TUESDAY, Jan. 27, 2009 - Jim Hyres (Nation once known as Dahomey / Game with "Out of Gas" cards / Big name in retail jewelry / Myopic Mr.)
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "BORN" homophones - four theme answers end with them
Word of the Day: PROWL CAR - a car in which policemen cruise the streets; equipped with radiotelephonic communications to headquarters (freedictionary.com) - since all police cars today (I think) have radiotelephonic communications to headquarters, you can tell the word originated in an earlier time period. It's not used as much today, but I encounter it every time I read Chandler's "The Long Goodbye":
He hadn't mentioned the girl again. Also, he hadn't mentioned that he had no job and no prospects and that almost his last dollar had gone into paying the check at The Dancers for a bit of high class fluff that couldn't stick around long enough to make sure he didn't get tossed in the sneezer by some prowl car boys, or rolled by a tough hackie and dumped out in a vacant lot.
Today's puzzle is very light on the theme answers - only 40 squares of coverage in all. The homophones are fine - every possible one appears to have been used. It's almost an add-a-letter type of theme - BORN, BORNE, BORNES ... but then JASON BOURNE comes along and breaks the that trend's neck with his sexy, stealthy, special ops training. I was wondering as I solved this whether MILLE BORNES is terrifically well known. I barely know it - I think I knew one family once who had it among their games, and so I have vague recollections of playing. And I've seen it at least once in xwords before. But it doesn't strike me as universally known the way "Monopoly" or "Clue" might be.
- 17A: Game with "Out of Gas" cards (Mille Bornes)
- 11D: Heir to the throne, typically (first born)
- 33D: Like the dust in a dust storm (wind-borne)
- 58A: Robert Ludlum protagonist (Jason Bourne)
There were a few answers in the grid that felt a bit wobbly to me, the wobbliest of which was AIR TASER (21A: High-voltage weapon). I have heard of TASERs, but not AIR TASERs. Are there SEA TASERs? I googled "AIR TASER" just now and there wasn't a ton of clear action. I see that there are "high-voltage weapons" for sale that have that name, so it's a real item, but does anyone who doesn't own one know them by this name? I was thinking also that maybe there could be a limit on lawn-related clues - maybe one per puzzle? Neither SODDED (43A: Like newly laid lawns) nor RESEED (64A: Start over with, as a lawn) is an answer you want to call attention to, and when you double-lawn it, that's exactly what you do. TABSET felt like a much uglier cousin of PROWLCAR, in that its heyday was probably well over thirty years ago (5D: Typewriter formatting feature). Further TABSET crossing TEASET (5A: China shop purchase)? That's ... one more SET than should be in the grid, probably. Lastly, ENERGIES ... it's a valid word, but the way its clued makes it seem odd and hard to imagine in context (9D: Vigorous feelings). [Gas, electricity and steam, e.g.] might have worked.
- 20A: Spots for spats (ankles) - "spats" should have been my word of the day. Again, as with PROWLCAR and TABSET, I feel like I'm in 1954. Are they supposed to keep mud out of your shoes, or just look cool?
- 34A: Big name in retail jewelry (Zales) - I see their (horrible) commercials, but I have no way of gauging if they are local, regional, or national. We're not big jewelry consumers. No, wait, it's the De Beers commercials I can't stand. This one looks like an ad for a horror film. If only there were real bloodshed ...
- 40A: AOL alternative (MSN) - on top of SODDED. This tiny section would not have been hard to rewrite. You could get rid of corp. abbr., plural abbrev. (DEMS) and, well, SODDED, in one swoop. What about TAWNY over ERIK over MEN over PADDED? Or you could change DEMS to DERN and MSN to REN, but that pop culture swerve might make some folks nauseous. I'm just saying ... there are other options here.
- 41A: Nation once known as Dahomey (Benin) - this one fell out of my brain some time in 7th grade, I think. Needed several crosses.
- 62A: Larry who won the 1987 Masters (Mize) - when you grow up as a sports-loving kid, all kinds of names stick in your head, even from sports you pay no attention to.
- 39D: Rugrats' outbursts (tantrums) - I guess the plural here couldn't very well be TANTRA without causing serious confusion.
- 42D: Myopic Mr. (Magoo) - Watch him dance...
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld