Thursday, June 5, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: OPEN MARKET (57A: Where things are freely bought and sold ... and what the starts of 17-, 23-, 36- and 46-Across do)
This is the kind of theme I expect to see on a Monday or Tuesday - very straightforward, where first word of several theme answers can be put before some main word to create familiar phrases. The scope of the theme is perhaps a bit greater here than it typically is on an early-week puzzle, and the theme answers a bit bolder - love BULL MOOSE PARTY - but otherwise this is typical early-week stuff. I have grown accustomed to trickiness and unusual grid architecture on Thursdays, which made this puzzle ironically tricky in its untrickiness. I kept waiting for the hammer to fall, and when it fell ... it was OPEN MARKET. FLEA market, FARMER'S market, SUPER market, BULL market (now if BEAR Bryant had been where FLEA CIRCUS is, I might have liked this puzzle a lot more). OPEN MARKET itself was exceedingly easy to get - I filled it in with no crosses in place.
- 17A: Tiny sideshow attraction (flea circus)
- 23A: Old weather forecaster (Farmer's Almanac) - got it off just the FA-
- 36A: When a big game is caught (Super Bowl Sunday)
- 46A: Roosevelt group (Bull Moose Party)
There was only one part of the puzzle that slowed me down at all: the NE. I'd never heard of the castle (really ... "castle?") in Toronto (10A: Casa _____, Toronto castle => LOMA). What kind of warp in the time/space continuum caused a Spanish castle to be built in Toronto? Anyway, while I was helped in the NE by the fabulous Anne MEARA (12D: Half of a popular comedy team), I blew one of her neighboring answers badly. 13D: Ancient Greek had to be STOIC, right? Wrong. The answer is ATTIC, a far less common word, and one normally associated with a rarely seen floor of your house. It didn't take me long to sort all this out. The one super-zinger of an answer today (from my perspective) was OUIDA (15A: "A Dog of Flanders" novelist, 1872). I know nothing about this book, this author ... nothing. The title is familiar - was this made into a movie? Yes, twice (1960, 1999). Whoa, OUIDA is like PRINCE or CHER - one name. It's a pseudonym of Marie Louise de la Ramée.
I still think of GYP as a racial pejorative, and am surprised whenever I see it used in the puzzle (35D: Con).
Having five long theme answers can make your non-theme fill start to creak a little under the strain, and this puzzle is no different - though it manages to hold up pretty well. ERSE (60A: Celtic language) and ORA (57D: _____ pro nobis) and ICE-T (16A: Rapper with the gold-record album "O.G. Original Gangster") and UP A (31D: _____ tree) and especially O IS (ugh, 54A: Sue Grafton's "_____ for Outlaw") are just a handful of the tired and/or wince-inducing fill today, but the medium-range fill is pretty fantastic. Well, REDEVELOPED (24D: Like land in urban renewal) is kinda blah, but LIFT A FINGER is a great phrase (10D: Do anything to help), and SHAVE OFF (40A: Remove, as a mustache) and WINNIPEG (32A: City nicknamed Gateway to the West) make nice bookends in the middle of this puzzle (the "books" they are holding: SUPERBOWL SUNDAY and the equally athletic if much, much goofier WWF - 32D: Former grapplers' org.). Oh, I almost forgot - I actually had to guess one square. Well, educated guess. I routinely confuse ARIL and ANIL (both hardcore xword words) and I have never in my life heard of REEF in the context in which it's clued here - 28A: Shorten, as a sail - so I had to debate with myself over which is more likely to be the sail-shortening term: REEF or NEEF. Yes, the latter sounds stupid, but that has never stopped a word from being real before. Luckily, my instincts were correct: ARIL is 25D: Seed case. ANIL, for future reference, is the indigo plant or the blue dye obtained from it. You should probably also look out for AZO, which is itself a dye. And because AZO sounds/feels a bit like AZUL (Spanish for blue), there's a slippery, muddy continuum in my head from ARIL to ANIL to AZO to AZUL.
- 5A: Clothing retailer on the New York Stock Exchange since 2006 (J Crew) - nice awkward opening consonant combo.
- 19A: Juggling nine balls, e.g. (feat) - really puzzling when I had -EAO ...
- 22A: Cyberball maker (Atari) - who else. Almost all game maker clues are ATARI. Maybe NES, but usually ATARI. Maybe SEGA. More often ATARI. XBOX, rarely.
- 27A: _____ Bridge, first to span the Mississippi at St. Louis (Eads) - a great crossword name I learned ... from crosswords.
- 41A: Title film role for Robin Williams (Garp) - I was in grade school and for Some reason (possibly because it starred Mork) my parents took me to see this. They also took me to see "Blues Brothers" and some Richard Pryor movie I now forget ... aha, found it: "Bustin' Loose." All those R-rated movies between the ages of 10 and 12. If you were in grade-school back then, you probably remember your R-rated movie-going experiences. Vividly. It's sooooo much easier for kids today to see "adult" content of some kind.
- 61A: _____ Montoya, DC Comics heroine known as the Question (Renee) - this answer is Astonishing on many levels. RENEE Montoya has been The Question for only a year or so, which is about five minutes in comic book time. RENEE is an easy enough name to guess, but O My God I'm guessing that this is By Far the most obscure answer in the whole puzzle. I can't imagine that more than the tiniest handful of crossword-solving comic nerds (guilty) knew this. I'm going to guess, in fact, that this is the least known NYT answer of the year. Unless you read "52," you simply did not know this. No, you didn't. You couldn't have.
- 62A: First name in horror (Bela) - wanted only BRAM. Still want BRAM. My brain is like a pitbull, and will not let go of BRAM.
- 65A: Movie hero with a fedora, familiarly (Indy) - as in Indiana Jones. The Question also wears a Fedora.
- 1D: Daily trippers? (oafs) - icky clue. If you can't pun on "Day Tripper(s)," then give up.
- 2D: Sign of treble? (G clef) - Great clue. Now That's a pun.
- 3D: Radio host Gibbons (Leeza) - her name is infinitely mockable.
- 7D: Gin joint in "Casablanca" (Rick's) - more fedoras
- 11D: Place to use an echograph (ocean) - "echograph" is a new word to me.
- 43D: "Wouldn't It Be Loverly" lyricist (Lerner) - I solve all pre-rock song/lyrics writers by feel. Is it me, or do their names all have lots of Es and Rs in them ... ?
- 46D: Arty topper (beret) - It can also be the "topper" of some pretty tough guys.
- 48D: Disputed holy city (Lhasa) - Tibet ... where those little dogs are from (APSO is far more common in the puzzle than LHASA)
- 59D: Big stat for Manny Ramirez (RBI) - I was looking for 500, as in HR, as in bam! But he does have a hell of a lot of RBI, it's true.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS I am discontinuing my "Weekly Wrap-Up" (which had been appearing on Mondays for a while), but I am going to continue having a "Comment of the Week" and a "Word of the Week," both of which I will include somewhere in my sidebar on a regular basis beginning this Monday.