SUNDAY, Jul. 19 2009 — Quality is our recipe franchise / Snake with lightning bolts on its back / Greek moralizer / Pets with dewlaps
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Constructor: Lynn Lempel
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: "YOU ARE THERE" — letter pairing "UR" is added to familiar phrases, creating wacky phrases, which are clued "?"-style
Word of the Day: MURINE — adj.
- Of or relating to a rodent of the family Muridae or subfamily Murinae, including rats and mice.
- Caused, transmitted, or affected by such a rodent: a murine plague.
A murine rodent.
[Latin mūrīnus, of mice, from mūs, mūr-, mouse.]
[also a brand of eyecare — and earcare! — products I've never heard of]
A strangely tough puzzle. Not tough in terms of content — I made it through without getting terribly stuck — but tough in terms of my ability to move through the grid with ease. Everything was gettable, but I just never picked up speed. Nowhere. I think I should be grateful, as some recent Sundays have been overly easy and kind of dull. This one required that I work, while having very few cheap "I'm Gonna Make You Work, You Bastard" clues. I may also be slightly burnt out, puzzle-wise. Not motivated sufficiently motivated for speed solving. I spent a Ridiculous amount of time yesterday solving the Harper's Puzzle for Aug. 2009. It was cryptic and involved cryptics and anagrams and quotations and concentric circles and oh man if std U.S. crosswords aren't sufficiently thorny for you, you might wanna give the Harper's puzzle a go. I can't say I loved it. But I definitely #$@!ing earned it. Anyhow, I don't think I had much solving gas left in the tank when I got to this one. Overall, it seems a really well constructed puzzle, even if the theme is not terribly inspiring.
With these add-a-letter (or two) themes, as I've said before, the only thing that matters is the quality of the resulting answers. If they pop, success, if they just sit there, failure. These mostly pop. I've got one quibble, though. It's actually a double quibble. Regarding CANARY IN THE MURINE. First, I don't think we have MURINE products where I live. If we do, I've never seen them / used them. Maybe I've just never had dry eyes. Anyway, not fond of commercial products of marginal notoriety. Bigger problem for me here, though, was that I know the phrase as CANARY IN THE (or A) COAL MINE. In fact, without that alliteration to make it really come alive as a phrase (often used as a metaphor for an early indicator of disaster), the phrase just wilts. Of course, all my feelings about this phrase come from exactly one place:
- 24A: Corrupt financier's command? (bURy all accounts)
- 30A: Mama Bear at the stove? (fURry cook)
- 54A: Alpo or Purina One? (cUR rations) — real trouble in here. Too me ForEver to catch on to the theme, partly because this was the first answer I pieced together and I didn't understand what CRATIONS were. Then CURRIED WOLF came Down in the intersecting answer, and I thought that the matching CURR- beginnings were somehow related ... very confused. URSINE WAVE finally convinced me that the only thing going on was the addition of "UR," and once my brain mentally added the hyphen in "C-RATIONS," I understood why things were the way they were, and I could move on in peace.
- 72A: Greeting from Smokey the Bear? (URsine wave)
- 92A: Pumpkin grower's cry of surprise? ("Oh my GoURd!") — total WIN. Best answer of the lot.
- 101A: Scheduled activity at a Vegas chapel? (hoURly matrimony) — also great, a close second.
- 3D: Songbird at an eye drops factory? (canary in the mURine)
- 40D: Triumphant spicy meal for the Three Little Pigs? (cURried wolf) — morbid / awesome.
- 34D: Sodom or Gomorrah? (town without pURity)
Face-falling today was minimal, though there were a good half dozen answers I didn't know. We'll start with KNORR, which my wife didn't know either (4D: Popular brand of bouillon). I know I've seen it, but like MURINE ... let's just say that Lynn Lempel and I have very different-looking shopping lists. TREE BOA sounds like a made-up snake (35D: Snake with "lightning bolts" on its back). Sounds like what someone pretending to know about snakes might call it. "Oh yeah ... that's the ... TREE BOA ... they live in trees." I would like to find out more about BOAs, but sadly my google search for BOA turns up only Bank of America-related sites and a contemporary Korean singer whose career is actually kind of fascinating. I could try harder, but I'm hungry / jonesing for coffee, so you're on your own, BOA-wise. Embarrassingly, had no idea who the first president of Ireland was. Douglas HYDE? Good to know. And forget, almost certainly. UNIVAC sounds like a vacuum; like a dust buster or some other cheap contraption you'd buy from an infomercial. I know ENIAC, but UNIVAC is ... well, honestly it sounds vaguely familiar, but I needed crosses (68D: First commercially successful computer). DIPOLE was another sciencey term that didn't come easily (79A: Pair of opposite electric charges), and it intersects UNIVAC. Unsurprisingly, that section was thorny for me.
