SUNDAY, May 27, 2007 - Patrick Berry

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "Dinner Theater" - theme answers are titles of famous plays that have been rewritten to create food-related puns, seven out of eight of which involve MEAT

I adore this puzzle. It was one of the more enjoyable Sunday solving experiences I've had in a while. Some of my happiness with this puzzle may be due to my record Sunday time (I finally broke @#$#-ing 20 minutes ... crushed it, in fact). But most of my happiness comes from the genuine cleverness of the theme and its smooth - and legitimately funny - execution. Some of the puns are a bit of a stretch, but they're all so imaginative and snappy that it doesn't matter. I am on record as a non-fan of puns in general, but apparently if the pun involves a. theater, and b. meat, I'm right on board.

Your theme answers:

  • 23A: Play about tenderizing meat with one's toes? ("Barefoot in the Pork") - the first one I got, and, by far, my favorite of them all
  • 31A: Musical drama about a butcher who sells deer meat? ("The Merchant of Venison") - there's music in that play? Why don't I remember that?
  • 40A: Musical play set at McDonald's? ("The Burger's Opera") - and the 18th-century literature scholars of the world rejoice... all six of them. [These six might also rejoice over 41D: "Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion" author (Hume) - Scotland's most famous Enlightenment-era thinker.]
  • 59A: Musical drama that tells the tale of a sausage casing? ("Wurst Side Story")
  • 64A: Musical drama about a man eating soup? ("Porgy and Bisque") - the most difficult theme answer for me to get, primarily because I solved the back end first and couldn't figure out what in the world BISQUE could be punning on
  • 85A: Play about a guy ordering beef from Dublin? ("Abie's Irish Roast")
  • 91A: Play about swine intestines that are semidivine? ("Chitlins of a Lesser God") - OK, I changed my mind - this one's at least as good as BAREFOOT IN THE PORK, and its clue is manifestly better
  • 106A: Play about meat that's good to eat anytime? ("A Ham for All Seasons")

I am most impressed that Mr. Berry was able to pull this off using only Very Well Known plays - no esoterica here. All original titles will be quite familiar to anyone in the habit of the doing the NYT crossword, with John Gay's "The Beggar's Opera" being perhaps the most obscure. I'd say that "Abie's Irish Rose" is the most obscure - and it would be, to a non-puzzling audience. but ABIE and ROSE are crossword staples going way back, so this title is familiar. And today, if it's not familiar to you from your own theater-going or puzzle-solving experience, then perhaps it's familiar to you from the clue to 20A!!!! It's really, really weird that one of the theme answers is ABIE'S IRISH ROAST, when the clue for 20A is Anne who wrote "Abie's Irish Rose" (Nichols). Normally, you don't find words repeated in both the clues and the grid, and you especially don't find whole titles repeated. Not sure what happened here. It's not as if there weren't some other way to clue NICHOLS. Whatever. I can't stay mad. This puzzle still rules. I would love to see the rejected theme answers for this puzzle, if any.

19A: Pfizer product used before brushing the teeth (Plax) - not a product I encounter with any regularity. It's a good thing I knew (from puzzles) that OXEYE is a 4D: Common daisy, or else I'd have had to run through practically the whole damned alphabet before I finally got the "X" in PLAX.

52A: Actress Barbara Bel _____ (Geddes) - not sure what she's best known for, but I know her best from "Vertigo." Not sure what this says about me, but here goes: when I saw "Vertigo," I was far more attracted to Ms. GEDDES than I was to Ms. Novak. I am quite sure that this is not the reaction Mr. Hitchcock intended.

82A: 1962 hit film whose climax is on Crab Key island ("Dr. No") - a long, long way to go for ths reasonably common bit of crossword fill. I am woefully unschooled in Connery-era Bond films. I grew up on Roger Moore.

105A: Allen Ginsberg's "Plutonian _____" ("Ode") - a long, long way to go for ODE. Of all the ODEs in the world... this isn't a complaint. It's a totally inferrable answer, so I like that the clue is (literally?) from outer space.

103A: Person who has something going on? (wearer) - my least favorite clue / answer in the Whole Puzzle. By Far. If it's in the act of "going on," then it is not yet being worn. Further, WEARER is just a terrible, never-used word. This is all the griping I will do about today's puzzle.

112A: Elbow-bender (sot) - I love the phrase "elbow bender" because it's just ridiculous - who doesn't bend his/her elbows from time to time?

114A: Character in many a joke (St. Peter) - I did not know this, because I am an outspoken non-fan of "jokes" in general. I find that most people who tell "jokes" do so to substitute for the lack of a genuine, functioning sense of humor.

118A: Juvenal work ("Satires") - I get an inexplicable thrill out of the fact that the answer is a plural, but, as a title, also a singular.

8D: N.L. and A.L. city (CHI) - NY is the only other answer that would work here. Please don't try to convince me that the (A.L.) Angels are now, like the (N.L.) Dodgers, an L.A. team. I don't care what the scoreboard says, that's just stupid and wrong.

10D: Mr. _____, scheming vicar in "Emma" (Elton) - Thank god I saw "Clueless" (many times) and that "Clueless" was a remarkably spot-on adaptation of "Emma" (right down to character names, it turns out)

16D: Composer Scarlatti (Alessandro) - I know Scarlatti's name well, but at first I looked at the 10-letter space here and thought "what man's name could possibly be that long?" Now I know.

17D: Popular quarry for British hunters (fallow deer) - this is just a pretty answer. I don't have anything particular to say about it.

32D: Possessed girl in "The Exorcist" (Regan) - Oooh, I'd forgotten this. "The Exorcist" is wicked scary, in that pre-1980 way (i.e. before horror became irrevocably campy and / or comically gory). See also "The Omen" and "Rosemary's Baby." I much prefer this clue for REGAN to anything "King Lear"-related.

42D: The Isle of Man's Port _____ (Erin) - one of the few completely unknown (to me) answers in the grid. ERIN is of course obscenely common crossword fill, so why not go to the four corners of the earth to find a new way to clue it. My preferred ERIN clue is one that refers to [Actress Moran from "Happy Days"]. Ireland be damned.

43D: Nonhuman co-hosts of TV's "Mystery Science Theater 3000" ('bots)

So Many things to love about this clue. First, thank god the answer is BOTS and not ROBOTS, because BOTS is the more commonly used term on the show. Second, I love that there is a "Mystery Science Theater" clue in a puzzle whose theme is Theater. Third, MST3K (as it's commonly known) deserves more puzzle recognition like this. I remember seeing it for the first time in 1992 and thinking it was the funniest, most original TV show I'd seen in ages.

73D: Five-Year Plan implementer, for short (U.S.S.R.) - I'm pretty sure my wife taught me this, and not very long ago. "Implementer" is a god-awful word, btw (though I'm not sure how I'd reword the clue to make it any better).

85D: First name in Objectivism (Ayn) - as in Rand. My mom was way into Ayn Rand at one point in her life. I have many, many old copies of "The Objectivist" - the periodical expounding Objectivism to the world. My mom is one of the least Randian people I know, so I don't know exactly what the appeal was. All I know is that I am the proud owner (inheritor?) of a signed, special anniversary edition of "Atlas Shrugged." Or was it "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal?" Whatever, someone will pay me money for it some day, that's what I know.

88A: Buttonhole (accost) - I had no idea that the clue and the answer were synonymous. Not sure what I thought "buttonhole" meant. Maybe something like "pigeonhole."

96D: Some mantel pieces (ewers) - If you have a EWER on your mantel, please explain why, in 30 words or less. I need to know.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Linda G 12:11 AM  

That W in EWER/WEARER was the last letter to fall for me.

In addition to explaining why you have one, please explain what it is and why it's called that.

Anonymous 2:02 AM  

Barbara Bel Geddes is ultrafamous for her role on Dallas.

DONALD 2:23 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 3:07 AM  

Barbara Bel Geddes played Miss Ellie, wife of Jock, mother of J.R. and Bobby Ewing on Dallas

Karen from the Cape 8:07 AM  

It should say 'The Merchant of VENISON', right?
Push the button, Frank.

ScottK 9:45 AM  

I was impressed by Berry's willingness to cast the "Breakfast Table" rule aside -- pigs intestines and sausage casings indeed!

The only thing that could have made the puzzle better was if ALL the answers involved offal. How about "12 Angry Menudo" and "Sweetbreads of Youth?"

barrywep 10:56 AM  

Aren't pig intestines breakfast food for those who indulge in such?

Anonymous 11:02 AM  

I had SPAM FOR ALL SEASONS. Made sense at the time! My fave was definitely CHITLINS ... Shameless but hysterical.

According to all definitions I can find, a EWER is an open vessel like a pitcher, not an urn that would contain ashes and have a lid. And definitely not an ERNE.

Clueless was a repurposed Emma? How did I not know that? I love that movie and have seen it (too) many times as well. I'm a big fan of the 'woefully underestimated female triumphing over adversity' plotline. Belongs with two others for me - Working Girl and Legally Blonde.

That usage of buttonhole takes its meaning from the act of grasping another's buttoned outergarments to get their attention, thus ACCOST. Definitely an invasion of personal space. I used to work with someone who would use the term when he was in a networking situation, saw someone he wanted to speak to from across the room and remarked that he needed to buttonhole the person before he/she left. Thankfully he never actually accosted anyone, physically anyway.

Anonymous 12:51 PM  

I too had SPAM for All Seasons. Took a while to work that one out.

Anonymous 1:32 PM  

I too thought it was weird that the clue for 20 across was a big hint for the answer to 85 across...
but I never heard of that play so it was a big help... How do you pronounce "Abie"... is it a nickname for Abraham? Or is it short for Abigail?

Anonymous 1:34 PM  

I too had spam at first and before I got chitlins was sure pig intestines would be tripe.

Anonymous 1:34 PM  

A few other tasty bits to go with your meat in today's puzzle:

HIHO crackers (appetizer?)
and the hunted FALLOW DEER

Don't forget to RSVP.

Anonymous 1:52 PM  

Fitzy, Abie is pronounced with a long A. Probably derived from Abraham.

Vi, your 'menu' is ... well, delectable! There's another word in today's puzzle that arguably could be added to the list, too - think SNL ... think Alec Baldwin ... think Schwetty ... oh I'd better go now.

Anonymous 3:35 PM  

1. I assumed that 20A was a boost to make up for the fact that "ABIE'S IRISH ROSE" is rather obscure.

2. Is anyone else bothered by DENIM for "Shade of blue" (100D)? I thought it was the cloth, not the hue.

Anonymous 4:31 PM  

My dentist told me to use mouthwash AFTER the brushing of teeth.

Anonymous 4:49 PM  

Plax is not a mouthwash it is a pre-brushing rinse to remove plaque before brushing.

Anonymous 5:03 PM  

Well, Peroxyl is a similar product not touted as a mouthwash in particular but rather as a plaque remover. Still, I was told to use same AFTER brushing.

Anonymous 8:01 PM  

79A- "What you may call it"

I had LOAN as in 'you may call it a loan.'

sweeter than 'NOUN' eh?

(I'm frenchless)

Jack Guignol 8:38 PM  

I'm teaching The Beggar's Opera next semester, so I guess I was rejoicing right alongside those six 18th century scholars.

Rex Parker 8:48 PM  

Jack - John Gay thanks you from the grave, I'm sure. I've never read "The Beggar's Opera." You'll have to tell me all about it, including why it's worth reading.

Must blog Monday puzzle now.


Anonymous 1:50 AM  

Thanks for the pronounciation assist, Wendy!

This puzzle was a lot of fun...

Anonymous 2:28 AM  

Buttonhole: imagine someone grabbing you by the shirt or jacket to "talk you up".

fergus 9:08 PM  

I once had a pewter EWER on my mantle place-equivalent. A decorative pitcher that sometimes sports dried flowers.

Didn't get around to the Sunday puzzle until I copied it at the library today. Too much going on on Sunday to justify the $5 NYTimes.

Anonymous 12:26 PM  

As a Southerner I have to object to the spelling of "chitterlings" as "chitlins" without notation in the clue.

Eggmaster 11:45 AM  

Dude, this explains so much.

Now I can reveal to you that you are, in fact, the illegitimate offspring of Ayn Rand and Charles Kuralt.

Which makes brother. Taste my happy!

Anonymous 3:30 PM  

Good puzzle, good blog, I agree with everything everybody said. Two cups.

I use the term "buttonhole" sometimes. The mental picture is of actually sticking your finger into another's lapel buttonhole, and pulling them towards you. I suppose these days that would make ACCOST into ASSAULT.

DENIM as a color:

Years of relatively warm winters have allowed the pine beetle to multiply catastrophically in the interior of BC. The dead trees are being harvested at a furious rate, before they get a chance to rot. The wood is stained blue from a fungus that accompanies the beetle. It is being marketed as "DENIM pine"

Anonymous 5:45 PM  

I liked the puzzle. Glad to see Henson clued as Muppet's creator instead of John who hosted "Talk Soup"

Anonymous 1:36 PM  


a ewer is a tall (generally china or porcelain) vase so who the hell would put a heavy item on a mantel?

A buttonhole is often referred to as the carnation or whatever worn by men at weddings and such receptions.

Anonymous 8:02 AM  

Why isn't it "an ewer" instead of "a ewer"?

And what's with 97D? Although I got the puzzle right, I still don't understand the clue or the answer.

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