Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Title: Alter Natives
Author: Jack McInturff
Theme: Wordplay theme in which O is changed to E in various phrases

  • 17a: Where execs' benefits are stored? (PERK BARREL).

  • 22a: Felt nostalgic about one's former patrol? (MISSED THE BEAT). i've MISSED THE BEAT before while conducting a choir. definitely to be avoided. (i got better.)

  • 34a: Battle between Coors and Budweiser? (BEER WAR). "beer" tag? hmm...

  • 36a: Where a rowing team goes drinking? (CREW BAR). "booze" tag?

  • 48a: Pail filled with boxing prizes? (BUCKET OF BELTS). probably my favorite of the bunch. i can imagine mike tyson's basement having one of these.

  • 55a: Ingenious bit of foliage? (CLEVER LEAF).

  • 66a: Oklahoma Indian (and a three-word description of this puzzle's theme) (OTOE). or "O to E." a fine example of thematic repurposing of crosswordese.

a fine theme, deftly executed. six theme entries is a lot, and i liked all six of 'em. there weren't any fill compromises that resulted, either. and it's always nice when you can toss in a "hey, i explain the theme" entry in the SE corner. finally, the title is outstanding. it has the theme (sufficiently encrypted so as to be non-obvious) and is also a nice play on the word "alternatives."

Sunny Spots:

  • 6d: Like Loki (NORSE). (i couldn't resist.) that's loki in the picture, chained to a rock, while venom from that serpent drips onto him. not a pleasant way to live out your days. normally his devoted wife sigyn holds a bowl over his face to catch the venom, but every now and then she has to go off and empty the bowl, and that's when loki thrashes in agony, causing earthquakes. moral of the story: don't mess with baldur.

  • 7d: Oktoberfest dresses (DIRNDLS). check out all those consonants piled up in there! it looks like an automatic transmission.


  • 1a: Città del Vaticano leader (PAPA). cluing this common word as the italian for "pope" seems perverse.

  • 5a: "Alive" range (ANDES). i believe that's the one where they eat each other.

  • 15a: Like cigars in a humidor (MOIST). or anything else in a humidor, really. the only thing i know of that gets stored in a humidor is the baseballs they use at coors field in denver.

  • 19a: Monteggia fracture location (ULNA). never heard of a monteggia fracture, but crosses quickly pointed the way.

  • 29a: Roosevelt's Blue Eagle org. (NRA). i didn't see this clue while solving. i'm guessing it refers to the national recovery act, and not guns. at least it wasn't the dreaded [New Deal org.]. i hate that clue.

  • 40a: James Bond portrayer Dalton (TIMOTHY). am i weird because this guy was my favorite bond? i say "was" because now brosnan is my favorite bond. although the new guy, daniel craig, seems promising too. i'm slowly acclimating to the notion of blond bond, and casino royale was quite good. i will maintain, however, that quantum of solace is a dumb name for a movie. or for anything else.

  • 46a: Actress Headey of "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" (LENA). i watched the pilot of this show, which is rare for me since i don't see much TV. it wasn't bad, and i'm a very big fan of the movies (T2 is, for my money, the best action movie ever), but i just never made it a point to keep viewing. anyway, she seems to be stealing some of the crossword appearances of LENA olin.

  • 47a: With appropriateness (APTLY). the answer is fine, but the clue makes it seem awkward somehow.

  • 52a: Ding-a-lings (BOZOS). get your mind out of the gutter!

  • 54a: Good-looking person? (EYER). why "good"? to me, this clue doesn't make enough sense to justify the fact that EYER is ugly fill.

  • 61a: Arizona city on the Colorado River (YUMA). i hear the 3:10 goes that way.

  • 65a: Birthplace of the Renaissance (ITALY). that seems debatable, but i guess most people would agree.

  • 1d: Cheerleader's need (PEP). one of the many reasons i would be a horrible cheerleader.

  • 8d: Cousin of -ish (-ESE). hmm. distant cousins, maybe. "hey, don't i know you?" "yeah, we're both suffixes."

  • 11d: Dour (SULLEN). i'm fond of both of these words. SULLEN reminds me of a great short poem by dylan thomas:

  • In my craft or sullen art
    Exercised in the still night
    When only the moon rages
    And the lovers lie abed
    With all their griefs in their arms,
    I labor by singing light
    Not for ambition or bread
    Or the strut and trade of charms
    On the ivory stages
    But for the common wages
    Of their most secret heart.

    Not for the proud man apart
    From the raging moon I write
    On these spindrift pages
    Nor for the towering dead
    With their nightingales and psalms
    But for the lovers, their arms
    Round the griefs of the ages,
    Who pay no praise or wages
    Nor heed my craft or art.

  • 12d: Music class liability (TIN EAR). a nice expression, but i feel like i see it more in crosswords than outside of crosswords.

  • 18d: Brand of ale (BASS). yeah, okay, i'll give it the "beer" tag.

  • 22d: Cornfield creation (MAZE). this was especially easy because the clue reminds you of MAIZE, which is very close (although the way i say it, MAÏZE, it's not homophonic).

  • 25d: Difficult to deal with (HAIRY). good clue.

  • 31d: Screenwriter of "The Verdict" (david MAMET). i don't know this one, but then, i'm more familiar with his stage works than his movies.

  • 32d: Maine college town (ORONO). some day, the answer will be BRUNSWICK.

  • 33d: Won every game of (SWEPT). not much sports in this puzzle, is there? this one didn't need to be, but it's a fine clue.

  • 35d: Cunning stratagems (WILES). i don't think i've ever seen this word in the singular, whereas "stratagem" seems more natural than "stratagems." this isn't a criticism; i'm just thinking out loud.

  • 41d: Lustrous fabric (TAFFETA).

  • 44d: Hearten (BUOY UP). okay, that's redundant.

  • 45d: Dermatological diagnosis (ECZEMA). sam had this when he was very young. he just turned 1, and now his skin is doing pretty well, but he's had a runny nose for about three weeks now that he just can't shake.

  • 50d: Cut on a slant (BEVEL). i sometimes confuse this with BEZEL, which means something very similar.

  • 55d: First year of the fifth century (CDI). for once, the clue does not require us to do any heavy computation.

Suns of Bitches:

  • 42a: Friend of Tess in "Camp Rock" (ELLA). right. by the way, what's "camp rock" and why should i know the character names from it?

  • 10d: Young pigeon (SQUAB). that's a cool-looking word. i'm glad to learn it.

  • 57d: Electric guitar pioneer Fender (LEO). everyone knows fender guitars, of course, but i had no idea what fender's first name was.

a nice puzzle, although i felt that most of the good stuff was in the theme. it certainly wasn't going to be able to match last tuesday's puzzle, but that's hardly a fair comparison.

see you next time.



Pete M said...

Several comments:

1) I own a cigar humidor and I would not categorize cigars as MOIST. To me, moist implies wet to the touch. If a cigar were moist, you wouldn't be able to light it. Most cigar humidors are designed for roughly 70% humidity -- too low and a cigar's oils dry out; too high and they don't burn well and can get moldy. I don't know about baseballs. I've never smoked one. :)

2) You'll probably call me a snob, but both Bud and Coors fall well short of what I consider beer. Bass is fine, though.

3) Sean Connery was, and will always be, the best Bond. That's not to say the others are bad, but he's the standard in my book.

4) Any reference to DING-A-LING needs a link to this Chuck Berry song. Sadly, and somewhat unbelievably, this was his only #1 hit.

Anonymous said...

Regarding 8d: Cousin of -ish (-ESE),
my reading was "Span-ish" and "Chin-ese".