MONDAY, Oct. 16, 2006 - Paula Gamache

Monday, October 16, 2006

Solving time: 5:40

THEME: "BOARD" (answer to 29D: Word that can follow the first words of 20-, 29-, 43- and 51-Across and 4-, 9-, 37- and 39-Down)

This (29D) must be the ungainliest clue ever written in the history of crosswords. Themes should Pop Out at you. If you really need a separate answer to tell you what the theme is, that answer ought to be clued in a reasonably elegant, compact way. I know I should be impressed that this theme goes EIGHT clues deep, but honestly I couldn't even be bothered to look at 29D while doing the puzzle because I knew it would take me too damn long to read it and make the eye-leaps back and forth from clue to puzzle. Knowing the theme doesn't help you do the puzzle. Plus, the typesetting / writing of 29D is horribly ugly, sloppy, and grammatically substandard. If you look at my puzzle scan, you will see that lines break not once but Twice right BEFORE commas (!?), and in items in a list separated by a comma, the penultimate item, not once but Twice, does not have a comma after it (as if we were in Britain, with its TYRES and GAOLS ... no offense to my Candian and Australian readers). OK, now that I'm done complaining, I will say that this puzzle still had its merits: a couple of Pantheon words, both spellings of axel/axle, and a clue that included the phrase "yo mama." So my five minutes and forty seconds were not entirely pleasure-free.

17A: State with conviction (aver)
63A: "The Thin Man" dog (Asta)

Two new Pantheon inductees. I can't believe it took this long to get the ubiquitous ASTA in there. That dog should be Pantheon President. I like that 17A looks like it should be a noun when you first read it. My mind went "Texas!" before seeing that there were just four squares. For "Texas" to be correct, you'd need another letter, and the clue would have to say something about death-penalty convictions of children and the mentally retarded.

29A: Comedian who created the character Jose Jimenez (Bill Dana)

As of this second, I have no idea what this clue or answer means, and I have a very bad gut-level feeling. An Anglo-sounding "comedian" created a Latin American "character"? ... I'm cringing already. OK, Google, Google Me! ... So, Dana was of Hungarian-Jewish ancestry, and somehow created this character that he popularized on the Steve Allen show (!?) in the late-50s / early-60s. It never ceases to amaze me what white people thought was funny in the middle of the last century. My favorite part of the Dana bio @ Wikipedia: "In 1970, responding to changing times [read: death threats and justifiable public revulsion], he stopped portraying the José Jimenez character." Apparently his act was a favorite with the Mercury astronauts. Oh, and best of all, Dana wrote the script for The Nude Bomb. And he cut an album:
37A: What "yo mama" is (slang)

An anticlimactic answer to a Great clue. At five letters, and with the first letter a solid "s," I of course started to fill in SO FAT and then began scanning the rest of the puzzle for the punch line. Sadly, such genius was not to be.

39A: Cover for a wound (scab)
60A: Line of stitches (seam)

This puzzle is starting to look like a boxer after a rough fight. I wanted SCAR for both of these. It never occurred to me that "stitches" would mean anything but surgical stitches. My mind goes to carnage before it goes to sewing.

11D: "Man, that hurts!" (yeow!)

And the pummeled boxer metaphor continues. Although this phrase might also be exclaimed by anyone forced to watch the comedic stylings of Bill Dana.

30D: B.M.I. rival (ASCAP)

I could not remember what either of these abbreviations referred to until just this second. Something to do with music copyrights? Oh my god, if you go to ASCAP's website, after a few moments, a video will begin, and the first speaker: JIMMY JAM (see yesterday's puzzle)! By the way, ASCAP stands for The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (again with the missing second comma!).

44D: Greg's sitcom partner (Dharma)

Really? I know she gets you that DH combo that can bail a constructor out of a tight spot, but this "comedy" deserves to be Forgotten. The only proper answer to "Greg's sitcom partner" is "Marcia" or one of the other siblings. Oh, the hijinx those kids got into!

47D: English race place (Ascot)

I suppose this is true, though I don't know what kind of race place. Here, I'll find out... oh it's a very famous horse racetrack in Britain. If I had ASCOT in my puzzle, though, I'd want to clue it by reference to haberdashery, as in "Detective Fred's neckwear."

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Orange 3:15 PM  

Damn you, Rex Parker! Wish I'd Googled Bill Dana myself and made your points last night.

I blame the newspaper folks for the nonubiquity of the serial comma. I'm just not convinced that they've saved that much newsprint and ink by depriving the world of commas that should be used.

Anonymous 4:21 PM  

So what you guys are implying is that there is a small punctuation mark, missing from a print medium, which is currently at large?
*crickets chirping*

Ahem. anyway, interesting take on Bill Dana/José Jimenez. It makes me wonder, what in today's mainstream society will people consider to be politically incorrect or patently offensive in a generation or three?

Rex Parker 9:02 PM  

It's weird, Howard, I could actually *hear* the crickets as I was trying to figure out the, er, joke.

As for Mr. Dana, I ridiculed him despite having no first-hand experience of his work. That's how I roll. Why spend time acquiring knowledge when faking it is so much quicker (and funner!)?

And Orange, as for Googling Bill Dana, I think I was officially the first one on the planet to do so. It was like being in the dustiest, least-trafficked place in the library, only less exciting.

Anonymous 9:14 PM  

Howard, you're right. Context is the key. I remember the Steve Allen Show very well and the seemingly innocent era of Dwight Eisenhower and post-war America. Bill Dana appeared regularly during the weekly segment titled "Man in the Street" and whenever Steve "asked" him a question requiring some reflection, his pat (and wildly funny???) response was, "My name, Jose Jimenez". Kind of like "JJ" Jimmie Walker's 'Dyn-o-mite', which never failed to bring the laugh track to life. It should also be noted that other alumni of this segment included Ernie Kovacs, Pat Harrington, Jr., Don Knotts, Louis Nye, and Tom Poston. I'm not sure I would laugh today but I certainly did then.

Rex Parker 9:35 PM  

If Jimmy Walker were a Jewish-Hungarian guy *pretending* to be an excited young black man - now THAT would be comedy.

I have a soft spot for Steve Allen because he has appeared and been referenced numerous times on The Simpsons, which, as you can see, is the filter through which I see Everything.

Anonymous 10:11 PM  

Notlloyd: Yep, although the character was before my time, i have heard clips of it, and I had heard about it from my uncle as well, so it gave some context, as well as the answer to the clue for me. Funny how we see things differently over time, isn't it?

Rex: Hey, it's Monday... a day to clear the cobwebs from the brainial area (technical term). That'll have to pass as 'humor' for today; even the crickets demanded a refund.
As far as JJ, if you're gonna go non-PC, might as well go all the way, right? What if Mr. Walker were pretending to be a Hungarian-Jewish man doing an impression of JJ? Makes your head spin.

Anonymous 10:22 AM  

I once had an actual client named Jose Jimenez, and it took every bit of willpower I possess to refrain from asking him, "What did you say your name was?"

Anyhow, (yes, I know I am an evil man) great blog. I just discovered it, and I'll be checking it often. I just have to remember to try to do the puzzle first.

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