THURSDAY, Nov. 13, 2008 - Allan E. Parrish ("Time _____" (bygone sci-fi series) / Supreme Court writ, familiarly / Autobiographical novel of 1847)
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "XXX" - three Xs in the puzzle are circled, and together (as "XXX") they form the clue for all three theme answers
I do not approve this message, I mean puzzle. Why are the Xs located where they are? Lots of puzzles have three Xs in them - you couldn't have put them into some kind of interesting arrangement or order? And where are the references to porn or moonshine, or even Vin Diesel (star of "XXX")? That would have at least livened things up a bit around here. The fact that you can make "XXX" into a clue for (at least) three different answers is interesting, but X-placement is so haphazard and lazy that I'm having trouble taking the puzzle seriously. When I see circled squares, I'm looking for a big payoff, a surprise, a .... something. And I get Xs. Yuck.
The NW was a Bear (this is not a criticism, just an observation). I had no idea who that LESTER director guy was (1D: Richard _____, director of "Help!" and "A Hard Day's Night"). To me, LESTER is the guy who recovered from cancer to pitch (and win) the final game of the 2007 World Series. He is now one of the very best pitchers in the Majors. Jon LESTER. Try him next time. Speaking of Boston, reader Doc John sent me a pic of the Awesomest Pair Of Nikes yesterday. They are maptastic, and the one place name I can see on them ... well, look for yourself (pic is blurry, but the word is legible, I think):
Can you make that out? It says "NATICK" - no foolin' (If you have no idea why this is compelling to me, read this). What (the hell) is going on at Nike? And how can I get me a pair of these, like, now? I might have to order some online or go to the (gag) mall tomorrow. Back to the puzzle. I had no idea Mars had ICECAPs (3D: Martian feature). I was looking (like some of you?) for, uh, ANTENNA or BIGEYES or the like. I have never heard of a CERT (4D: Supreme Court writ, familiarly), unless you count the singular form of the semi-popular breathmint ("With Retsin!"). I am still wondering how (non-whale-related) SPERM got into my puzzle (17A: Kind of bank). And B.F.'s damned ALMANACS took forever to come to me (5D: Output from Benjamin Franklin's press). The rest of the puzzle seemed ordinary in its difficulty, even a bit on the easy side for Thursday.
There was some thorniness here and there, not all of it pleasing. NESTS for (the expected) PESTS is decent misdirection (63A: Exterminators' targets). More misdirection at 21D: Bass relative (cello) - "bass" can be a fish, a musical part, or (here) an instrument. Oh, and an ale. And probably other stuff too. I know that during Prohibition, many people wanted to REPEAL the 18th Amendment, but I did not know that the "Movement" to REPEAL was called, simply, REPEAL (I see "Movement" was changed to "Cause" in the final version - 26A: Cause during Prohibition) - so some trouble there. I balked (perhaps pickily) at 19A: One-two connector, because the entire phrase, as I understand it (via Lawrence Welk) is "A one and a two ..." That first "A" seems crucial to me. Never heard of BEL esprit (49A) or "Time TRAX" (56A: "Time _____" (bygone sci-fi series)). I squawked like crazy at @#$#!-ing "O ME" (40A: "_____, what eyes hath Love put in my head": Shak.), but only because I wasn't parsing it right and thought it was a contraction of "HOME" (which, in my defense, I have seen in the puzzle). I still don't like the letter combo as fill, but this is at least slightly more palatable than the Kipling clue a couple weeks back.
For some reason the clue for MCLEAN has been changed from its original [Virginia city where the C.I.A. is headquartered] to the currect 31A: Virginia locale where the C.I.A. is headquartered. Is MCLEAN not a city? Whoa, it's not - it's a "CDP" (Census-Designated Place!). As if the C.I.A. weren't spooky enough, here's the description (from Wikipedia) of where its headquarters are located:
The CIA's headquarters is in the community of Langley in the McLean CDP of Fairfax County, Virginia, a few miles west of Washington, D.C. along the Potomac River.
So it's in a community in a place in a county in a state near a district along a river. I see.
- 1A: Pioneering 35 mm. camera (Leica) - I get this and the spacedog confused
- 16A: Cannes presentation (cine) - highbrow implications contrast nicely with lowbrow NITE (8D: Time on a marquee).
- 25A: Certain Crimeans (Tatars) - weird how instinctive this answer is becoming for me.
- 30A: Year Michelangelo began "David" (MDI) - at least this random Roman numeral (not THIRTY IN OLD ROME, but 1501) is given some historical heft, some raison d'etre.
- 43A: Supermodel Bundchen (Gisele) - I think she dated / dates Tom Brady (Patriots QB), which is the only reason I know her name. I spelled it GISELA at first.
- 47A: Sound in a Bobby Darin song title (splish) - yay, this clue was changed from [Light water sound] to this far more vibrant option. Bobby Darin did much better work, however. Here is my favorite song of his (with supercool pics of him and Sandra Dee):
- 57A: A sheriff may be seen in it (oater) - great xword word. A sheriff may also be seen in Jim Thompson's "The Killer Inside Me," which I'm teaching this week. It's ... horrifying. Dirty, gruesome, shocking, awesome, hilarious. A noir masterpiece.
- 62A: P.M. known as the Iron Lady (Meir) - I feel like she's having a massive resurgence in puzzle popularity in recent weeks.
- 7D: Autobiographical novel of 1847 (Omoo) - one of the most common of all crossword words, and yet it evaded me for a bit because the clue was so nondescript.
- 11D: Gum choice (cinnamon) - I much preferred the original clue, [Stick in the kitchen?]
- 22D: McKellen who played Gandalf (Ian) - easy. He's a Great actor. If you have not yet seen "Extras" (Ricky Gervais's post-"The Office" sitcom), here is a small taste of why you should:
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS Happy Birthday to mom, Happy Birthday to mom, Happy Birthday to my mom, Happy Birthday to mom
PPS Happy Birthday also to teen constructing phenom Natan Last. He's still a teen, though at least he's in college now (albeit at a safety school ... "Brown?" Who's ever heard of that? What is that, UPS College?)