FRIDAY, Oct. 20, 2006 - Ed Early

Friday, October 20, 2006

Solving time: 31:10
THEME: none

NOTE: Blogger is f'd up today for some reason, so blame all errors and any other blog-related unpleasantness on them, please.

Not a lot of time today - Fridays are always the tightest, time-wise, what with getting daughter to school and then prepping for afternoon classes. So I get up super early and try to do the puzzle while the house is in morning ablution cacophany - not the most auspicious solving circumstances (see Solving time, above). Today, I'm dashing off this puzzle commentary and then choking down some Macbeth (not the best way to take Macbeth, actually, but my options are limited at this point). Before I get started, I want to share a couple of photos today that have little to do with puzzles - though I'm sure we could clue them in various ways if we got creative. First, my sister had an auto accident, of sorts. She is totally fine, thank goodness. The same can not be said, unfortunately, of the other party in the accident (avoid your eyes if you are squeamish, or really really really love ducks):If this photo is an answer, then the question is: "What makes 'a slow wheeze, like a bagpipe,' when you remove it from your car's front grill?"

The next photo is more word-related, and comes from a photo in The Listener (NZ), a magazine my wife receives in order to stay Kiwi-connected. It's from an article about the tenth anniversary of MMP, an abbreviation that is Nowhere explained in the article. Had to look it up: "MMP is short for "Mixed Member Proportional" and is the voting system used to elect the 120 Members of Parliament for New Zealand." So now you know. Anyway, apparently MMP is ten years old, and the article assesses its success. The photo shows a proud Kiwi displaying one of those self-righteous stickers you get for voting, but ... well, as you can see, I'm not sure she has a reason to be proud (apologies for the scan - the picture stretches across the fold in the magazine):ThinkIVotedOK, THIS is why punctuation matters, Kiwis! A simple period (or full-stop, for our Queen-loving friends), would have helped you proclaim your smug pride at having pulled a lever at your local public library (or however you do it ... down there). Without the period, you seem to be proudly proclaiming your senility and/or drug-addledness. Did you vote or Didn't You!?

9 is my favorite number - it's the number of my bin at the comic book store where they hold all my comics for me (crickets chirping ... "Nerd!"). It's just a beautiful number. EXCEPT when I'm staring at nine 15-letter answers. Today's puzzle features an improbable 3 sets of 3 15-letter answers stacked one atop the other. As I've said before, I'm dubious about the puzzle pay-off for such Herculean feats of grid-making. The answers that end up fitting in such a scheme are often lifeless and leaden. But today, actually, I only have problems with a couple of the nine long answers, so a reserved "bravo" for Mr. Early.

Is this a puzzle which I see before me!?

1A: Suit protector? (golden parachute)

I thought a "golden parachute" was a sweet, fat pension. What does "suit" mean here? Oh, just got it. "Suit," meaning "guy in a suit." It's metonymic! Like "the Crown" means the king or queen. Isn't it Fascinating watching my brain work in real time?

16A: 2003 Pancho Villa portrayer (Antonio Banderas)

Nearly every artistic and personal decision he has made since 1992's El Mariachi has been a bad one, but he has amazing hair, so I put him in here just so we could all gaze upon its glory. Here, he is casting a Latin American love spell, which you are helpless to resist.

22A: Large number (scad)

Really? Just one scad. Do scads Ever come in single units? Answer: rarely if ever. If I had time I would look for OED quotations, which would surely validate my skepticism. Since I am rushed (and lazy), I will leave you with a picture of the only singular scad I care to recognize.

38A: Classic piano tune first recorded in 1921 ("Kitten on the Keys")

"Klassic" is more like it. I've never heard of it, and this represents the kinds of obscurities that will wheedle their ways into puzzles when 15-letter answers are mandated. Kittens on piano keys are indeed adorable ... to look at.

