Olympic discus great Al / SUN 4-18-10 / Rube of bygone funnies / Retro upholstery material / GOP elephant originator / Hirsute Himalayan
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Constructor: Randolph Ross
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "WHATS-ITS" — theme answers are phrases ending in "IT"; clues are the things that "IT" might stand for ...
Word of the Day: Lin PIAO (30D: Former Chinese Communist military leader Lin ___) —
Lin Biao (Chinese: 林彪; pinyin: Lín Biāo; Wade-Giles: Lin Piao), born as Lin Yurong (Chinese: 林育蓉; December 5, 1907– ?September 13, 1971) was a Chinese Communist military leader who was instrumental in the communist victory in the Chinese Civil War, especially in Northeastern China, and was the General who led the People's Liberation Army into Beijing in 1949. He abstained from becoming a major player in politics until he rose to prominence during the Cultural Revolution, climbing as high as second-in-charge and Mao Zedong's designated and constitutional successor and comrade-in-arms. // He died in a 'plane crash' in September 1971 in Mongolia after what appeared to be a failed coup to oust Mao. After his death, he was officially condemned as a traitor, and is still recognized as one of the two "major Counter-revolutionary parties" during the Cultural Revolution– the other being Jiang Qing– for which he is assigned a large portion of blame. His military ability, however, is generally commended. Lin was considered by many to be one of the best commanders of the PLA, with only Su Yu and Liu Bocheng next to him. (wikipedia) (those scare quotes around "plane crash" are fantastic ... I'm still laughing)
This is a curious theme. All the "IT" phrases seem like self-standing phrases, except BITE IT. Is that supposed to be an insult, like BITE ME? Or is it "BITE IT" as in [The dust], which is how I might have clued it ... if I really understood the cluing rationale ... which I don't. Sometimes the "IT" phrase (that is, the answer as it reads, literally, in the grid) seems designed to go with the "IT" represented by the clue, and other times, not so much. For instance, when you "SLEEP ON IT," the "IT" you sleep on is not [A pillow]. It's a big decision of some sort. But when you "BROWN BAG IT," the "IT" you brown bag *is* [Lunch]. With the phrase ROLLING IN IT, "IT" is not [The aisles]. It's money. Yet with COME TO THINK OF IT, "IT" *is* [An idea]. So while you can always swap out the clue for "IT," the "IT" in the clue is not necessarily the one implied by the "IT" phrase in the grid. I swear that last sentence makes sense.
Despite some theme confusion on my part, I still found the puzzle at least mildly entertaining. All the "IT"s threatened to make the solve easy, but the clues and some of the fill drove the difficulty back to about where it's supposed to be — Wed/Thu level. The sheer number of theme answers is admirable, and TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT is especially nice, coming as it does at the very bottom (end) of the puzzle (well, there are two short Acrosses that follow it, but I'm not counting them). It's like in a fireworks show where they unload the greatest number of rockets right at the end. Nice double whammy to finish things off. One other odd thing about the theme answers: the Acrosses are clustered at the very top and very bottom, while the Downs are confined almost exclusively (with two exceptions) to the middle. Never seen theme answers laid out in such a fashion. Unsual. Interesting.
- 1A: *Your tongue (BITE IT)
- 14A: *Uncle (SAY IT)
- 23A: *An idea (COME TO THINK OF IT)
- 25A: *The picture (GET IT)
- 111A: *Crow (EAT IT)
- 112A: *A message (TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT)
- 119A: *The light (SEE IT)
- 122A: *Face (LOSE IT)
- 8D: *The point (STICK TO IT)
- 32D: *A deck of cards (DEAL WITH IT)
- 35D: *The aisles (ROLLING IN IT)
- 40D: *Sure loser (DON'T BET ON IT)
- 43D: *A pillow (SLEEP ON IT)
- 46D: *An abacus (COUNT ON IT)
- 51D: *Lunch (BROWN BAG IT)
- 80D: *Snuff (NOT UP TO IT)
- 27A: 1986 parody of a Sylvester Stallone film series ("ROCKY VI") — Wow, not sure how I missed this. I wanted RAMBO-something. RAMBONI? You know there is an *actual* "ROCKY VI" now, right? Wait ... is *this* the 1986 parody? God I hope not, because that would take marginal / obscure to a whole new level
- 28A: First name among the Axis powers (BENITO) — seems like a name I should see in xwords a lot more than I do. Lots of vowels, "O"-ending, alternating consonants and vowels...
