SUNDAY, May 18, 2008 - Brendan Emmett Quigley (FORMER L.A. RAM WHO HOLDS THE N.F.L. RECORD FOR MOST RECEIVING YARDS IN A GAME (336))
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium (-Challenging?)
THEME: "Pinball Wizard" - nine theme answers all begin with words related to pinball
This puzzle will feel TILTed to most people, which seems appropriate. We are used to seeing theme answers run predominantly across a puzzle. 7 across, 2 down is a relative common pattern, but here, that pattern is reversed, making the whole solving experience feel quite unconventional, but not in a bad way. Two other things to say about this puzzle: a lot of names I've never encountered (or forgotten), and ... AZAN (92A: Mideast call to prayer). This answer was funny to me (though perhaps not to you) because it was one of the laundry list of Terrible, super-obscure fill that I rattled off when I was criticizing the abysmal Star-Tribune puzzle from a couple weeks back. Here, it doesn't seem so egregious, because most of the rest of the fill is so CLEAN (79A: Drug-free) ... though that "Z" crossing might have thrown some people. I didn't know who SALAZAR (67D: Marathoner Alberto) was, though I think I would haven't guessed that "Z" as the only plausible cross.
Speaking of CLEAN, this puzzle is Loaded with drug references. CLEAN is clued as [Drug-free], and it sits right underneath NARCO (73A: Buster), and then across the grid you have CHECKS INTO (107A: Starts, as rehab). There's also 104A: Dealer's handout (price list) - though I imagine that drug dealers don't really have those (maybe on your fancier street corners, or Amsterdam, they do). This brings up what I think is a huge hypocrisy and contradiction in the rules of the puzzle. Why is it that drunks and addicts of all kinds are fair game - are made fun of, even (I mean SOTS, BOOZEHOUNDS, TOSSPOT, etc ... these are words of mockery and derision, much as I Love them). And yet diseases ... almost nowhere to be found. CANCER's been in the NYT exactly once (from what I can tell) in the past 11 years, even though it's a perfectly good constellation. I understand that omission - CANCER is common and depressing. But last night, as I reworked my own puzzle, I built a fantastic corner that hinged on OCD. It occurred to me that, as a disorder, OCD might be an issue, so I looked it up in the cruciverb.com database - zip. Actually, it occurs once, but in a rebus where "O" = "ON." How sensitive is too sensitive. People are sensitive about their weight, but we let OBESE in. It seems like if you "did it to yourself," puzzle thinks it can have at you, but if you are "not responsible" for your condition, then hands off (quotation marks mean that I would never use that language myself). This seems ... wrong. I'm all for sensitivity, but OCD and ADD and ADHD should Totally be allowed in the puzzle. With the move toward categorizing addiction as disease, it seems only fitting that you either bar it from the puzzle, or open the puzzle up to other not-necessarily-fatal disorders.
- 22A: Fight imaginary foes (TILT at windmills) - Quixote is back ... this time in a phrase that BEQ used last year in one of the greatest puzzles of the year (the answer ran diagonally through the puzzle from NW to SE)
- 115A: Former L.A. Ram who holds the N.F.L. record for most receiving yards in a game (336) (FLIPPER Anderson) - uh ... who? Finding this guy must have been the inspiration to go forward with this puzzle.
- 5D: Test extras (BONUS questions)
- 15D: Opening track of "The Beatles' Second Album" ("Roll Over Beethoven")
- 30D: Einstein subject (SPECIAL relativity)
- 33D: Push for more business orders (RAMP up sales)
- 39D: Sloping surfaces next to sinks (DRAIN boards)
- 46D: Good farming results (BUMPER crops)
- 53D: Awarding of huge settlements to plaintiffs, in modern lingo (JACKPOT justice)
It's late, so I'll just tell you the names I didn't know and that rattle off the rest now. OK? OK.
- 6A: Ancient pueblo dwellers (Anasazi) - now I know these guys, or at least have seen them in my puzzle, but I had ASHKENAZI and ANASTASIA and ASTANSI (whatever that is) clogging the pipeline, so that "S" ... came late, and it came from guessing...
- 9D: _____ Phillips, who played Livia in "I, Claudius" (Sian) - I have decided I should not care how obscure the names in my puzzle are any more... if this person can get in ...
- 13A: Norm of "This Old House" (Abram) - Sure, why not? Don't watch it, but ABRAM's a name. Fine.
- 27A: Sylph in Pope's "The Rape of the Lock" (Ariel) - wow ... bypassing the more obvious Shakespeare reference in favor of Pope. Fancy.
- 32A: "Sixteen Tons" singer, 1955 (Ernie Ford) - I have never seen / heard his name NOT preceded by "Tennessee."
- 49A: "Alice in Wonderland" sister (Lacie) - Have completely forgotten this, if I ever knew it. Ditto...
- 93D: "Bambi" author (Salten) - what an insidious name. Utterly common letters in completey unholy combination. SALTED, SALTINE, PSALTER, SULTAN ... all so close.
- 53A: "Lawrence of Arabia" composer (Jarre) - my freshman year roommate, Dave, was into Jean-Michel Jarre ... or at least I learned that name from him. Anyway, Jean-Michel is Maurice Jarre's son. I'm just saying the name JARRE was familiar.
- 83A: "Pearly Shells" singer (Don Ho) - OK, he's not a mystery, I just love that this guy's entire name has eternal crossword fame. I can't think of many people who can say that.
- 20D: Oscar-winning Brody (Adrien) - with an "E" ...
- 23D: Jack of "Eraserhead" (Nance) - this name came to me like a bolt out of the blue. Nothing, nothing, NANCE. Larry NANCE was a forward for the Phoenix Suns when I was a teenager. Jim NANTZ is a sportscaster.
- 57D: Zoologist Fossey (Dian) - I assume everyone knows her and her name-spelling by now, but you never know...
OK ... what's left?
- 1A: Site of campus workstations (PC labs) - not many PCL-starting words out there
- 18A: Muse with a wreath of myrtle and roses (Erato) - yeah, yeah, you had me at "Muse" ...
- 21A: Bill formerly of the Rolling Stones (Wyman) - any relation to Jane? I had "Rocks Off" in my head all day yesterday, and now ... yep, it's back.
- 65A: Surfing spot (crest) - mercifully, not THE NET or THE WEB
- 31D: Short-billed rail (crake) - whoa. Didn't know this. I think it's in the title of a Margaret Atwood novel: Oryx and CRAKE.
- 77A: Sure application spot (armpit) - again, why do I have to contemplate ARMPIT and am not allowed to look at OCD? I practically have OCD. Come on!
- 125A: Explorer of sorts (caver) - huh-orrible. Change it to CAVIL (a great word). OLY is so a word. A great word. Familiar name for a bygone beer. "Ice ... cold ... OLY." And GIL, of course, is the hero of the world's greatest comic strip.
- 1D: Missal location (pew) - I completely blanked on what a "missal" was, HA ha. Need more sleep.
- 7D: Match _____ (tie game, in France) (nul) - some of this fill is pretty reachy.
- 64D: The Nutmeg State: Abbr. (Conn) - could Not think of a state beginning with "C" besides California. It was comical how long it took CONNecticut to come to me.
- 96D: Sovereign's representative (viceroy) - ooh, I like this word. Fancy.
- 108D: Old Treasury offering (E bond) - later changed their name to the E Street Bond and went on to great fame backing up Bruce Springston.
- 112D: Month in which Moses is said to have been born and died (Adar) - You can stop at "Moses," 'cause I know only one Hebraic month. Thankfully, today, it's the right one.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld