Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Smurfsday, October 23rd 2008

Good day, Sun solvers, Robert Loy back at the Thursday helm.

Title: Blue Man Group
Author: Kevan Choset
Theme: Probably should be "Smurfiversary" but I'm going with "Smurfs in the Sun" because I have better visuals.

One of the things I enjoy most about crossword puzzles is learning about things I knew nothing about. Take for instance the Smurfs. Somehow I have managed to live a half century without ever seeing a Smurf cartoon or reading one of their comic books or eating one of their cupcakes or otherwise encountering these blue woodland creatures. If you had held a gun to my head and told me to name three Smurfs, I would say "Papa Smurf, Smurfette, and . . . oooh! look over there" and try to disarm you. So get out your three-ring smurfbooks if you want to take notes. Let's learn about Smurfs.

71A: Creature that made its first appearance on October 23rd, 1958 (and a hint to the first words of 18-, 23-, 36- 52- and 58-Across) (SMURF) Yes, today is the 50th anniversary of the Smurfs, who first appeared on October 23rd, 1958 in the Belgian comics magazine Le Journal de Spirou, the creation of cartoonist Pierre Culliford who is better known as Peyo. At first they were minor back-up characters in a strip called "Johann and Peewit" but quickly became popular enough to star in their own series of comic albums and after that they became a worldwide cartoon phenomenon.

In this puzzle we meet:

36A: 1954 Literature Nobelist, informally (PAPA HEMINGWAY) Papa Smurf was the leader of the Smurfs, distiniguisable by his red clothes and white beard.

18A: Large venomous snake (KING COBRA) Once when Papa Smurf was out of town, an unscrupulous smurf manages to get himself elected as king by bribing the voters with raspberry juice. He turns out to be a despot, civil war ensues and Papa Smurf is pissed with his people when he returns for "acting like humans."

23A: Its subtitle is "A Novel Without a Hero" (VANITY FAIR) Vanity Smurf was -- wait for it -- vain, always carrying around a mirror so he could blow kisses at his reflection.

52A: Convenient (HANDY DANDY) I'm guessing he was good at fixing stuff.

58A: Dinner spinner (LAZY SUSAN) That's right, Lazy Smurf was lazy. Evidently in Smurf culture entire personality is summed up in your name. Missing from this puzzle (but equally scrutable) are Hefty Smurf, Brainy Smurf, Grouchy and Dopey Smurf (moonlighting from their mining job in Snow White) Sloppy Smurf, Slouchy Smurf, Nosy Smurf and on and on and on. So, as it turns out if you find yourself in the unlucky circumstance of having a gun pointed at you and the requirement that you name three Smurfs, just start reeling off adjectives and (occasionally vocations), you can't miss.

By the way, contrary to popular belief Smurfette is not the only female Smurf in the village. There was also Granny Smurf and Sassette Smurf. But since Sassette is just a kid and Granny is (of course) a Grandma, Smurfette gets all the attention.
Sunny Spots:

1A: Dueling instrument (BANJO) The second-most famous scene from the movie "Deliverance", and actually it was a duel not between banjos but between a banjo and a guitar. It went to number two on the pop charts and inspired several parodies such as Martin Mull's "Dueling Tubas" and Saturday Night Live's Dueling Brandos sketch.

25D: Fictional Charles (NORA) Nora Charles of the Thin Man series of movies was played by Myrna Loy. When I was growing up people used to always ask me if I was related to her. (I'm proud to say I lied and said that Aunt Myrna was one of my favorite relatives.) Nobody asks me that anymore and it makes me wonder if she's been forgotten. Too bad, she was a heck of an actress.

21D: Charisse of "Silk Stockings" (CYD) Another favorite actress of mine, Cyd Charisse left us earlier this Summer at the age of 86. Starting out as a dancer, Charisse's legs were reportedly insured by MGM for five million dollars. Perhaps her most amazing feat was staying married to the same man for sixty years, not easy to do in Hollywood.


4D: Yankees manager Girardi (JOE) Looks like the Sun is still Empire State-centric. Otherwise why not clue it as "Rays manager Maddon"? I mean Tampa Bay is in the World Series and the Yankees are nowhere near it.

17A: Horizontal lines on graphs (X AXES) Not that tough a clue, but what a weird looking answer. "Xaxes" looks like a science-fiction invader of some kind.

29A: Play money? (ANTE) You gotta pay to play.

32D: Place for care instructions (TAG) Although I've noticed more and more t-shirt designers are putting care instructions directly on the inside of the shirt which is one of those ideas it's hard to believe no one came up with before. Who needs those scratchy tags that love to stand up and make you look stupid?

55A: Smart player (ADAMS) That would be Don Adams, portayer of "Get Smart"'s agaent Maxwell Smart, who was anything but -- smart, that is.

63D: Post-surgery stop, briefly (ICU) You know, I hate it when celebrities I've built elaborate puns around fade from the spotlight. Remember Olympic champion downhill skier Picabo Street? Did you hear that she was donating a bunch of money to a hospital to build a new post-surgery stop? Yeah, they're going to name it after her and call it the Picabo ICU.

Suns of Bitches:

Nothing to get the blues about. I did have NTH at 69A: High degree instead of the correct PHD and I misspelled NIECE at 67A: Goddaughter, often but that's just because I can't remember if it's I before E except after C or before C.
That's all I've got for this week. See you next Smurfsday.


Pete M said...

Don't forget Scary Smurf, Sporty Smurf, Posh Smurf, ... or maybe I'm thinking of something different. :)

Pete M said...

@badir: Comment deleted. Try again with a please, please.

Norrin2 said...

No Scary Smurf. Too bad cuz there was a Scaredy Smurf. No Posh or Ginger Smurf either, though there was a Baby Smurf.

Badir said...

Please, Robert, please don't post your write-ups early! Last night I went to read Wednesday's post, and yours was already up and spoiled today's puzzle for me. I had my fastest time ever for a Thursday, but it doesn't count, since I saw the Smurfs and knew the theme. Pete always has his posts appear at 2am, but yours was already up at 10pm.

Please, please, please, please don't put up your posts early again!

Norrin2 said...

To Badir and anyone else whose enjoyment of the Thursday Sun puzzle was marred by my early post: please accept my apologies and my assurance that it will not happen again.