Blond Monkee / SUN 3-21-10 / S-s-s-subject of 1918 hit song / Piscivorous flier / Funnywoman Sedaris / Gold-certified debut album Debbie Harry
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Constructor: Adam Fromm
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "Them's the Breaks" — two-word phrases where the second word starts with "S" are reimagined as two-word phrases where the first letter *ends* with that same "S" — that is, the "S" transfers from the beginning of the second to the end of the first word
Word of the Day: "KOOKOO" (55D: Gold-certified debut album of Debbie Harry) —
Koo Koo is the title of the debut solo album by Debbie Harry, released in August 1981 while Harry was still a member of the group Blondie. // Produced by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of the 70's disco group Chic, it reached #6 in the UK and stayed in the charts for seven weeks, being certified "Silver" by the BPI. The album reached #28 in the US. // For the promotion of Koo Koo there were plans by Harry's record company, Chrysalis Records, to display large posters of the album cover created by Swiss artist H.R. Giger in various stations of the London Underground, but officials deemed the image of Harry's face with metal skewers going through her head too disturbing. In Japan the "Backfired" single was issued with an entirely different picture sleeve, showing a glamorous and most importantly non-provocative Debbie Harry looking more like her established Blondie persona.
Felt easy enough, but I kept getting held up, or stalled, over and over, for some good, but mostly bad, reasons. Actually, I'm somewhat proud of not coming up with, say, GROIN right away (52D: Common place for a pull). That's a word I'd be happy never to hear again my life. Like UVULA or CANTAB or ALIENEE. But not picking up YOPLAIT (87A: International food company based on Paris) or WONKY (68D: Knowledgeable on arcane details of a subject) for a good while just made me feel stupid. Both seem obvious in retrospect. In the end, my time was slightly above normal, with the WOOLSEY / OCTILE section in the east being about the last thing to fall. Did I enjoy it? I guess so. The theme is something I'm nearly certain I've seen before — an old wordplay trick. Nothing flashy. But adequate. Fine. My favorite part of the grid may be the part that involved two names I just didn't know — the KOOKOOTORK section near the grid's center. That's a great confluence of names, as together they suggest some exotic out-of-the-way place where one might get lost and never be heard from again. Someplace in Australia, maybe. Or Wisconsin. At any rate, I got to learn about a very minor Debbie Harry album. I also learned that TORK is a last name (82A: The blond Monkee). I was thinking it was a first. Like MORK. I really wish it were a first name. I might name the next thing I'm charged with naming "TORK." Peter TORK is almost exactly one year younger than my dad.
Had my only Real trouble getting into the E and NE. My first pass at the NE was Fail, except for TIRE IRON (25A: Lever in a trunk) and SEN and API-. Had the APE but couldn't come up with the HOUSE (22A: Zoo home for gibbons). Never heard of ASO (17D: Japanese volcano) (though I know a little bit about MT. APO and briefly considered it). Abandoned ship and didn't come back til the very end, when I tried to approach from just underneath but was blocked by Three Stubborn Acrosses:
- 56A: Not easily stirred (STOLID) — had the "STO-" and wanted only "STOIC..." "STOICAL..." Gah!
- 64A: Bulwark (SHIELD) — I think of a "bulwark" as something that supports or buttresses rather than SHIELDs.
- 68A: James who was C.I.A. director under Clinton (WOOLSEY) — the weird thing here was that his name popped into my head right away (with help from pre-existing "WOO-"). But I was not sure how I "knew" him, so was reluctant to put him in.
Once I acceded to WOOLSEY, things started to come together. Worked my way back up in the NE. I think the "S" in ASO might have been my last letter. Staying up there for a second, I don't really like the phrasing on 13D: Brainiac's put-down (NERD). Sounds like you're asking for a put-down that a "brainiac" would utter, not be the object of. Boo to trick cluing. Boo also to horrible trick at 114D: Only man to win both a Nobel Prize and an Oscar (SHAW). You know that everyone's going to want to GORE here, so this is an obvious intentional trap. Irksome. For the record, though GORE accepted the Oscar for "An Inconvenient Truth" (if I remember correctly — and thanks to youtube, I don't have to rely on my memory alone), he was not, technically, the recipient.
- 23A: Goes from walk to trot and trot to gallop? (DOUBLES PACES)
- 38A: Teaches a ceramics class? (TRAINS POTTERS)
- 69A: Monitors food orders to go? (POLICES TAKE-OUTS)
- 100A: Illuminates a Halloween display? (LIGHTS WITCHES) — Salem angle a little too gruesome?
