THURSDAY, Nov. 23, 2006 - Ari Halpern

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Solving time: untimed, but pretty fast

THEME: F-LOSS - familiar two-word phrases have "F" removed to form new phrases; theme is identified at 38A: Dentist's advice ... or a hint to [theme clues] (FLOSS)


I love this holiday even more than Xmas, partly because it falls around the time of my birthday (3 days, tick tock), and partly because Thanksgiving dinner is absolutely the best meal that anyone anywhere has ever conceived. I do not eat meat, as a rule, but on Thanksgiving (and possibly Xmas) I eat turkey. A lot of it. We had a little turkey-procuring snafu yesterday - Johann the turkey guy lost our order for the organic turkey, and then didn't call back to tell us if we could still get one, and so wife went to the store to get the least badly treated turkey she could find, and then Johann called and said he had one, and then I phoned wife who was already loading groceries into car. So wife called Johann and they made nice and talked of maybe next year. So we're having non-organic turkey. I will survive.

Puzzle's theme had nothing to do with Thanksgiving, sadly - and yet the theme was so great that its lack of holiday spirit did not really bother me at all. I had 11D: What bells on sheep are attached to? (lea collars) before I knew what the theme was. Then when I got FLOSS, I thought that perhaps the theme was that letters were being FLOSSed out of a word the way you would floss stray bits of stuffing out from between your teeth after Thanksgiving dinner. So I was trying to think of a letter that, when spoken aloud, sounded like something that gets caught in your teeth ... then somehow "F" separated itself from "LOSS" in my head, and I got it. I love 20A: Injured pitcher? (lame thrower), primarily because the F-LOSS results in an antonym, as FLAME THROWER is a common term for a hard-throwing, hard-to-hit pitcher. I had several solving miscues, which held me up more than I would have liked. I had LESTAT for 5D: 1993 Anne Rice novel (Lasher) (a very trappy clue/answer pairing), QUOTATIONS for 40A: They're often raised (questions) (which tells you that a. I've been grading student papers and b. I didn't care to notice that my answer didn't actually fit in the allotted squares), and for some reason the idea that APPALL (47A) might have two "L"s on the end just seemed untenable, so I left those spaces empty for far too long. JELLED (44D) also took a long time to, er, JELL, because it seemed wrong / ugly. I get GEL and JELL and their various forms very, very confused.

Lots of great discussion about yesterday's official institution of the CrossWorld PANTHEON (see, well, yesterday - or better yet, see the sidebar, where I have placed a handy link). Adjustments will be made in the near future based on advice from other solvers and further consideration by me. If you are ever feeling blue, just go to the PANTHEON and start reading the words aloud, in order, slowly. It's very meditative / hilarious.

1D: Comic who declared "I'm not a liberal, I'm a radical" (Sahl)

What kind of a declaration is that? "I'm not a liberal! I'm an eskimo!" "I'm not a liberal, I'm a doorstop!" - those are declarations. Well, they're at least potentially memorable. Why would a comic say something that sounds so utterly sincere? If you were a comic, would you want to be remembered for saying something that sounded so self-serving, self-righteous, and above all humorless? If you would like to idolize Mort Sahl and his "radical" comic stylings, why not go here, where the worshiping has already begun, and where buttoning your shirt is totally optional.

17A: Batman or Superman (hero)

Not SUPER-HERO, you'll note. Just HERO. Thus we avoid re-opening the "Is Batman a superhero?" controversy and reader Andrew can remain satisfied that no definitional boundaries have been violated. By the way, I saw Heroes for the first time this week and ... it's watchable. Maybe more than watchable, if I'd only seen the preceding shows. "Save the Cheerleader!" HA ha. The "hero" of this week's show had a horrible mopey emo haircut, and the guy actually named Hiro spent most of the episode time-traveling to the past, and thus not on screen. There was some campy cheerleader smack-talking, which is always enjoyable. I don't know. I guess I'll watch again. Honey, are you getting me a DVR for my birthday? TiVo?

42A: New Deal inits. (REA)

REA stands for Rural Electrification Administration. Pantheon B-List Captain Stephen REA wants to know how anyone got clearance to clue REA this way without his prior consent. The matter was tabled until after the holiday weekend. This answer was one of several where a deliberately obscure clue was invented for perfectly ordinary fill; see also 58D: _____ Luis, Brazil (Sao) (Luis? Not Paolo?), and 49A: Prefix with magnetic (aero-) (what the hell does "aeromagnetic" mean?).

57A: Ship's anchor hole (hawse)

New to me. Here's what one looks like:
There's also the related, fabulous-sounding terms HAWSEPIPE (the hole that an anchor rope passes through ... not sure how this is different from plain ol' HAWSE) and HAWSEHOLE (cf. ATHOL, tee hee).

47D: Give _____ in the arm (a shot)
48D: Preferred course of action (Plan A)
61A: Prime targets for the draft (One A's)

Something about all of these compound phrases in very close quarters makes me love this SW corner. What I like most is the showy versatility of the letter "A", which dances around this corner in so many different guises: "I'm a letter! Now I'm a symbol! Now I'm an indefinite article!" I just realized that this particular letter "A" is a little bit flaming. Good for him. Most of the non-theme fill in this puzzle is a little on the boring side, so it's nice to see "A" flying rainbow colors down there in the SW. Now if he could only get "G" and "Y" to come out and march with him.

9D: Earthly (terrene)

I'm mildly proud that I got this rather quickly, and yet ... I feel oddly guilty, as this is not a word that I could use properly, let alone unpretentiously, in a sentence. It means "of the earth," but in what context? Grown from the earth, like vegetables? Living on earth, as opposed to extra-terrestrials (or other heavenly creatures)? Apparently, both. This St. Louis restaurant suggests the word has culinary significance, while at this site, TERRENE becomes some kind of crazy interactive poetry-art project, for those who want the sensation of being high without the bother of actually procuring and taking drugs.

27D: "ER" actor La Salle (Eriq)

"Open up this damned Pantheon! You hear me, Asta?! How you gonna keep me out? I'm ERIQ @#$#-ing La Salle! I was on the biggest show on television! When you need the "Q," who brings the "Q"!? That's right, me. You all were stuck with @#$#-in' IRAQ before I came along. So what? - I'm good enough to do all your "terminal-Q"-work for you, but I'm not good enough to get into the Pantheon!? That's discrimination! No? Well I don't see any black words in there, do you? You better open these doors and let me in." - ERIQ La Salle has just been notified that his exclusion was a simple oversight, and he can expect to be awarded Pantheon status by year's end. (He was then reminded that NEON DEION Sanders is, in fact, black.)

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 7:46 PM  

Nice to have some Thanksgiving laughs, Rex, and I'm beholdin' to you. You might clean up tabeled, though. Labeled, yes. But tabeled, no. Maybe it was the tryptophan....

Rex Parker 10:03 PM  

"Tabeled," HA ha. Yes. I see. I was all set to defend it too ... for about two seconds.


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