Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: "... ON MY MIND" - three theme answers are songs whose titles end with the phrase "ON MY MIND"
I breathed a great sigh of relief when I saw Henry Hook's name on this puzzle last night, not because I thought it would be easy - his puzzles usually skew toward the harder side - but because I knew it would be Good. After yesterday's misfire - which needed harder clues throughout and a Thursday placement, or else a complete reconstruction of that SE corner - I needed something smooth, and I got it. Hot knife meets butter. This was far easier than I expected - I don't think I hesitated more than once or twice while completing the puzzle and finished in about 4:30. The thorniest part of the puzzle, to me, was the middle - when white squares run low and flat through the middle like that, it's always dicey for me. I knew two of those little Downs, but the German one (TOD - 31D: Mann's "Der _____ in Venedig") eluded me, though I've seen it before. It intersected the answer I had most trouble with: ARCADIA (40A: Peace-and-quiet venue). This is ironic because a member of my writing group is working on a book that has a working title of AMERICAN ARCADIA. The clue makes it sound like it's a nook in a library as opposed to a remote, mountainous part of Greece; the subject of a Nicolas Poussin painting ("Et in Arcadia Ego"); or a Tom Stoppard play (all of which would have screamed "ARCADIA" more than "peace-and-quiet venue"). Not that the clue is wrong - it's just ... deceptively ordinary-sounding. Another place of "peace-and-quiet" => AVALON (42D: Burial place of King Arthur). PS he's not dead, he's just resting up.
- 20A: 1968 Glen Campbell hit ("Gentle on My Mind")
- 34A: 1960 Ray Charles hit ("Georgia on My Mind")
- 53A: 1982 Willie Nelson hit ("Always on My Mind")
Worthy songs all. Of the above youtube clips, the Glen Campbell performance is, IMOO, the best.
I have several favorite parts of this puzzle. First, there's INITIATE (37D: Begin) next to NOMINATE (38D: Put up) in the SE, giving us three stacked four-letter answers that have double-letters in their middles: BAAL (57A: False deity), ETTE (60A: Novel ending?), and REED (63A: Accordion part). Nice. Then there's RAILWAYS (35D: Things people are trained in?) crossing ALWAYS (in ALWAYS ON MY MIND), which is daring, since RAILWAYS is just ALWAYS hiding in some really sparse shrubbery. Then there's IGNATZ Mouse (25A: Mouse who's always throwing bricks at Krazy Kat), one of my very very favorite comics characters of all time. I have a reprint volume of "Krazy Kat" sitting not three feet from me. If I ever got a tattoo, there is a very short list of images I would allow on my body - IGNATZ beaning KRAZY KAT with a brick is one of them. But perhaps my favorite part of the puzzle is a nice shout-out to all the solvers who crash and burn and eventually find their way here: GOOGLING (1D: Solver's online recourse). No GOOGLING today.
The part wherein I describe my reaction to assorted other clues and answers:
- 5A: Slalomer's moves (zags) - when ESSES wouldn't fit, I knew it was ZIGS or ZAGS. Is there a way to know which is which?
- 9A: "And _____ ask is a tall ship ...": John Masefield ("all I") - literally none of this clue is familiar to me, but the answer was easy to infer. And now I've got Eliza Doolittle in my ear: "ALL I want is a room somewhere..."
- 13A: Sans deferment (One-A) - "Sans" is jarring here. I'm trying (and failing) to imagine an enlisted man using it to describe how he ended up in the Army. Still, it was easy to get, as the NW came together very quickly.
- 17A: Acapulco acclamations (oles) - alliteration!
- 18A: Bellini two-acter ("Norma") - thank god I never saw this clue. Yeeps.
- 19A: Fail miserably, in slang (tank) - not surprisingly, I got this instantly.
- 42A: Title lover in a 1920s Broadway hit (Abie) - he's back. Clearly, some day, I'm going to have to see a performance of this damned play. Which reminds me - I am going to see a grey wolf this weekend, partly to help support wolf preservation efforts, but mostly because the wolf's name is ... ATKA. He's a living, breathing, canine crossword puzzle answer of the highest order. How can I pass that up? I'll try to take pictures.
- 44A: Little fingers or toes (minimi) - Oh I love this answer. Love It. It's so ridiculous, it's beautiful. It means "the smallest ones" in Latin, so ... it's apt!
- 47A: He wrote "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him" (Voltaire) - my first instinct was, oddly, Nietzsche, but then I remembered he was famous for a different God quote. Got a cross or two and then got Voltaire easily.
- 61A: 1961 "spacechimp" (Enos) - had ENOS for EZRA yesterday, and was wrong. Glad you trot ENOS out again today, especially in his "spacechimp" form.
- 63A: Accordion part (reed) - had the -EED, wrote in REED and thought "really?" NUMBER (46D: Repertoire component) confirmed it.
- 4D: Title locale in a Cheech Marin flick (East L.A.) - seen it before, love it still.
- 5D: Actor Billy of "Titanic" (Zane) - why isn't he in more stuff. And moreover, why do I know his name so well if he is mostly famous for being a supporting actor in this bloated monstrosity of a film?
- 7D: Adorned, in the kitchen (garni) - wanted APRONED, but then GARNI came to me out of the blue. Seen most often (in my life) in the phrase "bouquet GARNI."
- 8D: Super Bowl XXI M.V.P., first to say "I'm going to Disney World!" (Simms) - Phil Simms, NY Giants. His son, Chris, is a QB for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Along with LANDRY (11D: Longtime Cowboys coach Tom), SIMMS makes the NNE football country (I doubt Tom would have liked being put in the NE...). Sidenote: Bobby Hill (on "King of the Hill") attends Tom LANDRY Middle School.
- 9D: What demonstrators demonstrate (activism) - this feels clunky. "Come on, let's go demonstrate some ACTIVISM!" And yet ... it's literally true, on some level.
- 10D: Auto shop's offering (loaner) - aargh. Thinking of LUBE JOB or some other form of maintenance or repair, and the answer is just ... another car for you to drive for the day.
- 15D: Senate tally (nays) / 48D: Senate tally (ayes) - symmetry! Beautiful.
- 26D: Suffix with Meso- or Paleo- (-zoic) - didn't trust that "Z" until I saw the fabulous IGNATZ. That moment - ZOIC into IGNATZ - was perhaps the happiest moment of the puzzle for me. Kind of like the moment where the roller coaster just crosses the highest point of its ascent and you start to fall. . .
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld