Some Strauss compositions / 8-17-10 / 1959 top 10 hit for Ricky Nelson / Confit d'___ (potted goose) / Small cave, poetically
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Constructor: Michael Sharp
Hello Rexites, my old friends
I've come to talk with you again
Because a puzzle softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the crossword that was planted in my brain
It's the debut of Michael!!!
Wow, special day here. Andrea Carla Michaels blogging some guy named Michael Sharp's NY Times debut! Who wants to be me?! First, may I say “Congratulations”!!!!!! Nice, solid, four-entry, fun-filled theme … with a fifth “reveal” smack in the middle: S.O.S.!
I always know I like a puzzle when I have constructor-envy and find myself saying “I wish I had thought of that!” S.O.S. Seems so simple, yet lends itself to all sorts of fun expressions. When I saw(ed) SAWED-OFF SHOTGUN (17A: Weapon for Clyde Barrow) I thought, this is gonna be a fun theme … Is it kinds of guns? Weird past tenses like “Sawed”? A play on “Sod Off”?
What? What? I mean, coming up with colorful S.O.S. phrases is not as easy as it looks.… Let's see. OK, obviously, Save Our Souls, Son of Sam, … um, Sense of Smell, Sultan of Swat, … then there's Sink or Swim, … Six of Spades. OK. I'm done.
And yet, Michael Sharp has four terrific ones (well, at least three. I'm still on the fence about SLIP-ON SHOES (27A: Loafers, e.g.) … tho perfectly legitimate).
The other nice part of the theme phrases is that the O of S.O.S. could all easily have been “Of,” yet Mr. Sharp has four different Os. There are the coolly balanced OFF/ON plus OLD and only one OF. So attention was paid! What I love is how musical this puzzle is. First of all, SOUNDS OF SILENCE (53A: 1966 album that concludes with "I Am a Rock").
I had to actually get up off the couch to look at Simon and Garfunkel's album cover to verify it was indeed called “SOUNDS OF SILENCE” (n.b. to Caleb and Natan: before there were MP3s and before there were CDs, there were vinyl records with artsy covers) because I would have sworn it was called “The Sound (no s) of Silence.” Could I have been wrong for 35 years? Well, it wouldn't be the first time. But the deal is, it turns out that the song is called “The Sound of Silence” but the album is indeed named “Sounds of Silence.” Confusing.
Then there is, IT'S LATE (22A: 1959 top 10 hit for Ricky Nelson).
And what puzzle would be complete without the Beatles?
OK, technically, LET 'EM IN (33D: 1976 hit that begins "Someone's knockin' at the door") is Paul McCartney with Wings (n.b. to Caleb and Natan: before Paul was Sir Paul, and before Wings, there was this other band …).
Not to mention, SAME OLD SONG.
Actually SAME OLD SONG is not The Four Tops hit, which is actually called “It's the SAME OLD SONG,” thus the less pop culture-y clue 42A: Tired routine, colloquially. This is good bec it makes the theme tighter and more consistent, in that it's not that two out of four are songs, they are each significantly different. One's an object, one's descriptive of footwear, one's a colloquial phrase, and one's an album. Nice. The musicality of this puzzle is apparent in that it literally starts right off with 1A: Some Strauss compositions. But here's where it's weird. GALOPS with that one L is as weird to me as the double N in BANDANNA was last Wednesday. (Maybe the LLAMAS stole the other L?! But that one L right off the bat is a bit freaky … not as freaky as the word “Camelids” but freaky nonetheless) (60A: South American camelids).
So I had trouble getting out the gate, as the colorful 1D: Dogfaces did not immediately lead me to GI'S. (You'd have to be of a different era to immediately equate “Dogfaces = GI'S,” or perhaps more male than female). I mean, I got GI'S, but if I had one criticism of the puzzle, it would be that there was a touch of stodginess in some of the interesting fill: CUSS, STOUTLY, REALTY, GROT and APEAK.
Perhaps, CUSS (51D: Ornery sort) may in fact be a shout-out to Rex, and perhaps STOUTLY is as well.… I mean, isn't Rex Stout someone? A detective or something? …. Aha, just googled and he is the American Crime writer who created Nero Wolfe. How fitting is that?! So as a shout-out to Rex Stout, STOUTLY is way cool. If it's not, then it's just a bit … STOUTLY.
In other original fill, WRAITH (21A: Specter) would have been my Word of the Day, if I did that sort of thing. You gotta love 9D: SCHWINN (9D: Bicycle maker since 1895) … (tho if you change (25D: They might follow bad calls) BOOS to "boas," and (34A: Politico Paul) RON into "rag" … you'd get … SCHWING!!!!!).
And holla to HOGCALLS! Soooooooooooooooey! Damn, that's good! (38D: Noises from a county fair contest) Plus OO LA LA is also super fun, or shall I say 41A: How fa-a-ancy, but I admit I wanted an H in there.
For those less musically inclined and into darker subthemes, I also envisioned a little scenario where a melancholy street urchin IN RAGS is running thru Ho Chi MINH City or SADR City trying to avoid IEDs (22D: Like a street urchin, typically / 13D: Ho Chi ___ City / 37D: Iraq's ___ City / 45A: Weapon for Iraqi insurgents: Abbr.)
And of course I can't see the word FREI without thinking “ARBEIT MACH FREI”; so kudos for defining it as 18D: Independent, in Ingolstadt. Boy, that sure sidesteps a whole discussion. Sort of like a skipping rope rhyme. “I, my name is Inga, and I'm an Independent, and I'm from … Ingolstadt!” (Trip. Splat!)
Now, I'll let the constructor himself explain how the puzzle came about (and, perhaps, a pre-emptive defense of NMI, IED, RFD'S, and REMAP).
Look up (look up)
Is that the moon we see?
Can't be (can't be)
Looks like the sun to me
It's late (it's late)
It IS late, so I'll end with a little mash note:
Dear Michael/Rex,[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]
Congratulations again! Fresh and fun, definitely not the SAME OLD SONG
(with a different meaning since you've been gone) … Thank you for trusting me to blog the blogger … but I'll let you take it from here.
With 50D: XOXO!,
[Note from RP: Thanks, Andrea. Figured this one would be a Wednesday, but Will thought otherwise. Definitely some rough stuff all around the HOGCALLS area, mainly bec. I refused to give it up. Am surprised to hear "SAME OLD SONG" is unfamiliar to anyone. I made double/triple sure it was in common usage, in headlines of NYT articles, etc. Peter Gordon just sent me a message with no content except a link to his 1994 "SOS"-themed puzzle, which I had no idea existed (that's what I get for relying exclusively on the cruciverb database for my info about recent puzzle history, I guess). And his was a Sunday! Thankfully, he didn't have SAWED-OFF SHOTGUN, so at least I can still cling to that as an original contribution to puzzleworld. Oh, also, I worked really hard to make sure that none of the "O" words in the "S.O.S." phrases were repeated. You can do "OF" phrases all day long...
OK, I don't want to say too much more. There's an interview with me over at "Wordplay," where Jim Horne does a wicked parody of my reviewing style. Check it out here.
Thanks for the good (and bad) feedback everyone.~RP
P.S. Thanks to those of you who have (already!) sent me pictures of yourselves solving or pictures of your completed grid. Really entertaining. Keep 'em coming!