TUESDAY, Feb. 27, 2007 - Allan E. Parrish

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Solving time: untimed - fastish?
THEME: IT'S ELECTRIC (57A: Title for this puzzle) - Three theme answers have words that are at least vaguely synonymous with electricity in them, clued in a non-electric context.

Theme answers:

17A: "The Razor's Edge" star, 1946 (Tyrone Power)
27A: 1980's Scott Baio sitcom ("Charles in Charge")
43A: Breakfast beverage (grapefruit juice)

Didn't know the first one, but guessed it from the TY-. CHARLES IN CHARGE was a staple of my teen years (and maybe my 20's, I forget). I was a genuine fan of the first season, which I believe was actually on in primetime, when the cast was normal-looking / brunette, before they completely remade the cast over in blond and moved the show to some kind of syndication. I think the only cast holdover besides Charles himself was Buddy, played by acting genius turned born-again Christian Willie Aames. I think Aames was recently seen on "Celebrity Fat Camp," or whatever it's called: the show where fat "celebrities" try to lose weight. Anyway, if you want to get me a gift, get me "Charles in Charge, Season One" on DVD. I can't bring myself to buy it, but I believe I would enjoy it. I just finished watching "The Office, Season Two," so I'm pretty much out of sitcom DVDs at the moment.

14A: "Winning Bridge Made Easy" author (Goren)

I'm guessing this is some old-skool gimme, but I'd Never heard of ... him? I can see how his name could be of value to a constructor: five common letters, unusual combination. It sucked for me a little that the "N" in GOREN intersected 5D: Spike TV's former name (TNN) because I thought the answer was TNN but then I thought that there is still a country network on the air ... and isn't that called TNN? No, I just realized right this second that the network I was thinking of is CMT (Country Music Television). TNN was The Nashville Network.

25D: Adventurer Nellie (Bly)

Nope. Not on my radar. Had to get it from crosses. She sounds very interesting and half-way insane. Traveled around the world and faked insanity to do an inside story on a mental institution - all well before you could get your own cable show for doing so.

48A: Lyndon's running mate (Hubert)

I totally spaced on this one and had to wait for the crosses to help me out. This was the last presidential election before I was born - I'm pretty solid on VPs from Nixon on.

56A: Pastor Haggard (Ted)

Oh my god is this the "I do crystal meth and have sex with male prostitutes" guy!?!? It is! This is very, very lurid for a NYT puzzle answer, isn't it? I mean, I'm not complaining, but dang. This guy would never have made the puzzle on his preaching alone, so the only reason he's here is crystal meth and male prostitutes. I'm just pointing this out. Is there any other answer in Times puzzle history where the person achieved puzzle status only for such lurid reasons? Someone who would not have made the puzzle otherwise, and who is not, say, a mass murderer? I like that TED intersects RUPERT Murdoch (44D: Media baron Murdoch), as surely the latter made a lot of money off of stories about the former.

7D: With 62-Across, nickname for former N.F.L. star Sanders (NEON DEION)

Fresh off of getting thrown out of the Pantheon, NEON DEION makes a triumphant return to the grid, in full rhyming splendor. His name somehow seems appropriate to the theme of this puzzle, too. So good for you DEION. We may reconsider you for Pantheon status yet. I should also acknowledge the return to the grid of past Pantheon president ASTA (51D: "The Thin Man" dog). OLEO needs to get out more often and let the people know who's boss now.

For some reason, the following words all seem weird to me this morning. Not bad weird, just strange or odd or ... alien:

  • 24A: Triangular house part (gable) - very hard for me to get. Does my house even have gables?
  • 22A: Beau (swain) - why don't these seem synonymous to me? The clue seems sweetly old-fashioned, while the answer seems ... sweaty and musty with the aroma of the engine room or the farm.
  • 39D: Mil. designation (spec) - the word "designation" always throws me; doesn't it just mean "name for something"? Feels very non-specific. And aren't SPECs non-military "designations," too.
I am a big fan of Steely Dan and so AJA (41D: 1977 Steely Dan album that spent 52 weeks in the top 40) was easy. I am also a big fan of WHAM (23D: Kapow!), and SPONGE (13D: Moocher) bob Squarepants, and Elvis's "In the GHETTO" (43D: Run-down urban area), so all were easy. Enjoy your day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 9:40 AM  

Am I the only one who hates an above-the-fold location?? Also, it seems when it's below the fold, it's on an even page, necessitating a reverse second fold. Wouldn't it be nice (a little Beach Boys lingo) for a below-the-fold location on an odd page? Is this too nit-picky?

Anonymous 10:03 AM  

The "Charles in Charge" theme is notable for its utter creepiness. These people sign their rights away to the new boy in the neighborhood who lives downstairs, and still the singer wants to enlist in the program. Creepy, indeed.

Alex S. 10:39 AM  

There's an episode of Scrubs where the Charles in Charge theme song has prominence.

It shocked the hell out of my wife when I was able to sing along.

So this was a big gimme. Besides, who doesn't have the TV career of Scott Baio memorized?

Happy Days
Joannie Loves Chachi
Charles in Charge
Diagnosis Murder
Arrested Development (recurring character, season 3)

Orange 11:05 AM  

Bob Loblaw!

The Army's loaded with people whose rank is specialist, isn't it?

My building is gable-free. Interestingly, this puzzle could have been even more packed with names—Clark Gable and Dominique Swain's last names were clued as nouns, though. I see swains as more like the wooers in Jane Austen books than as sweaty farmhands. Perhaps you are influenced by SWeat stAINs?

And technically, isn't Haggard an ex-pastor?

I think Nellie Bly is one of those names I learned via crosswords when I was a kid.

Rex Parker 11:16 AM  

I was saying SPEC as if it were a word - not thinking of it as an abbreviation, which makes much more sense.

"Well I don't know how to write a big hit song / And all crossword puzzles well I just shun" - yes, "Mayor of Simpleton" is the second track on XTC's late 80's album Oranges and Lemons - way to remember the crossword reference, Howard. I'm impressed.


Anonymous 12:27 PM  

Sweetie, our house does not have gables. And Nellie Bly featured prominently in my dissertation because she wrote a lot about the working girl. See you at dinner.

Anonymous 12:49 PM  

Re: Scott Baio's stint on Arrested Development.

Who could forget Bob Loblaw's law blog?


Rex Parker 1:13 PM  

Baio was also on eps of both "Love Boat" and "Fantasy Island" - the great TV one-two punch of the late 70's. Also "Battle of the Network Stars V, VIII, IX, X, XI, XIV, and XVI"

My favorite series of his is "Rewind"; it was cancelled before it ever aired. I did not get this fact from imdb, but from memory. Andrew and I used to reference "Rewind" a lot: the fastest show ever to get the axe - they had already begun promoting it with on-air commercials, and then [poof], gone.

That's all the Baio I have in me today.


Rex Parker 1:21 PM  

OH, and PS, I realize that I replied (above) to something Howard B said ... at someone else's blog (?!). So my XTC comments should make no sense to anyone.


Anonymous 3:30 PM  

Speaking of Wham!, where is George Michael these days? Still in the slammer, or a free man?

Rex Parker 3:54 PM  

RE: George Michael - Free man. I believe that what he calls his "culture" (Andrew, correct me if I have this wrong) is anonymous sex in the park with men. I believe he was caught doing this and proclaimed that the undercover reporter didn't understand his "culture."

I enjoy many a George Michael song, particularly "Father Figure" and "Careless Whisper."


Anonymous 5:58 PM  

Unless your house has a flat roof, a dome roof, or a hip roof, then it most likely has at least one gable. Gables are the pointy end pieces between the pitched areas of the roof. That's where the attic is.
A gable may or may not contain a window or windows. A house may also have dormers. Dormers are little gabled areas (usually with dormer windows) that project out from the front or back of the pitched roof of a house. Your house very likely has gables but not dormers. (If so you can name your gables Clark -- or not.)

Well, anyway . . . .

Keep blogging, Oh Mighty Rex, King of the CrossWorld.

Howard B 7:25 PM  

No problem on the misposting, Rex. I suppose your blog is also a crossover hit.

Waxy in Montreal 8:53 PM  

Ah, Rex, you are just too young. In the mold of Adlai Stevenson, I recall Hubert Horatio Humphrey (48A), the so-called Happy Warrior, as the great hope of American liberalism in the '50's and '60's. Before serving as LBJ's Veep (1964-1968), he was the boy mayor of Minneapolis and then Senator from Minnesota. In 1968, he ran for President against Richard Milhous Nixon and, tragically for history and the US (eg. Watergate), lost.

HHH is largely an unknown today (as you demonstrated Rex) but at the peak of his popularity he was a great force in American politics. This I recall and I'm merely a Canadian.

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