TUESDAY, May 15, 2007 - John Halverson

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: Anatomy? - four theme answers begin with essential body components.

Did the puzzle last night, but this morning couldn't remember a thing about it. I only just now discovered (I think) what the theme was. It's a very subtly expressed theme, especially considering that no theme answer (and thus no answer in the grid) is longer than 10 letters, and two of the theme answers are Downs, so the theme does not announce itself aggressively in a visual way. The theme answers:

  • 20A: Tightwads (SKINflints) - that's one word, right? Ah, yes, good.
  • 56A: Really, really dumb (BONE-headed)
  • 10D: Big Easy bash (FAT Tuesday) - here's how the puzzle can warp your mind: while the whole world sees "Big Easy" and thinks "New Orleans," I see "Big Easy" and think "Ernie Els's nickname," so traumatized was I by not knowing that answer on a Saturday puzzle a few months back. Luckily for me, "New Orleans" is the second thing I think of when I see "Big Easy."
  • 27D: G.T.O.s, e.g. (MUSCLE cars) - got this off just the "M," knowing nothing of the theme - and I know next to Nothing about cars.
I thought that there might be a broader anatomical theme going on in this puzzle, with NO-BRAINER (17A: Super-easy decision) sitting right on top of SKINFLINTS, and then the longish STRESS OUT (36A: Put too much pressure on) and CATCH COLD (41A: Get the sniffles) - both things that your body can do - sitting in symmetrical and somewhat central positions in the grid. Then there's STYES (39A: Eyelid woes), sitting dead center. So ... it's a pretty bodily puzzle. Ooh, I almost forgot TIBIA (3D: Part of the lower skeleton) up in the NW.

In terms of non-theme fill, there's not a lot that's remarkable. Normally I'd gripe about something like SMIT (5A: Struck, old-style) - which is ridiculously archaic and thus stands out in this puzzle like a sore THUMB. It's not even a word, really. More like 4/5 of a word. I would almost have preferred that the "S" be changed to an "E," even though that gets us the ultra common EMIT and changes the Down from SMILES (5D: Beams) to the proper name plural EMILES ([Zola and others?]), which would have been a horrible solution, but isn't a hell of a lot worse than what we've got. All I'm sayin' is that this part of the grid could have been rewritten. Surely someone could rewrite that section with SMUT instead of SMIT in there. ANYWAY, as I was saying, normally I'd gripe about this, but today, it didn't really bother me. That said, nothing really wowed me either. The non-theme fill is pretty ho-hum, except for the colorful 9-letter Downs:

  • 6D: Unabomber's writing, e.g. (manifesto) - "Unabomber," HA ha. Flashback! Remember the 90's? "I'd rather not, thanks."
  • 37D: Enterprise warnings (red alerts)

A few answers stood out as original or unusual to me. While I could have told you SCALAR was a word, I don't think I could have told you what it meant: 44A: Having an uninterrupted series of steps. Speaking of my ignorance, I routinely forget what the phrase "in SITU" means (puzzle had to remind me: 25A: In _____ (as found)). I always thought "Dumb DORA" (40A: "Dumb _____" (old comic strip)) was invented by "Match Game" host Gene Rayburn, but apparently she really existed (insofar as comics are "real"). I liked AD REP at 50D: One selling TV time, e.g., because it is unexpectedly gender neutral - ADMAN is a crossword standard. Lastly, while "South Park"'s STAN has been in the puzzle before, I don't know that there's a better way to clue him than today's 32D: "South Park" boy who's always crying "Oh my God, they killed Kenny!" ("You bastards!").

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Norrin2 7:16 AM  

I haven't solved this one yet, just looked it over but I can see that I'm going to have to have a talk with John Halverson about 15 Across. Mata Hari was not a spy.

Rex Parker 8:05 AM  

Just remember that Halverson might have had nothing to do with it... was she an "alleged" spy? Well, she was found guilty of spying, and executed for it, so ... legally, she was a spy. But I see what you mean.

Norrin2 9:16 AM  

I think the original Dumb Dora might have been David Copperfield's first wife (the Dickens character not the magician.) I can't remember if anyone in the book ever called her Dumb Dora but I know I did when I read it. The "Dumb Dora" comic strip was one that Chic Young did before "Blondie."
And your point about Mata Hari is well-taken, but I think if you are found guilty of espionage and executed for it, and then evidence comes up later than exonerates you, you're now more of a miscarriage of justice than a spy. I mean 20 people were tried and convicted of witchcraft in Salem in 1692, but I don't think anybody today would call them witches, at least not without quotation marks.

Linda G 9:57 AM  

Robert, keep up the battle to get Mata Hari clued otherwise. It seems to have worked for Ava.

What am I missing about the Una-stuff from the 90s? I was around, and I wasn't doing drugs, but I'm coming up with a blank.

barrywep 10:55 AM  


You and I were on the same page today.

In case you missed it:


Rex Parker 10:56 AM  

Linda G,

You MUST remember the Unabomber (pronounced "YOO-na-bomber," not "OON-a-bomber"). Ted Kaczynski? Ring a bell?


Anonymous 12:16 PM  

I actually changed my speech patterns because of the una bomber. It seems his brother was certain that Ted Kaczynski was the unabomber and therefore turned him in when he discovered the phrase "you can't eat your cake and have it too" in the unabomber's letters instead of "you can't have your cake and eat it too. Ted's is the original and more sensical version of this adage. I too used to use the original but decided that I did not want to be in the same class as the unabomber and gave up this pedanticism.

Anonymous 12:47 PM  

Linda, what did we change about Ava? I'm drawing a blank.

Norrin2 2:38 PM  

One thing I never could figure out about the Unabomber -- he hated technology and to make his point he sent out letter bombs, which are pretty sophisticated technology. Shouldn't he have been mailing, like cannonballs instead?

Anonymous 5:25 PM  

Contributors to this blog grumbled that Ava was often clued according to her exes. Lately, she's been clued according to her accomplishments. Coincidence?...

Anonymous 6:24 PM  

Hmm...is Will getting frisky? What's with MINX, TARTS, MATA HARI, and all that SKIN and related bodyparts?

Perhaps just a way to liven up an otherwise routine Tuesday?

Anonymous 6:37 PM  

p.s. Seeing tREX at 22A also livened up my day.

DONALD 9:13 PM  

The New York Times is having a promotion for its new internet service called "Times Reader" -- which includes the daily crossword -- for free for 30 days (including the entire rest of the paper too, a 7-day file each and every day). I'm a subscriber, so it comes with the subscription.

I recommend trying it out -- if for nothing else, the crossword.

Go to:



DONALD 9:16 PM  

I know most of the visitors to the Rex blog have the crossword from the internet service, but thought that it could be passed on for those who don't or if someone you know might want to try it.

That's it -- oh, love little Stan!

Linda G 9:23 PM  

I just reread what you wrote about the Unabomber. For some reason, I thought you were making reference to several other Una-related things in the nineties. That's what I thought I missed.

Barry, thanks for the link to the Manifesto. When I stop doing puzzles and blogging, I'll read it in its entirety ; )

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