- 56A: Story accompanier (ART) — I don't get it. Like ... illustrations?
- 59A: Tool for making eyelets (STILETTO) — I know this word only as a modifier for heels. For punching tools, I generally stick with AWLS.
- 61A: Old-fashioned clothes presser (FLAT IRON) — took me a while. Didn't know if the "presser" would be an implement or a person. I like how WROUGHT is right underneath this answer (65A: Created), creating a step-ladder version of WROUGHT IRON!
- 79A: Rube of bygone funnies (ABNER) — wanted GOLDBERG.
- 80A: Common cricket score (NIL) — Hmm. Wife had SIX. I had TIE.
- 89A: Weapon carried in a speakeasy (GAT) — Here's another GAT for you:
- 93A: Fighter with a shuffle (ALI) — I didn't know it was called the ALI shuffle. It sure is fun to watch.
- 94A: Math operations that yield remainders (MODULOS) — rough for me. Good thing I knew OREL was a real place (96D: City SSW of Moscow), or I might have ended up with MODULES / EREL.
- 106A: Rare announcement after balloting ("IT'S A TIE") — every time I look at this answer, it looks like "IT'S SATIE!"
- 15D: Present-day site of the ancient port city Eudaemon (ADEN) — That's what you call gussyin' up your crosswordese.
- 16D: Hirsute Himalayan (YETI) — What if the YETI is actually completely bald and *that* is why no one has found it yet?
- 42D: ___ Southwest Grill (restaurant chain) (MOE'S) — Ha ha. We have one of these here — it opened about five or so years ago — and I've never seen or heard of the chain before, so I don't think I knew it *was* a chain; certainly not a puzzle-worthy chain. Wow.
- 55D: Wharf workers' org. (ILA) — I confuse ILA and ILO (both learned from crosswords). They are the International Longshoreman's Association and the International Labour Organization, respectively. The latter won a Nobel Peace Prize. The former ... didn't.
- 69D: Theater mogul Marcus (LOEW) — theater chain eponym.
- 74D: 2010 Denzel Washington title role (ELI) — move over Manning, there's a new ELI in town.
- 85D: G.O.P. elephant originator (NAST) — another name I learned from xwords. Famous political cartoonist. Still remember the clue that taught me the name: [Tweed twitter Thomas]
- 95D: Scots with lots (LAIRDS) — thought the "lots" were land, but I think here the "lots" just implies "lots of stuff," i.e. wealth.
- @matwillmott Just peed at a urinal next to Will Shortz. No joke.
- @laurendordal If this crossword was a man, I'd date him.
- @johnreppion Take that word based puzzles! @leahmoore and I (and Lewis Carroll) help a man solve the NY Times crossword http://tinyurl.com/yjjhur6
- @songinthelight Who puts a crossword in a paper without clues? The Daily Colligean, that's who :(
- @andycairns1 Fantastic that my Dad whilst filling in a crossword puzzle said "Weasel like mammal? That'll be Kylie Minogue."
- @nicegirlswallow My day, in a nutshell: wake & bake, Yoga, tea, SciFi re-runs, pacing, brown rice & yucca, crossword, masturbation, Twitter & back to SciFi.
- @bookgasm I don't even want to know the answer to this New York Times crossword clue: "Eggy quaff."
- @KristinBeck Dad says "some things are sacred." Sadly, he means his crossword puzzle and I can't touch it.
- @ruthreichl Amazing morning. Outside. Warm sun. Birds singing. Ducks on pond, clattering. Steakbone, coffee, crossword puzzle. Spring!
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]