MONDAY, Feb. 9, 2009 - R J Hartman (Land of the so-called "Troubles" / Polynesian-themed restaurant chain / Word before Jordan or Canada)
Monday, February 9, 2009
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: TV SET (41A: Boob tube (and a hint to 17- and 65-Across and 11- and 30-Down)) - four theme answers are two-word phrases where the two words begin with "T" and "V," respectively
Word of the Day: Franz LEHÁR (30 April 1870 – 24 October 1948), known in Hungarian as Lehár Ferenc, was an Austrian composer of Hungarian descent, mainly known for his operettas. (wikipedia)
Solving time (on paper): 4:15
Wow, typing out that theme description gave me the weirdest sense of déjà vu. This is likely because I déjà vued a theme identical to this one - yesterday. That shouldn't count against this puzzle. Scheduling issues are hardly the constructor's fault. But the TV phrases here don't do much for me. TRIAL VENUE and TRAVEL VISA are zzzzzzzzz. Never heard of "TWO VIRGINS" (that answer should have been in the irony puzzle last week). Actual album title appears to be "Unfinished Music No. 1: TWO VIRGINS." The clear winner, theme answer-wise, is TRADER VIC'S, if only for its immortalization in the Warren Zevon song "Werewolves of London."
These theme phrases are all 10 letters long, which makes them easy to compartmentalize so that no piece of fill has to intersect more than one theme answer; this, in turn, means the grid would have been (comparatively) very easy to fill, but it also makes the grid very heavy on 3- to 5-letter words, which is why there's not a lot of zing outside of TRADER VIC'S. I like REPEATER a lot, both because it's unusual in the grid (despite all those common letters) and because it's a word solvers and constructors sometimes use to describe words that appear A LOT in crosswords, i.e. crosswordese. Examples of crossword REPEATERs in this puzzle include ASHE, ECCE, AGEE, EGRET, ETS, LEAR, ABLE, OBIT, UAE, TSAR, REDO, AMI, ARTE, EIRE, OSHA, and, of course, ENGR.
So, in preparation for the tournament (where my best advice is not to worry about time), I have decided to start solving exclusively on paper and timing myself. It's very easy to feel the speed bumps when you are speeding (as it is while driving, I suppose). Slowdowns today included:
- TWO VIRGINS - really sucks not to be able to throw that first theme answer across the grid easily, especially when you've got the front end done
- TRIAL VENUE - had the VENUE part and made it LEGAL VENUE. Not seeing the theme at all is one of the many perils of speeding.
- LEHÁR (47D: "The Merry Widow" composer) - I am certain I've filled his name into grids before, but I came up blank on him today. Had the -HÁR and thought "... BEHAR? That can't be right."
- LATVIA (52D: Riga's land) - this one stings, as RIGA (as I've said many times) is my favorite European capital. Turns out I hadn't been paying close attention to What Country It's In! HA ha. I had -VIA, and no country fitting that description would pop into my head. I just looked up the reason I have trouble placing certain countries on the map. BALTIC ... BALKAN ... BALTIC ... BALKAN ... I don't think they've ever been sufficiently sorted out in my brain ... until now. Maybe.
- 17A: 1968 album by John Lennon and Yoko Ono ("Two Virgins")
- 11D: Courtroom (trial venue)
- 30D: Document checked at the border (travel visa)
- 65A: Polynesian-themed restaurant chain (Trader Vic's)
I tried (briefly) to come up with other "TV" phrases. TUNNEL VISION was the best of the lot.
19A: Land of the so-called "Troubles" (Eire) - sad to admit I had no idea what this clue meant. Thankfully, I filled in EIRE without ever seeing the clue. As you all probably already know, the "Troubles" is the name given to the conflict surrounding the political and religious status of Northern Ireland (mid-60s thru late-80s).
35A: Word before Jordan or Canada (Air) - "Canada?" Really? After "Jordan" you're going with "Canada?" OK.
53A: Luxury Toyota make (Lexus) - a bit deceptive, this clue. It's not called the "Toyota Lexus," after all.
56A: Coffee, slangily (java) - mmm, I can taste it now. First thing I'm gonna do when I finish this write-up is make a pot.
71A: Norman who created "All in the Family" (Lear) - I wonder if people born after 1980 have any idea who this guy is. Very common name for anyone who watched TV in the 70s (guilty).
6D: Silly Putty holder (egg) - I remember playing with this stuff when I was 5 or 6. We would stick it to the funny pages, and the image would transfer to create mirror image replicas. It got old very quickly. Even for a six-year-old.
28D: _____ Motel ("Psycho" setting) (Bates) - Mmm, I love this movie something awful. The conversation between Tony Perkins and Janet Leigh (you know, right before she dies) is one of the most brilliant, hilarious, uncomfortable, and memorable scenes I've ever seen on screen. Taxidermy!
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS Tyler Hinman has a great puzzle in Wired Magazine this month. It features exactly the kind of tricksiness you're likely to see in at least one ACPTournament puzzle (even if the theme of Tyler's puzzle is a bit too geek-specific for an actual tournament puzzle). The puzzle is called "Data Corruption" - check it out here.
Music Playlist at MixPod.com
Bonus section - The Westport Crossword Tournament, 2009
Here are some photos and a brief write-up of this past weekend's tournament (provided by "chefbea"):
We all met at the Westport library around 12:15. We Rexites congregated around chefbea wearing t-shirt with imdave's puzzle imprinted on it. We registered and were given a slip of paper with our number which we had to put on each puzzle. We did three puzzles and had 20 minutes to do each one. While the judges were grading the puzzles Will Shorts entertained us with fun xword puzzle facts and a few word games. The three winners then came forward and they did the final puzzle, where Joon was declared the champion.
Then the real fun began. We went back to Mac's house (some people got lost as you have heard). Had coffee and Beet brownies - then cocktails and good danish cheeses. Then off to dinner in Westport for good food, good wine, good beet salad and good friends.
Everyone is looking forward to Brooklyn