Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Title: E Before I
Author: Richard and Judith Martin
Theme: Phrases where the I and E in a key word are reversed. I think you can suss out the original phrases without me spelling them out...
  • 17a: What you'll see if you watch "Raging Bull" followed by "Taxi Driver" followed by "The King of Comedy"? (MUCHO DE NIRO). Love "Taxi Driver". One of my all-time favorite films. Apparently, the famous mirror scene was a complete ad lib by De Niro; the script just read "Travis looks in the mirror".

  • 24a: Where to buy "G.I. Jane" and "Striptease"? (DEMI STORE).

  • 35a: Sign at the Three Seasons Hotel? (NO SPRING CHECKIN). Love this one. Best entry in the puzzle.

  • 49a: Not quite half a score of jeans? (NINE LEVIS).

  • 58a: Where a Russian revolutionary leader kept his coats? (LENIN CLOSET). This was a gimme. Almost too easy.

This theme hooked me on the first entry. My only mild complaint is that the first two theme entries use movie titles to refer to movie stars, a pattern that does not even come close to continuing. My even milder complaint is that NINE LIVES contains two words that could have been changed, but only one was. This seems vaguely arbitrary, but let me reiterate -- these are really, really minor beefs. On the whole, this theme really made me smile. And that's the measure of success that matters most to me.

Sunny Spots:
  • 38d: Writer in "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" (KEN KESEY). "In", not "of". The book was written by Tom Wolfe. Ken Kesey, of course, wrote "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest".

  • 1a: Cotillion presentees (DEBS). Is this a bygone tradition, or do people still do these? I've never seen it, but I'm a New England hick.

  • 11a: Dr. Seuss story about stubbornness, with "The" (ZAX). When you need good Scrabbly letters in a short word, Dr. Seuss is your man.

  • 15a: "Wanna bet?" (OH YEAH). Not as colorful as the recent musical reference.

  • 16a: Samara dropper (ELM). I had know idea what a samara was, so I was torn between ELM and ELK. If 13d had baffled me, I might have been in trouble. But it didn't. Turns out samara are those winged seeds, like maple trees also have. Who knew they had a name?

  • 20a: Seoul brothers? (KOREANS). Cute.

  • 29a: Dupes (DITTOS). I remember in grade school, when we used to get copies off a mimeograph machine (I can still recall the fresh ink smell), they called them "dittos". I'm not sure if there was a reason this term was used for that technology, but I can't say that I've heard it used since copiers took over.

  • 31a: Kettledrums (TIMPANI). I played them in high school.

  • 46a: Candle bracket (SCONCE). Good word.

  • 53a: Liam's role in "Schindler's List" (OSKAR).

  • 62a: Crimson rival (ELI). Harvard v. Yale.

  • 63a: County seat in west Texas (ODESSA). This seems to show up a lot. More often than it probably should.

  • 64a: Campbell of "Panic" (NEVE).

  • 66a: Wildcatter's dream (GUSHER). Wildcatter is not a term I'm familiar with. I was assuming it was a reference to whitewater rafting, but no, it's an exploratory oil driller. This actually made for a tough cross at 58d: Birling need (LOG), if you didn't know that birling was a log-rolling sport. I didn't recall it off the top, but it clicked when I was running possibilities through my head.

  • 67a: Put highlights in, say (DYED).

  • 4d: Train (SCHOOL).

  • 5d: Olympic skier Miller (BODE). It's Miller time, I guess, as we also have 44d: Fashion designer Miller (NICOLE).

  • 7d: "Blue Skies, No Fences" memoirist Cheney (LYNNE).

  • 8d: Jefferson's belief (DEISM).

  • 9d: Hammer home? (EAR). Good clue.

  • 11d: Fanatic (ZEALOT).

  • 12d: Like some guards (ALL-PRO).

  • 13d: Opening days? (XMASES). Even with the '?', it would be nice to get an indicator that we're dealing with a shorthand spelling.

  • 21d: Top story? (ATTIC). I don't see the need for the '?' here.

  • 22d: Severn feeder (AVON). My first thought was AARE. How sick is that?

  • 23d: Snorkasaurus of cartoons (DINO). From "The Flintstones".

  • 25d: Good bakers (IDAHOS). Potatoes.

  • 26d: ___ qua non (SINE).

  • 28d: Withhold (STIFLE).

  • 32d: Like Scriabin's Symphony No. 1 (IN E). We already had ENE as a suffix, thus this more obscure cluing.

  • 33d: Diamond head: Abbr. (MGR). Reference to a baseball manager. I think this one deserves the '?' more than "Top story". How about you?

  • 34d: Part of APR (PCT). Quibble: APR is Annual Percentage Rate. PCT is short for "percent", not "percentage".

  • 36d: Act the fop (PREEN).

  • 37d: Brazilian coin (REAL). Tough clue for an easy word.

  • 39d: Centuries-ago speaker of Quechua (INCA).

  • 45d: Trap, as by a winter storm (SNOW IN).

  • 48d: "Soldier of Love" singer Donny (OSMOND).

  • 50d: Fan blades (VANES).

  • 51d: 1977 #1 hit for Stevie Wonder (I WISH). From "Songs in the Key of Life". Hear it here.

  • 56d: Cicatrix (SCAR).

  • 60d: Wall-E's love interest in "Wall-E" (EVE). Didn't know it, but it fell easily. Sorry about the naked photo, but she is a hot one, isn't she?

  • 61d: Cubs pitcher Lilly (TED). I wouldn't have known him if he hadn't pitched in the American League for years.

Suns of Bitches:

  • 30a: Yellow solid (ONE). I will readily admit that I couldn't figure this one out. And I adore pool, too. I have a really nice custom McDermott cue and everything. I had to ask Amy over at Diary of a Crossword Fiend what this one meant. If I wasn't so sure that DINO was correct, I would have gone with ORE here, which at least made some semblance of sense to me. Now I get it, but man that seems tough for a Wednesday, especially with no context in the clue. I'm going to blame it on the fact that I never refer to pool balls as "stripes" and "solids", but rather as "high" and "low". Yeah, that's it...

All in all, a decent Wednesday with a cute theme. Not a ton of sizzling fill, but a pleasant puzzle nonetheless.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.


Joon said...

the ZAX/ELM/XMASES corner had me befuddled for a while even after i got ZEALOT and ALLPRO. i only know ZAX as a shingle-cutting tool, and the word with the highest average points-per-letter score in scrabble, unless i'm missing something. (i don't count words like JAZZ or even ZZZ that require blanks, since blanks are worth 0.)

great puzzle, though. i loved the theme, loved KOREANS and SCONCE, and loved the clues. ONE had me thrown for a while, but i eventually worked out what it meant. i wish IWISH had been clued using skee-lo, for what that's worth.

i know very few keys of classical music pieces, but ... scriabin's symphony #1? wow. i'm guessing nobody has dug that deep for a clue for IN_ before.

mellocat said...

EVE in the movie stands for Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator. I'll admit the thought crossed my mind while watching the movie "oh, a new clue for Eve". (No, I didn't really get too wrapped up in the movie.)