Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Title: Last Gasps
Author: James Sajdak
Theme: Phrases whose endings sound like verbal gasps.
  • The Wizard of Oz => THE WIZARD OF AHS (20a: Throat doctor's nickname?). This one doesn't quite ring true homophonically for me, as the vowel sound is different. Still, it was easy enough to know what they were getting at.

  • Purple Haze => PURPLE HEYS (28a: Highly rhetorical shouts for attention?). Love the Hendrix tune, but was not familiar with purple meaning highly rhetorical, which slowed me down.

  • Short fuse => SHORT PHEWS (46a: Quick breaths of relief?). Nice one.

  • Primordial ooze => PRIMORDIAL OOHS (53a: Prehistoric utterances of amazement?). Very good. My favorite of the bunch.

This was a nice theme that basically plays by the rules. The key for homophones or puns is that super-common, well-known phrases are allowed a little more leeway, while not-as-obvious phrases need to be more exact. This is why WIZARD OF AHS isn't a fatal flaw here. You could have done WIZARD OF OOHS, too. Whereas, PRIMORDIAL AHS would have been too stretchy, since it's not as obvious what the original phrase is.

Sunny Spots:

  • 1a: How French-dip sandwiches are served (AU JUS). Nice food phrase to start off the puzzle. Way to get me in your good graces.

  • 36a: First name in grinchiness (EBENEZER). Referring, of course, to Ebenezer Scrooge. Nice fill word.

  • 42a: "Captain Marvel" publisher (DC COMICS). The DCC- start gives one pause as it's entered.

  • 10d: Élan (PANACHE). Panache is a great-sounding word. Penuche (fudge), which is spelled very similarly, isn't nearly as cool.

  • 21d: Tase, e.g. (ZAP). Don't tase me, bro!


  • 6a: Gorge (SATE). Following in the food theme. However, it seems to me that gorging is eating past the point where you are sated. Not the same to me.

  • 10a: Author of "The Fourth K" (PUZO). Never read this novel by the author of "The Godfather", but it was easy enough.

  • 14a: It lost out to "From Here to Eternity" for Best Picture (SHANE). Here's a clip, if you like saloon fights.

  • 17a: Wolf pack locater (SONAR). Wolf pack is a term for a group of submarines, particularly in World War II.

  • 34a: Director of "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" (Sydney LUMET). He directed "12 Angry Men", with Henry Fonda, back in 1957, and "The Verdict" in 1982, with Paul Newman. In between were such 70s gems as "Network", "Serpico", and "Dog Day Afternoon". I haven't seen a single of his films from the last 25 years.

  • 37a: "Double Fantasy" collaborator (Yoko ONO).

  • 51a: Influence (HEFT). I had HEAT, which slowed that corner down.

  • 62a: Lopsided (ASKEW).

  • 63a: One-named Deco designer (ERTE). Gimme. He shows up in puzzles enough that you shouldn't even need any crossings. Like Brian ENO.

  • 64a: Bk. following Lamentations (EZEK).

  • 66a: A buck or two? (DEER). Almost too obvious.

  • 67a: Close closer? (NESS). Cryptic suffix.

  • 68a: Elevate (EXALT).

  • 2d: "Here comes trouble" (UH OH). Somehow, this makes me think of Dennis the Menace, whose last name happens to be Mitchell.

  • 3d: Goodall who works for chimp change? (JANE). I didn't even see the pun the first time around, as I stopped reading at Goodall.

  • 5d: Sans ___ (type type) (SERIF).

  • 6d: Impreza maker (SUBARU).

  • 9d: One who is registered for class (ENROLLEE). It was the first word that came to mind.

  • 11d: Bountiful state (UTAH). Bountiful is the name of a city in Utah.

  • 12d: Makes the first cut? (ZIGS).

  • 22d: Buffs (FIENDS). Buff as a noun, like film buffs.

  • 30d: Arthur's home (PBS). I didn't know what Arthur they were going for here. I was thinking King Arthur; but no, it's the children's cartoon.

  • 31d: Nonprint news source (E-ZINE).

  • 32d: Woman who might kvetch if there were nothing to gossip about (YENTA).

  • 35d: Gong (TAM-TAM).

  • 39d: Eagerly unwraps (RIPS OPEN).

  • 40d: Irish "Ay!" (OCH). If you say so.

  • 43d: Space shuttle component (ORBITER).

  • 45d: Item in a gig bag, perhaps (ALTO SAX). I was thinking guitar/bass, so I was slow in getting this. But I like the clue.

  • 48d: Marlins' home (SEA). Raise your hand if you entered FLA here. I should have noticed that were no abbreviations in the clue; they're talking about the fish itself.

  • 52d: Screwball (FLAKE). Also a hit song by Jack Johnson.

  • 56d: Batiking needs (DYES).

  • 57d: Ingredient in the Middle Eastern stew bamia (OKRA). I never thought about OKRA being a middle eastern vegetable. Who knew?

  • 58d: It might be raised (HELL). I started with HAND here. Not even close.

  • 60d: Math prof's proof ender (Q.E.D.). Quod erat demonstrandum ("that which was to be demostrated").

Suns of Bitches:

  • 65a: "The Quest for ___" (John le Carré trilogy) (KARLA). Getting the first letter of this one was made more difficult by the fact that I had HEAT instead of HEFT at 51a, so I was looking at ALA_E for 52d: Screwball (FLAKE). Anyway, it didn't help any that I'm not familiar with this trilogy.

Is it just me, or was this puzzle considerably easier than the last couple of days? I suppose it's a Wednesday because of the theme type, but I sometimes wish there was a little more consistency of difficulty across each puzzle. That's really the key to a good puzzle, matching the difficulty of the fill and clues to the inherent difficulty of the theme. And let me be clear, that is more of a snipe against the last two puzzles than it is towards this one. One or two SOB clues is fine on a Wednesday.

Overall, I liked this puzzle. Nice job.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.


Orange said...

To a Midwesterner, "ahs" and "Oz" are pronounced the same, and "oohs" has an entirely different vowel sound and THE WIZARD OF OOHS would work only for a sound-change theme, not a sound-alike one.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, to my New England ear (similar to Pete's I would imagine), "ahs", "Oz" and "oohs" all sound differently to me, though "ahs" (flat a) and "Oz" (rounded "aw" sound) would be much closer than the long o of "oohs".

Funny with THE WIZARD OF, I could only come up with ID not OZ. I guess we're not in Kansas anymore!

Joon said...

considerably easier? this was my slowest wednesday ever. ever! i think i spent about four minutes on the rest of the puzzle and then 12 minutes on the SE corner, having only the theme answer in place. CLOWN for FLAKE. HOPE for HELL. ORZO for OKRA. RAISE for EXTOL (elevate? really?). no idea, of course, for KARLA. or SWAT. finally i tried HEFT out of desperation (i don't really think it fits) and things started to click. i really should have seen ALTOSAX or ASKEW. those were the gettable ones. but my mind wasn't working right, or something. i just got killed.

i didn't know you couldn't get a BA at MIT. you can major in music or literature or foreign languages. it would be weird to have a bachelor of science in, say, literature.

jls said...

"considerably easier"? not by me, either. se corner especially gnarly. had "karma" for "karla" fer starters... "flaky" instead of "flake," too. not pretty!

got "...ahs" easily -- but best was that "...oohs."



Howard B said...

Rough time here too. I also got caught by HEAT instead of HEFT.
Seemed a bit tougher than usual.