FRIDAY, Feb. 27, 2009 - Joe DiPietro (Bygone flag / Co-firing technique used to reduce pollution / Emulates Eve / Producers of sunbows)
Friday, February 27, 2009
FRIDAY, February 27, 2009 – Joe DiPietro ("The Insect Play" playwright / Mammonism / Actress Blakley)
Relative difficulty: Medium/Challenging
Word of the Day: REBURN (40D: Co-firing technique used to reduce pollution from electrical power plants) - No results found! Did you mean Raeburn? (dictionary.com)
I’m guessing Rex would rate this a medium, but I had hell with it and in fact didn’t finish it. It took me 33:17 to get down to the last two squares, and then I went in and had some eggplant, which is the only vegetable I’ll eat, and then came back out to the garage (you may recall my dad and I built an office out here last summer) and got sidetracked by some kind of scratching noise that I thought was a mouse, but it was a monster cockroach in a cardboard box. I never minded roaches as much as most people do, but that was before I knew they could make that much noise. One time in Austin I encountered a particularly strong roach in the toilet, and it took me three flushes to get him down the pipe—he just kept swimming faster against the current as the water swirled faster, and each time until the third time he would just pop back up again and start making a scramble up the side of the bowl while I sweated it out waiting for the tank to refill so I could flush him again. Another time I was doing battle with a roach in the normal fashion, and it suddenly launched itself into the air and flew at me vertically, like a little man with a jetpack. It was like watching a sudden leap in evolution. I don’t ever want to see that again. Both of those occasions were pretty traumatizing and seemed outside the scope of what we should be expected to accept from cockroaches, but neither was as disturbing as the noise this one tonight made. I really think he would have managed to start a fire in there if I hadn’t got to him in time.
So I threw in the towel on the last two squares, or really only one square, since I was pretty sure the second letter of R_BURN would be E. I did not know LEPTA (44D: Pennies: dollar :: ____ : drachma) or LEM (44A: 1960s-‘70s touchdown maker) . I don’t know much about sports, but the sport I know best is football, and I probably know more than most non-sports-fanatics about it, but I do not know Lem Barney. He played for Detroit for 11 seasons in the sixties and seventies, back when normal-sized human beings played football, and, as the clue rightly asserts, made some touchdowns. Seems like a reference to Stanislaw Lem would have been perfectly acceptable for Friday cluing, but maybe Joe and Will thought that was too easy. So, big fat F for Wade on this Friday, and I’m calling it medium-challenging. [Make that an F-minus. Of course the touchdown-maker would not have been clued in that fashion if his first name was the answer. Commenters have corrected me that this "LEM" is the abbreviation for "lunar excursion module." All right then, I'm an idiot. But shouldn't there have been a cue in the clue that the answer was an acronym?]
Overall, I don’t feel very rhapsodic about this one. It’s an impressive grid—lots of white spaces, six grid-spanning answers, four nine-letter down answers—but you have to work real hard to fill it, and when you’re done you’re looking at some pretty ordinary words and letters. WENT ASIDE (30D: Withdrew quietly) is not very . . . anything. Neither are HAS TO STOP (2D: Can’t continue), HAVE AN OPINION ON (16A: Think a certain way about), or I’VE NEVER TRIED IT (54A: “This would be a first for me”). Quite generic answers and clues there. And ARCTIC CIR (31A: It’s a little over 65 degrees: Abbr.) is cleverly clued (some people were maybe trying to figure out if “air” made any sense for the last three letters), but that abbreviation is rather unfulfilling.
- 5D: Pastes in Mideastern cooking (TAHINIS) – First thing I entered and on the first pass. My wife makes a lot of hummus. When I see long across answers and don’t know the first two, I immediately switch to the down clues. It’s depressing to get only a few down answers in those long clues and for them to be far-interior answers.
- 8D: You might not get paid while working on it (SPEC) – Second thing I entered. There’s a huge liquor store in Houston called Spec's. I don't go there anymore. Because I used to go there so much.
- 11D: Ladles (DIPPERS) – What do you call snuff where you are? And what is the verb used to refer to employing said habit? Here you dip snuff (and if you’re from a very small town, you don’t know any male who doesn’t dip snuff, unless he smokes, which is just nasty.) I hear that in the Midwest it’s called snuse, and the very ill-informed refer to it as “chew” or as “dip.” Dip is a verb, not a noun, but a person who dips is a dipper. And you don’t chew snuff; you chew chewing tobacco, which is different. “Smokeless tobacco” is a very off-putting euphemism. All tobacco is smokeless until it’s on fire, and when it’s on fire, it is no longer smokeless. That cockroach noise was really disturbing.
- 26D and 41D: Shrunken (NOT AS BIG) – Man, that reeks, and the fact that it’s spread across two clues/answers makes it reek twice as much.
- 27D: Yet to be engaged? (BORED) – That’s pretty good.
- 28D: Early times, for short (AMS) – That’s pretty good, too. I had BC’s at first, and then wanted RYE.
- 29D: “The Insect Play" playwright (CAPEK) – I wanted ALBEE, then IBSEN, and that pretty much exhausted the five-letter playwrights I knew. CAPEK is the robot guy, isn’t he? The one who’s usually clued for the answer RUR (or something like that.) Or is he the guy who invented the word “robot”? I stopped learning things a long time ago, and I just keep asking the same questions.
- 34: Things that open and close yearly? (WYE) – I didn’t catch on to this right away, but I did pretty quickly, but then couldn’t figure out if that’s how you’d spell “Y.” I suppose there are accepted ways to spell letters, but doesn’t it seem pointless or at least wrong to have a spelling for a letter, especially when you use that letter in the spelling? Remember when you’d smart off to your teacher when she told you to look up words you can’t spell? (“How can I look it up if I don’t know how to spell it?”)
- 39D: 1997 Demi Moore flick (GI JANE) – Another one that I didn’t get right away, because when I see words like “1997” and “Demi Moore” and “flick” I just automatically assume I won’t know the answer. But if I’d have thought about it I’d have probably gotten it before moving on. I never saw it, but I remember the trailer for it, and I remember Chrissy Hynde did a very pretty cover of Steve Earle’s “Goodbye” that was used in the movie. Here’s his version (with the goddess Emmylou Harris):
- 46D: Producers of sunbows (MISTS) – Good grief.
- 1A: Bygone flag (THE STARS AND BARS) – I like the answer, but the clue could be a bit spicier, you’d think. Is it really bygone? I thought the flag still sometimes got referred to as “the stars and bars.”
- 30A: Roll (WAD) – Also what a chew of tobacco can be referred to, though it’s considered derogatory. Also Ro’s opponent in that book written without the letter E.
- 38A: Time being (NONCE) – Somehow I knew this. Not right away, but with only one or two letters. I don’t know how. I don’t know what “natch” means ordinarily (including right now), but I can usually get it quickly in a crossword puzzle. And then I forget what it means when I’m done with the puzzle.
- 39A: Mammonism (GREED) – I had GREE_ and put . . . Greek. Which is stupid.
- 50A: Much of Central America, once (BANANA REPUBLICS) – Do not fear, gentle reader. I will disgust you with tales of cockroaches and chewing tobacco, but I will never inflict a Jimmy Buffet song on you.
Hope everybody's having fun at the tournament.
From Mission Control in Houston,Wade