WEDNESDAY, Feb. 18, 2009 - S Gelfand (Bug-building game / Clark's crush on "Smallville" / Porter's regretful "Miss" / Dickensian cry)
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (I feel like I'm saying that a lot)
THEME: Gear shift - theme answers start with PARK, REVERSE, NEUTRAL and DRIVE, respectively, and the whole theme is tied together by the "possible title" "SHIFT / GEARS" (8A: With 61-Across, a possible title for this puzzle)
Word of the Day: FIE - Used to express distaste or disapproval.
A typical "first words related" theme with a nice corner-answer bonus. Not much more to say about that, except that REVERSE SPLIT is a new one to me (28A: Corporate action that increases the par value of its stock). Caused some slowage in the eastern section - where I was happy to see ALACK today (25D: Word of woe), after having tried and failed to force said answer to work in a puzzle last Thursday. But back to the theme - got the first theme answer early when the NW gave me PARK and I somehow remembered that PARK CITY, UTAH is the 19A: Home of the Sundance Film Festival. If you'd simply asked me where it's held, I would have said "uh ... somewhere in Colorado?" Next theme answer was REVERSE SPLIT, which I couldn't see at all, so ... moving on. I think I meandered down to the bottom and Somehow remembered the title "DRIVE ME CRAZY" (50A: 1999 Melissa Joan Hart movie). I doubt anyone here (by which I mean, you) saw it. I sure didn't. Melissa Joan Hart was the star of the long-running "Sabrina the Teenage Witch," and "DRIVE ME CRAZY" was a teen romantic comedy. DRIVE + PARK gave me the theme, which made NEUTRAL SHADE (41A: Bone, for one) easy to pick up. SPLIT in REVERSE SPLIT was probably the last thing I filled in. Somehow I did all that in 6+ minutes. No errors today, though ...
What in the world is COOTIE!? (5D: Bug-building game) - I see that it is a bug-building game, but it's one I have never played, or seen on TV, or seen at other people's homes, or seen in a toy store (that I recall). Are COOTIEs still being produced? It seems so. Been around a while. Missed me entirely. I'm more an "Operation" / "Sorry" / "Hungry Hungry Hippos" kind of guy. Oh, why am I mentioning this? Because the "I" was a Very tentative entry for me. REI (23A: King, in Portugal) was an educated guess based on the fact that (I think) Spanish for "king" is REY. Portuguese is a fine language, I'm sure, but to me it simply signifies "nutso spelling coming up!"
The real problem in this puzzle - the place that caused the most trouble both for me and my wife (and thus, perhaps, for many of you) was the NE, which I am calling "IT CORNER," as in 15A: The Beatles produced it and 12D: Cigarettes have it. The Beatles clue was galling. The Beatles produced BEATLEMANIA. "The Beatles produced MANIA." "These cigarettes have TAX." Don't like when the tricksiness of clues involves forcing the phrasing. Also, FIE = 11D: "For shame!"??? I thought it was much more negative and defiant, not a rough equivalent of "TSK" (which is what I had here at first). Even INS seemed oddly clued (10D: Favored bunch). I think of the folks in Congress or other elected positions as INS. They got elected. I guess that means they're "favored." If this is "IN" in the social sense, then I guess I don't hear people use INS that way enough. A-LIST ... ELITES ... IN CROWD, maybe.
- 1A: Hits with bug spray (zaps) - rings untrue for me. Bug zappers zap bugs. Raid kills bugs dead, but without electricity.
- 14A: Ex-politico with a Nobel and an Emmy (Gore) - "Simpsons" tidbit: on a trip to Knoxville with Bart, Nelson, and Millhouse, Martin Prince spends his last remaining money on a Talking Al Gore doll. The doll's one line: "You are hearing me talk."
- 34A: Sari-clad royal (rani) - lots o' little gimmes to help you get started today. ADLAI also helped a lot (2D: First name in 1950s politics). Same for ALI (46A: Noted convert to Islam in 1964) and OTIS (27D: Porter's regretful "Miss")
- 36A: Dickensian cry (meh) - just kidding, it's BAH, as in Humbug
- 7D: Shawnee chief at the Battle of Tippecanoe (Tecumseh) - woo hoo. Fun. Great answer. Got it off the -UM-.
- 28D: Physician/synonymist (Roget) - I had no idea "synonymist" was a word. That seems a ... pretty narrow field.
- 35D: Clark's crush on "Smallville" (Lana) - not LOIS. Apparently on "Smallville" LANA now has superpowers, a development which is causing mass nerd hysteria on-line.
- 36D: From Sucre, say (Bolivian) - love this. Forced me to remember where the hell Sucre is. I was looking for something French here at first.
- 43D: Shakespearean soliloquist (Hamlet) - I am waiting to see the clue [Soliloquist/synonymist]. Not sure what the answer would be.