Like celestial bodies exhibiting syzygy - MONDAY, Apr. 6, 2009 - D Foley (Bird seen in hieroglyphics / "Dancing with the Stars" airer)
Monday, April 6, 2009
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: Phases of the MOON (68A: Its cycle is indicated by the starts of 20-, 32-, 40- and 55-Across) - theme answers begin with WAXING, FULL, WANING, and NEW, respectively
Word of the Day: SYZYGY -
- a. Either of two points in the orbit of a celestial body where the body is in opposition to or in conjunction with the sun.
- b. Either of two points in the orbit of the moon when the moon lies in a straight line with the sun and Earth.
- c. The configuration of the sun, the moon, and Earth lying in a straight line.
[Late Latin s[ymacr]zygia, from Greek suzugiā, union, from suzugos, paired : sun-, su-, syn- + zugon, yoke.]Further: "The phases of full moon and new moon are examples of syzygies, which occur when the Earth, Moon, and Sun lie (approximately) in a straight line." (wikipedia) - which means ALIGNED is a sort of bonus theme answer, which is very cool. If only I could make its symmetrical counterpart, ERUPTED, tie into the theme somehow. Then I'd be truly amazed. I kind of like how the puzzle almost sneaks in the word LUNAR at 33D: Like a bone from the elbow to the wrist (ulnar).
Well this theme is more interesting than what you'll usually get on Monday: four long, reasonably unusual theme answers, a final short theme answer that ties things all together (nice, though in this case, unnecessary), and then the bonus tie-in ALIGNED (5D: Like celestial bodies exhibiting syzygy). Don't know if that last one was planned from the beginning or just a fortuitous and accidental construction opportunity, but no matter. It all works together nicely.
- 20A: Speaking with lofty language (waxing poetic)
- 32A: Withholding nothing (full disclosure)
- 40A: What a fresh ad campaign helps combat (waning interest) - "WANING" phrases are likely unplentiful, and as "WANING" phrases go, this one seems quite solid
- 55A: Holder of the first-in-the-nation presidential primary (New Hampshire)
Interesting presidential clue there, with OBAMA lurking up at 16A: President sworn in on Lincoln's Bible and the Bushes having taken over the SON clue, 35D: Bush 43, to Bush 41. Back to Lincoln's (or any) Bible for a second: for a puzzle so invested in the pagan lunar calendar, this one sure is Bibled Up. You've got the reference to Lincoln's Bible, and then the MAGUS (19A: Bearer of gold, frankincense or 66-Across) bringing MYRRH (66A: Gift brought to Bethlehem) to baby Jesus, Jonah bringing the (angry) word of God to the people of NINEVEH (41D: Ancient Assyrian capital), LEAH getting switched out for Rachel (15A: Jacob's wife), and then the non-biblical by highly Christian (Catholic) LEO I hanging around doing whatever it is saints do (65A: Sainted fifth-century pope). I like that LEO I is an anagram of ELOI (those people from "The Time Machine" who seem to be in the puzzle at least once a week). IOLE is also a word - a concubine of Herakles who provokes the jealousy of his wife, Deianira, who then kills Herakles with a poisoned shirt (!). In her defense, she thought the shirt would act as a love potion. A dying centaur lied to her. This is why myths are hard to recount - no clear starting and stopping points.
- 1A: Iditarod vehicle (sled) - my dog is doing fine; thanks to all those who expressed concern. She's on a super-restricted diet (nothing but her dog food) and we basically have to watch her all the time or keep her crated to make sure she doesn't eat, oh, let's see, carpet, shoes, soap, dead voles, deer poop, wood, etc. Apparently adolescent labs are some of the most indiscriminate eaters on the planet. She's lying here looking at me like she knows I'm ratting her out.
- 18A: "Othello" character who says "Who steals my purse steals trash" (Iago) - what an un-IAGO-like thing to say. I don't remember this line at all. Weird.
- 58A: "Dancing with the Stars" airer (ABC-TV) - people normally just say "ABC," but this version is technically quite correct. Never seen this show. Working my way through "Rescue Me" and "The Wire" at the moment.
- 34D: Bird seen in hieroglyphics (ibis) - Egyptian bird in four letters - only one answer (I think)
- 44D: Notorious B.I.G. releases (raps) - Every time I feature rap videos on this site, I inevitably get self-righteous, indignant emails from a handful of people telling me that I should be ashamed, what about the children, etc. I have been careful to label the profane stuff, but that's apparently not good enough for some people. If the song / artist is in the puzzle, it's fair game, and if I warn you about potentially offensive content, you've been warned, so shhhhhhhhh. Thanks.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
P.S. Happy Birthday, Amy (my sister)
P.P.S. Monday LA Times write-up here