Author: Mike Nothnagel
Theme: Take non-sports-related phrase that begins with the name of a sports team (in singular) and swap that name to the end to make a new phrase that seemingly relates to a player on that team. So, for example:
- Celtic cross => CROSS CELTIC (20a: Betray a basketball player?);
- Maple Leaf Rag => RAG MAPLE LEAF (27a: Tease a hockey player?);
- Cardinal rule => RULE CARDINAL (48a: Exercise power over a baseball player?)
- Bear witness => WITNESS BEAR (58a: Observe a football player?)
I like this theme idea, and the fact that it covers the four major U.S. professional sports (sorry, soccer, you still don't make the cut around here). I wish the phrases didn't sound so awkward due to the removal of
the indefinite article (i.e. CROSS CELTIC instead of CROSS A CELTIC, but that's just inherent in the way the theme plays out.
I also love that one of the base phrases is Maple Leaf Rag, one of my favorite non-classical piano pieces, by Scott Joplin. Here's a guitar version that you really have to see (and hear) to believe. I wouldn't have thought it was possible.
Kudos, also, for having the Celtics clue sitting right below PATS (17a: Back stroke?). Go New England sports!
- 5a: Danica Patrick, for one (RACER). Now, trust me, I'm no NASCAR fan, -- idle thought: I wonder how big a set the intersection of crossword fans and NASCAR fans would be... I'm guessing not very -- but Danica Patrick deserves major props for being a successful woman in a virtually completely male-dominated "sport" (quotation marks intentional).
- 24a: Where to go to go to Togo (AFRICA). Very nice.
- 18a: Prepare for baking, as challah dough (BRAID). Hey, we love food clues here.
- 42a: Transportation for some seniors (LIMO). A shout-out to prom season.
- 13d: Roulette number that loses on bets of both even and odd (ZERO). Zero is an even number, but not in Vegas!
- Fats, e.g. (POOL SHARK). Referring, of course, to Minnesota Fats, one of the most famous pool players of all time. I got this right away (and then erased it a couple of times during my struggle in the SW -- more on this later), but I'm wondering if people thought this was a tough clue for a Tuesday?
- 14a: Brake shoe replacement part (SHOE).
- 40a: Excalibur, e.g. (SWORD). "Sting, e.g." would be a great late-week clue, wouldn't it?
- 43a: Paparazzi's lenses (ZOOMS). Topical and evocative.
- 45a: Tony winner John (ELTON). I always think of John as a first name first, before realizing that it is (again) Elton John. My first-ever vinyl album purchase was Elton John. Then Aerosmith.
- 52a: View from the London Eye (THAMES).
- 59d: Make fun of (TWIT). I was not familiar with the verb form of this word, but I still love that it reminds of this Monty Python sketch.
- 33d: Slim Motorola phone (RAZR). Nice, current fill.
This puzzle had a noticable number of crosswordy-vowelly clues:
- AUEL (25a: Author of "The Mammoth Hunters"). And more famously, author of "The Clan of the Cave Bear"
- EIEIO (67a: Refrain from a pre-school song)
- EASY A (54d: Class that's a cakewalk)
- ELIE (61d: French mathematician ___ Cartan). Have I mentioned I was a math major? No clue on this one.
- ALOU (34d: Bochy replaced him as manager of the San Francisco Giants). If all you knew about baseball was from crossword puzzles, you'd think half the league was named ALOU or SOSA.
- IKEA (12d: Its first store opened in 1958 in Älmhult, Sweden) Blah blah store blah blah Sweden = IKEA.
And, for good measure, let's throw in:
- EL AL (26d: Company with a Magen David in its logo)
- ENYA (68a: Best New Age Album Grammy winner for "Amarantine"). If someone paid me $1000 dollars for every New Age artist I could name, I'd be $1000 dollars richer. Is ENYA the only one out there, or is she just the ALOU of New Age music?
- ETAS (71a: Greek vowels)
- YAO (23a: Runner-up to Stoudemire for 2002-03 Rookie of the Year ). And shouldn't this be "Runner-up to Amare..."? Runner-up to Stoudemire should be MING. Not that I didn't get the answer, but still... just doesn't seem quite right to me.
And, while we're quibbling, 4d: Possible reply to a general question? (YES, SIR): Does the question mark excuse the lack of capitalization in "General"? Just asking.
Other miscellaneous clues of note:
- 6d: "Hell's Half ___" (1954 Elsa Lanchester film) (ACRE). I've never seen this film, but the name is at least familiar.
- 62a: Name on the big screen (IMAX)
- 56a: Castellaneta cry upon seeing "(annoyed grunt)" in scripts If I'd recognized the name on the first pass, I wouldn't have had so much trouble in the SW... D'OH!
- 5d: Organs can be found in them (RIB CAGES). I can't decide whether this clue is cute or gross. Maybe a little of each, like -- nah, I'll spare you the analogy.
- 11d: "Hip to Be Square" singer (HUEY LEWIS).
- 28d: Hungry kitten, often (MEWER). Hmph. Yeah, that about sums it up: I'm a Hmpher upon encountering this clue.
- 50d: Tuition add-on (LAB FEE). Come September, I will have two kids in college. Any clue that mentions tuition is a bit more painful than it otherwise might be.
Suns of Bitches:
There were a few tough clues here for a Tuesday, but it was the SW corner that really threw me, starting with 56d: Brazilian midfielder on back-to-back World Cup winners in '56 and '62. Like many Americans, I can only name one soccer player, and that's PELÉ (Well, no that's not entirely true. I know of David Beckham, and also Zinedine Zidane, but only because it's such a cool name). And it crossed perfectly with 66a: Impetus for some foolish behavior, for which I had LOVE (which I loved because it reminded me of one my all-time favorite Motown songs, from Martha Reeves and the Vandellas). Needless to say, this resulted in a major clusterf$^# in that corner until I figured out the answers were DIDI and DARE, respectively. It didn't help that in our area we play candlepin bowling, where an 'X' denotes a ten, not a strike (63d: Perfect game dozen = XES).
Besides that (and ELIE, above), then only one I had to totally resort to crossings on (and I've seen the movie) was: 36a: Brandon ___ (Hilary Swank's "Boys Don't Cry" role) (TEENA). And even if I had remembered it, I wouldn't have known it was spelled that way.
Well, that turned out to be quite a lot to talk about for a Tuesday.
Thanks for listening.
- Pete M.