Former Miss America host — SUNDAY, Aug. 16 2009 — Ballet set in Rhineland / Holders of body lubricating fluids / Exactly right in British lingo
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Constructor: Randolph Ross
Relative difficulty: Challenging
THEME: "Let's Talk About Me" — uh ... OK, let's see. All theme clues are spoken phrases ending in "me," while all the answers are familiar phrases that end up being plays on words in relation to their respective clues. Unclear, I know. Sorry.
Word of the Day: THI (28A: Summer comfort stat) — temperature–humidity index—(Abbreviated THI; also known as discomfort index, effective temperature.) An index to determine the effect of summer conditions on human comfort, combining temperature and humidity. Several equations have been used to calculate the index, dependent on the data availability:
This puzzle was about as enjoyable as someone who talks about himself all the time. Had to struggle to understand what it was getting at, and when I figured it out I didn't care. Got ERROR MESSAGE and though maybe the "ME" in puzzle title had something to do with the "ME" in MESSAGE. But no. Well over halfway through I had no idea what the theme was all about, ans shortly thereafter I realized I *did* know, and that knowing wasn't making it any better. "So all the clues have 'me' in them ... that's it? O, man." Further, some of the theme answers are indeed tight, familiar phrases (e.g. PECKING ORDER), while others ... what's a TENDER OFFER? If I offer you legal tender, is that a TENDER OFFER. Oh, never mind, I just found out that it's a term from corporate finance describing a kind of takeover bid. Huh. FILM DIRECTION is clear but utterly unsnappy. I think FREE RESPONSE is a type of writing assignment??? Anyway, it was a slog all around, very light on the snap, crackle, or pop. No "aha" moments. Instead, a bunch of "oh..." moments.
I had THI at 28A: Summer comfort stat and was convinced I had an error. Never seen it. When I found out it wasn't an error, I looked up THI via "google." Nothing. I mean ... nothing. Very weird. So I hit up Twitter and several of my Followers had the explanation to me within minutes. But even knowing "Temperature Humidity Index," I was still confused. Is this any different from what I (and several others, I'm guessing) know as simply "The Heat Index?" Second hit on google search for [temperature humidity index] is the Wikipedia entry for, simply, Heat Index (HI). In fact, my first guess at what THI meant was "The Heat Index." THI is crap fill never before used by the NYT in the Shortz era, and barely used at all (only Stan Newman and the LAT appear to think it's OK, and even then, not very often).
- 23A: "Pardon me" (error message)
- 29A: "Save me" (mass appeal) — is this what happens at mass? I've never been.
- 38A: "Feed me" (counter plea) — waitress should throw coffee in your face if that's how you talk
- 54A: "For me?" (receiving line) — that works
- 75A: "Shoot me" (film direction)
- 92A: "Lean on me" (tender offer)
- 101: "Make me" (cross words) — mmm, ingratiating
- 107A: "Kiss me" (pecking order) — also a TENDER OFFER, potentially
- 16D: "It's on me" (free response)
- 60D: "Write me" (book proposal)
I actually enjoyed the harder-than-average cluing on this Sunday puzzle. I just wish the theme had made more sense to me or been more entertaining to figure out. There were more very tough clues/answers in this puzzle than I've seen in a Sunday in a long time. I tripped hard over all of the following, for varying reasons:
- 16A: One of the Big Three, for short (FDR) — are the others Churchill and Stalin? Aha, yes, they are. I almost went with GDR here, thinking there was some Soviet bloc assoc. I hadn't heard of. Of course the clue was trying (I think) to make you think of an auto manufacturer. Or else Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, or Ray Allen.
- 27A: North Carolina town that's home to Appalachian State University (Boone) — just didn't know.
- 41A: Exactly right, in British lingo (bang on) — had BANG UP, which caused many problems.
- 69A: 1993 TV western starring Kenny Rogers and Travis Tritt ("Rio Diablo") — ... really? That's a valid answer? A TV movie from 1993? I can't even find a clip (or hint of a mention) on youtube. I did find out that the movie also featured Naomi Judd.
- 79: _____ Dubos, humanist who said "Think globally, act locally" (René) — don't know him. Got him confused with writer Andre DUBUS.
- 96A: Herd of whales (gam) — I know POD.
- 99A: Former Miss America host (Ron Ely) — another answer I was sure was Wrong, mainly because I was reading it as one word, RONELY. Even so, he hosted for just two years (1980 and 1981) — the immediate successor of the legendary Bert Parks. Here's the unlegendary Gary Collins and clearly the most talented person ever to win Miss America:
- 116A: Bank bailout acronym (TARP) — wanted FDIC. Recognized TARP eventually, but didn't know what it stood for: Troubled Asset Relief Program.
