WEDNESDAY, Feb. 4, 2009 - P. Gamache (Nereid sister of Galatea / Farrah Fawcett's signature do / Guide for Hillary / Baja boss)
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: puns - "-AIR" words in familiar phrases are changed to "-ARE" words, and then clued, "?"-style
Word of the Day: SHERPA - A member of a traditionally Buddhist people of Tibetan descent living on the southern side of the Himalaya Mountains in Nepal and Sikkim. In modern times Sherpas have achieved world renown as expert guides on Himalayan mountaineering expeditions. (answers.com)
Man, I don't know what's wrong, but I am not feeling the puzzles this week. The problem here wasn't the punniness - I'm not a big pun fan, but these seem fine. No, the problem came when I got a COHAB (19D: Housemate, informally) stuck in my TSLOT (43D: Groove for a letter-shaped bolt), which sent me ALOW (14A: Down from the deck). What in the @#$#!? Am I supposed to believe those are words? I expect to see approx. 1 non-word per puzzle. I know how it is when you just can't escape from some portion of the puzzle without throwing down, say, PFUI. Fine. But I claim that ALOW and COHAB have been uttered in earnest by human beings no more than 6 times in the past century. ALOW? I see it has some history, but mainly as a partial in the phrase "strike _____ blow." To see something this terrible in an innocuous little 4x4 corner ... it's grating. NYT hasn't clued ALOW this way in well over 8 years. Here's to well over 8 more ALOW-free years. TSLOT is the least egregious of these three, but I would still file it under "inadvisable."
Oh, and I still don't get how 9D: Drawn = EVEN. Unless I'm supposed to believe that EVEN here means "TIED," as in a game, in which case I get it, but claim no one has ever said "drawn" to mean EVEN. A game can end in a 13D: Draw, yes (TIE). You might draw even with someone you are racing. But ... maybe there's another meaning of "drawn" I'm missing. Drawn and quartered? The curtains are drawn? Nothing is computing.
- 17A: 16th-century Florentine food? (Renaissance fare) - OK
- 32A: Reason the tortoise won the race? (bad hare day) - OK
- 46A: Baseballs, footballs and basketballs? (sports ware) - lifeless
- 59A: Freedom from the requirement of having long sleeves? (right to bare arms) - old and tired
I thought IONE was pretty rough stuff for a Wednesday, though it's about the only part of the puzzle that was challenging, so I'm happy it was there. I wonder if anyone botched the JEFE (10D: Baja boss) / IONE (21A: Nereid sister of Galatea) crossing (opting for JEFA / IONA)? Seems plausible, if you've never heard of or seen the Spanish word. My wife got all up in arms (as only a Kiwi can, probably) about the clue on SHERPA (29D: Guide for Hillary). "GUIDE? He was a lot more than a "guide!" He got to the summit with him. 'Guide' Pffft." I think she found the language somehow diminishing. I was just stunned to learn that SHERPA was a name (for a people) and not just a technical word. Sherpa TENZING (constructors should use That name) and Sir Edmund Hillary reached the summit of Everest in the spring of 1953. BBC news story here.
- 25A: Supermarket chain (IGA) - the favorite shopping destination of AGAs worldwide (63D: Ottoman V.I.P.). Wife semi-chanted IGA AGA when she finished. Well, she said them together once, at least, and they do go nicely together.
- 37A: Commonwealth country in Central America (Belize) - I have to confess to a life-long conflation of BELIZE, Benin, and Brunei (the last of which I apparently can't even spell right).
- 41A: Half of a 45 with more airplay (side A) - wanted A SIDE, since that's the more common phrase, at least as I've heard it. Records have an A SIDE and a B side. SIDE A is fine, though I think there are examples of B sides that (unexpectedly) ended up getting more airplay.
- 4D: River in a Best Picture title (Kwai) - every time I look at this clue, I see "Little River Band" - why!?
- 24D: Comedian Yakov Smirnoff, by birth (Odessan) - at what point is this Very 80s comedian going to be retired from the puzzle's consciousness (as he has been from the consciousness of the nation at large)?
- 25D: Emphatic confirmation of action (I did so) - this is an answer of the "playground retort" variety, despite its non-playground cluing. I had I DID IT at first - if "playground" had been in the clue, I would not have made this error.
- 34D: Poet who wrote "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats" (Eliot) - the basis for "CATS." ELIOT also gives us the most common crossword monogram - TSE.
- 47D: Freak (wig out) - Love it! I lived in WIG dormitory for one semester in college. My only memory from my time there - being alone in my room watching Kirk Gibson's game-winning home run in the 1988 World Series, and hearing explosions of cheers go up all over the dorm. I had been a big Dodgers fan as a kid, and nearly jumped out of my skin with elation - ran out of my room, and people were coming out into the halls with "Did you just see that!?" expressions of glee (or dismay) on their faces. One of my top five baseball memories.
- 52D: Farrah Fawcett's signature do (shag) - I did not know her mane had a name.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld