1910s-'20s flivver — MONDAY, Oct. 12 2009 — Broadway songwriter Jule / Title bear of 1960s TV / Lenten treat
Monday, October 12, 2009
Constructor: Richard Chisholm
Relative difficulty: Challenging (for a Monday)
THEME: another (not-so-great) vowel shift — from BAN to BUN through all the vowels
Word of the Day: Flivver (44A: 1910s-'20s flivver => MODEL T) — n. Slang
An automobile, especially one that is small, inexpensive, and old.
Wow, was I on the wrong end of a generation divide today. Yipes. I have never seen so many Monday answers I flat-out didn't know. Four. At least four that were not just tough to get, but utter mysteries to me (though I'm nearly certain all of them have been in some puzzle I've done, somewhere, before). But there was other stuff that made the puzzle seem not just tough, but weak. First, the theme itself, which is about as tired a concept as there is in Puzzle Land. "C'EST SI BON" is weak as an answer, esp. as clued (i.e. completely unimaginatively, as a literal translation). Why not this?
Probably because it would have made the puzzle even harder than it already was (for a Monday), but it's already skewing hard (for people born after WWII), why not at least put a good clue on the answer. IS INTO and IS OUT? Boo. OTT and ORR? Double boo. D'OR? Blecch. ARE SO? I had AREN'T in that slot (20A: "You _____ wrong!"), which makes only slightly less sense to me than the real answer. AWW is, as one of my Twitter followers exclaimed, "egregious" (5D: Exclamation before "How cute!"). Esp. ugly right next to "random Roman numeral" (LII).
But as I've said, the ugliness of the puzzle wasn't a big obstacle to solving. It was the TAFT-era sensibility of the puzzle that left me on the outside looking in."Flivver" is known only to very old people, car experts, and crossword experts whose memories are better than mine. Jeez louise. Other stuff that eluded me: GALBA (27D: Emperor after Nero)? No idea. STYNE (29D: Broadway songwriter Jule)? Uh uh. Felt slightly, vaguely familiar, but not familiar enough. I thought I'd never hear of "LILI Marlene" (34A: "_____ Marlene" (W.W. II song)), but a. I think it's been in a puzzle somewhere before, and b. when I complained about the answer to my wife, she said "Oh I knew that. You know that. I know you know it because it's in that Leonard Cohen song ... 'Famous Blue Raincoat.'" Me: "He's saying 'Lili Marlene?!' I never knew what he was saying." I didn't tell her that in my head I was thinking "... you mean he's not singing 'Lillum or Lane?' I just thought Lillum and Lane were two guys he knew." Every single one of the answers I didn't know is totally valid. I just wouldn't expect to see any of them (let alone FOUR of them) on a Monday. So it took me 4+ minutes to solve. I'll survive.
- 18A: Likely result of pollution along a beach (swimming ban) — right away, not the zippiest-feeling theme answer. Why is this "likely?" I'm guessing in most of the world it is highly unlikely.
- 23A: Title bear of 1960s TV (Gentle BEN) — about as close to my sweet spot as any answer got today, and it barely caught the corner.
- 41A: Receptacle for some donations (used clothing BIN) — I'm not fully convinced this is a thing.
- 54A: "It's so good," in Paris ("C'est si bon")
- 62A: Lenten treat (hot cross BUN)
- 15A: Sting, in baby talk (owie) — AWW, an OWIE. Why "sting?" Come on, pick a less ambiguous word. Me: "Why would a baby be talking about a sting (operation)?"
- 40D: "Aha!" ("I get it!") — mocking me.
- 58D: Citi Field player, for short (NY Met) — ugh. Just ugh. No no no. Google it (in quotation marks). Only the opera gets referred to this way.
I have to stop now. But one last thing: thanks to everyone who wrote and asked about the stray basset hound and Jack Russell terrier that we took in for a night last week. After a couple of days, the following notice appeared in the paper:
We called all relevant parties last night and got no reply, but it looks nearly certain that the outcome here is going to be perfect: dogs back with original owners. And now my wife (whose birthday is Wednesday) wants a Jack Russell puppy. She thought she hated small dogs. Turns out that's the opposite of true.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]