MONDAY, Apr. 20, 2009 - RJ Hartman (Politico Milk of Milk / 19th-century educator Horace / Spherical breakfast cereal / LBJ son-in-law Charles)
Monday, April 20, 2009
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: J CREW (36A: Retail clothing giant ... or a description of 17- and 54-Across and 10- and 24-Down) - four theme answers are names of people whose first and last names both begin with "J"
Word of the Day: OPEL - Adam Opel GmbH (commonly known as Opel) is a German automaker, part of General Motors. The company was founded on 21 January 1863, and began making automobiles in 1899. Opel was acquired by General Motors Corporation in 1929 and continues as a subsidiary. Opel is part of GM Europe, and is GM's largest European brand, and with Vauxhall Motors in the UK, forms GM's core European business. [wikipedia]
"OPEL" is also the name of an album by the very crosswordtastic SYD Barrett
My first full day back on the job and I get 11 "J"s thrown at me. Almost as good as confetti. Love the high-value Scrabble letters (see also the four K's), but I thought this puzzle was a bit of a mess, structurally. It's fine, of course, for HUNG JURY and FRIJOLES not to be theme answers even though they appear to be in theme positions, but because JURY starts with "J" and I'd already gotten JESSE JAMES, I got a little confused about the relation of the letter "J" to the theme. Then I picked it back up with some of the other theme answers, but then lost it again when I hit JELLY JAR (36D: Smucker's container), which felt like a theme answer. Its symmetrical counterpart, however - "YES, I KNOW" (9D: "So you've said") - was clearly not a theme answer. Only after I was finished did I see that the thing holding the theme answers together was not just their JJ-ness, but the fact that they were all names of people.
Also, "YES, I KNOW" is super sketchy.
- 17A: Brother outlaw in the Wild West (Jesse James) - I assume the "brother" part is related to the fact that he had a brother, Frank, who was also an outlaw, and not to any religious position Jesse may have held
- 54A: White Sox outfielder nicknamed Shoeless (Joe Jackson) - also one of my favorite pop musicians
- 10D: "Me and Bobby McGee" singer (Janis Joplin) - uh ... you know MCGEE is in the puzzle, right? 33D? OK. Just checking. Here's Janis singing one of my favorite songs. She sounds amazing.
- 24D: Longtime New York senator for whom a center is named (Jacob Javits) - finished this puzzle in 3:14 ... but then noticed I'd spelled JAVITZ thusly. Maybe the kids in Iowa spell it AMEZ ("Whazzup, AMEZ!?"), but sadly, maps do not.
Hardest part of the puzzle involved the JAYS. I had no idea they cawed. None. We get JAYS in our back yard. Never heard the caw. I think I was also dubious about the idea of JAYS crossing JAYE (18D: "The Gong Show" panelist _____ P. Morgan). Speaking of JAYE, even without the theme answers, there are a boatload of names in this puzzle. Too many for me to want to add up at the moment. I love names, but they can be stumbling blocks - you know 'em or you don't. JAYE could get younger (or much older) folks. HARVEY (46A: Politico Milk of "Milk") should have been reasonably easy, given that Sean Penn just won an Oscar for playing him. FALA (49A: Bo : Obama :: _____ : Roosevelt) is perhaps the most famous presidential dog ever ... oh wait. Checkers. But Nixon wasn't president then. What about the dog that LBJ picked up by the ears? [it was a beagle named "Him"] Hmmm, I'm sure someone has done a Top Ten list somewhere. Loved the fresh clue on FALA, at any rate (super duper fresh - the Obamas must have picked their dog when I was out of the country, which means only last week). The best name in the puzzle, by far, however, is JOJO (1D: "_____ left his home in Tucson, Arizona" (Beatles lyric)). "Get back, JOJO!"
Finally, there are far too many partials in this puzzle, especially for a Monday. I know that lots of Scrabbly letters force concessions, but with the iffy "YES, I KNOW" already in the grid, ALL OR, ME NO, and ON MY started getting on my nerves.
- 15A: Feminine suffix (enne) - went with ETTE. Seemed the more likely Monday answer.
- 38A: L.B.J. son-in-law Charles (Robb) - Forgot this completely. Charles Spittal ROBB, former VA senator.
- 35A: Googly-eyed Muppet (Elmo) - is he any more "googly-eyed" than the others? Do the others' eyes really not google?
- 40A: Cabalists' plans (plots) - "Cabalists" makes me think simultaneously of Kabbalah, Cannibals, and writer Caleb Carr.
- 45A: 19th-century educator Horace (Mann) - not your typical Monday MANN. Would have thought something in a Thomas or Manfred might be more likely.
- 59A: Discover by chance (hit on) - hmmm. HAPPEN ON, yes. HIT ON? Doesn't scream "chance" to me, but I can see how it might be used that way.
- 13D: Bowlers that don't bowl (hats) - Watched the "Flintstones" live-action movie "Viva Rock Vegas," dubbed into Spanish, in our hotel room in San Jose, CR. The fact that I got to watch Fred do his "Twinkletoes" bowling routine, and the fact that everyone was speaking Spanish, almost made this movie tolerable. Almost.
- 56D: Spherical breakfast cereal (Kix) - almost wrote in OAT, despite OAT's manifest non-spherical quality.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
My write-up of today's LAT puzzle can be found here.