Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Title: Plastic Surgery Gone Bad
Author: Mike Torch
Theme:Words that sound like they're a combination of a famous person's last name and a body part. As follows:
  • 20a: What the plastic surgeon created after I asked to look like a “Star Wars”actress? (PORTMAN TOES). Reference to Natalie Portman. Homophone of "portmanteaus".

  • 34a: What the plastic surgeon created after I asked to look like “The Man in Black”? (CASH EARS). Reference to Johnny Cash. Homophone of "cashiers".

  • 46a: What the plastic surgeon created after I asked to look like the author of “Delta of Venus”? (NIN KNEES). Reference to Anaïs Nin. Homophone of "ninnies".

  • 61a: What the plastic surgeon created after I asked to look like a “City Slickers”actor? (CRYSTAL EYES). Reference to Billy Crystal. Homophone of "crystallize".

This is pretty cute. Portman toes and Crystal eyes sound really smooth to my ear. Cash ears is just slightly off, due to the accenting of the first syllable instead of the second. Nin knees sounds pretty awkward to me. Still, I like the concept. And knowing the theme did help on the latter clues, which it should on a Tuesday.

Sunny Spots:

  • 9a: New Orleans cooking style (CAJUN). If there's one thing we like better than food clues, it's spicy food clues. And it's a cool word to boot.

  • 15a: Tunnel of ___ (amusement park ride) (LOVE). This is cool clue, but I'm wondering -- has anyone actually been on a "tunnel of love" ride? I feel like it's one of things I read about in books (and Dire Straits songs), but have never actually seen. I've been on Disney's "It's a Small World", does that count?

  • 39a: Fertilized egg (ZYGOTE). Nice word for a Tuesday.

  • 48a: Unanalyzed info (RAW DATA). As a software engineer, I like this fill a lot.

  • 36d: With 58-Across, attempt to deceive using flattery (SNOW JOB). Another great phrase.

  • 41a: Topnotch (PRIMO). This is a nice change from the all-too-common A-ONE.

  • 43a: Scores (A LOT). Tricky for an early week puzzle.

  • 44a: Flips over (ADORES). Another tricky clue for a Tuesday.

  • 6d: Torture ___ (genre of the “Saw” films) (PORN). I had never heard the term "torture porn" and I don't go for the "Saw"-type films, but you have to admit this is a colorful, if disturbing, phrase.

  • 45d: Admit making a mistake (EAT CROW). Very nice fill. And "Crow" always reminds me of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K), one of the funniest shows ever to be on television. Snippets don't do it justice, but here's one anyway.


  • 1a: “Hey,buddy, over here!” (PSST). A nice gimme to start off the puzzle.

  • 5a: Simians (APES). They just ran "Planet of the Apes" on TV again last week. Such a classic.

  • 14a: The Kentucky Derby, for example (RACE). This could be a Triple Crown year. Go Big Brown!

  • 16a: Dumbfound (AMAZE).

  • 17a: Arab League member (OMAN).

  • 19a: Arab League member (SYRIA). I prefer it when repeated clues are interpreted differently each time. I find this use kind of bland.

  • 18a: Sudoku puzzle, essentially (GRID).

  • 23a: Onetime JFK arrival (SST).

  • 24a: Authority (SAY SO). "On whose say so?" Nice idiom.

  • 25a: Yearly observance: Abbr. (ANNIV.). Tough to end in a V without resorting to abbreviations like this one.

  • 27a: One down in Durango? (UNO). Not "One down, in Durango"; rather "One, down in Durango".

  • 30a: Built a new wing (ADDED ON)

  • 40a: Fan mag (ZINE). Short for "magazine".

  • 50a: Wahine’s wear (LEI). A wahine is a Polynesian or Hawaiian woman. I can see how, if you didn't know the word, this might be a tough clue; but it shows up so often in puzzles that it turns into a gimme.

  • 51a: Pool worker (STENO). Do steno pools still exist? Do stenographers still exist outside of courtrooms? There was a day when many large corporations (and the U.S. military) hired people (predominantly women) skilled in shorthand and transcription. I honestly don't know if anyone still does, or whether this is an area where technology has made the job obsolete. Either way, this is a tough clue for a Tuesday.

  • 53a: Stretchy fabric (LYCRA). Somehow, a Jeff Foxworthy line comes to mind: "Just because it comes in your size doesn't mean you should wear it!" Listen to the man.

  • 64a: Mathematician who introduced the symbol e for the base of natural logarithms (EULER). Gimme for me, but I studied math.

  • 66a: “Heck!” (DARN)

  • 67a: Hill builders (ANTS)

  • 68a: Sister of Thalia (ERATO). Referring to the Greek Muses.

  • 70a: Pirelli product (TIRE)

  • 71a: Skeptic’s shout (PSHAW). I like PSST better than PSHAW, as expressions go. Personally, I've never said "Pshaw". I prefer the more Dogbertian "Pah!".

  • 72a: Thanksgiving tubers (YAMS). Actually, they're good all year round.

  • 73a: Nae sayer (SCOT). Cute.

  • 1d: Supports (PROPS). With the spate of REP and CRED clues lately, I'm surprised this one wasn't clued as street slang.

  • 2d: Its flag features the Southern Cross (SAMOA). Easy enough to figure out after a couple of crosses.

  • 3d: One of the Spice Girls (SCARY). You know what's scary? The fact that I knew this answer. And I couldn't right now name a single Spice Girls song (I'm sure I've heard them, and a title or two are probably familiar if I saw the names, but nothing is coming to mind).

  • 4d: Revival enclosures (TENTS). Nice clue here.

  • 5d: Water silk, e.g. (ALGA). I'm not used to seeing this in its singular form, but it was still easy enough to figure out.

  • 7d: Best Musical the year before “42nd Street” (EVITA). Name a musical that starts with "E".

  • 8d: Arizona city known for its red rocks (SEDONA). Namesake for the Kia Sedona?

  • 9d: 1969 Newman role (CASSIDY). From "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", with Robert Redford.

  • 12d: Commando weapons (UZIS). Is it a commentary on modern society that this one was so easy?

  • 13d: Without ice (NEAT). Do people still order drinks neat? Or is this an old-time phrase. Or is it only only used for certain drinks? Me, I just say "no ice" or "straight up".

  • 21d: Little grimace (MOUE). Moue has been showing up a lot lately. Seems like every other puzzle, but probably not quite that bad. I still like the word, but it's starting to get stale.

  • 22d: Safety spot (END ZONE). Reference to a safety in football, whereby the offense is downed in their own end zone. Not very safe at all.

  • 26d: Human herbivore (VEGAN). Here's a picture of me with a well-known vegan.

  • 28d: Online music source (NAPSTER). Remember when Napster was free and Metallica was out suing people for piracy? Here's a classic video from that time, lampooning Metallica for basically being greedy bastards. Regardless of which side of the controversy you fall on, the video's pretty funny. (Content and language warning!).

  • 29d: “Number Four, Bobby ___!” (children’s book) (ORR). This is a gimme for Boston sports fans.

  • 31d: Longtime Senate colleague of Kassebaum (DOLE). Four-letter senator beginning with D? Has to be DOLE or DODD.

  • 32d: Nebraska county that borders Iowa and Missouri (OTOE). I'm not used to seeing this clued as a county, usually it refers to the tribe.

  • 33d: Basketball tournament souvenirs (NETS).

  • 34d: Anastasia’s father was one (CZAR). Here we have the less-common spelling of TSAR.

  • 37d: Range rovers (HERDS). I had HEADS at first, as in heads of cattle.

  • 42d: Plastic bag thickness measurement (MIL). I don't know why I know this, but it was a gimme.

  • 52d: Honshu city (OSAKA)

  • 54d: “The Second Coming” poet (YEATS). I don't know my poems very well, but I know Yeats was a poet and it fit. There was also a Cranberries song called "Yeats's Grave". I can't find a decent video of them doing it, but here is a surprisingly good version that someone posted on youtube.

  • 55d: Pessimistic sort (CYNIC). Nice.

  • 56d: Nostalgic style (RETRO)

  • 57d: Plus (ASSET). The noun form: That's a plus.

  • 58d: Grand Cherokee maker (JEEP). Easy.

  • 60d: Drab (BLAH).

  • 62d: In good condition (TRIM). As in "fit and trim", which was not what I was thinking when I read the clue. I was thinking along the lines of coins: mint, proof, etc., so this took a couple of crossings to nail.

  • 65d: Socratic H (ETA).

Suns of Bitches:
  • 10d: Poehler of “Baby Mama” (AMY). No idea.

  • 59d: “One of ___” (Willa Cather novel) (OURS). I didn't know this one, but the crossings were easy.

  • 63d: Novelists Brashares and Packer (ANNS)

All in all, a pretty nice puzzle with some trickier clues than one might expect. Which is one of the things I really like about Sun puzzles in general -- the early-week puzzles tend to have a little more zing to them than those in the Times.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.


Joon said...

i couldn't be mistaken for an expert on current actresses, but AMY poehler is a recent SNL alum (or maybe even still on the show?). so that one isn't that tough.

one of ours is not one of the super-famous willa cather novels, but i want to say it won a pulitzer. haven't read it, but i can't say enough about my ántonia. wonderful stuff. o pioneers is all right, but not in the same league.

liked this puzzle quite a bit. i agree about NINKNEES sounding a bit awkward, but the other theme answers were fun. PORTMANTOES was actually the last one i pieced together; for some reason i couldn't get carrie fischer out of my brain and did not think of the prequel movies until PORTM__TOES. even then i was like, "what do tomatoes have to do with plastic surgery? and who's PORT?"

EATCROW was outstanding. one of my favorite crossword entries was HUMBLEPIE, clued as [Dessert that tastes like crow?]. food and wordplay! can't beat that.

pete, were you at the EMBA sectional this past weekend? i played the pairs saturday and had my eye out for you but i didn't see anybody with your likeness.

Pete M said...

@joon: I was not there. I am planning to play in the Nashua, NH regional (at least one day) on Labor Day weekend, and I hope to hit the nationals in November in Boston. I'll know better as those dates approach.

Anonymous said...

Pete, you ought to post an e-mail for private notes that shouldn't appear in the published comments. Or have I missed it?

Thanks for recognizing the beauty of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, though the new design in the last couple of years has robbed it of all its previous character.

Joon said...

it's my bad. i know pete's email address but i got lazy and tacked the personal message onto the end of my post about the puzzle.

Anonymous said...

Sorry if my post wasn't clear, joon. I was referring to a personal message I'd like to send to Pete M, not to anything that you posted. I'm no self-appointed blog cop.

embien said...

31d: I thought first of Howard DEAN, but then wasn't sure if he was a senator or not.

3d: For the Spice Girls, surely you can't have forgotten about "Wannabe"? Here's a hint:
"I'll tell you what I want, what I really really want, So tell me what you want, what you really really want, ..."

My apologies in advance for putting that into your head.

Howard B said...

You had me at the Crow pic. How I miss MST3K...

Pete M said...

@jim in nyc: You're right, I should post an email contact. I will do that. In the meantime, it's pmitchellnh in the domain of yahoos.

@embien: Howard Dean was a governor of Vermont and is now the head of the DNC; never a senator. And you're right, I know the song to which you refer; I'm this close to assigning negative bonus points for putting it in my head. :)

@howard b: I just picked up MST3K "The Essentials" (with "Manos the Hand of Fate" and "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians"). Some things you just gotta own.