Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Title: final pairings
Author: patrick berry
Theme: phrases that end with two pairs of double letters
  • 17a: #2 hit of 1966 (BARBARA ANN). the beach boys.
  • 25a: Easter basket treat (CHOCOLATE EGG)
  • 36a: "I'm sure we can think of something ..." ("LET'S SEE...")
  • 44a: Famous legal-system denunciation by Mr. Bumble in "Oliver Twist" ("THE LAW IS A ASS"). i've vaguely heard of this (never read the book), but it still hurt to put it into the grid. (brief explanation here.)
  • 59a: Dodge Charger in "The Dukes of Hazzard," with "the" (GENERAL LEE). i watched this as a kid, but now it seems even more dated than it actually is. moral of the story: the south is weird.
what a strange theme. who thinks this stuff up? (answer: patrick berry, obviously.) making it tighter is the fact that all five of the theme answers end with a three-letter word, making the first of the two final doubles break across a word boundary. that rules out easy one-word solutions like COFFEE and TATTOO (and, my dictionary tells me, MARKKAA. how the hell can that be a word?!?).

Sunny Spots:
  • 40a: Mass times acceleration, in physics (FORCE). i always like a good physics clue, and this one is 100% dead-on. in a patrick berry NYT from earlier this year, MASS was clued as [Force divided by acceleration], which is not right; both force and acceleration are vectors, and you can't divide by a vector.
  • 54a: Pitcher Roger named in the Mitchell Report (CLEMENS). not that i'm particularly happy about anything related to juicing in baseball, but i never did like this guy.
  • 11d: Good time to buy some peanuts and Cracker Jack (RAIN DELAY). great fill, good clue.

  • 4a: Presses on (IMPELS). this is a sneaky clue--it makes you want something that means "goes ahead." but the emphasis is on the "presses," not the "on."
  • 15a: Rapid counterattack (SORTIE). french for "gone out."
  • 16a: Schemer who engineers Cassio's demise (IAGO). i always like it when there's some shakespeare in a puzzle. did the combination of "engineers" and "cassio" make anybody else think of casio pocket calculators? no? just me, then.
  • 20a: Electric Company or Water Works, in Monopoly (UTILITY). or outside of monopoly, for that matter. the utilities and the railroads are underrated assets in monopoly--they can be big winners in a cash-strapped game where property development is too expensive.
  • 23a: Kind of salami (GENOA). Might make a nice continental snack with 24a: Anise-flavored liqueur (PERNOD).
  • 33a: "And She ___" (Talking Heads song) (WAS). i'm of the opinion that most 80s music kind of sucked, but not this.

  • 35a: Sleuth's shout (AHA!). hey, speaking of 80s music, this is also name of the (norwegian?) band that recorded "take on me."
  • 43a: "Owner of a Lonely Heart" band (YES). and they just keep on coming! mini-theme, anyone?
  • 49a: Backless sofas (DIVANS).
  • 50a: Raccoonlike animal (COATI). yep, that looks pretty raccoonlike to me. by the way, blogger doesn't think "raccoonlike" is a word.
  • 58a: Rock found in rivers? (LAVA). i'm not sure i get the clue. is it just because sometimes people say "rivers of lava"? is that really enough of an in-the-language expression to make this clue work? i don't know.
  • 62a: Unwell (LAID UP). nice expression there.
  • 66a: Word accompanying a wave (BYE). but not the kind of bye you get in a TOURNEY (21a: Event with a leaderboard).
  • 1d: Recode, maybe (DEBUG). you know it's a bad bug when you have to recode the whole damn thing. i'm not sure most bug fixes really qualify as "recoding."
  • 4d: First of the Latter Prophets (ISAIAH). i'm not familiar with the term "latter prophets." i know the major and minor prophets (ISAIAH is major... at least to christians).
  • 7d: Vowel with a vowel two before it and two after it in its alphabet (ETA). whew, that's a mouthful.
  • 10d: Car company whose name adorned the Eiffel Tower from 1925 to 1934 (CITROËN). wow, i did not know that, although i guessed it with no crosses. (it was either CITROËN or PEUGEOT.) anyway, this ridiculous eyesore ("adorned"??) makes me feel better about ballpark naming rights.
  • 13d: Cal ___ (San Luis Obispo university) (POLY). alma mater of a good friend of mine. also, i read somewhere that joss whedon based the fictional sunnydale of the buffyverse on san luis obispo.
  • 18d: Voting coalition (BLOC). BLOC crossing CHOC is nice. however, the JAYHAWKS are nowhere to be found.
  • 26d: Have markers out (OWE).
  • 28d: Movable fence part (GATE). the GATE is movable. not so much the fence, usually.
  • 29d: Bodybuilding buildings (GYMS). cute.
  • 30d: Half-witted (DAFT). i like this word. reminds me of harry potter.
  • 31d: "That doesn't sound good" (UH-OH).

