Sunday, February 10, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "Reverse English" - all theme answers are structured as "x's y," where "x" and "y" are opposites / antonyms.
I found this puzzle dull and clunky. The theme answers have no sizzle, no pop - they're just awkward possessive phrases. Another problem: the "opposite" words involved often do not feel like natural pairs at all. Specifically, I have issues with GO'S RETURN, CASH'S CHARGE, and PARK'S DRIVE. GO's natural opposite is COME, CASH'S natural counterpart is CREDIT (notice I say "counterpart" and not "opposite" at all - some people still use "checks," despite the pressure from the obnoxious Visa Check Card commercials). And as for PARK, it has no natural opposite. If PARK is an action, then you have to DRIVE to do it. If it's a gear, then somebody ought to tell REVERSE he no longer matters. Poor REVERSE. My main problem, though, was that the phrases are both meaningless and unfunny. They have no sense of humor, and that possessive "S" - something about it - it's like the tape holding a pair of old glasses together at the bridge. Distracting and unbecoming. There are several things to like about this puzzle (more below) but the theme is not one of them.
- 22A: Part of a blouse that touches the waist? (top's bottom) - I hit this theme answer first, and early, and, not realizing it was a theme answer, I got so irked that I actually stopped my puzzle to look up "top's bottom" - and "topsbottom." No such thing. After a few grimacing moments, it dawned on me that this weird nothing answer might in fact be part of today's theme. More grimaces ensued.
- 23A: The real scoop about lipids? (fat's skinny)
- 33A: Underage child of a military officer? (major's minor) - took me a while to see MAJOR because O My God I had No Idea that MALPH was RALPH's last name (33D: "Happy Days" character). I watched "Happy Days" religiously as a child, and I thought that a. they were calling him RALPH MOUTH, and b. whatever they were calling him, it was a nickname, not his Actual Name. Yipe.
- 38A: Nonsense of a market pessimist? (bear's bull)
- 53A: Toil of a Broadway show? (play's work)
- 55A: Match for a bad guy? (heavy's light) - I had the "H" and wrote in HEEL'S ... not sure what word I was waiting for. TOE?
- 78A: What can produce a "boing!"? (spring's fall)
- 82A: Ardor of a new employee? (hire's fire) - this clue should have had something to do with the new employee's being an arsonist.
- 93A: Comeback of a Japanese game? (go's return)
- 95A: Singer Johnny's gallop? (cash's charge) - man I hate the "gallop" part of this clue. A "gallop" is a CHARGE!? How about [Singer Johnny's cry of "J'accuse!"]?
- 113A: Privilege of liberals? (left's right)
- 115A: Road in Yellowstone? (park's drive)
So many theme answers. I should be impressed, but I just feel beleaguered.
- 10A: Puzzle page favorite (rebus) - first of all, my "puzzle page" doesn't have one of these. Second, I challenge that the REBUS is anybody's "favorite." Pleasant diversion, perhaps. "Favorite," no.
- 20A: Communist's belief (utopianism) - hmmm ... don't all governments think their way is the most awesome? I understand that there is an idealized vision driving Communism (one that has never come close to being realized), and yet this clue seems somehow unfair. A belief that a free market economy will create the best of all possible worlds is its own kind of utopianism (perhaps a preferable one, but still... I'm just sayin').
- 25A: Portion of a drag queen's wardrobe (boas) - I feel like BOA is the new EMU. Feels as if it's in half my puzzles these days.
- 26A: Bumptious (pushy) - "Bumptious" sounds like a made-up word, the kind where you can infer the meaning based on how it sounds, i.e. a "bumptious" person will "bump" you. I'm not sure I knew that "bumptious" was an actual word.
- 27A: Toy company that launched Rubik's Cube (Ideal) - ah, the 80s. Watched "Sixteen Candles" last night with my wife (who had never seen it). Few movies were as formative of my ... what should we call them ... sensibilities? My manner of speaking? Seeing the world? I think that movie (along with "The Breakfast Club," "National Lampoon's Vacation," "Manhattan," and "Dazed and Confused") affected my sense of humor a lot, down to the intonation of my voice. It was weird to watch the movie and think "I've been stealing from this movie every day of my life for the past quarter century." So if you've got a problem with my style, blame John Hughes. While you're at it, please ask him to explain what hellish desperation drove him to make "Baby's Day Out."
- 31A: Professional with an x-ray machine: Abbr. (DDS) - that's your clue for DDS?! An x-ray machine? Ugh.
- 47A: Biblical birthright seller (Esau) - I feel like he's not frequenting the puzzle as much as he used to. I sort of miss him.
- 51A: Pianist Dame Myra (Hess) - no clue
- 52A: Missy Elliott's "_____ What I'm Talkin' About" ("Dat's") - this title should at least be consistently colloquial and drop the "A" in "About."
- 60A: Italian port on the Adriatic (Bari) - aargh. Totally forgot about this place. Had the BAR-, and am just glad that the "I"-crossing, BAHAIS (38D: Believers in the spiritual unity of all people), was familiar, in that I remembered it from Yesterday's Puzzle.
- 62A: Sam's Club competitor (Costco) - We had these in Fresno, but I haven't seen one since moving away from California.
- 75A: E-mail directive (fwd) - FWD is a "directive" ...yeah, I guess.
- 84A: Bookstore sect. (biog.) - Quite an ugly abbreviation, like PHOTOG.
- 98A: It can be measured in gigs (RAM)
- 105A: Moliere's Harpagon, e.g. (Miser) - I would break into the scene from "The Breakfast Club" wherein Johnny opines that "Molay" really "pumps my nads," but I've done that before. Instead I'll just say that I read Molière a lot in Mr. Cardella's French classes in high school, and that, truth be told, Mr. Cardella and Mr. Berglund (English) were probably at least as influential in my life as John Hughes films. Probably. The fact that my life included John Hughes films and Molière, side-by-side, pretty much says it all.
- 119A: Darlin' (sweetie pie) - had SWEET HEART, which fits, ugh. I call my wife "SWEET HEART," but she would (rightly) laugh in my face if I called her "SWEETIE PIE."
- 122A: Reason to take Valium (tenseness) - In America, we call this TENSION! I can barely even say "tenseness," it feels so wrong.
- 2D: Accidents (haps) - this answer hurts too. Not as much as tenseness, but enough.
- 10D: Patriot Putnam of the American Revolution (Rufus) - one of my biggest searches yesterday (when people apparently start doing the Sunday puzzle); [Patriot Putnam] has been a clue before, hence yesterday's (and likely today's) Google traffic.
- 12D: Equivocator's choice (both) - hmmm ... isn't that really the glutton's choice?
- 15D: City WNW of Stillwater (Enid) - so iconic is ENID in the world of puzzles that you can hide it behind a completely bland and unspecific clue like this.
- 13D: Child-raiser's cry (upsy-daisy) - well that's just brilliant. No sarcasm there. A seriously great clue.
- 16D: Francois Truffaut's field (ciné) - I'm not the biggest fan, though "Shoot the Piano Player" was pretty good.
- 26D: Literally, "fish tooth" (piranha) - I like "fish tooth" better. It's a name I am now hankering to call someone, as part of a sarcastic phrase, e.g. "smooth move, fish tooth!"
- 29D: Lewis Carroll creature (snark) - Twas brillig etc. SNARK is a great word.
- 35D: Villain in "Martin Chuzzlewit" (Jonas) - needed all the crosses, as I usually do for Dickensian clues.
- 37D: Turkish hospice (imaret) - high-end stuff. Haven't seen it for a while.
- 49D: Refuse holder (ash can) - are these the names of the things outside of buildings where the top functions as an ASH tray and the underneath part is a trash CAN?
- 63D: It's kept within the lines, usually (crayon) - I think this is probably verifiably false. In fact, once you get old enough to color consistently within the lines, you are probably too old to want to be coloring with crayons any more.
- 65D: Sully (smirch) - the word "smatch" is used in "Julius Caesar," and during class the other day, I liked the sound of the word, and the feel of it in my mouth, so much that I found as many opportunities as I could to say it. Here's Brutus, just before his acrobatic suicide:
I prithee, Strato, stay thou by thy lord:
Thou art a fellow of a good respect;
Thy life hath had some smatch of honour in it:
Hold then my sword, and turn away thy face,
While I do run upon it. Wilt thou, Strato?
Smatch! SMIRCH is uglier, but in the ballpark. Then there's the little-known month between March and April, SMARCH. Lousy SMARCH weather!
- 80D: Ukulele activity (strumming) - true enough.
- 87D: Erymanthian _____, fourth labor of Hercules (Boar) - super proud to have remembered this. I went through a Hercules phase a little while back ... long story.
- 106D: "The Lay of the Host of _____" (old Russian epic poem) (Igor) - I like my IGORs Frankensteinian.
- 112D: 1,000 smackers (gee) - much much better than ["____ whiz!"].
- 102D: Moola (gelt) - Now this is one ugly word. Is it a welt, is it a kind of fish you eat at seders, is it a castrated horse ... who can tell?
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld