity of contiguous and intersecting words.
And how do you not love BELTED (43D: Sang loudly, with "out") and HOPSCOTCH (32D: Sidewalk game with chalk)? Those words practically bounce off the grid.
- 1A: Flexible, electrically (AC/DC) - this clue is great. I can't say why, but I know that it is. I think it's something to do with the way it sounds when I say it out loud.
- 20A: Agent Gold of HBO's "Entourage" (Ari) - the clue of the moment for this very common bit of crossword fill
- 31A: Auto gizmo that talks, in brief (GPS) - this vacation that I just finished marked the first time that I'd ever seen a nav system at work. It's pretty astonishing, but there were times around D.C. where I couldn't quite tell where it was telling PuzzleGirl to turn. I kept asking her "Is this thing going to make us drive into a lake?" (a la "The Office" - can't find the scene in question, but here's a deleted scene from the same ep, with more GPS humor):
- 55D: Sgt. Snorkel's four-legged friend (Otto) - the Comic Crossword Dawg Pound includes OTTO, DAWG, ODIE, SNERT, and probably several others I'm forgetting. Not MARMADUKE or BARFY, sadly. "Simpsons"-haters should be glad that ACME didn't go that route here, as she easily could have.
Lastly, a couple of announcements. First, as many of you already know, I am going to be on a panel of crossword bloggers at the opening night of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in February. Registration details just became available recently, and once again I'm going to strongly encourage solvers of all skill levels to attend. I had a good time my first time and a great time my second. This will be my third time. I assume the trend will continue. You should come, if only to heckle me and/or ask me ridiculous questions. All I can say is that there better be a really skilled and entertaining moderator involved - that, or lots and lots of high quality liquor.
Second, nearly eight months after I suggested that I would redesign my site, that redesign is finally going to happen. Sometime soon. Probably before the end of the month. There will not be a lot of new bells and whistles, just a more streamlined, more easily navigable site, and a more user-friendly look. I am doing none of the technical stuff myself, which is good news for all of you, as I clearly have no idea what I'm doing. I mean, come on. You've seen the blog, right? You're looking at it right now. You know what I'm talking about.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld