SUNDAY, Feb. 8, 2009- A Arbesfeld (1666 London fire chronicler / Noted Spanish muralist / Bygone Coney Island attraction)
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: "Pajama Party" - all theme answers are two-word phrases where the two words start with the letters "P" and "J," respectively
Word of the Day: NITERY - slangy term for a nightclub. Here's a quotation from a late-40's Variety article, praising the work of actress Jane Greer: "Femme honours go to Jane Greer, nitery canary . . . she wraps up two songs in fine style and registers strongly in dramatic scenes."
The only drawback to this puzzle was that knowing the theme (which you could pick up almost instantly) made every theme answer exceedingly easy to get. I filled them all in at first glance. Still, it seems clear that the cluing and even some of the fill was toughened up in bits in order to make this puzzle offer at least a little resistance. Those not familiar with airlines and -ports of Japan might have stumbled - haven't seen NARITA for a long time (25A: Airport where 91-Down flies - 91D: Flier to 25-Across, for short -> JAL). I have never heard the term NITERY (101D: Bistro, informally), but I like it a lot (way better than that crappy NABE word we had some time last year). Many of the quotations I found on-line were in some way related to film noir (Jane Greer was in the legenday Out of the Past, for instance - found another quotation where someone was describing a "seedy Santa Monica NITERY" in an Ida Lupino movie). AMEN RA is always good for waylaying a few solvers (9D: Egyptian god of the universe), and ANAIS NIN is very well disguised today, so she might have tripped a solver or two (89D: Who wrote "The only abnormality is the incapacity to love"). I'm not a fan of pharmaceutical companies, generally, but I have to say that ELI LILLY looks good in the grid (92D: Prozac maker). He and ANAIS NIN are just showing off down there with their full names. Overall, the fill in this puzzle is fresh and bouncy and interesting, which more than makes up for the excessive gettability of the theme.
- 23A: ChapStick alternative (Petroleum Jelly)
- 33A: Bygone Coney Island attraction (Parachute Jump) - sounds ... dangerous
- 52A: Trick (Practical Joke)
- 70A: Deli receptacle (Pickle Jar)
- 90A: One of the former Big Three in news (Peter Jennings)
- 105A: Comeuppance (Poetic Justice) - thankfully, not clued via the terrible Janet Jackson film of the same name
- 122A: Dole offering (Pineapple Juice)
- 42D: Pizza Hut competitor (Papa John's)
- 49D: Hardly a beauty queen (Plain Jane)
- OOHS (82A: Circus cries)
- OOLALA (86A: "Hubba hubba!")
- AARP (9A: Powerful D.C. lobby)
- NCAA (102D: College World Series org.)
- MPAA (118D: Film-rating org.)
- MA'AM (60D: Word said while tipping one's hat) - I love this clue. It's so John Wayne / Gary Cooper
In addition to the fabulous MA'AM clue, I also loved PULPS (105D: Dime novels and such) - the stories and covers are a major fascination of mine - and BANJO (104D: Hand-picked thing) - my dad taught himself to play a bit, and there were bluegrass records around the house and we even went to a bluegrass festival once. I have great fondness for this instrument. Watched Steve Martin play on "The Colbert Report" the other night. Had no idea he was that accomplished. More banjo, less embarrassing "Pink Panther" nonsense - was the public really clamoring for that sequel? Remember "Weekend at Bernie's 2?" Of course not.
- 5A: Hastings, _____, where Kool-Aid was invented: Abbr. (Nebr.) - this was recently a topic of discussion in the Comments section. I won't say why, for fear of ruining that puzzle for the syndicated solvers
- 21A: Homer's hangout (Moe's) - you knew this. You had to know this. Tell me you knew this.
- 28A: Blood of the gods, in Greek myth (iChor) - new, from Apple. When OCHER just won't do - try iChor.
- 38A: Cousin of a crow (daw) - slowly becoming my favorite crossword bird - look out, ERN/E!
- 44A: Onetime Ritz rival (Hi Ho) - also, a slangy street greeting which might result in facial punching
- 48A: Printerr's misteaks? (typos) - cute
- 61A: _____ Bridge, historic 1874 span across the Mississippi (Eads) - this clue feels all kinds of messed up to me. "Hey kids, look at that historic span!" "Span" does not stand in well for "bridge" here. And was it historic only in 1874? It's historic or it's not historic. Presumably it functioned as a bridge after 1874. They didn't tear it right back down, did they?
- 93A: German city whose name means "to eat" (Essen) - my main (!) German city problem is the ESSEN / EMDEN conflation. Here, not a problem.
- 119A: Christopher who directed "The Dark Knight" (Nolan) - loved his "Memento"; have "The Dark Knight" on DVD (gift from one of my legion of grateful students), but haven't found time to watch it yet. Very odd, given my mild Batman obsession (I read the comic book and have an action figure of Bat Woman hanging on my computer screen).
- 131A: Noted Spanish muralist (Sert) - get him and ERTE confused sometimes because ... well, because of the ERT.
- 1D: 1666 London fire chronicler (Pepys) - anything about a chronicler or diarist and 17c. England is almost surely PEPYS (pronounced PEEPS, like the unholy Easter candy!)
- 67D: "Loot" playwright (Orton) - no idea what this is. Whoa, just found out two things. One, Joe ORTON was killed in a murder-suicide in his 30s. And two, he wrote "What the Butler Saw," which is one of my very vivid early theater experiences. It may have been the first "adult" play I ever saw (@ the Ashland, Oregon Shakespeare festival, circa 1980)
And on that note ... it's orange rolls and coffee for me now
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld