SUNDAY, Mar. 8, 2009 - Z Kushner (Fashion photographer Herb / Ill-fated German admiral / Athlete who won the 1978 International Peace Award)
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: "One More Thing" - "P.S." is added to familiar phrases, creating wacky phrases which are then "?"-clued
Word of the Day: PUFFBALL - A puffball is a member of any of a number of groups of fungus in the division Basidiomycota [...] They are called puffballs because a cloud of brown dust-like spores is emitted when the mature fruiting body bursts. (wikipedia)
You all remembered to set your clocks forward, right? Good. I love having Daylight Saving Time back, generally, but this morning it's all a little abrupt and painful. At least it's warmish.
Puzzles like today's - the add-a-letter-(or-two) type - live or die by the quality of the wacky phrases created. Today there seemed to be equal parts life and death. I doubt I'll soon forget USE THE FORCEPS, LUKE, but I kind of wish I could, both because ... well, the image is displeasing, and the original phrase "Use the Force, Luke," while absolutely verbatim from the first "Star Wars" movie, is not the most in-the-language phrase. It's not even the most in-the-language Force-related phrase ("May the Force be with you" takes that honor). Adding "P.S." to "TO" in GOING TOPS THE POLLS feels awfully ... off, and the phrase is just ungainly and meaningless. I wish the clue on BULLET-PROOF CARPS had been fish-related, even though I realize that the plural of CARP (fish) is CARP. I just like the idea of genetically-engineered killer fish better than I do the absurdity of a non-material entity being "BULLET-PROOF." The other theme answers seem fine, and I there something so completely absurd about ASPS FOR ME that I even kind of like it. Sounds like Cleopatra's ordering her death from a menu at a restaurant.
- 23A: Rachael Ray activity eliciting oohs and aahs? (cooking with gasPS)
- 39A: Prepared for heavy on/off traffic? (built ramPS tough) - clever use of commercial slogan
- 47A: Advice to actor Perry when delivering a baby? ("Use the forcePS, Luke!") - I just now remembered who "Luke Perry" is. HA ha. Dylan.
- 67A: Cleopatra's last request? ("asPS for me")
- 86A: Travel is voted most popular? (going toPS the polls)
- 92A: Result of a good basement waterproofing years ago? (long time, no seePS)
- 115A: Unassailable beefs? (bullet-proof carPS)
Despite having a basically competent overall design, this puzzle made me gag in a few places. The first gag is probably particular to me - I recently said that EBOLI is on my list of "Do Not Use" words, mainly because it's such an obvious crosswordy crutch. You never want to use EBOLI. Nobody wants to use EBOLI. Sometimes you have to use EBOLI, I guess, but I have decided to treat it like poison (more poisonous than E. COLI, ironically). So boo to this word - though the "B" gives us BWANA (79A: Sir, in Swahili), which makes me laff. Anything with an initial letter string of "BW" is inherently funny. Sadly, EBOLI looks good compared to some other clunkers in this puzzle. STIED!? (108A: Like a pig in a pen). "Boy, Jeb, you STIED that pig good." Or, better yet:
"Hey, look at that pig ... it's STIED"
"Tied for what?"
"I don't see any cord or leash or rope ... what the hell are you talking about?"
STIED, indeed. But even STIED looks decent compared to the least appealing teenage dating move of all time - I'm speaking, of course, about the ACNED REGRAB (5D: Pimply + 6D: Get a better grip on). Man, that's ugly. On so many levels, That Is Ugly. First there's ACNED ... and then, immediately thereafter, REGRAB. One two, with no rest in between. Show a little mercy. At least spread the pain out.
MEG Whitman headlines the "New To Me" category (1A: Former eBay chief Whitman), though I feel like her name was in contention for some kind of political post ... maybe she was an economic advisor to McCain? Let's see ... whoa, she was his national campaign co-chair. That's some good, if hazy, memory I got there. I have no memory of this ELAH movie (71D: "In the Valley of _____" (2007 film)), starring Tommy Lee Jones and Charlize Theron. The Valley of Elah, I'm told (by Wikipedia), is the place where the Israelites were encamped when David fought Goliath. Other question marks in this puzzle include the clue on ROSE - I know what a tea rose is, but ROSE tea is not familiar (124A: Word before or after tea) - and AQUIFER, which clearly, by its name, bears water, but which I insisted on spelling AQUAFER for a while (27A: Freshwater source). Never heard of Gus KAHN (10D: Gus who wrote the words to "Makin' Whoopee"). The very phrase "makin' whoopee" makes me cringe. Makes me think of Bob Eubanks leering suggestively at newlyweds. Oh, and I don't know this LIAM guy (53D: Irish folk musician O'Flynn). Let's hear what he's got to say for himself:
- 4A: Steal from, as in Grand Theft Auto (carjack) - a fresh and contemporary (if violent) clue. I like it.
- 22A: "_____ Dawn I Die" (James Cagney flick) ("Each") - great clue for a nothing word.
- 36A: Viaduct features (spans) - AQUIFERS and Viaducts? What year is it?
- 60A: _____ Croft, title role for Angelina Jolie (Lara) - first thing I put in the grid, despite my never having seen the film in question. LARA Croft is a Tomb Raider, whatever that is.
- 64A: Puffball contents (spores) - here I was thinking make-up.
- 66A: Pioneering 1940s computer (Eniac) - a crosswordese gimme if there ever was one.
- 72A: Fashion photographer Herb (Ritts) - His name feels very early 90s to me. It also gives off a hint of Madonna. Why? OMG he not only directed Madonna's "Cherish" music video, he took THIS photo (which was hanging on the wall of my best friend's dorm room in college):
- 90A: Athlete who won the 1978 International Peace Award (Pele) - there are apparently a billion ways to clue this guy. Seems like every other month he's in the grid with some long descriptive clue like this.
- 11D: What the 300 defended (Sparta) - still haven't read the book or seen the movie. Heading out to "Watchmen" later today.
- 16D: Coachman's carriage (landau) - one of the many carriage types I learned from crosswords.
- 25D: Gum-producing plant (guar) - I remember GUAR gum from some 1980s ice cream commercial where someone was reading, with puzzlement and barely concealed disgust, the ingredients list of the rival brand. CARRAGEENAN was the other laughable ingredient.
- 38D: "I don't get no respect," to Rodney Dangerfield (schtick) - man, that initial consonant cluster is wicked.
- 42D: Some turban wearers (Sikhs) - true enough
- 48D: Fishermen with nets (seiners) - er, this one gives me a sort of STIED feeling
- 49D: Summery (estival) - excuse me, ma'am, you dropped your "F"
- 51D: Designer Rabanne (Paco) - His name is familiar from perfume / cologne ads of my youth.
- 81D: Ill-fated German admiral (Spee) - German admiral = SPEE. If you're like me, you will sometimes goof and go SMEE or SNEE.
- 100D: Any of boxer Foreman's five sons (George) - psych! Their names are his name too. I believe this fact has been referenced in one of the many George Foreman grill ads.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld