Sunday, June 8, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: "Q & A Session" (8 theme answers are all two word phrases where first word begins with "Q" and second word with "A")
The theme was very easy to uncover, but the puzzle compensated for that by making several of the Q&A phrases quite odd and/or difficult, and then by having huge swaths of white space that made it difficult at times to get good traction. Further, the non-theme fill was tougher than usual, as was the cluing. There was some wince-inducing fill here and there (with that many "Q"s, something is bound to give), but all in all it was a challenging and entertaining puzzle, with more than enough high spots to compensate for the low.
- 23A: They tremble in the slightest breeze (quaking aspens)
- 32A: Parliamentary measure of 1774 (Québec Act) - nice move North of the Border. Our neighbors so rarely get the attention they deserve.
- 44A: Period in which we live (Quaternary Age) - I stared and stared and stared at this. I had QU-TER... for a while and couldn't believe that anyone could make a word out of that. I've never heard of this Age, but I can see from Google that it's real. I thought maybe QUITE or QUOTE-something, but I was pretty sure the "A" from ALAMEIN (36D: El_____ (1942 battle site)) was right. So I let that guess stand, and it paid off.
- 63A: Recoiling from (Quailing at) - oh I do Not like "AT" as a theme word
- 65A: Pursue (quest after) - "I quest the rains down in Africa ..." (that quotation has an intended audience of precisely two people ... I know (now) that those aren't the real lyrics to Toto's "Africa" ... but I did not always know that)
- 81A: "The Spirit of Australia" sloganeer (Qantas Airways) - this exact clue, four months ago. Google it and you get ... this site.
- 97A: Daughter of James II (Queen Anne) - I woke up to Henry Purcell this morning. He was alive when James II was king, and died about seven years before Anne became queen.
- 109A: Graham Greene novel set in Saigon, with "The" ("Quiet American") - Just as I did not know "AT" could be a theme word, I did not know theme answers could be partials ... still, I like this answer, especially side-by-side with its literary partner, ANTONIA (106A: Title girl of a Willa Cather novel).
I like how YIP and WAIL are clued as if they are Not cries. I guess that's to distract you from the excess of screaming and crying in this puzzle, with YIP (29A: Beginning of a cowboy song refrain) and WAIL (83D: Play a sax solo, maybe) going along with YELP (77A: Canine cry) and the super-obscure WAULS (79A: Cries shrilly). I googled WAULS when I was finished, and was asked if I meant "walls" (no) then was offered up a website called "worcester area union list of serials." One dictionary site semi-confirming that WAULS is indeed a word, and then ... lots of people named WAULS. Did you know that Cat R. Waul is a character in "An American Tale: Fievel Goes West"? Well now you do, and your life is richer for it.
- 5A: Cause of a full-stop for sailing ships (dead calm) - AVAST! Surely you are moving at least a little bit no matter how calm the seas are.
- 13A: Ritzy Rio neighborhood (Ipanema) - spelling problems here, first with IPANEMA (IPANIMA??) and then with EGOYAN (17D: "Ararat" director, 2002) (AGOYAN?). Exotic proper nouns crossing at a vowel ... not one of my favorite things.
- 20A: Column on a questionnaire (noes) - wouldn't the column just read "No"?
- 47A: Addams who created the Addams Family (Chas.) - woo hoo, cartoons!
- 51A: Drang's counterpart (Sturm) - I think I thought this was STRUM.
- 56A: Trio of comedy (Stooges) - nice little gimme on this prickly Sunday
- 70A: Vending machine tricker (slug) - I mysteriously love this answer; I think I just like this meaning of SLUG above all others.
- 72A: Packard's partner (Hewlett) - more spelling problems. Thought HEWLITT.
- 87A: Implements using fulcrums (oars) - clue makes answer sound like a torture device.
- 88A: Red, e.g., once (foe) - ??? I think part of this clue is missing. FOE ... of ... ?
- 91A: Credit card magnet (stripe) - the "P" here was tough for me, because STRIPE seemed to blah to be the answer, and LPN was scaring me (85D: Hosp. staffer). But then I remembered I'd seen the (horrible) LPN before, and I just went with the "P".
- 114A: Backwoods valley (hollers) - love it, like I love SLUG
- 31D: Primer pooch (Spot) - from the "Dick & Jane" ... primers.
- 115A: Freezing mixtures (cryogens) - Not used to seeing this in noun form, but OK.
- 1D: Two wiggling fingers, maybe (unquote) - wow, I simultaneously hate and like this. I think "wiggling" is a horrible descriptor, implying a constant motion that is not part of the gesture in question. But it's a very creative clue nonetheless.
- 5D: Classic 1965 novel set on the planet Arrakis ("Dune") - never read it, but what else was it going to be in four letters?
- 7D: Gypsum variety (alabaster) - pieced together from crosses. I thought "gypsum" was botanical. Whoops.
- 10D: Mideast city that was once a British protectorate (Aden) - It has a Gulf named after it, and I always confuse it with OMAN.
- 24D: Computing-Tabulating-Recording Co., today (I.B.M.) - you may be interested to know that:
The Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation (CTR) was incorporated on June 15, 1911 in Endicott, New York a few miles west of Binghamton.
- 28D: Slangy greeting ('sup) - I can tell you that in my recent puzzle-creating adventures, I had SUP in a puzzle, wanted to clue it in exactly this manner, and was laughed at. I can also tell you that when I showed someone (someone!) a puzzle with ETAPE in it (76D: Tour de France stage), the first comment I got back was "I cringed when I saw ETAPE." Vindication! (actually ETAPE is in fact crappy, but when it gets you out of a jam, and there's not another crappy answer for miles, I think you're OK).
- 38D: "_____ House," 1983 Madness hit ("Our") - I'll take "Things that Remind Rex of Summer Camp for $1000, Alex." Other 80s musical goodness includes "FAST CAR" (88D: 1988 Tracy Chapman hit) and the aforementioned "Africa" by Toto, which is not actually in the puzzle, but is now firmly in my head, where it is likely to stay all day long.
- 49D: Stops on le metro (arrets) - :(
- 96A: Relative of Welsh (Manx) - if I knew this once, I forgot it.
- 56D: In Harry Potter books, nonmagical offspring of wizard parents (squib) - the HP books are going to be supplying the puzzle with interesting fill for a long time. I have my own HP words lined up and waiting for their chance in the sun.
- 74D: 1973 #1 hit for the Rolling Stones ("Angie") - not one of my favorites. Boring. I do like when he shout/whispers "Angie" towards the end. That always makes me laugh. "Angie, I'm whispering now, so you know I'm serious, girl."
- 107D: It's well-supplied (oil) - nice clue. Memo to self: Finish watching "There Will Be Blood."
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld