Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Title: Double Up
Author: Lee Glickstein
Theme: Five two-word phrases with a repeated long-vowel sound have those sounds shifted up to the previous phrase. Yes, it's as crazy as it sounds.
  • Pay grade => PEA GREED (17a: Vegetarian's sin?).

  • Clean sweep => CLINE SWIPE (24a: Criticism of the singer of "Crazy"?).

  • High tide => HOE TOED (38a: Like Edward Scissorfeet?).

  • Hope floats => HOOP FLUTES (52a: Encircle champagne glasses?).

  • Who knew? => HAY NEIGH (63a: Barn sound that means "I'm hungry"?).

I'm going to be brutally honest here. I hate this theme. First, it wasn't until well after I had slogged through the puzzle that I figured out what the theme was. Sure, I noticed the double vowel sounds, but it was not at all clear what the pattern was. I finally was able to discern the pattern, with a little help from the title, but it was too little too late. Second, every single theme entry feels incredibly forced and, with the possible exception of Edward Scissorfeet, there is no humor to be found. And since when are scissors and hoes equivalent? Nope, for me, this one gets a resounding "Yuck!"

Sunny Spots:

  • 29a: Munch kin city? (OSLO). Okay, that's a really nice clue.

  • 32a: Cartoon character whose first name is Waylon (SMITHERS). From "The Simpsons".

  • 45a: Ranger Smith's nemesis (YOGI BEAR).

  • 8d: Nursery rhyme shepherdess (BO PEEP).


  • 1a: Org. in the Justice Department (ATF). This was my third choice, after FBI and DEA.

  • 4a: TV host with the catchphrase "I kid you not" (PAAR).

  • 14a: Small contraction? (LI'L).

  • 16a: Work of art (OEUVRE). Good fill word.

  • 19a: "Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me" author Boyd (PATTIE).

  • 21a: Crime perpetrators, in police slang (DOERS). Doers? Really? I've read and watched my fair share of crime drama, and I don't ever recall hearing that one.

  • 31a: Like some illusions (OPTICAL). This is one of my favorite illusions. As much as your brain wants it to be otherwise, the "dark" square, A, and the "light" square, B, are exactly the same shade of gray.

  • 36a: Female teacher of history? (MARM).

  • 37a: Put out, in a way (TAG). Baseball reference.

  • 42a: M.'s counterpart (MME). Monsieur and Madame.

  • 47a: One walking down the aisle? (SHOPPER). Cute.

  • 54a: Robusto! maker (RAGU).

  • 58a: Hit locale (SIDE A).

  • 71a: Snort (NIP). I went for SIP at first.

  • 1d: High caste member in "Brave New World" (ALPHA).

  • 3d: Short pass to a running back near the sideline (FLARE).

  • 4d: Madison Square ___ (PARK).

  • 5d: Fiver (ABE).

  • 6d: Pale brew (ALE). Nope, even the beer reference isn't going to save this one.

  • 7d: ___-wip (dessert topping) (REDDI).

  • 9d: San Francisco Chronicle parent company (HEARST).

  • 10d: Beat in the first leg of a triathlon (OUTSWIM).

  • 18d: Title character who never shows up (GODOT).

  • 22d: "Yes, I'm a Witch" artist (Yoko ONO). She has shown up way more than Brian ENO lately.

  • 26d: Start of Caesar's boast (I CAME).

  • 27d: Italian city famed for its cheese (PARMA).

  • 28d: Elsie's bull (ELMER).

  • 33d: Studly (MACHO).

  • 34d: Northern hemisphere? (IGLOO).

  • 40d: Sources of hubris (EGOS).

  • 46d: "Mr. Tuesday Night" (BERLE).

  • 48d: Maker of Zoloft (PFIZER). The PF combination is always kind of cool.

  • 50d: Calle, across the Pyrenees (RUE). French for "road".

  • 53d: Lake that Fredo Corleone is killed on (TAHOE).

  • 55d: Like a cardinal (AVIAN).

  • 56d: 2003 role for Affleck (GIGLI). The fill is more interesting than the film, I'll give it that.

  • 59d: "Years of Minutes" author Rooney (ANDY).

  • 60d: Timber-dressing tool (ADZ).

Suns of Bitches:

  • 8a: Indian city that was the site of a deadly gas leak in 1984 (BHOPAL). I had everything but the last letter, which crossed 13d: Jackie's younger sister (LEE). I don't like this crossing at all. An Indian city name crossing a girl's name that ends in _EE? It could be anything: B, D, L, R, Z,...

  • 20a: Impresario Sol (HUROK). Whatever.

  • 59a: Shortstop Dark who was the 1948 Rookie of the Year (ALVIN). It's Wednesday. How about a "Chipmunks" clue?

  • 69a: Gourmet store on the Upper West Side (ZABARS). Unfair to anyone outside of NYC. Especially crossing another name that could be anything. 61d: Benaderet of "Petticoat Junction" (BEA) could just as easily have been BEE or BEV or BEL. I could easily envision a store called "Z.L. Bar's".

  • 24d: Rosabella's friend in "The Most Happy Fella" (CLEO).

  • 44d: Swedish city near Stockholm (UPPSALA). This was only vaguely familiar once I had it from the crossings.

It's hard to compensate for a poor theme. Here, a dull and unhelpful theme combined with too many nasty clues and crossings that made this puzzle solve much more like a Weekend Warrior than a Wednesday, only not as enjoyable. I haven't disliked a puzzle this much in quite some time. It just didn't work for me at all.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.


Orange said...

BHOPAL was just in the news Monday—the site still hasn't been cleaned up.

Can't you hear Sipowicz saying something about a "doer" on NYPD Blue? I swear I can.

I still have no idea what the Rosabella/CLEO/"Most Happy Fella" business is about. A song? A musical?

janie said...

not my fave puzzle. mostly because the theme did not seem come naturally at all. so it goes, eh?

why do i think "alvin" was recently in the nyt or some other puzzle i solved fairly recently? "uppsala" definitely was. which is to say, i had no real "suns of bitches today" -- except for grokking that theme... ;-)

zabar's is an upper west side (of manhattan...) institution -- and since the sun has a stated new york bias, well, its inclusion hardly seems unfair. (never watched petticoat junction but somehow knew the name in question was "bea" -- i.e., w/ or w/o "zabar's"...) it's even been rhymed by composer/lyricist steven schwartz (best known for godspell and wicked) in a song from the (deservedly...) short-lived magic show:

west end avenue

anyway, if ya need a hit of lox 'n' bagels up there in the north country:

serious deli!

and a gracious good morning!



p.s. to orange -- the most happy fella is frank loesser's musical based on sidney howard's play they knew what they wanted. "cleo" is a character that loesser invented for his adaptation and is the best friend of "amy" -- who is dubbed "rosabella" for plot purposes. the songs from the show that became popular: "big 'd'" and "standin' on the corner (watchin' all the girls go by)."

Joon said...

i can't say i felt as strongly about this puzzle as pete did, but it didn't exactly float my boat (or my hope) either. first of all, hope floats? really? is that an expression? i thought the base phrases for puns or wordplay were supposed to be well-known. secondly, ... yeah, the theme answers themselves didn't really do much for me. finally, there were a whole lot of wtf clues (mostly names here). i still don't get MARM. what does that mean? who's LEE, and why should i know her? (sorry, lee.) likewise for PATTIE, BEA and CLEO, and i guess ELMER. i didn't know elsie was attached.

luckily i knew ALVIN dark (i know nothing about his playing career, but he managed the A's during one of their three consecutive championship years in the mid-70s). i agree with orange--BHOPAL is famous, probably one of the 100 or so biggest news stories of the 20th century. (i'm totally talking out of my ass here, in case that's not obvious.) i'd never heard of sol HUROK until he was in a paula gamache diagramless a couple of months ago; since then, this is my third run-in with him (sometimes SOL, sometimes HUROK), so i'm glad i learned his name. UPPSALA was just in tyler's monogrammed saturday NYT a couple of weeks ago.

wayland SMITHERS is the big sunny spot in today's puzzle. not only is he one of the funniest characters ever created, but he's named for wayland, the germanic god of the forge (hence "smithers"). how cool is that?

Anonymous said...

The Most Happy Fella was a musical. Halfway between musical comedy and serious opera. In the day of things like Les Miz and Sweeney Todd, a musical that isn't funny may not be remarkable, but in its day (the 50's I think) is was startling.

You may know the song "Big D (that spells Dallas)" from it.

Even with the explanation I still don't get the puzzle. I solved it all, but don't understand it.


embien said...

@joon: "School MARM" is the teacher in all the one-room schoolhouses in old Western movies. (She is invariably pretty and the hero cowboy invariably falls for her.

I don't get how 29aOSLO is a Munch kin city? To what is this referring, pray tell? All I can think of is Wizard of Oz, but that seems quite a stretch to this answer.

Joon said...

not munchkin, munch kin. as in norwegian painter edvard munch, best known for "the scream." OSLO is home to the munch museum, which i would have visited had i nod been virulently ill that day everybody else went.

Anonymous said...

As irritating as this theme was -- I'm another who completed the puzzle without grasping the theme at all -- it could have been made a tad better with a different title. The whole "up" business is really not very relevant; we just have changes in vowel sounds, and the theme answers happen to be in AEIOU order (and hence the clues are in EIOUA order). If the theme had involved inserting UPs into the answers, then the existing title might have made more sense.

I didn't mind the fill particularly, though, except perhaps for the ZABARS/BEA cross. I knew both BHOPAL and LEE (as in Bouvier, Jackie Kennedy Onassis's maiden name) along with Alvin DARK. But the theme (and especially some of the underlying phrases) was galling rather than enjoyable.

All that said, I suggest we adopt the phrase "hope doesn't float" when we want to pan a theme without being too obvious about it.

Anonymous said...

Hi folks. Add me to the list ofthose who solved the puzzle and then came here to find out what the theme was. Indeed, hope doesn't float and that dog don't hunt. Scissors=hoes?

Here's my last nit: I think 30D should be spelled SSH, rather than SHH. The string of S's signals that it's a long sound, while the H modifies the S's into the SH sound. I think it's usually spelled SSH or SSSH or SSSSH. OK, now I'm ready to be corrected.

Anonymous said...

PS. That optical illusion is amazing. I printed out the picture, cut out areas A and B to isolate them, and you're right, they're basically the same shade. (Actually A is a hair LIGHTER than B, as printed out.)

Orange said...

Hope Floats is the title of a 1998 Sandra Bullock movie. According to this, the phrase comes from John Irving's Hotel New Hampshire, in which a plane crashes and a family's dog, Hope, floats. The phrase shows up in a lot of headlines, but that may be a post-movie phenomenon.

Joon said...

jim, you have a reasonable point, but the fact of the matter is that you can find SHH in a dictionary but not SSH (except as an abbreviation for secure shell). for example, SHH is a legal scrabble play but SSH isn't.

re: optical illusions, you can see for yourself here that they really are the same color. plus, there are hundreds of other interesting illusions there.