TUESDAY, Jan. 6, 2009 - John Greenman (Dodgem units / Hall's partner in pop / Unbreakable stones of legend)
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "Tall," "Dark," and "Handsome" - three theme answers begin with those words, respectively; whole theme is tied together by 60A: Figure described by the first words of 17-, 28- and 45-Across (Matinee Idol)
Word of the Day: "DODGEM" - Esp. in pl., a fairground amusement consisting of a number of small electrically-powered cars steered about in an enclosure. (OED online)
We interrupt this message...
Hi, from the future. My blog has been slapped with an "Objectionable Content" warning because of a famous album cover I posted yesterday. I have been "unlisted" by Blogger, which means no one can find me via search engines. Here is the opening paragraph of my write-up for today, Feb. 10, 2009. Any suggestions for remedying this problem would be greatly appreciated:
First things first - I humbly beg whoever flagged this blog as "objectionable" to unflag it. And please, in the future, if you are genuinely offended by anything I post, let me know (email is right there, on the right), as I have no desire to offend people. This is a crossword blog that is currently being treated like a porn blog, and while my traffic might go through the roof because, you know, people like porn, I just want to make the blog as easily accessible to crossword solvers as possible. There are some solvers who are not going to understand this warning (trust me) and are not going to want to click through. Hell, I don't know that I'd click through such a warning - who knows what's waiting for you on the other side? I just want the "Objectionable Content" warning gone as soon as possible, and anything anyone can do to help me achieve this will result in my undying gratitude. If I can't get the Flag removed in the very near future, you can expect a change of address. [I've been "unlisted" by Blogger, which means I've virtually disappeared from Google search results and even if you search [rex parker], though my site is listed first, it's titled "Objectionable Content Warning" ... I'm considering offering a reward to whoever can fix this ...]
Now, back to your regular write-up...
Started very smoothly, getting each of the first 3 Across answers no problem. Then I switched to Downs and the smoothness wheels came quickly off. There was much thrashing and flailing and a generally choppy feel to the whole solving experience. I managed to straggle in somewhere in the mid-4's, feeling beleaguered and buffeted and slightly confused. Then I noticed that I had an answer I didn't understand - what the hell is "Top TIES?" (48A: Top-_____ (best)), I wondered. Is that a British expression? Then it occurred to me that "Top TIER" was a much better fit, so KRONOR (29D: Swedish currency) must be a ... plural? Yes, it turns out. Too bad - I was so looking forward to going around calling everything "Top TIES" today in a horribly exaggerated British accent today. Or maybe Australian: "That's top TIES, mate!" Guess I'll have to find something else to do with my day.
- 17A: They're hard to believe (TALL stories) - first point of struggle; phrase TALL TALES comes right to mind, where TALL STORIES ... doesn't.
- 28A: 1939 Bette Davis drama ("DARK Victory") - not on my radar, though I'm sure I've heard of it. This answer thus slowed me down as well. No complaints, though. It's Bette Davis! I Love Her.
- 45A: Big pile of cash (HANDSOME sum) - I am not kidding you when I say that, upon learning the theme, I immediately wrote in HANDSOME DAN, thinking, well, it was a phrase I'd heard before, and must be some kind of pre-war slang.
I don't know what the intrinsic connection is between the phrase "TALL, DARK, and HANDOME" and a MATINEE IDOL. I can see how the one might describe the other, but the phrase seems a general description for a kind of attractive man, not particularly a movie star descriptor.
Here's one to put on your "REMEMBER THIS WORD" list: ENNA (57D: Sicilian city) - I tanked this at first, writing in ETNA instead (just one letter off, and equally Sicilian). It's not a terribly common entry, but it definitely has crossword legs (with those letter, how could it not?). Kind of cool that it sits next to its Italian counterpart, the FIAT (56D: Autostrada auto).
NEON LAMP was unpleasant (23D: Source of orange-red light). Couldn't a NEON LAMP give off any color you wanted it to? Well, yes and no, it seems. NEON has a specific orange-red spectrum, but the term NEON LAMP is sometimes used to describe a lamp filled with other noble gases, which will produce different colors of light. Bah. Was all set to love the other long Down, ADAMANTS (25D: Unbreakable stones of legend), but I could only come up with the adjective, ADAMANTINE (consequence of spending one's 20s buried in old poetry), and so I wrote in the first few letters, but balked, and then I realized ADAMANT is a perfectly good adjective, so I must be wrong ... Bah! I'm telling you, I solved this puzzle the way you might shave your face, quickly, with a machete. I got the job done, but it wasn't pretty.
Oh, and I had two more terrible miscues: GABS for YAKS (32D: Chews the fat) and SUN AIR (!?!?!) for SEA AIR (24A: Beach atmosphere).
- 14A: "Be-Bop-_____" (Gene Vincent hit) ("A-Lula") - so bad that I love it
- 39A: Clayey soil (loam) - "Clayey" looks ridiculous, and sounds not much better. Sounds either like an extended version of "Clay," or like some town crier saying "Clay Ye, Clay Ye!"
- 41A: Word before Charles or George (Lake) - nice misdirection here.
- 43A: Years, in the Yucatan (anos) - :(
- 58A: Bearded pres. (Abe) - Didn't some others have beards? Grant? No one I can think of since 1900, though. Obama should grow a beard. And wear a sea captain's hat. Mix it up a little.
- 1D: Hall's partner in pop (Oates) - they sang a duet on "The Daily Show" late last year that made me laugh a lot - a remake of "She's Gone" called "He's Gone," in honor of Alan Colmes's leaving the FOX News show "Hannity and Colmes." Here's the original - lo tech!
- 7D: Dodgem units (cars) - absolutely no idea what the heck this means. Turns out, it's something like bumper cars, if not exactly like bumper cars.
- 30D: Black mamba's secretion (venom) - "secretion" is up there with the grossest of words
- 55D: Its symbol looks like an equal sign through a C (euro) - in a further sign that our economy is spiraling downward, today's puzzle has been taken over by foreign currencies.
Lastly, a little heads-up for all of you solvers in the Bay Area - the 3rd Annual Silicon Valley Puzzle Day Crossword Tournament is coming up in early February. It will feature as-yet-unpublished NYT puzzles, and looks like it will be a lot of fun. You should go.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld