The Charioteer constellation — SUNDAY, Sep. 6 2009 — Fictional village visited by Major Joppolo / Superman villainess / Word signed for deaf toreador
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Constructor: Robert H. Wolfe
Relative difficulty: Challenging
THEME: "The Argonne" — pronounced American-style, the word (I guess) sounds like "R GONE"; turns out that in the theme answers, phrases with a last word starting with "R" lose that "R" to become wacky phrases, clued "?"-style
Word of the Day: BRACTS (122A: Leaves at the base of a flower) — n.
A leaflike or scalelike plant part, usually small, sometimes showy or brightly colored, and located just below a flower, a flower stalk, or an inflorescence.
[From Latin bractea, gold leaf, perhaps from Greek brakhein, to rattle.]-----
A mess. A mess with some fascinating, entertaining elements (MAGOG, HOUDINI, k.d. lang), but a mess nonetheless. Allow me to offer some TUTORAGE (whatever that is). We have Yet Another "drop-a-letter" theme. This one is "drop-an-r," only not all Rs, just the ones that begin the final word of the phrase. So the title, right away, is kind of a lie, although it does suggest R-gone and not Rs-gone, so maybe it's still on solid ground. Crappy ground, but solid ground. Several of the theme answers are from outer space, only less interesting. RIGHT FULL (R)UDDER? Had to look up afterward to see that it was real (unlike SCOTTISH (R)EEL, which I knew was (r)eal). BECOMING THE (R)AGE??? It's a phrase one might say, I guess, but so is CLIMBING THE TREE, which would not hold up as a theme answer. Further, like my "THE RAGE" to be preceded by "ALL." I was a big General Public fan as a 14-yr-old.
CAROLINA (R)ICE ... is a thing? I see it's a brand. Ne-eh-ehver heard of it. I'm not going to be alone here: at least two theme answers that are marginal at best, and another (BECOMING ...) that's forced. Then there's the ickiness in the non-theme fill. The ICTUSness (13D: Metrical accent). Never seen the word, despite its apparent poetic meaning. TUTORAGE barely qualifies as a word. BRACTS is brand new to me, though it seems quite legit so I'll leave it be (122A: Leaves at the base of a flower). ICEL is a much detested (by me) abbrev. A SOB is a very unpleasant partial (27A: Tell _____ story). Maybe if you could have swung "A S.O.B.," but that would probably have required "AN" not "A." "My opponent keeps ASPERSING me ..." No. IN A COMA has a clever but kind of inappropriate clue (38A: Far out?). "Whoa, your husband's in a coma? Far out ... get it, 'far out,' as in he's 'out of it' ... you know, unconscious ... 'cause he's IN A COMA ... heh heh ... why aren't you laughing? OK, uh, I gotta go. PEACE, man." Ugh. There's just a lot of FAIL today.
- 24A: Some skiing stars? (cross-country
- 114A: Departure call from a Spanish vessel? (ship-to-shore
- 3D: Word signed for a deaf toreador? (non-speaking
role) — yet another Spanish word as the punchline. And this one is super-weak, as the "word" that is "signed" is presumably "OLE." Clue asks for "word." Word=OLE.
- 7D: Fish in a firth? (Scottish
- 28D: Reaching 21? (becoming the
rage) — "the age"? Is that a phrase meaning "21" now. "The drinking age," yes.
- 40D: Camouflage? (commando
- 51D: Mythical twin's bird tale? (Romulus and
remus) — far and away my favorite theme answer.
- 71D: What the N.H.L.'s Hurricanes skate on? (Carolina
I love that the grid is tough, and clued in a tougher-than-usual fashion. Easy Sundays often don't feel worth finishing. My wife often abandons Sunday's half-way through. Just can't be bothered to go on if the theme is bland and the difficulty level is just moderate. So thumbs up for the roughness. I got plowed under by AURIGA in the olden days, so I was happy to handle it with relative ease today (97A: The Charioteer constellation). Liked the twin "Wagon Train" pillars up top in 5D: "Wagon Train" network, 1957-62 (NBC) and 10D: "Wagon Train" network, 1962-65 (ABC). CABAL had a nice misleading clue, with its apparent plural: 63D: Power seekers, maybe. So the puzzle had its moments. But there just weren't enough of them.
- 5A: Site of Daniel Webster College (Nashua) — New Hampshire. Did not know this.
- 29A: Bluesy James (Etta) — crossword equivalent of stock footage.
- 54A: William Tell's canton (Uri) — thanks to Joon Pahk for reminding me a few days ago that this is one of URI's meanings (in addition to Mr. Geller and the U. of Rhode Island).
- 67A: One of a pair of biblical nations (Magog) — also the title of a new comic from D.C.
- 96A: "Shadowland" singer, 1988 (k.d. lang) — she's got some kind of voice:
- 103A: Fictional village visited by Major Joppolo (Adano) — from (I'm guessing) Hersey's "A Bell for ADANO." That's a wicked clue.
- 123A: Long-tailed moth (luna) — like the LUNA / LANA crossing, if only for the joy of saying those words quickly in succession.
- 9D: Superman villainess (Ursa) — dang. I know it's familiar, but I always guess wrong. Today's guess: ILSA.
- 25D: River into which the Big Sandy flows (Ohio) — do not call my wife "the Big Sandy." She would probably not like that.
- 36D: Dentiform : tooth :: pyriform : _____ (pear) — why are teeth being compared to PEARs? I'm confused.
- 53A: Goodman of "Splash" and "Grease" (Dody) — was she "Beauty School Dropout" in "Grease?" Oh, no, she was the ditzier of the two secretaries. She also, apparently, sang this:
- 61D: One of the Cyclades (Ios) — see also NAXOS, maybe, some day.
- 81D: Year the mathematician Pierre de Fermat was born (MDCI) — :(
- 117A: Onetime boom maker (SST) — wanted CHARO. Wait, she said "Cuchi Cuchi"; why did I think she said or did something BOOM BOOM. Maybe it's her hip-shaking. Who cares — watch this. It's pure late 70s TV gold:
And now time for your Puzzle Tweets of the Week — chatter on Twitter about "crosswords"
- vegan_ryan Why does every one i know get to do crossword puzzles at work.
- Vixoen My pussy is doing the NY Times crossword puzzle. Bitch is smarter than I am.
- whereislena Do not deprive me of my Saturday crossword puzzle. I'm working on 3 hours of sleep and no morning coffee here. Don't. Push. Me.
- TylishaSierra Tryna keep my mind off of this certain subject.... I done did like 10 crossword puzzles...
- Barbara36 Imagine replacing common words in conversation with crossword clues - "look! there's a conical abode" (5 letters down)
- sarahrosehurt @benmcallister I cheat with Rex Parker when I can't get it. This one made no sense to me.
- benmcallister @sarahrosehurt Rex Parker is a nerd hero!
- ericaricardo Me: "29 Across... 'Endorse on a Web site, maybe...'" @danvdk: "It's 'ERATE'. You know it's 'ERATE'. Write it down. Write. it. down."
I got tweeted by actress Téa Leoni this week, only it turns out it was not Téa Leoni but a Téa Leoni impostor — her Twitter page was unverified and she had only 25 followers and when I went back to retrieve the tweet, I was told the account didn't exist any more. What kind of celebrity impostor tweets about a crossword blogger? Further, what kind of crossword fan (which you'd have to be to know who I am) decides "you know what? Today, I'm going to pretend to be Téa Leoni on Twitter. That'll add some spice to my Saturday." So weird ...
Anyway, if you are on Twitter, and see anything good and crossword-related, pass it on @rexparker.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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