- 2D: Balloon or blimp (aerostat) — nope. "stat?" from the Gr. for "standing air," it's simply a lighter-than-air object, or so it seems.
- 12D: Holders of body lubricating fluids (bursae) — the clue alone was enough to make me a little nauseous. I must have seen the word BURSA somewhere before (maybe Miss McHenry's Life Science class in 7th grade), but I haven't seen it recently.
- 38D: Arcangelo _____, Italian violin master (Corelli) — pieced it together eventually. Sounds familiar, but my xword violin knowledge gets thin after AMATI and STRAD.
- 42D: Daytime talk show starting in 1987 (Geraldo) — and ending ...? Nothing good was "starting in 1987" except my college career.
- 47D: Ballet set in the Rhineland (Giselle) — never heard of it. Name of a famous model (in one "L," it turns out), so I went with it.
- 49D: Word that led to the "Why a duck?" routine by the Marx brothers (viaduct) — almost made me laugh. I'm not familiar with the routine, or most Marx Brothers work in general.
- 84D: Flapdoodle (tommyrot) — would never use either. This puzzle definitely has an olde-timey feel to it (Kenny Rogers telepics aside).
- 92D: Mechanic (tooler) — really??? OK.
- 102D: Resident of the Land of Cakes (Scot) — man, I lived there for many months and never once heard it called that. I figured this would be some figure from children's literature.
So ... that's a lot of ignorance for one day. But it was all gettable, in the end, and most of it seems fair enough. Again, the main problem for me today was the (to my mind) joyless and convoluted theme.
- 25A: Late 1920s to around 1950 (radio era) — this was just an answer in another puzzle, so no problem. Lots and lots of vowels; surprised I don't see the answer more often.
- 35A: "My best soldiers," according to Douglas McArthur (WACs) — wow, unexpected and interesting quotation. From army.com:
No contingencies were developed to maintain the existence of the Women's Army Corps for service in the postwar Army or future conflicts. This was immediately recognized as an oversight by many senior Army leaders, to include Generals George Marshall, Douglas MacArthur, and Dwight Eisenhower, who had come to depend on the WACs assigned to their commands. General MacArthur called WACs, "my best soldiers," adding that "they worked harder, complained less, and were better disciplined than men." After many years of public debate and in response to a worsening international environment, Congress finally approved regular and reserve component status for women. On June 12, 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed Public Law 625, the Women's Armed Services Integration Act.
- 51A: Modern trivia competition locale (pub) — surprising (though perfectly accurate) to have "modern" cluing "pub."
- 57A: Irishman who was a Time magazine Person of the Year in 2005 (Bono) — slow year?
- 85A: Fearsome foursome team (Rams) — learned from xwords and somehow remembered.
- 113A: Where Jean-Claude Killy practiced (Alpes) — before my time, but not before my dad's. Why I associate Killy with my dad, I don't know. He must have mentioned him or parodied him or something on one of our ski trips when I was a kid.
- 1D: Where many commuters live, informally (The 'Burbs) — also, a Tom Hanks / Carrie Fisher film.
- 24D: Classical rebuke (et tu) — knew this, but kept second-guessing it because it provided the "T" in the mysterious THI.
- 77D: Singing brothers' surname (Isley) — excellent.
And now, your Puzzle Tweets of the Week — I did a bad job of culling these this week. Distracted by many things. So here's all I got.
- arleigh on my dad's laptop right now. I just discovered that he cheats to do the NYT xword puzzle. I'm very disappointed.
- SoCalVixen @ladieENTICIN crazy ass wants 2 broadcast us live...I'm hella sittin here doin crossword puzzles lol
- Noy2222 Mom (doing crossword): Planet, 5 letters. starts with "Pl". Me: Hmmm... Nope, can't think of a planet that fits. Thank you stupid scientists
- Mom101 D'OH. crossword asked for carpenter of note. It was Karen. I wrote Jesus.
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]
PS, ah facebook. I knew there was a reason I was on you. Here is recent video of the man who introduced me to serious crossword-solving ca. 1991. He was one of the smartest and funniest people I knew in college. Then in the summer of '91 we got a cat, and then I failed to get a pet-friendly apt. in Michigan, thus leaving him with the cat, about which situation he was not amused ... and we haven't really spoken since. When I write it out like that, it sounds silly. Anyway, it was good to see him again, if only in video form: