Thursday, February 8, 2007
Solving time: 16:50
What a horrible, horrible feeling. I ran through this puzzle like a hot knife through butter ... until I hit the NW, and then I went into what felt like an eternal free-fall. Nothing. I couldn't get a damn thing. Well, that's not true. I would get something, and then it wouldn't work, so I'd erase it - over and over and over. There were two major problems that prevented my getting into that NW quadrant (besides an ignorance of "country" music - who the !@#@ is Joe ELY? (1D: Country rocker Joe and others (ELYS)). And those problems were:
9D: Masters topics (sex lives) - I had the LIVES part and had no idea what this could be. Didn't know if LIVES was its own word, or part of a longer word, or what. Knew that the "Masters" in question wasn't "Master's exams" - that has an apostrophe in it - but the only other Masters I could think of was the golf tournament. What ends in -LIVES and concerns championship golf? Answer: NOTHING. Turns out the question refers to ancient sexperts Masters & Johnson. Here is something I didn't know (from "Discovery Health" website):
Masters and Johnson initiated a project that ultimately included direct laboratory observation and measurement of 700 men and women while they were having intercourse or masturbating.Wow. Who volunteered for that? Maybe they paid well. Did they ever consider that people doing it at home, or wherever, might be quite different from people doing it in a lab, knowing they're being watched. This is like having cameras in the courtroom (which I'm against) - no one can be completely unselfconscious with a camera trained on him. Then there's the inevitable probes or cathodes or who knows what other Clockwork Orange-type gadgets. Maybe their interest was more purely physiological than sociological. This is way too much space to devote to this damn answer, which thwarted my entry (!) to the great Northwest. Oh, and the other roadblock?
22A: A, B or C, often: Abbr. (Ans.) - such a little answer! How could it possibly cause any harm? Well, I'll tell you. I did not have ANS. I had the good, perhaps better, ANSwer: APT. That's right APT! As in "Apartment," not the word APT, though my ANSwer was, in fact, APT, dammit. APT! And then that gave me a "P" at the end of 5D: Admit, which I was sure would have to be OWN UP, despite the fact that OWN UP was very discordant with its parallel neighbor, AVE MARIAS (4D: Parts of some services). So what did I do? Naturally, I erased AVE MARIAS (or, more precisely, I erased the AVE M- part). In the end, though, I have to give ANS. all the credit for my being able to solve this puzzle at all. After many, many minutes spent completely blanking out on everything in the NW, I finally saw that APT. could be ANS., I changed it, and the puzzle, including the very APT answer AH YES (6D: "I understand now"), was done inside of a minute. Oh, so 5D: Admit was not OWN UP, but LET IN (which, for the record, I botched again before getting it right, thinking the answer was SEE IN, ugh). In the end, if I only could have remembered the name of the very memorable tune, YAKETY SAX (17A: Polka heard frequently on "The Benny Hill Show"), all those Scrabbly letters would have helped me knock the NW out quite quickly (see 20A: 1950's political slogan ("I Like Ike"), which has the Scrabbly "K"s and which I got right away). But no. No no no.
God bless the following answers, for giving me precious life when all the other answers were playing hard to get:
18A: Part of a chronicle (annal) - I've dated more than one historian in my lifetime. Well, no, just the one, actually. Anyway, this is a fairly common term, especially in medieval and early modern history. I also once read a dreadfully boring book called Annals of the Parish when I was in Scotland. It was written by a man named John Galt (1821). When I returned to the states, I would occasionally see these bumper stickers that read "Who is John Galt?" and I couldn't figure out why people wanted to know about a 19th-century Scottish novelist. Turns out the question is from Atlas Shrugged, which I have never read, but which my mother owns a signed copy of, for some reason. Who is John Galt? Here is John Galt.
27A: Hunter of literature (Evan) - second time he's been in the puzzle since September. I know because he's a name I remember. He is better known as the best-selling crime writer Ed McBain. Here is one of his 50's paperbacks (I've shown this before, but it's been over four months, so who's gonna remember?):
30D: Actress Sobieski (Leelee) - this girl is giving TERI POLO a run for her money as the (so-called) Actress clue of the 21st century. She was in another puzzle I did in just the past couple of days. Expect to see more of her. Coincidence: the last message I received in my email inbox was from a former student named, I kid you not, Li Li.
58A: "He seemed like such ____ boy" (a nice) - super-gimme for all! And right on top of another gimme: 60A: When to see la luna (noche)!
53D: Cartoonist Walker (Mort) - "Are you the creator of 'Hi & Lois,' because you are making me laugh." - Comic Book Guy, "The Simpsons" [note: this quote must be uttered with deadpan sarcasm]. See also: "If you are waiting for the 'Hi and Lois' signing, you are too late. It has been moved to the Springfield Colosseum."
36A: Doesn't puff idly (inhales) - piece of cake! Thanks, Clinton (god I irrationally love that man)
37D: TV witch (Samantha) - are you kidding? My cat is named for her evil cousin! Hey, somebody stole my idea!
- 38A: Subject of the biography "All or Nothing at All" (Sinatra) - well, I know who SINATRA is, just not in reference to this particular book. Is the title a lyric from "My Way"? No, it's an actual song title. Sadly (very sadly) "All or Nothing at All" makes me think not of Sinatra but of O-Town. Have they been crossword fill? Because OTOWN looks like it could come in quite handy in a pinch.
- 29D: Bearer of catkins (alder tree) - first of all, I have NO idea what a "catkin" is. Is it anything like a kitten? No, they're just these sort of cone-y, fuzzy, probably seed-bearing thingamajigs. Isn't the addition of TREE here a bit ... superflous. I mean, I've seen the answer ALDER a few times, I'm pretty sure. Of course it's an ALDER TREE. Is there an ALDER FOX? ALDER DOLPHIN? ALDER BUS? What other kinds of ALDER are there?
- 49D: Like some stocks (no par) - again, if you need financial advice, please look elsewhere. Business and commerce-related fill stumps me almost as much as the damned Bible (although, today, I owned the Bible! Take that, ENOCH (47D: Methuselah's father)!
- 45D: Heavens: Prefix (Urano-) - inferrable, in a way, but outside my ken (not my CATKIN).
- 46D: Nervine, for one (tonic) - once again, inferred, not known. TONIC is also a terrible, terrible band. One of those generic white guy bands from the 90s whose name you know and whose songs are bland but very, very familiar, in a generic kind of way. Warning: you will find yourself humming and / or tapping your feet if you are not very careful. Infectious, in the way that pernicious diseases are infectious.
I like that OUTEREAR (44A: One end of a canal) and FRONT END (50A: Frequent area of auto damage) sit one atop the other, as it gives your REAR and FRONT in close proximity to one another. My favorite fill from this puzzle is all kind of negative, if not outright morbid. 21D: How a snake may be caught? had me thinking IN A PIT (too literal), but the real answer, IN A LIE, was so much better. I did not know what "anacusis" was in 39A: Develops anacusis, but with the last three letters in place I was pleasantly (?) surprised to see that the answer was GOES DEAF. ("Anacusis" reminds me of "ailurophobia" for some reason - perhaps because they are both disorders that start with "A," and I learned them both from crosswords: "ailurophobia" = fear of cats, which I do not have. See Serena, above). Lastly I enjoyed the frankness of 40D: A bad way to be left (for dead), which is how the puzzle nearly left me. But I had an AWAKENING (10D: Realization) and persevered.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld