WEDNESDAY, Nov. 29, 2006 - Barbara Olson

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Solving time: approx. 8:45

THEME: not sure ... oxymoronic phrases? Each of the 3 theme answers is a two-part phrase, split across two entries; first entry of each answer is a compound adjective, and second entry is a proper noun - both the adjective and the proper noun begin with words that are opposites of one another, e.g. 3D: Petty creature of the Rockies, with 56-Across? + 56A: See 3-Down = Small-Minded / Bigfoot.

Do not like this sort of puzzle. Too fussy. When the theme can't be stated succinctly, something is likely wrong. If the theme requires complicated explanation, then the payoff better be good, and this one's wasn't. I do not like "See X-Down" or "See Y-Across" clues in general. I like clues with content and do Not like clues that send me on a @#$#-ing treasure hunt across the grid. Also, the two parts of each of the three theme answers are in very awkward, aesthetically unpleasing relationship to one another on the grid (though there is, in the end, overall symmetry). Even now, with the grid completed and in front of me, I'm having to scan and rescan the grid to find which compound adjective goes with which proper noun. Please understand that my beef with this puzzle is largely a matter of personal preference. I do not like Fussy. I do, however, like 34A: Classroom missile (spitball), 43A: Carom (ricochet) and 29D: Convenient kind of shopping (one-stop) - long, lively fill. Good stuff.

31A: Not agin (fer)

Oh, I should have got this right away! I had NER, which I realize makes no sense, but I read AGIN as a variant of AGAIN (not AGAINST, as was intended), and so I thought "well, if not AGAIN, then ... NEVER? NE'ER ... NER? Sure, why not?" Small error that disappeared quickly. But still, as I said, I should have got this right away. Why? Because the clue and answer are both components of one of my favorite quotes from Abraham (Grampa) Simpson: "I ain't fer it, I'm agin it!" I think he shouts this after the whole town misunderstands his stance on the proposed monorail system, and they celebrate their decision to go ahead with the monorail idea by cheering and carrying Grampa out of town hall on their shoulders. If I'm wrong, there is someone out there who will correct me. [late addendum: oh what a little research can do - I had the episode right, but the context wrong: Grampa utters his "I ain't fer it, I'm agin it" line while being carried off by the happy mob after they've decided to use Mr. Burns' money to fix Main Street - immediately before Lyle Langley shows up and convinces everyone (but Marge) that the town needs a monorail.

Crowd: "Yaaahhh!"
Grampa: "Shut up! I wasn't done yet. I'm just saying we could blow all our money on a stupid little street but..."
Crowd: "Yaahh!"
Grampa: "I ain't fer it, I'm agin it."
Thanks to Chris for pointing out my error.]

41A: Matthew of "Full Metal Jacket"

I would have preferred "Matthew of 'Vision Quest,'" "Matthew of 'Cutthroat Island,'" or "Matthew of 'Private School,'" but whatever. This'll do. At some point in the 80s Mr. Modine seemed to have a very promising acting career, and then I don't know what happened. I'm overstating the extent of his disappearance. He has worked consistently, just not in the most high-profile of roles. I have a former student who is a bit obsessed with Mr. Modine for some reason. She got to meet him, had photos taken with him, and then put them on her blog. I feel that I might embarrass her by directing traffic to her site ... and yet I will do it anyway.

48A: Composer Rorem and others (Neds)

And somewhere NED Beatty is wondering what has happened to his puzzle cachet. Second time this NED Rorem guy has been in a puzzle since this site began, so now I really have to find out something about him. He is billed at Wikipedia as a composer and a "diarist" (Rorem's own site has the less pretentious term "writer"). It seems that it's not so much the quality of his writing, but the juicy content, that has garnered him the "diarist / writer" designation. In the late 60's he wrote about sexual relationships with Leonard Bernstein and Noel Coward, among others. Musically, he is apparently famous for his "song settings" or "song cycles" or something like that. What do I know? I tend to take my orchestral music singing-free.

7A: What a famous woman may play in a movie (herself)
62A: Friendly (amiable)

They look innocuous on their surfaces, but these are very trappy answers. I had the front end of the first (HER-) and the back end of the second (-ABLE) - and from those angles - well, the first answer wants to be HEROINE, duh. So that's what I had. And while HERSELF is perfectly good as an answer, any actress caught playing HERSELF in a movie will not be "famous" for long, ceased to be "famous" about a decade earlier, or is "famous" for all the wrong reasons. When's the last time a self-respecting actress played HERSELF in a movie (in anything other than the smallest cameo role)? Ooh, ooh, I know: Joan Rivers! No, wait, I said "self-respecting." And "actress." Ah, I've made her angry! Look out!
As for the trouble with AMIABLE, let's just say there are other -ABLE words that fit the bill. I for instance had AFFABLE - which totally works - and then when that proved wrong, I had PLIABLE, which ... does not work so well. Though pliable friends are nice to have. Other answers I had wrong at first include 51A: Cooking pots (ollas) - I had OASTS (they're both klassic krosswordese, but only one actually fits this clue) - 53D: Lie around (loll) - I had LAZE - and 39D: Not budging (firm) - I had FAST, which is a very accurate way of describing a stain that is "not budging."

33D: Architect Saarinen (Eero)
61A: Otherworldly (odd)

Pantheon rules dictate that I must acknowledge every NYT crossword appearance by a sitting member of the Security Council. Thus I hereby acknowledge EERO Saarinen. Even the unquestioned rulers have to get out once in a while and show they're still relevant. As for this "Otherworldly" clue ... I do Not like ODD as the answer. It's too banal an answer for a clue with such extra-terrestrial promise. ODD is ODDly deflating here. The shape of the fingernail on my right middle finger is ODD (because that finger was slammed in car / house doors three times between the ages of 5 and 11). That fingernail is not, however, from outer space. EERO sounds "Otherworldly," like the name of a space alien, but in reality he's simply a Finnish dude whose name (to Americans, at any rate) is ODD.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Orange 10:07 AM  

I can't believe you didn't mention Ned Flanders.

sonofdad 10:09 AM  

I believe that Abe's "I ain't fer it, I'm agin it" line was in reference to Marge's idea that they fix Main Street. I'm pretty sure that he, like everyone else save Marge, was fer the monorail.

Rex Parker 10:13 AM  

I can't believe I didn't mention NED Flanders either. Wow. Eerie.

Yes, fixing main street. Wait, why were they fixing Main Street? What's the plot of that ep?

Rex Parker 10:20 AM  

Fixed the Simpsons ref. Thanks, Chris.


Anonymous 4:21 PM  

I'm with you on this one, Rex. I filled out the grid, and then said 'And...?'

I'd rather consider it a pallid themeless than a wannabe Wednesday. To quote the form guide: look to improve.

Neither an OLE nor an OREO for Babs I'm afraid.

Anonymous 10:45 PM  

The theme is oxymoronic body parts.

Small-MINDed BigFOOT, white-FACEd BlackBEARD, cold-HEARTed Hot LIPS.

Still pretty weak in my book.

Anonymous 11:58 AM  

what confused me was that Hot Lips was a nurse. BJ, Trapper John, Frank Burns & Lt Col Blake were medics.

Rex Parker 1:09 PM  

I think "medic" can mean just general "medical practitioner" - i.e. I don't think one has to be an M.D. to be termed a "medic" within the context of the Armed Forces. But I Could Be Wrong.


Anonymous 6:43 PM  

I think you miss the point on 7A. The famous woman playing herself is generally not an actress at all. Either she's making a cameo appearance in a movie, or it's a documentary. In either case, the credits will list her name next to the word "herself" where her character's name would otherwise appear.

Of course, several famous actresses (incl: Andi McDowell, Susan Sarandon, Teri Garr, Cher, &c.) actually did portray "herself" in Robert Altman's hollywood-set film, "The Player."

Rex Parker 7:13 PM  

Well, you're not wrong, but first of all, I mentioned the possibility of a cameo role in the commentary, and second, if the actress in question is in a documentary, then she is "playing" nothing. It's not a role.


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