  • 32d: Marvel Comics superhero who's blind (DAREDEVIL). this was also a 2005 movie with ben affleck and jennifer garner. somehow, i missed it.
  • 41d: Prevailing weather conditions (CLIMATE). i think this entry is emblematic of why i didn't love this puzzle. it just kind of ... sits there. yeah, it's not hard, but it's also not interesting.
  • 45d: Underhandedly obtain (WANGLE). whoa, that's a crazy word. i wanted FINAGLE, which wouldn't fit, or WRANGLE, which also wouldn't fit, but was incredibly similar to the correct answer. (indeed, one of the definitions of wrangle is WANGLE.) raise your hand if you've ever used the word WANGLE.
  • 47d: Orts (SCRAPS). it's a good thing we all know ORT from the grid, because now it's a clue. before you know it, it will be a theme.
  • 51d: Ignore the script (AD LIB). the holdover from yesterday's puzzle.
  • 53d: "Me, Myself, & ___" (2000 comedy) (IRENE). starring jim carrey, jim carrey, & renee zellweger.
  • 57d: Disgusting buildup (CRUD). all righty then.

Suns of Bitches:
  • 1a: Heavy metal singer Ronnie James ___ (DIO). one of the funny things about crosswords is that no matter how obscure you are, if your name could be clued some other way (in this case, italian for "god"), you could someday find yourself in a puzzle, because editors get tired of using the same clues. whereas an equally obscure heavy metal singer named, say, KIO, would never end up in a puzzle, because editors reject obscure fill.
  • 56a: Blues standard covered by Elvis Presley (CC RIDER). i really wanted to have heard of this, but ... i haven't.
  • 5d: "Bazooka Joe" character who wears turtlenecks (MORT). there are bazooka joe characters? i thought it was a bubble gum. apparently it's a comic strip, inside of bubble gum wrappers.
overall, this puzzle wasn't bad, but when i see patrick berry's name in the byline, i expect it to be great, so i was disappointed. this is probably the only berry puzzle i've done all year that didn't make me sit up and take notice. part of it is that he seems to have mostly eschewed long fill (8+) for more 6s and 7s, but the bulk of those were pretty dull. oh well. the next puzzle he writes will presumably be insanely great anyway.

Tthanks for listening reading.

- Pete M. joon

1 comment:

ArtLvr said...

Hi joon -- enjoyed your comments! It didn't quite seem like a Patrick Berry puzzle to me either, but it had some tricky spots... especially when I had all those A's in 17A BARBARAANN and wondered if I should take any out before I looked at the crosses that were left. Likewise those E's in GENERALLEE.

I was happy about the 39A [Card reader of a sort], thinking wow, ROM -- working with 11D as a "rainstorm", not RAINDELAY. But no, it's just old ATM. And the 5D clue for MORT was out of sight, as you said -- where's my guy Mort Sahl? Retired, huh?

I didn't know DIO either, but the answer to 1A clue starting with Re___ couldn't have an answer also starting with RE___, so DEBUG had to be there... I did know ORRIN/ERR, TILL and CCRIDER, each a cute echo of the theme's double letters, as were those S's in POSSESS crossing LETSSEE, with EER right under the latter.

I think the theme's double repetition pattern was a clever one, yet at the same time carried the seed of a slight letdown response overall -- too much repetition can leave one a bit bored. Isn't that why we're more pleased with "high Scrabble value" challenges, the surprising use of rarer letters?

i loved WANGLE -- we used to wangle small treats from parents when we were kids, though not really as an "underhanded" enterprise... more of a game.