THURSDAY, Jan. 22, 2009 - G. Whitehead (Conformation defect in a horse / Sainted king known as "the Fat" / English essayist Richard)
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "SHRUNKEN HEADS" (37A: Primitive trophies ... or a hint to this puzzle's theme) - a "HEAD" rebus where "HEAD" is "SHRUNKEN" and shoved inside its own square six times throughout the grid
Word of the Day: WICKIUP - 1. a hut used by the nomadic Indians of the arid regions of the western and southwestern U.S. that is typically elliptical in form and has a rough frame covered with reed mats or grass or brushwood; 2. any rude temporary shelter or hut (W3I)
A clever puzzle with some not-so-great fill. It seems this theme really forced the constructor into a corner several times, most notably in the west and southwest, where the wheels get a little shaky. Except for SWELL[HEAD] in the north, all the HEAD answers feel crisp and clean and right ... until the SW, where AX[HEAD] and [HEAD]end feel like the last gasps of a dying beast. Worse than that, though, is the far west, where ... I just don't know. If I bred or showed horses or were a vet or maybe had read "Black Beauty" or "My Friend Flicka" recently, maybe I'd know what the hell EWENECK is (50A: Conformation defect in a horse). You are going to have a hard time convincing me that EYENECK is any sillier an answer there - and that's the answer I had, what with my having been a toddler when "Rich Man, Poor Man" was written and thus not knowing my SHAW from a SHAY in the ground. You'd think that when crossing the "W" in EWENECK, you'd go with George Bernard. Further, I'd heard people say "Karmann GHIA," but I'd Never seen it spelled, so I was damned lucky to get that "H," frankly. Just a train wreck in the west. I thought once I got RADIO[HEAD] (after thinking TALKING HEADS and actually writing in MOTOR[HEAD]), that the west would be done. No.
The heads were symmetrical, which was elegant, but also mildly disappointing, in that I could fill them all in with just the top half of the puzzle done. This is the problem with symmetry in rebus puzzles - its desirability is truly debatable.
- 1D: Macrocephalic (bigHEADed)
- 20A: Split (HEAD for the hills)
- 9D: Egoist (swell HEAD)
- 33A: All over (HEAD-to-toe)
- 43A: Alternative rock band with four platinum albums (RadioHEAD)
- 45D: Nut jobs (HEAD cases)
- 54A: Traffic sign that indicates a possible temporary road closure (drawbridge aHEAD)
- 49D: Lady Jane Grey's fate (beHEADing)
- 58D: Chopping part of a chopper (ax HEAD)
- 66A: Front (HEAD end)
- 1A: Opposite of someways (no how) - what dialect is this? I think Buddy Ebsen talked like this on "The Beverly Hillbillies" - you know, before he went on to fame as Uncle Roy in "Matt Houston."
- 34A: 1990s war site (Bosnia) - I wonder if other war sites fit here. I had USN (30D: Seal's org.) and ANKA (31D: "My Way" songwriter) in place, so BOSNIA came easily.
- 52A: Words on a Wonderland cake ("Eat Me") - a surprisingly common answer (and one that makes some of my readers the giggle, for some reason)
- 2D: Sainted king known as "the Fat" (Olaf II) - Roman numerals are a very very common way to handle a terminal "I" in longer answers. Or, in this case, a terminal "II."
- 39D: Wickiup, for one (hut) - learned "Wickiup" from puzzles, which seems hard to believe, but there it is.
- 47D: English essayist Richard (Steele) - Because Addison was the magnet, and this guy was STEELE
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld