TUESDAY, Dec. 5, 2006 - Kenneth J. Berniker

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Solving time: 7:36

THEME: "Initial reaction" (7D) - theme answers begin with three letter initials, e.g. 17A: Where the Washington Nationals play (RFK Stadium)

A terrible time for a Tuesday - there's this one person at the applet who is my solving barometer. We'll call this person ... Chuck. I expect to beat Chuck. If I beat Chuck, I feel like I did OK. I did not beat Chuck last night. I don't know anything about Chuck, but he is my nemesis, and I shall have my revenge.

Are there detailed instructions on the NYT website concerning how to work the applet? I know "Return" will move me one answer forward, but what about one answer backward? Or up or down? I spent so much time using the arrow keys to place myself that I lost a lot of time (I feel). This puzzle was much easier than my time would indicate, so I blame my poor time on applet incompetence. Again, I will work on this, and Chuck will feel my puzzling Wrath.

I am listening to Dolly Parton this morning. This is not that unusual, as I love her. But this morning, I am listening to her as a way of honoring her in the wake of the embarrassing "Tribute" she was forced to endure yesterday at the Kennedy Center Honors (which apparently will be broadcast Dec. 26 at 9pm on CBS). Somebody thought it would be a good idea to get Jessica Simpson (by far my least favorite Simpson) to sing "9 to 5" - this would have been insult enough, as on her best day, that ignorant skank is a barely competent singer (see also a tribute to Gladys Knight I saw a couple years back, where the pathetic Simpson shared the stage with the magnificent honoree and was absolutely blown off the stage). But, if hiring Jessica Simpson to warble her way through "9 to 5" was injury ... well, brace yourself for the insult (from the Columbus Dispatch):

Monday, December 4, 2006
WASHINGTON — Singer-actress Jessica Simpson was in tears last night after flubbing a song she was performing during the Kennedy Center Honors.

Simpson was on stage to sing Nine to Five as part of the tribute to Dolly Parton, one of the evening's five honorees. Simpson ended her performance abrupt[l]y with the words "so nervous" and quickly exited the stage. The stunned audience remained silent, giving her no applause.

While normally this kind of meltdown gives me nothing but glee, the fact that it happened as part of an evening designed to honor one of my heroes just leaves me feeling sad. Why can't Ms. Simpson be more like her sister and save her pathetic implosions for SNL.

This puzzle was pretty uninspired, themewise. Maybe if the INITIALs had all been anagrams of one another or something wacky like that, I would have liked it better.

1A: Soprano Lehmann (Lilli)
56A: Basketry fiber (raffia)

Never heard of 'em. I mean, Never. Have I not said that I do not like non-pop, non-blues, non-jazz singing? Well, it's true. I'm sure Ms. Lehmann is well known in her world, but she is not terribly welcome in mine, especially on a Tuesday. As for RAFFIA; I'll just say that OSIER is less obscure, and even that is more of a Wednesday+ answer. RAFFIA ... I'd almost rather the answer were just plain RAFFI. (Sahra is, to our great amusement, an official member of the Raffi Fan Club, though I don't think she remembers and we're certainly not going to remind her ... until she's 13)

24A: Approach at a clip (dash to)

Something about this pairing feels So Clunky to me. "I'm going to DASH TO the store," does not mean, "I'm going to approach the store at a clip." The TO part implies that you GET THERE. "We're approaching the store..." What is it, the moon's surface? "Approach," ugh. I'm sure there is a defense of this clue, fine. It's just highly inelegant.

9D: Metric feet (iambi)

Seriously, how many ways are you going to torture this word? We've seen three different variations in recent weeks. If I balked at the unnecessarily long and somewhat dated IAMBUS, you can bet that I'm going to complain about the horrible liberties taken here. That pretentious Latinate plural, come on! Nobody would say this nowhere ever never, not even your most tweeded and elbow-patched professor. IAMBI is about as far out there as, well, IAMBI. See for yourself:Seriously, you have to go to central Tanzania to find it. Good luck. I had the more reasonable IAMBS, which only changed to IAMBI when forced to by the upstart cross ICIER (26A: Not so genial), who is showing up in grids an awful lot lately.

43A: Forearm bones (radii)
53D: Neighbors of 43-Across (ulnas)

Is there not some limit on bone density in puzzles? Don't think you can get around this excessive bonage by cutely cluing one bone entry to the other. Too many bones. Further, why do you pull out the Latinized plural for the first bones, but not for their neighbors? Capricious and inconsistent. Shouldn't it be ULNAE? My Latin is quite rusty, but if ULNA is the feminine noun of the first declension that I think it is ... if these bones are indeed "neighbors," then surely they share similar conventions of pluralization (as all good neighbors do).

31D: Guitarist Lofgren (Nils)
40D: Gaynor of "South Pacific" (Mitzi)

OK, these I knew, but I don't know why. I think I know Mr. Lofgren only from puzzles. Born June 21, 1951, NILS Lofgren is an incredibly prolific musical artist, with many solo albums to his credit. He once played with Neil Young and more recently (in the 80s and the late 90s) played on tour with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Two best factoids about him, from this writer's perspective are a. that he did some FOX Christmas ads with Bart Simpson in the early 90s, and b. he had something (as yet undetermined by me) to do with the FOX mega-cheesy, half-season disaster of a 1992 show called "The Heights," the only show in recent memory on which a fictional band (called "The Heights," after the name of the suburb they lived in ...) ended up having a hit song in the so-called real world ("How Do You Talk to an Angel," which hit #1 in 1992, one week before the show was canceled, HA ha).

I believe that Ms. Gaynor washed that man right out of her hair, but I'm going to double check. Yes, Mitzi Gaynor sang "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair" in South Pacific. She, it seems, was hot. Like a sexy Doris Day. In searching "MITZI Gaynor," I got a lot of Google hits, but none so interesting as SeniorBachelor, the website of a rich old guy looking for love. He currently seems to be screening applicants for some kind of invitation-only tour of Italy, wherein you can have the privilege of paying to be a part of his traveling harem. I may be a little fuzzy on the details. Have at him, ladies!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 11:34 AM  

I know what raffia is, but I usually need to be reminded (by you) of the definition of osier. I contend that the former is far less obscure than the latter. Next time we're in A.C. Moore, I'm sure I could find us some raffia, but I think we'd have a harder time locating the osier.

sonofdad 11:50 AM  

I always remember HMS Pinafore because when Sideshow Bob gives Bart a last request before he kills him, Bart asks him to sing every number of HMS Pinafore. Obviously Bob does it with pleasure, getting into costume and everything, and it ends up foiling his plans. Good episode.

Nils Lofgren wrote a song about the 1978 Bullets. It's actually not that bad. Pretty catchy, actually. You can hear it (and some other weird Bullets/Wizards-related songs) here: http://www.wizznutzz.com/god.shtml

Anonymous 12:11 PM  

My therapist told me this morning that I should speak my mind more often, so I will start by agreeing with your wife that raffia is far less obscure than osier, which I could not pick out of line-up. Raffia, on the other hand, was at one time ubiquitous, particularly as an ornament on a wrapped gift or an element of decor.

Ahh, I am so glad to have that off my chest . . .

Rex Parker 12:36 PM  

Google disagrees with you two re: the RAFFIA / OSIER controversy, but I'll concede that in certain artsy contexts you may be right - I'm happy to be challenged by two lovely ladies such as yourselves (that's me channeling Tom Jones via Englebert Humperdinck - what do you think?). Actually, Google *Image* search agrees that RAFFIA is more common. OSIER is undeniably more krossword-kommon.

Thanks to reliable Chris for filling in the potential Simpsons references I failed to make. "He's hardly ever sick at seeeeeaaaa!"


Anonymous 1:03 PM  

Certainly in sheer numbers, osier wins the Google wars. But the first couple of pages of a Google search for "osier" give you nowhere to buy the stuff. Search "raffia" on the other hand, and you are inundanted with purchasing options. And some lovely projects, such as this gem from knitty.com: "Small purses are fun, raffia is fun - together this is the Doublemint of fun summer purse projects!"

Anonymous 1:05 PM  

Sorry, I forgot to include the url where you can find a picture and instructions for having fun with raffia:


Anonymous 1:55 PM  

Well Rex, your Tom Jones is hot, but P's reference to knitty is even hotter.

Linda G 4:17 PM  

I completely agree with you re: the pluralization of bones. I had ulnae but EEEES made no sense. And I don't think of LEG as a pants part -- it's more like what goes into the pants part. I had HEM which messed things up for a few minutes. Well, I need to DASH TO the store for lemons.

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