Thursday, February 1, 2007
Solving time: 14:34
THEME: OXYMORONS (36A: What the answers to this puzzle's starred clues all are)
This took me longer than it should have for various reasons, most notably because theme answers are in two parts, and those parts are, in every case, in completely different parts of the grid. So there was a lot of eye-scanning, and clicking and re-clicking of clues, moving of cursor, etc. I'm not the biggest fan of "See X"-type cluing, but that's a personal preference, not a knock on puzzles that choose to go that way. It's OK in small doses, actually, and here, maybe there's some thematic point to having them far apart from one another, as the whole point of oxymorons is that they yoke words whose meanings are normally far away from one another.
1A: Baron von Richtohofen, e.g. (war ace)
5D: Michael of "The Mod Squad" (Cole)
These intersect at the "C," which was the last letter I filled in in the NW (we'll call it the "St. Maries, ID" portion of the grid, in honor of my grandma who lives there). The NW has some amazing fill (see OCELOT - 15A: Endangered cat - and RC COLA - Drink once pitched by Nancy Sinatra), but it took me way too long to piece together, even with the gimme RECEIVE (3D: Choice after a football coin toss) and the whole lower portion of the quadrant filled in: 22A: Romeo's last words ("I die"), 29A: State on P.S.T. (Nev.), and 33A: College sr.'s test (GRE). The "Baron von blabbadyblah" clue wouldn't come together. No idea what the name meant, but I figured, from reading a lot of "Peanuts" growing up, that it was something to do with Snoopy's alter ego "The Red Baron" - some kind of German war hero. FLYING ACE seems a more apt term than WAR ACE, which seems a stretch, but it's all a good enough fit, I suppose. You'd think, given the pop-culture-heavy content of my blog, that I'd have drooled all over a "Mod Squad" clue, but it was before my time and I had to piece COLE together Entirely from crosses. Now if you'd give me a "Maude" clue, [me kissing the tips of my fingers].
34A: Solar disk (aten) - I think this answer should have been clued by way of the game "Battleship"! (wink) - would that have worked? Did "Battleship" have an "A" column? If not, then ATEN should have been clued [Gymastics judge's score, perhaps] or [What Bo Derek was to Dudley Moore, once]. [Where you are when you stop after em]? Moving on...
36D: River in the D-Day invasion (Orne) - pieced it together. Not sure I've heard of it much, if at all. I know, I know, if I want to be a "real" crossword solver, I should really brush up on all things W.W. II, especially things related to battles. True. So far, all I know is ST LO. And maybe OMAHA. See also 25D: Alliance (Axis)
41A: Pulitzer-winning science author Dubos (René) - of all the RENEs in the world, this is the route you take? At least it's a common man's name and thus inferrable. Isn't this Celine Dion's husband's name? Can we clue it that way next time? Please?
37D: Candy man (Reese) - OK, I get it, REESE's Peanut Butter Cups, yes, "candy man" - I will say that in all my years of loving and inhaling said peanut butter cups, it never, ever, occurred to me that REESE was actually a person, any more than it occurred to me that HERSHEY or MARS or SNICKERS were people. SNICKERS was the name of my cat when I was growing up, by the way.
60A: Lyrical musical passages (ariosi) - in addition to W.W. II lore, I should be trying to pick up musical terminology a lot faster than I am, because it's everywhere, in every puzzle (or so it seems). Must be related to ARIA.
So nice to see SARS (53D: Modern epidemic) back in the puzzle. Doesn't that answer fail the breakfast table test? How long before SARS makes people go "?????"? "Hey, remember 2003?" "No, not really." Hmmm, maybe shouldn't be joking around about epidemics. Have a feeling bird flu will make SARS look like the common cold. "Boy I wish I could get a disease with a mortality rate of only 9.1%. Those were the days." RIATA (49D: Lasso) is one of those annoying words that won't sit still. I mean, I learned it, I know it, but I never know if it's going to be RIATA or REATA (I've seen the latter multiple times recently, despite how wrong it looks). I also get it confused with LIANA, which is a vine such as Tarzan might swing on. LIANA is also the name of a student whose Independent Study I am currently directing. A clue like 42A: Cable film channel inits. is always mildly annoying because so many letters could go in those three spaces! TCM (the actual answer), IFC, AMC, and possibly HBO. Maybe more. I would have spelled EFS (38D: Bad grades) with two F's. I was happy to see TUN (40D: Large cask) because it's super medievally, and it's nice when my Ph.D. actually comes in handy with the puzzle (not nearly often enough). Lastly, I ask myself, what is the difference between TERNS and ERNES (32D: Sea birds)? Never would have heard of either of them were it not for the NYT puzzle. That's the TERN there on the right (the "fairy TERN," actually, tehee). It too is a "Sea bird." Hmmm, ERNE, let's see... WHOA, the ERNE is a way badder looking sonofagun:
I'm surprised ERNES don't eat TERNS, as well as fish. So, to remember the difference, TERNS will "turn" away from ERNES because if they don't the ERNES will take their lunch money. Or worse.
[addendum: ERNES do not @#$# around!]
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld