TUESDAY, Jul. 28 2009 — Insect monster of Japanese film / Banjoist Scruggs / Cheech or Chong persona / Gitmo mil branch
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Constructor: Tony Orbach
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: Possibilities — five theme answers express various degrees of certainty about some unnamed, hypothetical event's happening.
Word of the Day: MOTHRA (3D: Insect monster of Japanese film) —
Mothra (モスラ, Mosura) is a kaiju, a type of fictional monster who first appeared in the novel The Luminous Fairies and Mothra by Takehiko Fukunaga. Since her film début in the 1961 film Mothra, she has appeared in several Toho tokusatsu films.
Generally regarded as female by English-speaking audiences, she is a giant lepidopteran with characteristics both of butterflies and of moths. The name "Mothra" is the suffixation of "-ra" (a common last syllable in kaiju names, viz. Hedo-rah, Ghido-rah, Ebi-rah, Godzi-rah) to "moth"; since the Japanese language does not have dental fricatives, it is approximated "Mosura" in Japanese. In the American dubbing of Mothra vs. Godzilla, Mothra is also referred to as the Thing. She is occasionally an ally to Godzilla but more often than not engages in conflict with the King of Monsters due to his anger toward the human race.-----
This is undoubtedly an inventive puzzle, and the grid architecture is impressive, in that the theme answers are arranged in a way the perfectly expresses diminishing certainty. As you move down the grid, certainty diminishes, and each step down is figurative (though not literally) equidistant from the previous step. But despite this thematic inventiveness, I didn't find the solving experience very enjoyable. There are two main reasons for this. First, many of the expressions could have been lots of things, and often alternate expressions came to mind more readily: WITHOUT A DOUBT, MAYBE SO MAYBE NO, NOT LOOKING (SO) GOOD ... all kinds of annoying variants came to mind, and finding out the actual answer was more chore than joy. Second, there is a massive variation in degree of colloquialism, from the rather formal WITHOUT QUESTION to the brokedown AIN'T GONNA HAPPEN. Throw in the clues, all of which are roughly equivalent expressions, and the whole thing's a mess, tone-wise. Am I supposed to imagine the same person saying all these phrases? That's hard to do. With tons of black squares, there are a ton of little 3- and 4-worders and no long Downs, which means there's little of interest outside the theme. I know this is a reasonably well built puzzle; I just didn't like it. More a matter of taste, likely, than anything indisputably defective in the puzzle itself.
Difficulty level today reflects my slightly longer than average solving time, which was likely a result of the theme phrase confusion I mentioned above. In the end, there's nothing very tough about the puzzle (though if you got slowed down anywhere, I'm guessing it was in the SE — more on that below).
- 17A: "Sure thing" ("Without question")
- 28A: "Chances are good" ("In all likelihood")
- 35A: "It could go either way" ("Maybe yes, maybe no")
- 43A: "Doubtful" (Not looking so hot")
- 56A: "Forget it!" ("Ain't gonna happen")
Most embarrassing moment for me, solving-wise, came in the NW, where I had UNISO- at 2D: Oneness and couldn't figure out the answer. The *only* word my brain could churn out was UNISOM, a sleeping aid. At one point I thought the cross was going to be IT ALL LOOKS GOOD, so I had UNISOT. That is officially insane. I finally got the "N" for UNISON and couldn't believe that so common a word had eluded me entirely. Main trouble spot was the SE, where, first, I couldn't finish off the fourth theme phrase very easily (i.e. HOT didn't come quickly). I also never though of Cheech or Chong as a hippie. To me, they have always been just guys who really like to get high. Apparently their comedy did directly deal with "hippie" issues more broadly at one point. Nothing about their post-1980 life suggested anything but STONER to me. Then there's THE NET (49D: Where one might see "OMG" or "TTYL"). Ugh, that "THE." It's valid, but still feels awkward. As an answer, it seems Way too broad for the clue. THE NET is massive. OMG and TTYL belong to the realms of chat rooms and texting and email, which are subsets of the Gigantic Entity known as THE NET. Analogous clue/answer pairing might be: [Where to find Oslo] => EARTH. True, but come on.
- 54A: Counselor's clients, perhaps (couple) — the final nail of difficulty down there in the SE. Clue cleverly suggests a plural when the answer is a singular word.
- 40D: Bailed-out co. in the news (AIG) — in case this answer didn't depress you enough, there's also a Gitmo reference for you: 53A: Gitmo mil. branch (USN).
- 19D: Banjoist Scruggs (Earl) — I've posted videos of Flatt & Scruggs before, so let's do something slightly different today.
- 32D: God, in Roma (Dio) — why this doesn't come easily to me, I don't know. Wanted DEO, DEI, DIA ...
- 65A: Apt to pout (moody) — had MOPEY until I was rescued by NEO (58D: Keanu's "The Matrix" role)
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]