THURSDAY, Jan. 1, 2009 - Alan Arbesfeld (Rear end, anatomically / Novelist Packer or Patchett / Satirist who wrote jokes for J.F.K. / Yakutsk's river)
Thursday, January 1, 2009
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: Terminal "Z" - familiar phrases have a "Z" tacked on the end, creating wacky phrases which are then clued, "?"-style
Hey, 2009 - it's 2008 here (west coast) and I'm just trying to get a little write-up in before the year officially ends for me (and the rest of the non-Alaskan continental U.S.). We just returned from First Night celebrations in Monterey, which was very rag-tag and weird (the last thing I remember seeing was some kind of Chinese dragon drum dance street performance), but still a total blast - largely because of three drinks. Shogun, red wine, Shogun. And some comically misspelled "Biengnets," the sugar from which my 3-yr-old nephew lapped up like a coke-addled dog. He had the stuff on his chin and the brim of his baseball cap when all was said and done. My sister sat next to me at dinner, and she had three Lemon Drops, which were unbelievably good. Like those lemon drop candies I remember from 7-11s and Halloweens of my childhood, only in delicious cold alcoholic drink form. We drank (and ate) at a place in Monterey called Lollapalooza, which was pretty decent. At any rate, we're home, and we've still got 90 minutes of 2008 left, so I gotta polish this puzzle off and get back to family. Happy New Year!
- 20A: Do a marathon in Egypt? (run around Suez)
- 37A: Goes all out at an audition for a sax great? (plays hard to Getz)
- 55A: Top-secret carpentry tool? (classified adz)
This is about the simplest theme I've ever encountered, and yet something about its simplicity makes me like it. It's sort of elegant. I also like that the phrases aren't puns, but simply absurdities. I like the idea of someone scaring Stan GETZ with a loud audition, or retrieving an ADZ from some C.I.A. storage warehouse. There are a ton of phrases in this puzzle; not all of them are strongly self-sufficient, but three drinks makes me not really care - STEP AWAY (39D: Leave for a bit) reminds me of a Eurythmics song I can't remember the name of right now, and ALL AT ONCE (41A: Suddenly) sounds like the title a hypothetical Patti LaBelle / Michael McDonald ballad from the 80s. Oh awesome, I just found the Eurythmics song in question. It's called "The Walk":
Hmmm, it turns out Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald did sing a duet in the 80s called "On My Own," which is weird, as that phrase nearly appears in this puzzle (ON ONE'S OWN - 17A: Independent). Here's Whitney Houston's "ALL AT ONCE," performed, it seems, in some abandoned embassy building (!?):
My daughter and her cousins are all hopped up on New Year's anticipation - they're shouting "One hour and fifteen minutes!" out there right now. I'm in a bit of a HAZE (14A: Sight blocker), and A DAZE (26D: Stunned, after "in"), both from the alcohol and from the ... let's say, togetherness. Since there's not much to say about the fill, I'll move right on to the wrap-up. But there's one answer that really warrants recognition on this first day of the new year - an answer that embodies a time of important change, a move from one stage of life to another. I am talking, of course, about BOYZ II MEN (11D: Band whose 1994 song "I'll Make Love to You" was #1 for 14 weeks). That is I hell of an anzwer.
- 5A: Satirist who wrote jokes for J.F.K. (Sahl) - Possibly the only person I know (of) named Mort. Oh, no, forgot Mort Walker
- 16A: Who opposed George Washington for president in 1792 (No one) - I was just about to say that I am three chapters deep in a G.W. bio right now, but haven't gotten far enough to have heard about this NOONE guy ...
- 19A: Justin Timberlake's former band (*NSYNC) - he's moved on.
- 24A: Señor chaser? (ita) - thought this was going to be "ITY," which would have irked and rankled.
- 51A: "_____ Brasco" (1997 Pacino/Depp film) ("Donnie") - just saw a documentary about Terry Gilliam's ill-fated attempt to film "Don Quixote"; it would have featured Johnny Depp.
- 64A: Yakutsk's river (Lena) - Yakutsk is the new Bannock!
- 67A: D-Day vessels: Abbr. (LSTS) - learned it from crosswords, though I still have to get the letters from crosses. Today, for instance, I had LRTS, until I saw that NATER made no sense for 52D: Rear end, anatomically. Now, NATES didn't make any sense to me either, but at least it seemed plausibly Latinate.
- 6D: Diamond family name (Alou) - I feel like they are making a big comeback in recent weeks.
- 7D: Best Supporting Actress for "Cactus Flower," 1969 (Hawn) - the more I see her early movies, the more I'm convinced she really is an exceptional actress.
- 9D: Dirty campaign technique (innuendo) - love this word
- 12D: Novelist Packer or Patchett (Ann) - vaguely familiar names. I think the latter wrote "Run," and I think I gave it to my wife, for some reason I can't currently remember.
- 21D: Worry about, in slang (sweat) - nice colloquial answer; hell of a lot better than THORO (1D: Complete, for short) - in what universe is that "word" acceptable?
- 33D: More wonderful, to a hip-hopper (iller) - I'm not sure what part of this clue/answer pairing is the funniest - the use of "wonderful" in a clue about hip-hop, the kanga-like phrase "hip-hopper," or the answer, a comparative form that is pretty damned rare.
- 53D: Birth cert. (ident.) - long abbrevs. always seem a bit comical to me. If you're going to abbrev. this ... there's always ID.
I'm out. Happy 2009.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of Parker