- 122A: Puts hats on display? (SHOWS TOPPERS)
- 16D: Prepares to play Scrabble? (TURNS TILES)
- 38D: Closely follows secret banking information? (TAILS PINS)
- 57D: Makes drugs easier to swallow? (OILS PILLS)
- 74D: Manages to grab some bullfight attire? (LANDS CAPES)
- 31A: S-s-s-subject of a 1918 hit song ("KATY") — The "S"s were making me want SADY. Also, I was confusing "KATY" with the "DAISY" in this song:
- 58A: Carrier whose name means "skyward" (EL AL) — another in a long list of EL AL clues.
- 59A: Frist's successor as Senate majority leader (REID) — *Current* majority leader, though who knows for how long.
- 72A: Piscivorous flier (PELICAN) — just mean "fish-eating." Word fits A HEAP of birds.
- 97A: "The Five Orange Pips" sleuth (HOLMES) — turns out POIROT fits here.
- 108A: Group defeated in '65 (CSA) — had "-SA" and thought "we lost something in '65? But ... Vietnam didn't officially end for another decade."
- 119A: Ingredient in furniture polishes (JAPAN WAX) — so the WAX is an ingredient but not the "polish" itself?
- 24D: "The Open Window" writer (SAKI) — dude, give it a rest. You're about as welcome as OLAN at this point. Speaking of my elusive darling, I think I've found OLAN's twin sister — AYLA (45D: "The Clan of the Cave Bear" heroine). Yet another literary woman with a stupid four-letter name I couldn't remember if whiskey depended on it.
- 40A: Funnywoman Sedaris (AMY) — love her! Second-favorite "AMY," right after my sister. Anyone willing to make herself *this* unappealing for comedy has my undying respect. From "Strangers with Candy":
- 61D: Nickname for Bjorn Borg (ICEMAN) — I must have heard this before, because it was my first and only guess, but I had no idea why I "knew" it. Like the members of ABBA, Borg is a SWEDE.
- 62D: Big production company in 1950s-'60s TV (DESILU) — weirdly I wanted DEL ... what was the name of that TV station that's now defunct. De-something. DELMAR. DE... aha, DUMONT! That's what I wanted. That dissolved in '56.
- 66D: Hair care brand since 1931 (CLAIROL) — vintage ad ... somewhere ... yes, this'll do:
- 95D: Michael Jackson film, with "The" ("WIZ") — this soundtrack was a staple of my youth. It's pretty damned good, actually.
- 99D: Mexican state south of Veracruz (OAXACA) — only one way I guessed this with no crosses: TAZA Chocolate (Somerville, MA). They make chocolate using traditional Oaxacan methods, which involves, among other things, stone-grinding the beans. It's some of the most delicious stuff I've ever tasted ever ever. Ever. Go here and see. (Full disclosure: Taza Chocolate follows me on Twitter and this is a shameless attempt to get them to send me free chocolate, which only proves the sincerity of my endorsement — I love the stuff enough to be this shameless)
- 108D: Skeevy sort (CREEP) — Also Radiohead's first big hit.
And now your Tweets of the Week — puzzle chatter from the Twitterverse...
- @lights Maybe it's just me, but no matter what my night was like, I always do a crossword or two before I fall asleep.
- @dawndoth I have no idea what to do at work so I'm going to drink my coffee, do my crossword & stay out of the way until I can help.. but get paid.
- @plannerben Dragged the xword to NJ for dismemberment #njparkinglot
- @sveta85 Bitch is doin crossword puzzles while driving I REPEAT bitch is doin crossword puzzles and almost crashed into me...UGH!!
- @VssrSuprnatural There is a woman at the airport with Crazy Eyes (also I think my mom sends will shortz hate mail)
- @djscratch Turn your cell & computer off once a week & stimulate your brain by doing crossword puzzles. It sharpens your mind.
- @Superfluously I haven't flipped through all the pages yet, but I'm starting to think this Hustler doesn't have a crossword.
- @BrianneH Not finishing a people mag crossword is an all time low. I've let myself down. #shamespiralbeginsnow
- @TheFagCasanova A woman just came over to borrow a lighter, noticed that I'd scrawled 'Hairy Cock Balls' over my crossword, shook her head and walked away.
- @jamesmthomson can't go back to sleep. Adrenalin going from falling out of bed-which scared cat & wife-due to strange dream about a crossword & my mom.
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]