48A: Goldfish in "Pinocchio" (Cleo)

Now is the time in the puzzle when I totally guess and somehow get the answer right. Had the C and the O, but the middle letters intersected with answers I did not know (49D: River through Yakutsk (Lena) - O, that Yakutsk - and 50D: St. Louis bridge designer (Eads) ). The art of guessing is crucial. Today, unlike many other days, the guess paid off.

59A: Time in Times Square (Eastern Standard)

No, no, no. The time in Times Square as of this very second is EASTERN DAYLIGHT (which ends in another nine days or so). "Christmas time in Times Square" would have worked beautifully.

3D: Blake on "M*A*S*H" (Lt. Col.)

The first answer I entered ... wrongly. I had HENRY, which is perfectly correct. But I knew that 21A: French shaker contents was likely SEL, and certainly couldn't end in Y, so I had to reevaluate the situation. I guess that M*A*S*H, in that it is an acronym, technically counts as a clue that the answer is itself an abbreviation. I just want credit for getting HENRY, which I think is a much harder answer to come by than LT. COL.

9D: Natural butters (rams)

I really like this answer. I'm not sure what "natural" is doing there, but it makes for a nicely deceptive clue, prompting the solver go searching for some kind of OLIO or other fatty spread. I have nothing clever or snarky to say. Just admiring this pretty little clue / answer set. I like when words are used in unexpected ways. See also 42A: Really fancy (covet).

33D: Team with a bridge in its logo (Mets)

Is this coincidence, or was this puzzle released today in anticipation of a Mets' Game 7 victory over the Cardinals in the NLCS? Sadly, the Mets did not win. I wanted the Mets. I wanted the Tigers to get a chance to beat the Mets. They were the best team in the NL, by far, all season, and it is disappointing for any baseball fan (outside St. Louis) that the lowly Cardinals, winners of only 83 regular season games (!?!?!), should be in the World Series. St. Louis has a great history, but this year they were lackluster. Now if Detroit wins ... well I'll still be excited, but if they lose, it'll just be depressing. The Mets are just a more talented team than the Cardinals, and a hell of a lot more fun to watch.

35D: Novelist Packer (Ann)

Don't know who this is, but I can tell you what the answer to this clue should have been: VIN. Marijane Meaker is now more famous as a children's and young adult fiction writer, but back in the golden age of the paperback original novel (1950s), she turned out a bunch of thrillers under the name Vin Packer. She also wrote lesbian fiction (and non-fiction) under the name Ann Aldrich. She should be much better known than she is. Here are a couple of her Vin Packer novels (with the dynamic, gorgeous cover art that I love so much):GM363.UK.Pack.ComeDestGMs1074.McG.Pack.DamnAB
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Unknown 4:20 AM  

Rex -

I really enjoy your blog. Makes me feel that I'm not alone solving these. I wait until the puzzle shows up in the local (Seattle) paper, so I'm always six weeks behind. I apologize for my tardiness.

I liked the long answers in this one, too. A couple non-long ones I thought were well done were "casino" for "Ones associated with wheels and deals" and "jibes" for "Is in harmony" Good to see a perfectly cromulent J-word in there. And, I must confess, 24D, "Where you may see a bust", I had -R-SHO-. My first thought, sent directly from my ten-year-old self, was BRASHOP. I withstood my juvenile leanings, but barely.

I noticed the comment about comics in this commentary, and saw that you may have a comics-only blog coming soon. May I ask what ends up in box number 9, or what delights you most to fish out of box number 9? Here's one I'm liking lately: Matt Fraction's Casanova.

Thanks again for the blog


Rex Parker 8:51 AM  

It's cool to be tardy - all comments are forwarded to me via email, so I see them no matter when they're posted- plus, like you Much of the country is 6 weeks behind.

I did not like Casanova, though I read only the first issue. I am trying not to be seduced by Any new comix unless they are Super-hot. I spend too much $$$ as it is.

Thanks for reading,

PS BRASHOP ... now *that*'s a perfectly cromulent word!

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