TV alien's word / SUN 2-28-10 / Pact of '94 / Imitation is sincerest form of television quipster / 1990s war locale / Explosive event of 54
Sunday, February 28, 2010
Constructor: Yaakov Bendavid
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: "EASE-E DOES IT" — "EA" is changed to "EE" in familiar phrases, creating wackiness. You know the drill...
Word of the Day: CAMELEERS (87A: Desert drivers) —
n. A person who drives or rides a camel.
The most basic of theme concepts — change-a-letter (and/or -sound). Up there with add-a-letter and drop-a-letter in terms of commonness. I thought this concept worked OK today, with good clues (e.g. 55A: Summer next door to a nudist camp? => PEEK SEASON) making up for lack of consistent sizzle in the answers themselves. Full disclosure: I feel very happy about the publication of this puzzle because over two years ago, Yaakov Bendavid wrote me and asked me to test-solve one of his initial construction efforts. Here's how I responded to that puzzle in February 2008:
You are clearly going to be an accomplished constructor. I look forward to seeing more of your stuff. You'll get in the NYT eventually - I can tell. Everything but the theme felt very, very passable.
Then, just last month, I got the following email:
It's been almost two years since my first e-mail to you, where you gave a fledgling constructor some encouragement. Well, I just had my first two acceptances by the NY Times, both Sundays.
So thanks again for your encouraging words.
And so, as my wife's countrymen would say, I'm pretty chuffed, and am not feeling particularly objective today.
I confess that I have no idea who FRED ALLEN is (40A: "Imitation is the sincerest form of television" quipster). I know STEVE ALLEN. I know, uh, FRED BASSET. But FRED ALLEN, no. I like that his name is symmetrical to CAMELEERS (87A: Desert drivers), which is the other answer in the grid that made me go "Wha?!" CAMELEERS is a very cool word. Much better than (the, I'm guessing, racist) CAMEL JOCKEYS. The grid had a preponderance of "EE" words, even beyond the theme — SEEDILY and USERFEE (26A: Parkgoer's charge) and REELECT and FORESEE, etc. But it also had the stray "Z" and "X" and the "Q," which came in the clear winner of all today's theme answers: REEL MEN DON'T EAT QUICHE!
- 22A: Inappropriate on a honeymoon? (NOT FOR THE WEEK OF HEART) — I don't think I get this on a literal level. You're on your honeymoon for a week, and "heart" is some kind of metaphor for "love?"
- 36A: Item in a golf boutique? (AROMATIC TEE)
- 55A: Summer next door to the nudist camp? (PEEK SEASON)
- 71A: What a pursued perp might do? (FLEE COLLAR)
- 90A: The point when Fido's master starts walking? (A TIME TO HEEL)
- 103A: Bit of advice when packing anglers' lunches? (REEL MEN DON'T EAT QUICHE)
- 15D: Buck's candid conversation opener? (FRANKLY, MY DEER)
- 54D: Dating service in a northern German city? (HAMBURGER MEET)
- 13A: Pact of '94 (NAFTA) — gimme. I kind of like the abbreviated year signaling the acronym.
- 27A: Italian home of the Basilica of San Francesco (Assisi) — St. Francis of ASSISI. Piece of cake.
- 28A: Mark Harmon action drama ("N.C.I.S.") — neeeeever seen it. I'm slightly tempted to watch the LL Cool J spin-off set in L.A. I like LL, 'cause he's hard as hell, making [bleep!] screw face like Gargamel.
- 69A: "Falstaff" soprano (ALICE) — uh ... yeah, no idea. I know so many ALICEs, but this is not one of them. No sweat. Crosses made it quite gettable.
- 78A: Frequent gangster portrayer (BOGART) — this is true enough, though I know him best as detective Sam Spade.
- 85A: Explosive event of '54 (H-TEST) — the ubiquitous H/A/N-TEST. One of my least-liked bits of crosswordese.
- 45A: Sperm targets (OVA) — something about the phrasing of this clue ... didn't quite sit right with me. Something about the idea of aiming sperm ...
- 46A: Camera-ready page (REPRO) — I thought it would be a PROOF.
- 1D: TV alien's word (NANU) — is that a word? I know it only as part of NANU-NANU, which suggests that it's meaningless unless doubled, ergo not a "word." I know, I'm overthinking it.
- 7D: Zero-star restaurant review (UGH) — love it. Also a zero-star puzzle review, as any longtime reader will know.
- 16D: Onetime Toyota model (TERCEL) — it's not a very attractive name. It's a male hawk used in falconry, but somehow the majesty of the bird doesn't really carry over into the name/car. It's just a nondescript little sedan.
- 56D: Dental hygienists, at times (SCALERS) — I don't know what this is. Are they climbing my teeth? Taking the scales off of my teeth? I had SCRAPERS ... or would have, if it had fit.
- 61D: 1990s war locale (ZAIRE) — and now it's called the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
- 68D: Rags-to-riches author Horatio — and author of the awesomely named "RAGGED DICK"
- ElijahBrubaker there's a woman outside yelling for help but this crossword puzzle isn't going to do itself
- arthurra I asked someone the NYTimes crossword question "Capt Nemos final resting place?" he said I don't know I never read Moby Dick #FAIL
- lotyslove I wonder if I should tell my stepdad that I use google when I'm stumped on a crossword...nah, lmao! I'll continue to smash his ego...
- kfan Excuse me but me and my new crossword book edited by Will Shortz will be spending the remainder of the weekend in the newlywed suite.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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