- 5A: _____-approved (USDA) — this clue seemed cheap.
- 20A: Versatile body builders (stem cells) — mmm, controversial. Can't recall ever seeing these in the puzzle. Nice clue, btw.
- 37A: Starfish feature (ray) — I had LEG. Then I had ARM.
- 38A: "Catch-22" bomber pilot (Orr) — I knew he had a sports guy's name. I considered YAZ.
- 47A: Pets with dewlaps (iguanas) — turns out some rabbit have them too.
- 51A: Word with pizza or beauty (parlor) — usually hate these "word with" clues, but these two words are such a jarring, unexpected pair that I actually enjoyed this clue.
- 58A: Percussion instrument in Off Broadway's "Stomp" (pot) — had PAN at first bec. I had FALL OUT where COLLIDE was supposed to go (54D: Disagree strongly).
- 81A: Singer John with the album "Bruised Orange" (Prine) — knew this, but couldn't remember if it was spelled with "I" or "Y"
- 84A: "The Bald Soprano" dramatist (Ionesco) — Nothing like foreign names to vowel up your puzzle. If we had his full name, we'd get four more vowels.
- 88A: Cursor attachment? (pre-) — wanted to "attach" the answer to the back of the word. Much confusion ensued.
- 108A: Greek moralizer (Aesop) — makes him sound like a humorless jackass as opposed to a fable writer.
- 109A: What drives you to get better? (ambulance) — yeah, that works.
- 112A: Exam with 125 questions: Abbr. (PSAT) — went with LSAT. Seems to be the month for PSAT / LSAT confusion.
- 7D: _____ Walcott, 1992 Literature Nobelist (Derek) — was happy to see this, as I was desperate for a gimme at that point.
- 14D: From Polynesia and evirons (South Sea) — hmm, adjective, eh? OK.
- 31D: Some have a silver lining (ores) — had ORBS.
- 47D: "_____ a Spell on You" (classic 1956 Screamin' Jay Hawkins song) ("I Put") —
- 48D: King Minos' daughter who aided Theseus (Ariadne) — gave him the thread to help him find his way back out of the labyrinth. For her troubles ... abandoned on the isle of NAXOS. Thanks, Theseus!
- 55D: Pioneer automaker (Olds) — "Pioneer" is a descriptor, not a make or model, I'm assuming.
- 74D: "Quality Is Our Recipe" franchise (Wendy's) — Never heard it. Also, hate it. It's got that vague, boring, businessspeaky quality to it, but it's not even catchy. Well and truly a horrible slogan. Maybe that's why they don't use it in their ads. Instead, they have gone with "It's waaay better than fast food ... it's Wendy's." Which also sucks. As all self-contradictory statements suck.
- 85D: School inits. in Harlem since 1907 (CCNY) — The City College of New York.
- 92D: Radiation reducer (ozone) — I thought it blocked, not reduced. I guess it "reduces" the amt of radiation that gets through from the sun to the atmosphere.
- 93D: Kishkes (guts) — Yiddish? KISHKES sound like something you'd eat, but if they're guts ... I'm not hungry. Looks like it's most commonly used colloquially to refer to the general stomach / intestine region of the body.
Time for your Puzzle Tweets of the Week, brought to you by ... me. From Twitter.
- eliselzer NY Times crossword note to self- Jack Paar and Catherine Parr spell their names differently.
- smcallaghan I have Tourettes but only when I do crossword puzzles.
- annabananafish At airport. Crossword puzzle central here
- alliooop Sunday edition NYT crossword and the inferiority complex that follows.
- amydezellar They're apparently playing the entire Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. The guy a few stools down is doing the crossword and chair-dancing.
- mattiasdahl Late breakfast + crossword puzzle. I'm like a very old man and I love it!
- JLTaffy4 Listening to my neighbors have sex while I do a crossword puzzle
- 1capplegate It is sunday and just finished the nyt crossword from friday. My god was that hard. It hurt my little brain.
- kevin_nealon @1capplegate - I can't even do the NYT Sunday crossword. I can't even find it!!! It's all too hard.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]