1970s Robert Young TV role - TUESDAY, April 14, 2009 — Barry Boone (Congos name before 1997 / Simpsons teacher who was called Mrs. K)
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Hi. Andrea Carla Michaels filling in one last time for Rex. As some of you eagle-eyed folks noted yesterday, yes, it's true, I was actually the blonde dancing around in the Rick Astley video. I get residuals every time "Never Gonna Give You Up" is played on YouTube … so after yesterday's Rickrollin' good times, I now have enough to retire to ZAIRE (10D: Congo's name before 1997). Thank you, everyone!
So it's nice to go out on a solid Tuesday Barry Boone puzzle. Many of you may recall Barry was "retired" after accusations of "alleged" steroid use, helping him to set some sort of baseball record, but now a repentant BB works off his community service sentence by writing crosswords for the NY Times.
THEME: True to his name, Barry Boone has hit a home run in constructing a puzzle with a boon of theme answers: "Hidden Gems" — Five sets of gems are "hidden" in long phrases with consecutive letters circled in addition to the explanatory phrase HIDDEN GEMS, thus creating a "playing field" of 60 squares of theme answers: His "diamond" has answers the lengths of 10, 11, 9, 9, 11, 10!
- 17A: 1985 Glenn Close/Jeff Bridges thriller ("Jagged Edge" = jade)
- 21A: Mail service made obsolete by the transcontinental telegraph (Pony Express = onyx)
- 32A: Simple swimming stroke (dogpaddle = opal)
- 40A: Widening in a highway, maybe (toll plaza = topaz)
- 53A: 1970s Robert Young TV role (Marcus Welby = ruby)
- 59A: What the long Across answers with circles have (HIDDEN GEMS)
Instead, we get some nice back and forth … 42A: Lenin's "What IS TO Be Done?" seems to be answered by the other Lennon's 44D: "Let IT BE." (Actually, it was written by Paul … but still!) 50D: Tree with "catkins" (whatever the hell they are) is sweetly paralleled with the theme answer DOGPADDLE. And for every highbrow, sophisticated clue/answer such as 34D: Andrei Sakharov in the Soviet era, e.g. (DISSIDENT) there's a less highbrow 63D: "Evil ERNIE" (comics series).
Some of the interesting pairings are even self-contained in the clues, e.g. 44A: Eisenhower and Turner (IKES) is so visually evocative — I can totally picture DDE and Mamie across a candlelit table from Ike and Tina on a double date … from hell! Speaking of DDE, if I had any nits to pick about this puzzle, it would be that there were an abundance of three letter initials: BLT, ETO, EKG, GRE, MLB, LPS as well as ten (count 'em, ten!) fill-in-the-blanks with partials such as INOR, ISTO, ITBE, ASTAR, TOSEE. Although there is something I like about TOSEE, it feels like a cross between Tushie and Watusi.
Speaking of which, I'd like to take this opportunity (as it's my last blog before I watusi my way to the Congo) to complain that I get the letters WATUSI on my Scrabble rack at least once a game, which is illegal to play in Scrabble, and yet is almost impossible to make another word out of. On a positive note, however, this puzzle was very Scrabbly with a nice sprinkling of Zs,Xs, Ks, and a J. If only AGUA (28D: Contents of the Spanish Main) had been AQUA, the puzzle would have been one F away from a pangram! (And only one clue away from having NO gratuitous Simpsons references! 56D: "The Simpsons" teacher who was called Mrs. K (EDNA)! D'oh!)
It's now after 1 a.m. so I'd like to put this blog to bed to the dulcet tones of my favorite answer "LOLA" (37A: In a Kinks hit s/he "walked like a woman and talked like a man"):
Aw c'mon, now, I needed 37 more cents to get to Zanzibar … ciao ciao, rafiki!