TUESDAY, Jan. 20, 2009 - T. Wescott (Silents actress Normand / Rock band fronted by Michael Stipe / Hobbit's enemy)
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: MEAT balls - the word "MEAT" is anagrammed within oh who am I kidding it's another Obama puzzle.
Word of the Day: AUDACITY - daring boldness with assurance, presumption, or open disdain of restraint [Webster's 3rd Int'l]
Three in ten days. I voted for the guy, was elated by his victory, and even I'm starting to get a little weary. I can't think of a single event that has caused this much crossword ink to spill. Ever. It's a singular even in our nation's history, this inauguration, so if the glut of Obama crosswords is unprecedented, perhaps that's understandable, if not entirely optimal from a regular solver's point of view. This one we had today is really impressive in terms of theme density. Plus, it's got ... layers. First you've got the serious business of the themed fill - covering god knows how much of the grid (I'm just not going to give you ILL or BAR or even DAIS, but even so, there's a Lot of Inaugural fill here - 56 squares from the four 15-s alone). Then, for the fireworks at the end, the big "O" behind the president lights up with "YES WE CAN" and then rotates around and shoots off sparks like Wheel of Fortune meets the Fourth of July. Then it morphs into a halo and settles just over the top of the president's head. The end.
The long Downs are decidedly weaker than the Acrosses. AUDACITY OF HOPE (20A: Book by 52-Across, with "The") and PRESIDENT OBAMA (52A: Oath of office taker on 1/20/09) are real phrases one might actually say. LEADER OF AMERICA (3D: 52-Across, starting 1/20/09) less so, and CAMPAIGN RIVALRY (11D: 52-Across had one with John McCain) ... look, it's not the Lakers/Celtics. It's a single event - one race - the end. No "Rivalry." Plus, I mean, really, a RIVALRY implies some kind of parity. When one side hands the other side its ass, and does so only once ... again, not a rivalry. I like that Wescott was able to sneak JOE / BIDEN in there, like the wacky afterthought that he is (29D: With 36-Across, 52-Across's number two). Never mind the indignity of being clued as somebody else's "number two."
My favorite non-theme answer: BEEHIVES (36D: 1960s hairdos).
Other answers of note:
- 5A: Sheetful of cookies (batch) - mmm, inaugural cookies. I should make those.
- 17A: Representation of a state on the U.S. flag (star) - I had SEAL at first, thinking of the state's own flag
- 18A: Silents actress Normand (Mabel) - no clue, but cool name. Wow, this is oddly informative for a random youtube video:
- 39A: _____ Office (Oval) - crossing ORAL (28D: Transmitted by speech)? Really? Really?
- 42A: Rock band fronted by Michael Stipe (R.E.M.) - Stipe sang at the MTV Inaugural Ball for President Clinton in 1992. This is the performance I remember best (interestingly, a song of appreciation for a black man):
- 45D: "Maybe later" (not yet) - "NOT YET" implies that something will happen later, whereas "maybe later" implies said thing might not happen at all. Wanted NOT NOW, but then noticed that NOT intersects NOW (50A: "_____ what?").
- 32D: Suffix for many a computer attachment (pdf) - speaking of - allow me to present a PDF file of an Inauguration Day puzzle that, for reasons that will eventually become obvious, couldn't very well be published in a major newspaper. Why? Well, it's got bite. It may not be your political cup of tea, but as a feat of construction, it's impeccable. Here it is: "Almost a Pangram" by Ashish Vengsarkar (AcrossLite version can be downloaded easily here):
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS my friend Kathy posted the following picture today - from Berlin: