MONDAY, Nov. 6, 2006 - Christina Houlihan Kelly

Sunday, November 5, 2006

Solving time: 6:03 (on screen, very clumsily, constantly mistyping)

THEME: Coffee (all theme answers end with coffee-related words)

Now this is a nice Monday puzzle. The theme is very subtle, and I didn't figure it out 'til well after (well, 20 seconds after) I'd finished. Lots and lots of K's in this puzzle. Six of 'em, in fact, including two in unusual, memorable names of unusual, memorable people: 7D: The Green Hornet's valet (Kato) , whom I wouldn't have known if he hadn't just appeared in a puzzle not more than a month ago, and 54A: Singer _____ Khan (Chaka), who is a minor goddess and has one of the best names in music history. Her name is just fun to say. So much fun, in fact, that one of her greatest songs, "I Feel For You," opens with a guy saying it Over and Over: "Chaka Khan... Chaka Khan ... Chaka Khan Chaka Khan ... Chaka Khan let me rock ya / Let me rock ya Chaka Khan..." I believe some of that initial name repetition is an effect of the DJ's scratching the record, not the singer's actual vocal repetition, but the result is the same: lotsa Chaka. I love the letter "K" in general because ... well, I believe it to be the wackiest letter in the alphabet. I'll develop that theory later in my writing career, but trust me, I've thought long and hard about it, and I have good reasons for my beliefs. Here's a teaser - an example of the Krazy "K":[BTW: Which is "Krazy" here? The Food? Or the Kids? 'Cause the food actually looks kind of normal, but the "Kid" ... looks like Dennis the Menace on LSD. Or Zombie Dennis the Menace after he has eaten Mr. Wilson, then gouged out his own eyes and replaced them with shiny new quarters. Unless the Cone (Kone?) is actual size, relative to the Kid. That would be Krazy]

1A: PC alternatives (Macs)

It's easy to get an answer when your nose is less than two feet from that answer. I mentioned in an earlier commentary that my dad would buy the latest gadgets whenever they came out (Betamax player, Laser Disc player). Well, he also bought the very earliest Mac in ... I want to say 1981? 1982? It was so futuristic back then. All my sister and I used it for was the MacDraw program, with which we would produce elaborate artistic parodies of current TV shows, including a memorable parody of a 1985 TV movie about John and Yoko that was meant to honor John's memory (I think) but that for some reason we found endlessly hilarious. I think it was the actor's accent and inflection; that, or we just couldn't take John's love for Yoko seriously. We were pretty merciless for 12- and 9-year-old kids.

14A: "Shake _____" (1981 song by the Cars) [It Up]

Back-to-back 1981 answers. Sweet. The Cars are a great band, and this is a fabulously pop-culturiffic way to clue this unpresupposing 4-letter answer. Ric Ocasek can be found nowadays as a recurring guest on The Colbert Report - he recently volunteered to lead a commando unit in an effort to rescue baby bald eagle Stephen, Jr. from the San Francisco zoo. He is 9 feet tall and looks like an emaciated Frankenstein's monster. And he somehow married a super-model.

5A: Big name in pest control (Orkin)
15A: "Me, too!" (So am I)
18A: Showed interest in, as at a bar (Hit on)

These answers sit one atop the other in the due North portion of the puzzle, and I love them all. I am a big fan of cramming multiple words into tiny spaces, and this section of the puzzle has two nice, colloquial, multi-word, five-letter answers. I like that 15A might be something someone says in the process of 18A-ing somebody, e.g. "You're a Scorpio? SO AM I!" I also like that 5A, up top, suggests how most guys who HIT ON women at bars are likely seen by the good majority of those women.

24A: Common Web site section, for short (FAQ)

Despite the fact that no one ever asks me any questions about this website, I think I should have a FAQ. A Fake FAQ. "1. Rex, how do you manage to be so smart, funny, and handsome simultaneously?" "2. Where can I buy Rex Parker merchandise?" "3. What's with your obsession with Olivia Newton-John?"

34A: "_____ Poetica" (Ars)

While this answer could have been clued by reference to Scots slang for "ass," I much prefer this route. "Ars Poetica" was written by Horace, a poet of Augustan Rome who believed that poetry's main purpose should be "to please and to teach" (placere et docere). Horace is the least sexily-named of the three major Augustan poets. Virgil and Ovid sound grand, while Horace sounds like a down-on-his-luck cobbler.

20A (THEME): Jakarta (Capital of Java)
37A (THEME): Nickname for Namath (Broadway Joe)

JAVA and JOE. I spent most of my summer writing and socializing in a local cafe called "Java Joe's" and still the theme of this puzzle was not readily apparent to me (while my wife, who doesn't do NYT puzzles, took one look at the puzzle and said "'Capital of JAVA,' 'Broadway JOE,' ah, yes, I see." She's quick, that one. She (and I, one day earlier) just figured out how to do those damned Kakuro puzzles - like Sudoku, in a way, but the grid is always different and the columns and rows have to add up to certain prescribed numbers - like Sudoku, numerals 1-9 cannot repeat in any given row / column. I hereby congratulate her, publicly, on her conquest.

51A: Helpers for profs (TAs)

I have four of these and I still hesitated over the answer: "PCs? ... Is there a three-letter word for 'lecterns?' etc." Idiot.

9D: "Teenage Mutant _____ Turtles" (Ninja)

OK, these guys are (way) after my time, but I think of all the ways to clue NINJA, this might be the best. Why in the world were these turtles named after Italian Renaissance artists? If you are not doing the Onion A/V Club puzzles, you should be. In case you are thinking about seeking out the relatively few number of back puzzles and doing them all (which I recommend), I won't tell you why I mention them now. You'll see.

30D: Big maker of perfumes (Coty)

Oooh, a nice little Monday fake-out. I had COCO written in here, but no, Ms. Kelly went way down-market, to the people who brought (bring!) you such klassy brands as Stetson and Jovan Musk. My God, Koty has a brand called Adrenaline Woman. Why not just call it "Fight-or-Flight Woman - for the woman who cares more about Surviving than Smelling Good"? Actually, it appears to be a scent that you wear when ... exercising. Memo to people who exercise in close proximity to others: I would rather smell sweat than your nose-piercing chemical bath Any Day Of The Week.

35D: "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" spinoff (Rhoda)

I watched and identified with this show way more than I did its parent show. I have since come to believe that "MTM" was one of the greatest shows of all time (based largely on my ardor for Betty White, about which much more later, I'm sure), but back In The Day, as they say, I was all about RHODA. She was the unsexy, sarcastic one (Mmmm, Rhoda, c'est moi). She had Carlton the Door Man. And she had the sister who was played by the actress who would go on later in her career to be the voice of Marge Simpson. So I'm glad RHODA got out of Mary's shadow for at least one day. She deserves it.
11D: Big Dipper's locale (Ursa Major)
36D: 1998 National League MVP (Sammy Sosa)

Sammy was involved in a controversy a couple of weeks back when he was clued as "Diamond cutter?" and I (and others) went off about how CUT IS NOT A VERB IN BASEBALL - You "take a cut at" the ball. "Cut" is a noun in that context. ANYway, it's nice to see him back and, this time, impeccably clued. I mention him here, however, not because I'm a fan (I'm not), but because I would like to marvel at the amazing, perhaps not readily apparent, symmetry of this puzzle. URSAMAJOR and SAMMYSOSA are nine-letter answers in symmetrical SW-NE relation to one another in the puzzle. URSA is Latin for ... "Bear." Sammy Sosa played for the Chicago ... Cubs. What is a Cub if not an URSA MINOR? Come on! It's genius, either on Ms. Kelly's part, or on mine. Speaking of Bears ... tough loss yesterday, Chicago fans. It's a sad day when Dolphins, in defiance of the laws of nature, rise from the oceans to beat the hell out of the bigger, stronger, more land-mobile Bears on the bears' home turf. Embarrassing and unholy.

46D: 1970's - 80's Big Apple mayor (Koch)

This #$%$#-hole. Seriously, I watched him sit on The Daily Show in 2004, and in absolute earnest tell a national audience that despite the fact that he disagreed with virtually every one of the President's domestic policy stances (and many foreign policy ones as well), he would be voting for Bush because Bush was stronger on terrorism. Now I didn't vote for Kerry, who makes me cringe every time I look at / listen to him, but I will always think of Koch as a traitor for the (non-) logic of his Bush support - not a traitor to the Democratic party (screw them) but to democratic principles. He advocated giving into the tyrants because they would protect us. I have nothing but profanity to write in response to that. But there hasn't been another 9/11, so I guess he was right.

55D: Muscly fellow (He-Man)

I had HUMAN and thought "OK ... HUMANs have muscles all right, but that's kind of a stretch." But no, HE-MAN. That word makes me think of two things. First, "The He-Man Woman-Haters Club" from Our Gang, where Spanky and Alfalfa and ... maybe Petey ... propagated misogyny from the squalor of a Depression-era shack they liked to call a "clubhouse." This whole "New Woman" thing of the 20's had gone too far, and it was time for kids with incredibly silly hats and hair to set gender hierarchy back firmly in place. The second thing HE-MAN makes me think of is this guy:
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 3:28 PM  

I watched 4 episodes of MTM season 3 last night -- knitting a little baby gift while my husband was out on the town. I love MTM, but since reaching the age of majority I can't watch without reflecting on my Rhoda-status. High school, college, beyond -- I am the chunky, dark-haired friend of the cute girl everyone loves. You know, the one with the "great personality" who is "really funny." (Quote marks intended to denote actual quotations, not to cast doubt on my true-life great personality and sense of humor.) Unlike me, however, Rhoda always seemed to get a lot of off-screen action. Those Midwestern men like a little meat with their potatoes.
Oh, and if you come visit in the next year, you'll see that my parish priest is the secret twin sibling of Gavin McCloud.

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