SUNDAY, Oct. 1, 2006 - Ashish Vengsarkar

Sunday, October 1, 2006

Solving Time: 42:23 (give or take 10 minutes)


Theme: Familiar phrases modified by the change of a "TH" sound to a "T" sound (see 39A and 51D, below)

Today's time is not very accurate. With all the starts and stops (see last posting, "PARENTAL DELAY"), and many of the stops unplanned, my total time is a ballpark figure. Technically, the puzzle took me about 9 hours and 16 minutes to complete, but somewhere between start and finish we drove to Ithaca, walked around Buttermilk Falls State Park, drove to Olivia and had a delicious brunch, then drove to the Spook-tac-ular autumn pumpkin patch livestock zoo corn maze extravaganza on Rte 96B (which my wife just told me is called Iron Kettle Farm), then took my parents back to their hotel. Thus, I have no basis for telling how good / bad this puzzle is. One thing this puzzle is, finally, is done. I believe at least one square is filled incorrectly. Let's see...

21A: It may be said after kissing the tips of one's fingers (ooh la la)

I challenge. I'm sure this is true, somewhere, but "ooh la la" has more of a "aren't you fancy?" or "don't you look nice?" ring to it (I guess this clue imagines a sleazy Italian guy sexually harrassing a woman on the streets, but do we really need that image?). When I imagine someone kissing the tips of his fingers (not often) he is usually saying something Italian like "bellissimo" or "perfecto" or the like (I hope those are actual Italian words?), usually when commenting on something exquisite that he has just eaten - while "ooh la la" sounds like something a midwesterner would say when she saw a $200 pair of boots in a Manhattan storefront window, or a euphemism for sexual intercourse. See, or rather listen to, Cole Porter's "Give Him the Ooh-La-La," preferably the version by Blossom Dearie:

"Say you're fond of fancy things / Diamond clips and emerald rings / And you want your man to come through / Give him the Ooh-La-La"

34A: "All My _____ Live in Texas" (1987 #1 country hit) (exs)

The answer is very easy, and yet ... how to spell it? This spelling is eight kinds of horrible, though I'm sure it's technically correct. Is there an apostrophe in it? Hang on ... it's by George Strait and NO, there's not even an apostrophe. I know it's absurd to be angry about substandard spelling in a country song, but there it is.

39A (THEME): Top Tatar's Tattler? (The Rat of Khan)

Many of this week's themed answers left me cold (especially 81A: Result of a whipping? (welt creation) - "wealth creation" just seems weak as a familiar phrase). THIS answer, however, rules - I did not know what a "Tatar" was, but I sure as hell know my Star Trek II:


125A: Slimmest election margin (one vote)

So beautifully simple that it actually gave me a lot of trouble. I wanted "sliver" but it wasn't long enough. (Resisting temptation to make reference to the 1993 movie Sliver...)

9D: Dancing girl in "The Return of the Jedi" (Oola)

What the hell kind of fanboy universe has the crossword fallen into this past week? Multiple references to Stars Trek and Wars, and this one is perhaps the most arcane (in case you didn't know - and for your sake I hope you didn't - the character of Oola is made to fall through a trap door to her death after she refuses to pleasure Jabba the Hut sexually, nice). For the record, I had "Leia" here for a long time, as she is the only female Star Wars character I know or care to acknowledge. (just noticed that I have now, in a single entry, let the world know my feelings about both "Oola" and "Ooh-la-la" (see 21A, above) - for which the world is surely better off)

10D: "The ground _____ she trod": Milton (whereon)

I will blog Milton every chance I get. This line comes from Paradise Lost Book IX, the great Seduction of Eve Book, in which Satan works hard to get Eve to break her vow to Adam and God not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Here, he's in the first stages of his plot:

He, bolder now, uncalled before her stood,
But as in gaze admiring: oft he bowed
His turret crest, and sleek enamelled neck,
Fawning; and licked the ground whereon she trod.
His gentle dumb expression turned at length
The eye of Eve to mark his play; he, glad
Of her attention gained, with serpent-tongue
Organick, or impulse of vocal air,
His fraudulent temptation thus began. (Paradise Lost, IX.523-31)

50D: Skeletal support in a sponge (?????)

Here's the entry I think I have wrong. I have "adicule" - which is VERY wrong, it turns out. Just looked it up, and here's what I missed: 49A: Squad leaders: Abbr., which I wanted to be "srgts" and which I changed to "sagts" for reasons of 50D plausibility, is actually "ssgts" - short for STAFF SERGEANTS. Then I somehow missed an Archie Bunker clue, "You're _____!" (Archie Bunker comment), which I had as "a dip," but which is actually "a pip" (was he British?), making the answer to this sponge clue, which I liken in its esotericness to Friday's weevil clue, "spicule" (which sounds more like a racist term for a small hispanic person than anything having to do with a sponge, if you ask me).

51D (THEME): Muppet seller's gender guideline? (give Bert to a boy)

Clever, but the best part of this clue for me was that, because I had never heard of the names of the answers of 110A and 124A ("Rea" and "Ilona", respectively), I had wrong answers for both, which meant that I had this answer ending in "ebay" for a very long time (the "seller" part of the clue only intensified my commitment to my wrongness). An actual recording of my brain upon filling in this answer completely for the first time: "... 'Give Bert to eBay' ... 'Give birth to eBay'? ... is that right? ... that's a terrible answer. What the hell does it even mean?" Etc.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


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