Monday, October 23, 2006
Solving time: 6:14
THEME: PERMUTATIONS - three long answers are all anagrams of PERMUTATIONS, which is itself the fourth long answer at 53A
Aging Rex is having receding gum issues and has to call his dentist this morning because of tooth pain and sensitivity. Perhaps the low-grade pain slowed Rex down on the puzzle (completed for a second day in a row on the evening before its publication date). Perhaps Rex is just making excuses. The theme was not conducive to quick solving, as the anagraminess of the answers is not immediately evident when you're flying through the puzzle. My only thought on solving the first two theme answer was "????" (see below). Maybe, if I want my times to improve, I should save reflection for when the puzzle is Completed.
This puzzle commentary is dedicated to the "foreign substance" detected on Kenny Rogers' pitching hand during the first inning of last night's World Series game. So long, "foreign substance," whatever you were. We'll always remember you for being completely irrelevant. Turns out, he didn't need you at all for innings 2 through 8. Tigers win. Rogers pushes his astonishing streak of post-season shut-out innings over 20. Little known fact: he's 85 years old!
16A: The "U" of UHF (ultra)
I stared at this a little longer than I should have had to. I had the U and RA and the only "U" word in my head for some reason was UHURU - you know, from Star Trek. Yeah, I know her name doesn't end in "A." Didn't help that I am not so familiar with 11D: Major defense contractor (ITT) - Rex is a lover, not a fighter; plus, the only defense contractor he knows is Lockheed-Martin, which keeps many, many people in his part of the country gainfully (and gratefully) employed making weapons of moderate destruction. What I know about UHF is that it was a dial on old TV's, used less, er, frequently than VHF. Or do I have them backwards? At any rate, UHF was also a Weird Al Yankovic movie.
20A (THEME): Not the real Charlie of Star-Kist ads? (imposter tuna)
29A (THEME): Vintage French wines? (mature pinots)
44A (THEME): 1960's sitcom ghoul on terrace? (patio Munster)
Got the first of these, then the second, and still had no idea what my Theme was. The answers are weirdly literal. The "?" at the end of the clues typically indicates a play on words. But MATURE PINOTS are, in fact, vintage French wines. So harrrumph. You have to get to 53A: What 20-, 29-, 44- and 53-Across are of each other (permutations) (an ungainly clue in more ways than one), before you know what you are dealing with, theme-wise. Unless you've got an incredible anagram detector going in your head 24/7. I mean, it's Monday, so none of this is terribly difficult. Just unpleasantly clunky - though I wouldn't mind having a PATIO MUNSTER right about now, what with Halloween on the horizon. Tell me this wouldn't scare the hell out of the trick-or-treaters:
42A: Peanuts (goobers)
If I ever started an anti-PANTHEON, a Legion of Doom to the PANTHEON's Justice League, then this word would be a sure-fire inductee. It's just a horrible word. First, who wants to eat something that starts with "goo?" Second, it's an anagram of "boogers." Third, it's a useless synonym - it's no shorter or easier or more pleasant to say. Just writing about it is grossing me out. But I had to make my consternation known.
47A: 1976 and 2001, e.g.: Abbr. (years)
Yep ... they sure are ... years. Normally I'm a big fan of bathos, but this is just cheap cluing.
60A: Muscat native (Omani)
One of those regions of the world whose puzzle face time far far far exceeds its face time ANYWHERE else in the newspaper. I always imagine Muscat as somewhere in Russia, despite the fact that I know it's in Oman and that Oman is in the Middle East. Maybe that's because it sort of sounds like MOSCOW or MUSCOVITE. But then again it sounds like MUSKRAT. Here is a map depicting MUSCATAnd here is a MUSKRAT (what the hell were America and The Captain & Tenille thinking?):
10D: Arm bone (ulna)
54D: "Exodus" author (Uris)
The newest Pantheon inductees. I can name about five bones in the body by their proper Latin names, and ULNA is one of them. Never read a thing by URIS, but I imagine his first name (LEON) would be almost as useful, crossword-construction-wise, as his last.
4D: Annual award named for a Muse (Clio)
Yes, it makes total sense that the Advertising Industry's awards would take on the name of the Muse of History. The name has absolutely nothing to do with the product - the quintessence of modern advertising. Brilliant. O, you'll all be happy to know that the Budweiser "Whassup?" campaign is safely ensconced in the Clio Awards Hall of Fame. Why? Because our lives are all a little bit richer for having watched various losers shout a quickly-hackneyed catchphrase at each other, over and over, in multiple languages, for what seemed like years, all while we were innocently trying to catch a few sports highlights.
My good friends have a beautiful daughter named Clio, which completely rescues the name from all of the above nonsense.
55D: Poker player's declaration (I'm in)
Have I mentioned yet how much I despise all things poker, how it is one of the single biggest contributing factors to the thriving Culture of the Asshole that we have in this country, how its only reason for existence is to give fat and/or ugly jerks the false belief that they can be cool and attractive to women without first undergoing a vast body and personality overhaul? I have not forgiven, nor am I likely to forgive, ESPN for cashing in on the absurd mania for TV Poker despite the fact that poker is not a @$#@-ing sport. I'd sooner watch competitive bass-fishing (which ESPN also airs). Maybe ESPN is even more to blame than poker for the Culture of the Asshole. I'd stop watching ... but they're holding all my sports highlights hostage! You can see my dilemma.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld