Thursday, May 31, 2007
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: BACK (55D: Missing word in 21-, 31-, 40- and 50-Across, applied literally) - four theme answers are the tail ends of phrases that begin with BACK; the actual word BACK is "missing" in every instance; further, the theme answers appear BACKwards in the grid.
Better late than never. It's well after noon - It's been a long time since I waited til this late in the day to write about the puzzle. Stayed out late last night watching the Indians destroy the Red Sox at my friend Murph's house - it's one thing to see your team lose, it's another, worse thing to have to suffer through that losing for nearly four hours as the opposing team racks up an embarrassing, astonishing eighteen hits. Ugh. We kept ourselves entertained, however, by scoring the game, which is a practice I've only recently taken up - and now I'm quite addicted. Here are my scorecards for last night's game (I'm still getting the hang of the shorthand, which can get quite complicated if you let it).
Then this morning I got up late and had to take Sahra to school, then had a 10am appointment, then had lunch. And here I am. As for the puzzle, it took me way longer than it should have to figure out that the theme answers were running backwards, and even longer to figure out that BACK was a key feature of each answer.
- 21A: From the beginning again (eno erauqs ot)
- 31A: Revived (daed eht morf)
- 40A: 1985 Michael J. Fox film ("erutuF eht ot...")
- 50A: Controlling things once more (elddas eht ni)
I got TO SQUARE ONE (i.e. ENOERAUQSOT) without even remarking that the phrase is BACK TO SQUARE ONE. Wasn't til I hit TO THE FUTURE (i.e. ERUTUFEHTOT) that I realized something was missing.
Non-theme wise, there is much to admire here - lively phrasing and some choice obscurity - but there are a few rough spots as well. Actually, much of this puzzle's fill walks the line between impressive and annoying. Take AMOS Burke (19A: Burke of TV's "Burke's Law") and ILONA Massey (47D: Massey of "Love Happy") - the former is known to me only because of my weird interest in the history of American Crime fiction, and the latter is not known to me at all. And yet I don't hate them. In fact, I have a weird affection for AMOS, as I do for all characters from short-lived TV shows of the 20th century. ILONA I can tolerate because I'm almost certain I've seen her before, and complained about her before, so, I figure, why complain twice.
Then there's the krosswordese krossing of EIRE (61A: U2's home - U2 are from IRELAND; can the leprechauny pretension) and ERIE (51D: I-90 runs along it). Part of my brain just goes 'yuck.' But the other part is amused by the anagrammic quality of the crossing, and also by the fact that ERIE (the worst kind of common fill) is kind of given new life by being echoed twice in this grid: not only anagrammically, but also geographically (via I-90, to OHIO - 54D: I-90 runs through it). So the fill's all kind of terrible, but through the magic of creative cluing, I magically don't care. In fact, I'm vaguely entertained by it all.
25A: 1960s greetings (V signs) - briefly thought this was PEACE signs and that the puzzle was a rebus of some kind, maybe with WAR and PEACE ... but no. V is for ... well, peace, right? Or, if you're Nixon, Victory of some kind.
29A: Classic walkways (stoas) - not sure where I retrieved this answer from. I always thought STOA was the plural. I guess not. It's Latin feminine singular, thus pluralized -AE.
26A: Like pawpaw leaves (oblong) - all hail the return of the pawpaw plant to the puzzle. It's been too long. OBLONG is a fantastic word.
29D: Plant diseases (smuts) - Not my kind of SMUT. SMUT looks really wrong in the plural. SMUTS. Sounds like, I don't know, a blue (bluer!) version of The Smurfs.
35D: Preceders of snaps (huts) - a fantastic clue, and one that it took me way too long to figure out. For those non-sports fans, the quarterback in football, will often say "hut" several times before the ball is "snapped" to begin a football play.
42D: Subject of a Debussy prelude (Faun) - Mr. Tumnus! Actually, this is not C.S. Lewis's faun, but some anonymous woodland creature. "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun" is a beautiful piece of music that I am listening to Right Now.
46D: Kisses from grandma, say (pecks) - well, let's hope so. If your grandma has her tongue down your throat ... part of me wants to say "You might be a Redneck," but I'll just say, something is very wrong.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld