Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Solving time: 6:13
THEME: Adjective-name phrases, some of which rhyme, some of which alliterate... - e.g. 38A: Hardly a beauty queen (Plain Jane)
This theme is a bit clunky for a number of reasons. The first being ... well, you can tell from the description of the theme, above. GLOOMY GUS (67A: Sourpuss), DAPPER DAN (61A: Natty dresser), and NICE NELLY (21A: Prude) alliterate, while HANDY ANDY (17A: Do-it-yourselfer) and PLAIN JANE rhyme. I see that they are all names that have become generalized expressions for a particular type of person, but I'm not a fan of the non-uniformity. The second reason this theme is off: actually, it's just one answer that is off: NICE NELLY. If I had asked you, before this puzzle, to think of an expression for a kind of person that involved the name NELLY, what would you have said? That's right, you would have said NERVOUS NELLY, which gets four times as many hits when Googled as a complete phrase than NICE NELLY does. My mediocre time today is almost entirely attributable to trouble in the NICE NELLY answer, specifically the "Chicago" portion of the answer (or maybe it's "Evanston," and NICE NELLY attends COLLEGE (11D: Hall locale) at NORTHWESTERN). Even with Pantheon stalwart Brian ENO (22D: Brian of early Roxy Music) in there supporting my efforts, I really really stumbled trying to get NICE into place. The Downs didn't help. I thought that in 7D: Nostalgic number (oldie), "number" actually meant a numeral. Then I thought "nostalgia" must be for a vague time in the past, like the OLDEN days. Ugh. Further, nobody has bought anything COD since the 1970's, so I had PAY NOW for 8D: What you may have to do for goods bought by mail order (pay COD). Again, I don't mind scratching for answers, but when the payoff is the dubious NICE NELLY... I say PFUI.
12D: Lake on the edge of Kazakhstan (Aral Sea)
30A: Wealthy widow (dowager)
These are two of the very few legitimately interesting pieces of fill. I can't believe I'm ... however old I am, and I don't know the technical difference between a "sea" and a "lake." Is the former just a big latter? I love DOWAGER because it makes me think of Marx Brothers movies and Strangers on a Train (the movie, where there is a great scene with Bruno charming a couple of guileless dowagers ... the scene ends with his going off into a kind of trance and nearly strangling one of them right in the middle of a crowded party; it's funny, I swear). I feel as if a "wealthy dowager" has been used to comedic effect on "The Simpsons" too, but I can't remember the scene (and I think whatever it was, it was a reference to a Marx Bros. film).
- 16A: Bond before Dalton (Moore) - took me forever because I was thinking of a much more recent era. MOORE was the Bond of my childhood, so it pains me to miss this. He was suave. People dis him in relation to Connery, but I always loved Roger MOORE. Watch Octopussy and see why.
- 28A: Ja Rule's genre (rap) - now if JA RULE were the fill, that would be awesome...
- 66A: "The Tempest" spirit (Ariel) - [yawn]
- 69A: Fan mags ('zines) [yawn]
- 70A: Rick's love in "Casablanca" (Ilsa) [zzzzzzz...]
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS DAPPER DAN has fond memories associated with it for me, as it was the name of a doll that my sister and I played with when we were very small. He was very smiley and soft and dressed in garish 70's colors, as I remember. DAPPER for his day.