Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Solving time: 6:40 (or 5:40, I'm not sure)
THEME: CARS (all long answers end with a word that is also slang - or short - for a make of car)
I just like saying the name of today's constructor (Mmmmm, alliterative) so we're off to a good start. I timed myself on an analog watch (my beloved Tintin watch, which is super hot but which also ticks louder than the Tell-Tale Heart so can't be kept anywhere near the head of the bed). Anyway, I started at precisely 9:30 pm last night, but when I looked up after finishing the puzzle and checked my watch, I honestly couldn't tell if the minute hand was between the 35 and 36 minute mark or the 36 and 37 (cursed artsy watch with no numbers or minute interval markings!). So I'm erring on the side of slow, since that's more in keeping with past times. But it's possible that this was my fastest Tuesday time ever. Often easy puzzles are unmemorable, but this one is cleverly constructed and has some memorable fill. Good for Gail Grabowski!
1A: Proofer's mark (stet)
55D: Cheese in a ball (Edam)
Two more inductees into the Crossword Answer Pantheon (CAP!). I learned both of these words from doing the crossword puzzle. I am often tempted to write "STET" on student papers when I have begun a comment or correction that I realize is wrong or pointless, but nobody but proofreaders knows what it means, so I just write "OK" or the more pathetic "Sorry. Ignore." I can tell you all right now that I don't think I've ever eaten EDAM, as I had no idea that it came "in a ball." Edam enthusiasts who want to start a foundation or a website to express their love of said cheese should be warned that both the names "The EDAM Foundation" and the URL www.edam.org are taken. Apparently nobody told the good people of the Economic Development Association of Minnesota that their acronym is a cheese. Somewhere nearby, Wisconsin is snickering.
9A: "Fiddlesticks!" (pshaw)
Man, the things people will say to avoid saying "bullshit!" This answer makes me laugh because it makes me think of my mom, who would say something like "pshaw," and who I believe once tried to convince us that there was a synonymous expression called "oshaw" (Google tells me otherwise - where could she possibly have gotten that idea?). My mom is from Idaho, originally, but starts to channel Miss Marple whenever she gets overly self-conscious about her speech. "Pr-OH-gress, children, not Pr-AHG-ress." My sister and I love to mimic / mock whatever accent it is that she has (we kid because we Love). Once, when she was in an airport (I believe), my mom was asked by a young woman, in all earnestness: "Are you from somewhere?" If you met my mom, you'd know instantly what that young woman meant.
34D (THEME): Blubberer's binge (crying jag)
My favorite of todays' theme clues and answers. Today's was yet another puzzle where I could not see the theme until I got to the clue that revealed it: 54D: Ends of 20- and 57-Across and 11- and 34-Down (autos). Now I am on record as Not Liking these clues that reveal the theme by way of reference to a long list of other clues in the puzzle. Just looks ugly on the page. BUT, in this clue's defense, its answer - the innocent-seeming AUTOS, which sits in the SE - is in perfect symmetry with another car-related answer in the NW (though it's not clued in relation to cars): 2D: Runs out of steam (tires). So brava, Gail Grabowski! You Go Girl. (I just said that for the "G"s - the only reason ever to use that horrible phrase anymore)
19A: Skylit lobbies (atria)
65A: Pong maker (Atari)
From perfect symmetry to near-perfect symmetry. I so wanted these two answers (in the NW and SW respectively) to be symmetrical because of their anagraminess, but alas, one of them is sitting one line too low.
22D: Cannon of Hollywood (Dyan)
5D: Nickname on "M*A*S*H" (Hot Lips)
Hey, is today's theme "Washed-Up Blondes No One Has Heard From Since 1983?" I'm kidding (well, I'm kidding about Loretta Swit, anyway - she was hot).
10D: Good to go (set)
I chose this only to lament the demise of a perfectly good phrase. Thanks, Taco Bell, for turning "good to go" into a phrase that makes me want to kill people. Click here to find out why.
39D: Composer Bartók (Bela)
When I was a young solver, in the Maleska days [Rex bows his head for moment of reverent silence here] I dreamed of the day when composer names would be gimmes instead of torturous half-guesses. And now that day has come (thanks to much training from a cellist friend of mine, as well as these lectures on CD that my mom gave me). As I've said before, Bartók is a solver's best friend. He has a cool, crossword-friendly name, and his music is conducive to super-fast solving. I recommend Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta.
52A: Premier Khrushchev (Nikita)
"O Nikita you will never know / Anything about my home / I'll never know how good it feels to hold you / Nikita I need you so" - you know, I just read the lyrics to that song and I still don't know if it's about Khrushchev or not. Elton John appears to be singing to some woman (!) that he loves ("how good it feels to hold you?"), but then he keeps talking about "ten tin soldiers in a row" and "Just look toward the west and find a friend." Is this the song that ended the Cold War? Elton John sends Russia stealth love in the form of a forgettable (but not forgettable Enough, apparently) pop song, and the walls come tumbling down? It's a nice idea. Still, I would have preferred to see this answer clued by reference to this woman:I'll take hot assassins over lumpy dictators (or most Elton John songs) any day.
59D: Hardly tanned (pale)
Rex knows pale. Rex is pale. Very pale. Vampirically pale. OK not that pale, but pale. Skin cancer runs in Rex's family, so he and the sun have a very uneasy, dysfunctional relationship with one another. Rex loves the sun, but the sun has been mean to Rex, so Rex tries to break off the relationship. But the sun is so warm ... and Rex wants to play tennis... so he always goes back to the sun. But the second Rex drops his guard, he gets burned. And the cycle repeats itself.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld