WEDNESDAY, Jan. 21, 2009 - F. Piscop (Words from Alphonse or Gaston / Frisbee game involving body contact / "Houston" of 1980s TV / Pundit Colmes)
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: non-pedigreed dog puns - three theme answers begin with MONGREL, CUR, and MUTT, respectively
Word of the Day: CUR - derived in part from Middle English curren, to growl, hence (perhaps) its primary definition as a "watchdog" or "sheepdog," in British dialect. Definitions after this - the negative ones we now associate with the word - are all soaked in the language of class hierarchy and eugenics. "b. A mongrel or inferior dog (my emph.); c. a dog other than a foxhound - used by fox hunters" (Webster's 3rd Int'l)
I love all these puns, but don't like words used to demean dogs. MUTT is fine. I have one MUTT and one purebred. I would have a hard time saying the MUTT is the "inferior" dog. In fact, if left to their own devices, the MUTT would surely outlive the purebred. At any rate, it was interesting to look up CUR in Webster's and not see a single definition related to a dog's anti-social behavior or viciousness. Just the derivation note about "growling." The idea that dogs exist on some breeding hierarchy is some @#$#ed up human baloney. Am I really going to take my cues from @#$#ing fox hunters? Hey, if anyone can find an online version of "The Prince's Panties" by Mason Williams, I will be eternally grateful. It is one of the greatest novelty songs of all times and I had it memorized as a kid. It involves dogs turning on their master and devouring him. O man, I found it - you can hear it at Rhapsody. "He had dogs, a hundred cocker spaniels, and he called them panties 'cause they ... did that mostly..."
- 20A: Genghis Khan's non-pedigree domain? (Mongrel Empire) - had MONGOL MONGREL and vice versa before I figured this one out.
- 38A: Non-pedigree essential courses? (cur curriculum)
- 57A: Casey's non-pedigree team? (Muttville Nine) - that's kind of inspired
I have a couple of comments about the clues today. First, the one for ULTIMATE (39D: Frisbee game involving body contact). A certain ULTIMATE aficionado who shall remain nameless sent me and another blogger friend of mine an excerpt from the official rules for ULTIMATE. Rule A, from the Official Rules of Ultimate, 11th edition (!), states that "Ultimate is a non-contact disc sport played by two teams of seven players." Now I certainly didn't know that. But I'm not sure how this clue ended up being the opposite of true. Maybe someone dropped a "no" and nobody bothered to pick it up. Then there's 11D: Words from Alphonse or Gaston ("after you"). I don't understand. French guys are polite? French guys open doors for you? What year / movie is this? [aha, I see it's an old comic strip - early 20c. - about bumbling, overly polite Frenchmen; there's even a catchphrase: "AFTER YOU, Gaston." If only I'd been alive to read the New York Journal in 1902] The only Gaston I know was in "Beauty and the Beast," and he was the Opposite of civilized:
I thought the clue on III was very clever (23A: George _____, longest-reigning English king). I mean, if you gotta have III as an answer, that's a good way to clue it. I like 42A: Monopolist's portion (all) if only for the oddity "Monopolist." On the other end of the likability spectrum is 68A: Burgers on the hoof (steer). "See, they're already burgers ... inside. We're just helping them realize their destiny." I love all three of the first three Downs. ATOMIC RENOIR CRANIA is fantastic. Poetic. (1D: Like superprecise clocks + 2D: "The Bathers" painter + 3D: Head cases?)
Lots of entertainment fare today, most of which I have seen and enjoy. Actually, I don't think I've seen either version of "ALFIE" (16A: Jude Law title role), but I know the Bacharach tune well.
I have an affection for things werewolf, and I own not only the DVD of "The Wolf Man," but two versions of a movie-related action figure released a few years ago (one in "original" black & white, HA ha). This is to say that LON was a gimme (41D: Chaney of "The Wolf Man"). 66A: Pundit Colmes (Alan) just left "Hannity and Colmes," so his name is oddly fresh right now. Lastly, entertainment-wise, there's MATT (45A: "_____ Houston" of 1980s TV), which made me laugh - I don't think I ever saw it, but my affection for cheeseball cop and crime shows from the 70s and 80s makes me want to track it down now. O man, he's like Remington Steele crossed with a very poor man's Magnum P.I., and then divided by the Dukes of Hazzard:
MATT Houston says ... "Bullets!":
- 1A: Electrical bridges (arcs) - couldn't make heads or tails of this at first
- 5A: Disney output, once (cels) - ah, the good old days.
- 56A: Talladega unit (lap) - wanted NIGHT; didn't fit
- 12D: Ipanema locale (Rio) - "locale" ... so we meet again ...
- 22D: Miranda rights readers (police) - ideally, yes
- 29D: Cabinet department until 1947 (War) - subsequently rebranded
- 36D: Ernie the Muppet's rubber toy (duckie) - clip!
- 40D: Nonacademic school activities, informally (rec) - weird non-s plural here. Threw me a bit.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld