Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Title: 6 by 8
Author: Alan Arbesfeld

I whipped through 75% of this puzzle without too much problem, then hit an absolute wall in the SW corner. Literally. The entire section due west of ANAGRAM/WABASH/SHOP was completely blank. Now, maybe my brain was fried because it was the end of the day and I was tired and watching TV and sipping on some nice single malt scotch (Ardbeg 10yr -- not as smooth as some, but one of my favorite Islays), but I was drawing a complete blank on 25d: Charge, even with ARRA_ _ _ staring at me. Kudos to my wife, who thought of ARRAIGN (the correct answer), which was enough to figure out the two theme clues in the section and finally break it open. We'll revisit this some more later.

Six eight-letter words that are all ANAGRAMs (39a: See 17-, 3o-, 46-, and 61-Across and 12- and 38- Down) of each other. The clues are all circularly referential, with no additional hints as to their meanings, as follows:

  • 17a: 39-Across of 30-Across (TRIANGLE)

  • 30a: 39-Across of 46-Across (ALERTING)

  • 46a: 39-Across of 61-Across (INTEGRAL)

  • 61a: 39-Across of 12-Down (TANGLIER)

  • 12d: 39-Across of 38-Down (RELATING)

  • 38d: 39-Across of 17-Across (ALTERING)

Not particularly exciting, but not bad. Though TANGLIER feels just a tad "stretchy" to me. Does anyone ever say tanglier? "My hair is much tanglier than yours!". Hmmm...

Sunny Spots:

There is a lot of nice fill and clues in this puzzle, so let's get to it:

  • 1a: Crazies (ODDBALLS). Love "oddballs" as a fill word. Oddball was apparently also a comic book superhero. Anyone know the phrase origin of the term? The "odd" part is obvious, but why "balls"? Is it just a random noun, like "an odd duck", or does it refer to some sport or game?

  • 19a: Mined-over matter. A nice twist on the ubiquitous ORE.

  • 44a: "C'mon, help me out here". (BE A PAL). Nice "in-the-language" phrase.

  • 68a: Sticks in the snow? (SKI POLES). I might have skipped the '?'; it is Thursday, after all. Why send up a flare?

  • 4d: Thing unhooked during a hook-up? (BRA). Somehow, I don't see this clue showing up in the New York Times puzzle, do you? A little too suggestive for them; just suggestive enough for me. Wonderful! (I'm wondering if I need to add a "lingerie" tag to the blog...). Btw, did you know that "Alan Arbesfeld" anagrams to "Ale and elf bras"?

  • 30d: Pinhead dancer (ANGEL). "How many angels can dance on the head of pin?" refers to focusing too much on irrelevant details and often, in the process, missing the big picture entirely. I love the clue because it evokes the Ramones.

  • 36d: Deep Throat's org. (FBI). I honestly couldn't remember if it was the FBI, CIA, NSA, or what, but I love the clue because it reminds me of the classic movie. I'm talking, of course, about "All the President's Men", with Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford. Great film. (Get your mind out of the gutter!)

  • 50d: Argo cargo (FLEECE). From Greek mythology. Jason and the Argonauts took their ship, the Argo, in search of the Golden Fleece. Nice clue, which I got immediately.

  • 51d: Slip covers (SKIRT). Excellent. And another lingerie clue to boot.

  • 53d: Bum rap? (SPANK). Cute.

  • 49d: Sonny? (FILIAL). Get it? Like a son. "Son"-ish. Very good.


  • 20a: "Superman II" villainess (URSA). I hit this one early on and had UR_A; I wondered for a bit whether there was some rebus action going on here (Ursula, maybe?). But no, it's Ursa. I think I must not have seen this flick, as it's not ringing any bells for me.

  • 27a: Benjamin (C-SPOT). C-note and c-spot are often clued as "Benjamins" (Ben Franklin is on the $100 bill). Get used to this clue; you'll see it again.

  • 36a: Where Naples is: Abbr. (FLA). You tried EUR, you tried ITA... nope. It's Naples, Florida.

  • 41a: Mop & ___ (floor cleaner) (GLO). Is "floor cleaner" really necessary here in a Thursday puzzle? Doesn't mop pretty much suggest floors and cleaning? Still, nothing like a good old product name to help fill those tough corners.

  • 59a: Old Testament book (I KINGS). This would have been much less of a problem for me if weren't in the hell sector of the puzzle.

  • 1d: Denizens of the deep (OCTOPI). Nice fill, nice clue. Reminds of a memory game when I was young, where you had to repeat a list of ten things that got more and more complicated as you went (One hen, two ducks, three squawking geese, etc.). Number 9 was (and I still remember this): "Nine lyrical, spherical, diabolical denizens of the deep, who stalk the corners of the cove, all at the same time." Yes, I also know π to 20 places. I'm a total geek.

  • 7d: Doozies (LULUS). Like it.

  • 8d: Poll closing? (STER). Pollster, hipster, dragster, mobster, spinster... Don't get caught by these.

  • 9d: The puck's stopped here, often (CREASE). Very fitting, considering the NHL playoffs are in full swing. (Can hockey be in "full swing", or only baseball? Maybe hockey is full slap.) Anyway, for those who aren't fans, the "crease" is the area just in front of the goal.

  • 11d: South American wildcats (OCELOTS). Not only do these creatures start with a vowel, they're pretty cool cats too.

  • 24d: Focal point (HUB). Shout-out to people in and around "the Hub" which, for those of you who don't know, is Boston.

  • 34d: Terre Haute's river (WABASH). The only thing I know about Terre Haute, besides the fact that it's flat, is that it's the home of Rose Hulman Institute of Technology. But, I've heard of the Wabash (more-so in the context of trains than rivers) so it wasn't a hard fill.

  • 43d: Prefaced (LED INTO). Nice fill that would have been much more appreciated if it hadn't been in the tough SW.

  • 47d: Grapple with, in dialect (RASSLE). I was trying to parse this as something to do with linguistics. But no, it's the backwoods form of "wrestle". Now, I am almost certain that I've heard "wanna rassle" on some old TV show from my childhood (Leave it to Beaver? The Waltons? Lassie?). Someone help me out here. Please.

  • 57d: Company that has its ups and downs (OTIS). The elevator company, of course.

  • 66a: How some plays are performed (IN ONE ACT). I'm not that up on drama, so maybe someone can explain this. Isn't a play written in one or more acts? Are there plays that are written for multiple acts but performed in only one? Any drama majors out there? Please comment and fill us in.

Suns of Bitches:

Tons of names in this one, and very little to say about them except that four of them were packed into the SW corner around two words that no clues other than that they were anagrams of TRIANGLE.

  • LOM (45d: Herbert of the "Pink Panther" films).

  • NOL (31d: Lon of Cambodia).

  • LEN (37d: He played Sweeney on Broadway). Len Cariou. I thought it was LON Cheney... shows you what I know. Note that this entry crosses at the 'E' with:

  • BELLI (42a: Ruby's attorney), making this a classic "guess the vowel" crossing, for me. I suppose the fact that "Lon" showed up in the clue for 31d should have been an indicator that LON was wrong for 37d, but I didn't notice that at the time.

  • LORI (54a: Peru prisoner Berenson).

  • EDNAS (52a: Mystery writer Buchanan and others).

  • LEO (64d: Character in "The Producers" who sings "I Wanna Be a Producer").

  • AYN (5d: Novelist Rand). This is the only one of the bunch that I could fill in with no crossings.

  • DARREN (2D: "Sex and the City" creator Star).

  • BROWNE (33a: Hägar the Horrible cartoonist). I didn't know this one (I don't typically read past Dilbert and Doonesbury), but it's a common enough name that it was easy to get from the crossings. Now Jackson Browne I would have gotten right away. But hey, here's a crossword bonus: according to the link to this Hägar picture, he's carrying an épée!

Besides those, the only clues that really got me were:

  • 21d White of the eye (SCLERA). I should know this, but I didn't; and

  • 28d First rank (PRIMACY). I started with PRIVATE, then went to PRIMARY before finally settling on the correct answer.

All in all, a little name heavy for me. Especially in the SW.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.


Joon said...

fun puzzle today. the theme actually helped quite a bit--there were times when i had only a few letters of a theme answer and worked out where the rest of them had to go. i don't know about you, but i was excited that there is a set of 8 letters which anagrams to six common words (or at least, five common words and one that everybody would know the meaning of). a very nice find.

plus, lots of good fill and clever clues, as usual.

yes, some longer plays are sometimes performed INONEACT for certain settings (e.g. school productions). regardless, i think the clue is a perfectly apt one, since (most) plays are intended as performance art and not just literature. you'll often see a subtitle like "a play in three acts"; and yes, while that refers to the writing, the point of the writing is to have it performed, not read. (and i say this somewhat ironically as someone who has read many plays and seen few. who has the time, or the money, to watch a lot of plays?)

Dave Mackey said...

The Hagar the Horrible strip has been drawn by two Brownes: current artist Chris Browne, and original creator, his father, the late Dik Browne. (Dik also created Hi and Lois with Mort Walker; one of his other sons, Chance, now draws Hi & Lois.)