WEDNESDAY, Oct. 11, 2006 - Jack McInturff

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Solving time: 12:56

THEME: Familiar phrases with the final word reversed to spell another word (see 28A, below)

You can tell that the theme involved only the last words of phrases just by looking at the smeary inkfest that is the right side of my puzzle. I grasped the gist of the theme about midway through the puzzle, but somehow kept getting confused as to whether I was writing the familiar phrase or its perverted cousin into the grid. Fully three of my themed answers were originally written in "correctly," which is to say Wrongly. Another hazard of rushing. Le puzzle!

1A: Makes lace (tats)

It's Pantheon-tastic! Yet another word (like "adit" and "olio") that I would never have known were it not for the NYT Crossword Puzzle. Also spells "stat" backward. Here's a stat: Tigers 5, A's 1.

5A: It may do your bidding (eBay)

I am Very reluctant to put a corporation into the Pantheon, but I may have to if this trend continues.

9A: One played for a fool (chump)

I wanted "patsy" at first, but this is a much better word. "Pleasure doing business with you chummmmmmmmmmP!"

15A: Capital of Togo (Lomé)

I just included this for educational purposes. Who knew? Also, I like the LOME-on-LOAM action of this puzzle. (I know they don't technically rhyme because of the accent on the "E" - just let me have my fun.)

28A (THEME): Exterminator's job, maybe? (shooting rats)

"Star" turned around = "rats" (for my stance on rat anti-defamation, please see yesterday's puzzle commentary). I reversed the puzzle logic at first, thinking "the literal meaning is 'shooting rats,' so I should turn it to make 'shooting star.'" This resulted in a several-minute delay in the "Newark" vicinity of this puzzle, as, understandably in retrospect, I couldn't get any of the intersecting down clues to work. One of them, 27D: City on the Ruhr (Essen), would be a 5-letter Pantheon word, but as of yet, 5-letter words remain ineligible.

PS if your exterminator is shooting the rats, you might want to think about getting another exterminator.

38A: Healing balm (aloe)
43A: Remove, as text (dele)
72A: Las Vegas light (neon)
62D: Promise to a cook? (oleo) [clever]
63D: _____ Bator (Ulan)

And the newest members of the Crossword Pantheon are... these guys. Did I already put OLEO and his cousin OLIO in the Pantheon? I'll have to check. NEON is borderline, as it's a bit too ordinary a word to be Pantheon material, but I'll allow it. The quintessential Pantheon word is common in puzzles but Not in everyday speech. So ALOE is a bit weak too. Whatever, it's early in the selection process, and I'm feeling generous (I will install a little Pantheon link in the sidebar in the very near future, I swear)

44A: Like a designated driver, presumably (sober)

This made me laugh, and reminded me of the time Homer got pulled over and arrested for drunk driving, and the police allowed Barney to drive Homer's car home. This was back when Barney was drunk 24 hours a day.

49A (THEME): Vestiges of skin blemishes? (the last warts)

This was the first theme clue I solved. I looked at it and thought, "uh huh ... yes. That makes sense ... I don't get it. Was there a pun? Was the last word supposed to sound like something else?" Just as I was about to change 59A (THEME): Cautionary sign at a dog park (Watch your pets) from "Watch your step" to "Watch your shep" (!?), I somehow got the whole reverse angle. Because I'm quick like that.

41D: Panhandle state: Abbr. (Ida.)

I included this because, first, it's a bit tricky, as "panhandle" typically = FLA. or OKL. or maybe TEX. - less commonly IDA. Second, and more importantly, my grandma lives in Idaho - St. Maries, to be exact, which is in the panhandle. My earliest crossword memory involves being at the dining room table of my mom's house in Fresno - I was about 12 - and watching my grandma solve a puzzle - a real, grown-up puzzle from the newspaper (not sure which one - if the Fresno Bee had a puzzle it surely borrowed it from L.A. or S.F.). I remember sitting down and looking at the clues / answers and thinking "How in the %#^$ [profane even then] does Anyone understand Any of this?!" I "helped" her solve it - maybe I knew one or two answers - and then proceeded not to do another puzzle for about 8 years. But I know that this singular, weird moment of helping my grandma solve a crossword puzzle was probably instrumental in my eventually becoming the world-wide puzzling phenomenon that I am today. So thanks, grandma, for the example, or the genetics, or whatever went in to it. I'm grateful. And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is as folksy, homespun, and greeting card-esque as you will EVER see me, so I hope you enjoyed it.

39D: It's slippery when wet (eel)
64D: Nile reptile (asp)

And the Pantheon gets a bit more wiggly.

58D: Bass-baritone Simon (Estes)

Alright, I give, the Pantheon is open to 5-letter words. Welcome ESTES and ESSEN and ... oh, why not, DEION (Sanders) can get in there too.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

Late addendum: 7D: Indian nurse (amah) is total Pantheon material, and I inexcusably overlooked it this morning. My apologies to AMAH and her family.


Anonymous 10:58 AM  

Can't add much to this today, other than that was a fun little mid-week puzzle. Thanks for the visuals, by the way.

Although as columnist/author Dave Barry might put it, "'Smeary Inkfest' would be a great name for a band." .

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