Folded like fan / SUN 3-7-10 / Food whose name means lumps / Portrayer Cuthbert J Twillie Egbert Souse Flower Belle Lee Peaches O'Day / Harry's chum
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Constructor: Tony Orbach and Patrick Blindauer
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: "COME TO ORDER" — Familiar phrases have one word (circled) anagrammed such that the anagrammed letters come out in alphabetical order, a feature (allegedly) signaled by the answer A TO Z (120D: The works ... or how each set of circled letters in this puzzle is arranged)
Word of the Day: PLICATE (22A: Folded like a fan) —
Arranged in folds like those of a fan; pleated.
[Latin plicātus, past participle of plicāre, to fold.]
I have never heard the expression "A TO Z" used to refer to alphabetization. It's a metaphor for a gamut — a full range, the whole enchilada, etc. Couldn't find "A"s or "Z"s that helped me make sense of the anagrams (one circled "A," no circled "Z"s). Couldn't find any "A" or "Z" patterns. Were first letters moved to end? Were "A"s changed to "Z"s? No. I had no idea what I was supposed to be seeing. Finally had to go look up what the theme was supposed to be. Really frustrating and disappointing. I don't see what's interesting about 4- and 5-letter anagrams having their letters be alphabetical. Might have seemed interesting while constructing, but it just gets a big shrug from me. The "A TO Z" clue really killed my love for this one. Well, not "killed." I was actually enjoying myself a bit while I was solving, particularly because Patrick and Tony (and Will, I assume) provided really crafty and tougher-than-average clues, and the theme answers were pretty cute.
I handled the puzzle in something like average time, but those big corners in the NE and SW crushed me a bit. Big, open, and hard to get into. Also, in the NE, full of (or surrounded by) crap I just didn't know. Totally blanked on stupid crosswordesey OLAN (14D: "The Good Earth" heroine), who would have helped a lot. Never Ever heard of PLICATE (!?). And EPINAL (40A: French city on the Moselle River) ... well, clearly I'd heard it somewhere before, but yikes almighty it is Fantastically unimportant as French places go. So ... not a fan of having to resort to arcana like PLICATE and crosswordesey minor French places in order to make the grid work. SW was far less ugly, and a little less tough, but still put up a fight, mainly because I couldn't see the "OPRY" part of OPRYMANIA and therefore couldn't see SYSTOLIC (91D: Having a rhythmically recurrent contraction) and then there was SAMPAN (104A: Chinese craft), or rather -MPAN, which my brain wanted to be TAMPAN (I know, I know) etc. LOUIS VI (127A: French king called "the Fat")? Not among my top three LOUIS (those would be LOUIS XIV, LOUIS XVI, and LOUIS Armstrong). But I worked it out.
- 26A: Slogan encouraging binge drinking? (HOPS TIL YOU DROP) — from "shop til you drop"
- 42A: What spectators high up in Ashe Stadium see? (TENNIS BELOW) — from "tennis elbow"
- 45A: Tutorial on becoming a resident manager? (SUPER DEMO) — from "Superdome"
- 69A: Alex Trebek? (THE HINT MAN) — from "The Thin Man"; I want to like this one, but I just can't shake the fact that he provides ANSWERS. He's the ANSWER MAN (which is a real phrase).
- 73A: Eco-friendly computers from Taiwan? (GREEN ACERS) — from "Green Acres"
- 98A: Nashville neurosis? (OPRY MANIA) — from "pyromania"
- 101A: Teakettle's sound? (FLOW WHISTLE) — from "wolf whistle"; FLOW WHISTLE? Really? 'Cause of the "flow" of steam? I can think of some great non-breakfast-test-passing clues for this one.
- 117A: Clueless emcee? (A HOST IN THE DARK) — from "a shot in the dark"
- 1A: Quarter deck? (HEARTS) — Great clue. Tried SPADES first.
- 60A: Harry's chum at Hogwarts (RON) — "Chum"? You don't see that word much these days. Quaint.
- 67A: Pickup line locale? (DEPOT) — Needed every cross. Pretty good clue. I was imagining some kind of truck show.
- 105A: Mount ___ (highest point on Baffin Island) (ODIN) — "Alrighty then, if you'll just tell me where Baffin Island is, I'll see what I can find out." Got this all from crosses. Baffin Island is the largest island in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.
- 7D: Swiss district known for its cheese (GRUYÈRE) — good stuff. Got this off the "-ER-" — interesting that this crosses ERE I (38A: "... saw Elba"). "Able was I ERE I ate GRUYÈRE" = motto of LOUIS VI).
- 16D: Portrayer of Cuthbert J. Twillie and Egbert Sousé (W.C. FIELDS) — needed crosses. Got MAE WEST (99D: Portrayer of Flower Belle Lee and Peaches O'Day) much more easily.
- 37D: Food whose name means "lumps" (GNOCCHI) — Mmmm, lumps. Good stuff.
- 41D: Franco of "Camelot" (NERO) —Ugh. The only "Franco" actor I know is James. For NERO, give me the emperor who married his sister any day.
- 66D: Bratkowski in the Packers Hall of Fame (ZEKE) — no idea.
- 70D: Egyptian for "be at peace" (HOTEP) — noooo idea, even with HOTE- in place. "That's what HOTEL means? Well that's just weird."
- 89A: Twin vampire in "The Twilight Saga" (ALEC) — What is "The Twilight Saga?" (all in quotation marks). I know what "Twilight" is. And "New Moon." Etc. But this thing you speak of that has "The Twilight Saga" as a title such that you'd put it inside quotation marks? New to me. [Twin vampire in the "Twilight" saga] seems way more accurate. Oh, I see that "The Twilight Saga" is somehow the official name of the film series, though only the sequels (e.g. "New Moon," etc.) get the pre-colonic "The Twilight Saga" in their titles. The movie "Twilight" is just called "Twilight." Stupid, stupid, confusing. My sister loves the "Twilight" books. I read the first and decided that was enough. Also, that kid who plays Edward (whom I saw on "The Daily Show" and who seems like a nice enough guy) ... someone should tell him he looks like a parody of a parody of some guy who thinks he's doing a James Dean impression but is actually doing a kind of neutered homeless young Brando. Just blander. Blando. Whatever. It's working for him, clearly.
- @CynthiaNowak My crossword puzzle dubbed the macarena the dance craze of the 90s. Barf.
- @michelehumes Lazy weekend activity--the Grits & Gravy crossword I wrote for the Southern Foodways Alliance: http://bit.ly/br0ywv
- @bumrockss When the NYT xword has clues like today: "2003 hiphop hit by Fabolous" I feel like I'm really smart.
- @hwentworth I'm pretty sure all Eton is famous for is being next to 'Charlie Chaplin's Wife' in every crossword puzzle ever
- @YaleRumpus "Mike's Hard Lemonade, etc" is a clue for today's LA Times crossword. For some reason the answer is not "bitch beer."
- @KJatIU My favorites pics from yesterday! Rex Parker in the finals of the triple jump: http://tweetphoto.com/12937383
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]