Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday, April 25, 2008

Title: Like Heads and Tails
Author: Kelsey Blakley

I thought this was a very decent Friday puzzle. Plenty of fill I didn't know, yet everything was "gettable" through common sense and crossings. Let's get right to it, shall we?

Theme: Two-word phrases, with each word starting and ending with the same letter. For you techies: "x*x x*x", where x is some letter. Okay, not a particularly thrilling theme, but it'll do. Here are the theme entries:

RUHR RIVER - Mülheim is on it
I know the Ruhr region from when I used to play Diplomacy, the classic multi-player strategy board game with no die rolls or random factors. It's all negotiation and tactics. Makes sense there's a river there.

SEES STARS - Reacts to a blow on the head
Been there, done that.

I had no clue on this one, and got the last name completely by crossings. Turns out this is the full name of "Pip", from Dickens's "Great Expectations". What can I say, I was a math/computer guy; I never studied the classics. Shame on me, I guess. :)

TEMPEST TOST - "Send these, the homeless, ___ to me, / I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" (last lines of "The New Colossus")
I was not at all familiar with this phrase or poem, but it is on a plaque on the Statue of Liberty, so I suppose I'm supposed to know it.

DROPPED DEAD - Keeled over
Yeah, okay. It fits the theme.

EDDIE EAGLE - NRA mascot for kids
Wasn't sure what to expect when I looking for a picture of this dude; was half-expecting a gun-toting, Dirty Harry-type bird. Not to be confused with Eddie the Eagle, of Calgary Olympics fame.

Sunny Spots:

Lots of things I liked in this puzzle.

Let's start with IPANEMA (Rio neighborhood) which, if nothing else, is famous in song .

Then, of course, there's SITH (Jedi fighters). For the uninitiated (are there any of you left?) these are the evil dudes who fight the Jedi Knights, not the Jedi themselves.

I also like LATE TAG (Slide follower, perhaps), though it will probably piss off those who think there's too many sports clues in crosswords. I find this clue so evocative of a summer baseball game that I can almost hear the glove slapping the runner's leg, while smelling popcorn, hotdogs, beer, wafting on a warm breeze... mmmmm....

Ok, I'm back now. Where were we?

Ah, yes. ALP (Edelweiss locale), which I love solely because of the Sound of Music, which is on my "favorite movies" list.

SAD SACK is a great entry, clued straightforwardly as "Pathetic person". Here's a picture of the 1st issue of Sad Sack comic, which sold for almost $4,000.

SET (Game with 81 different cards) is a great pattern recognition game for kids. There's also now an on-line version via the New York Times puzzle page.

Clues I particularly liked:

  • BBS - Cheap shot
  • ALIASES - Pen names?
  • BALED - Made a bundle from
  • LIAR - Whopper creator
  • SOCK - Darn it (maybe a little too "cute", but okay).
  • DEBRA - Messing with Eric McCormack on the "Will & Grace" set


ABYSMAL (Horrible): This reminded me of one my failures at this year's ACPT, where a particularly nasty (for me) section could have been broken open if I had come up with (if I recall correctly) ABYSMS.

ORD (Airport code for O'Hare): If you travel at all, you've probably been there. Believe me, I've seen this code plenty.

I.M. PEI (Mile High Center architect): If it's an architect in a puzzle, there's a damn good change it's PEI.

ADEPT (Expert): Nice noun/adjective twist.

ARNE ("Judith" composer): Crosswords love Thomas Arne. He also composed "Rule, Britannia!". Not to be confused with ARNO, which is a river.

LIRA (Maltese currency replaced by the Euro on January 1, 2008) and RIAL (Yemeni capital): A couple of twists on money that are usually referenced via Italy/Turkey or Iran.

Suns of Bitches:

Lot's of tough clues in this puzzle, but no real killer sections. The nastiest knot is probably the junction of:

ANA - "The Guardians" novelist Castillo
NIC - CNN correspondant Robertson

But both names are viable, and stannic rings a bell, so it seems fair enough to me.

Other toughies:

  • EPEES - Passado pokers. If I'd known that a passado was a fencing thrust, this would have been a breeze. I was thinking it was some locale, like a bullring maybe. Still, it was obviously correct once it fit.
  • DIDO - "___ Queen of Carthage" (Christopher Marlowe play). No clue. The only Dido I know is the singer .
  • ERIN - "Zoey 101" actress Sanders. Nope.
  • ELF - Sechs + fünf. Really? That's the best clue you could come up with for "elf"? Hunh.
  • BARR - Epstein-___ virus. It's a herpes virus. Breakfast test, anyone? :)
  • MELILOT - Sweet clover. Never heard of it.
  • TAY - Scotland's Firth of ___. Ditto.
  • ELEA - Ancient Greek city on the coast of Lucania. No clue.
  • CDI - Last year of Anastasius I's papacy. This may be my all-time least favorite way to clue Roman numerals. Are we really supposed to know the years that popes lived, reigned (paped?), and died? I don't think so. I am hereby branding all puzzles that include these clues with the (perhaps eventually) infamous "year-of-the-pope" label. Hate them, hate them, hate them.

All in all, there was much to like in this puzzle. Even the tough clues were plenty fair, so there's not a lot to complain about. Nice job.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

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