## Sunday, October 22, 2006

Solving time: 58:30*

THEME: "Linkletter Art" - black squares form a giant "H" in the middle of the puzzle, and multiple answers traverse said "H" at various points, picking it up as a letter along the way. For example, 13D: Ancient (OLDAST) has just six squares before it runs into the NE corner of the black "H," and OLDAST would seem to make no sense ... but the answer extends through the "H" to 97D: - (EHILLS), which has no clue, just a dash, because it's just an extension of 13D. So 13D's OLDAST becomes OLDAST[H]EHILLS. I'm sure there is a more concise way to explain this.

*The solving time has an asterisk because I solved this puzzle under atypical circumstances. For the first time since I began RPDTNYTCP, I completed the puzzle the evening before its stated release date, during hours when Rex is normally sleeping or reading comics in bed. Rex is a morning person - his brain is freshest from about 6am to noon, then it's serviceable from noon to about 5pm, and then it wants only food and Battlestar Galactica (or similar amusement) until 9 or 10pm, when it starts to Power Down. This is all to say that I solve slower at night. The other mitigating factor was that, again, for the first time since I began This Here Blog, I solved the puzzle On Screen, with the Across Lite application. I type much faster than I write, but I learned (the hard way) that I solve Much faster with pen or pencil than with mouse and keyboard. There's less immediate control over the puzzle's surface with on-screen solving. I mean look at the soul-less, perfectly regular fill on my puzzle - where's the personality? The evidence of struggle? The scribbled exclamations and epithets and EUPHEMISMS (actually, I tend to prefer profanity)? I had to add marginalia after-the-fact, and it just wasn't the same, so I don't think I'll be doing it again. I kept having to toggle between Across and Down clues, and the cursor often didn't seem to be, or go, where I thought it should. So my lack of pleasure in this solving experience was largely self-inflicted. Live and learn.

The Tigers lost last night, about which I have nothing to say. Yet.

Last thing before puzzlemania: I saw Elizabeth Edwards discussing her new book on handling grief last night on what looked like the Charlie Rose Show, only the host was somehow Tim Russert. I was completely spell-bound by her discussion of her son's death - so graceful, subdued, eloquent, warm, plain-spoken; it was an incredibly touching tribute to her son. I was most impressed with the eloquence: the fluency of her speech, the directness, the sincerity that had absolutely nothing platitudinous or Hallmarkian about it. What really knocked me over, however, was when she described finding on-line usenet groups to help her deal with her initial grief - she said that she had a passing familiarity with such groups before her son's death, having previously gotten on-line to argue matters of grammar and language usage! I was a little in love at that moment, frankly, and it's possible that I started pleading with the screen "Will you please be my First Lady?" [a desire that has little to do with politics and everything to do with her warmth, generosity, and sexy love of grammar]

Look out, it's a Giant "H"!

52A (THEME): Utilizes fully (MAKEST)
53A (THEME): - (EMOSTOF)

The point at which I discovered the puzzle's theme. I thought for sure that 52A was MAXES ... OUT? Maybe this was a rebus-type puzzle and OUT was going to be crammed into individual squares throughOUT? But 38D: Tip of Manhattan (Battery Park) was surely right, so what the hell was MAXEST? Changing to X to the proper K didn't help. It wasn't til I was working on the Other side of the big, bad "H" (at 53A, where I had an answer that seemed to have something to do with either comedian EMO Phillips or contemporary music genre EMO, that I took a bird's-eye view of the puzzle and saw the "H"-traversing phrase just waiting to come out of hiding: MAKES T[H]E MOST OF. I wish I could say getting the theme sped things up. It didn't.

8D: "Haven't Got Time for the Pain" singer, 1974 (Carly Simon)

I got this early on. Total gimme. And yet, because of the puzzle's stated theme (LINKLETTER ART), I thought "hmmm, maybe the theme is, you reverse people's first and last names." So I briefly entertained the idea of writing this in as SIMONCARLY. None of the crosses were very happy about that, though, so I let it go. I love Carly Simon, one of the many singer-songwriters of the 70's that I know and adore because my mom listened to them constantly, and so I have no critical distance. Although mom also listened to Nana Mouskouri, which is inedible to me, so who knows why some stuff stuck and some didn't. Carly Simon and Carole King and Helen Reddy and Linda Rondstadt ... It's like comfort music to me, from my mom's whole 70s Feminist / "I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar" phase ... which hasn't quite ended.

57A: _____ Brazzi, star of "South Pacific" (Rossano)
102D: Howe who wrote "Pride's Crossing" (Tina)

I'm throwing these in because I hate not knowing Arts & Entertainment answers, and I didn't know either of these. I wanted "LUCA" at 57A, of course, becaue he sleeps with the fishes, but it turns out his name is spelled "Brasi." Also, LUCA is not nearly long enough. And has Zero to do with "South Pacific." Further complicating matters: for some reason - perhaps because of this paperback, which I own:my first thoughts went to women, and women's names, like ROSALEE or ROSARIO. As for TINA Howe, her play "Pride's Crossing" is a fictional biography of an American woman who swam the English Channel in the early 20th century, which does not sound nearly as queer as this picture from a production of the play looks: It won the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best American Play in 1998. I don't get into the city to see thEE-ater too often, as you might guess.

Now, the "San Luis Obispo" portion of the puzzle, where I had a humiliating FOUR squares wrongly filled.

81A: Bilingual Muppet (Rosita)

One of my favorite clues of all time, despite the fact that I did NOT know the answer. I can assure you that ROSITA, if that is her real name, was not a cast member of the Muppet Show when John Denver hosted in the late 70's. It seems that ROSITA was a product of early 90's multiculturalism. It seems, also, that she is a fruit bat. Which you could not guess from her mugshot, er, picture.

89A (THEME): Soldier's accessory of old (powder)
90A (THEME): - (orn)

2D: Huxtable boy, on "The Cosby Show" (Theo)

Just watched an episode of this the other afternoon while lying sick on the couch. That show has not aged well. So many patterned sweaters and other questionable fashion choices. Someone should write a sitcom sidekick-themed puzzle, so I could have more colorful answers, like COCKROACH (Theo's friend), BONER (Mike Seaver's friend on Growing Pains), and SKIPPY (the dork from Family Ties who had a crush on Mallory and who wanted to join the same fraternity as Alex only the brothers wanted Alex not Skippy and were going to humiliate Skippy in some way because he was a dork but then Alex discovered the meaning of true friendship and protected Skippy and refused to join the frat... Skippy also got trapped in the Keaton basement with Mallory once, dressed as a squirrel. I think that was before Nick, the junk sculptor, joined the cast).

48D: Diamond cutter? (Sosa)

Help me out. I know "diamond" refers to baseball, but "cutter?" Is he secretly a depressed Goth kid who marks himself up with razors in his bedroom late at night instead of telling his mom how much he hates her?

43A: Emma player in "The Avengers" (Uma)
60A: "Citizen X" star, 1995 (Rea)

These are both PANTHEON names, and because they are actors with scores of movie credits to their ... uh, credit, you can clue them up and down, back and forth, Monday to Saturday, from here to eternity. What the hell was "Citizen X?"

109D: Hall-of-Fame catcher Carlton (Fisk)

To console me after last night's depressing World Series experience, I'm going to go out today with a tribute to one of the greatest catchers in the history of the game - one who played on my OTHER favorite team, and who is responsible for perhaps the single greatest and most famous image in World Series history. How great? So great that the fact that Red Sox ultimately lost the World Series has in no way diminished its iconic status (read: Awesomeness). I can only hope and pray that I get to watch Curtis Granderson hit one long and try (successfully!) to wave it fair before this current Series is over.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

Anonymous

Darling Rex,
It's not "spell-bound", but "spellbound".
Keep going.

Anonymous

Dear Rex,
How can Nana be "inedible" to you? Aren't you supposed to LISTEN to her?
Just wondering.

Rex Parker

Dear anonymice,

First off, I'm keeping the hyphen in "spell-bound," despite no immediate Google-hits to back me up. Bound by a spell. Spell-bound. Like hell-bound. Which means "bound FOR Hell," so it's different. But still.

And second, re: "inedible," it's called synesthesia (or it's a close relative of synesthesia, at any rate). It's a reviewing convention, of sorts. As when someone's theatrical performance "stinks."

But you knew that.

Love, Rex

Rex Parker

PS anyone addressing me as "Darling Rex" is clearly my mother. Hi mom.

Anonymous

I think I'd remember if I were your mother.

And if you can't get any authority to agree with spell HYPHEN bound instead of spellbound, why won't you just give it up? Think hidebound and go from there.

Hidebound slave to proper spelling,

Rex Parker

O Not My Mother, don't be cross (like my mother). I admit to your technical correctness. Think of the hyphen - as well as my stubbornly persisting in my wrongness - as a curious (if not lovable) eccentricity.

You may continue to address me as "Darling," though. I like that.

Thanks for reading (I do mean that),
RP

Anonymous

"Inedible" stinks. So there.

Anonymous

God, I love your work, Rex.

Rob M

Hey Rex. Recently signed up for the iPad app and decided to puzzle along with your blogs archive. Best guess for diamond cutter is that a swing is slangily referred to as a cut, ergo Sosa, not known for his outfielding prowess, is a diamond cutter?

Rob M

Hi Rex. I recently signed up for the iPad app and I'm now puzzling through the blog archive. I think diamond cutter is referring to baseball slangs use of the word cut to describe a swing. Enjoying your evolution as a critical voice!

Di

I love doing the archive puzzles and then seeing what you had to say about them.

This post touched me because of your comments about Elizabeth Edwards. I met her at a book signing at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh NC. She showed up in slacks and a kind of ratty sweater with her hair a little messy. Immediately put everyone at ease because she just looked like one of us.

She spoke beautifully and straight from the heart. And took the time to really talk to each person whose book she signed. I still cherish that signed copy.

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