Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Title: Spin Doctors
Author: Randall J. Hartman
Theme: Phrases in which a D___R word gets its first and last letters swapped

  • 17a: Communist clothing catalog? (RED SPIEGEL). it took me forever to piece this one together. for one thing, i have no idea what SPIEGEL refers to. i'm familiar with j. crew, l.l. bean, and ... that's it. and i guess there must be something (a movie? a person?) called DER SPIEGEL. (edited to add: apparently it's a german news weekly.) i actually thought it might be a spoonerism of SPREAD EAGLE, or perhaps a phonetic wordplay in which a SP moves from one word to another, but that didn't explain any of the other theme entries.

  • 28a: Not very drunk? (LITTLE RIPPED). this would sound better as A LITTLE RIPPED.

  • 49a: Business honcho who's quit? (RESIGNED SUIT). the clue feels off to me. i think RESIGNED as an adjective doesn't mean "having quit"; it means "accepting of something that is both undesirable and unavoidable," as in "RESIGNED to your fate."

  • 65a: Oboist at a music store, perhaps? (REED HUNTER). this one at least makes sense, but it's a little blah.

i didn't love this theme, as you might have already guessed. it's never fun when one of the entries in a wordplay theme is unintelligible in both its original and modified forms, but both DER SPIEGEL and RED SPIEGEL meant nothing to me, so that was kind of a bummer. and two of the others felt off, as i said. part of the problem may be having recently done a very similar theme (patrick berry's 11/7 CHE puzzle; across lite link), with what i think are much better theme answers: HEADING AIR, WAGER WAD, DOLL OF THE RICE, RESIGNED JEANS (that one's pretty much the same), BAD CORES, and DEAR! MY LIPS!.

Sunny Spots:

  • 9d: Penn pal (TELLER). i solved this late at night, so i was too tired to notice the extra "n" in penn. that slip turned a great, fun clue into an awfully tough clue. anyway, TELLER is the one who never talks. apparently he legally changed his name to just TELLER--no first name, no middle name. you know you've made it when you can get away with being mononymous.

  • 36d: Goes in one's friend's car, say (BUMS A RIDE) and 40d: Do a perfunctory job (MAIL IT IN). two excellent colloquial expressions running side-by-side down the left part of the grid. fantastic stuff.

  • 62d: U2 guitarist, with "the" (EDGE). i love his sound. it manages to be both intense and ethereal.


  • 1a: "Kath & ___" (NBC sitcom) (KIM). i wish i didn't know this. that show looks terrible.

  • 10a: Make unshowable, in a way (SPAY). eww.

  • 15a: "While I strongly disagree with the court's decision, I accept it" speaker (AL GORE). his full name will be appearing in crosswords forever. he and DON HO should form a society.

  • 20a: With 57-Across, WWI name that's Malay for "eye of the dawn" (MATA/HARI). she, on the other hand, almost always has to resort to part-name status in crosswords, so this is a rare treat for miss HARI.

  • 23a: Ballplayers Dark and Davis who won Rookie of the Year awards (ALVINS). dark, at least, has been in the puzzle recently. i don't remember alvin davis, but he had a heck of a rookie year for seattle in 1984.

  • 37a: Haloid Company, today (XEROX). i almost always appreciate some gratuitous scrabbliness.

  • 38a: Christmas gift before swans (GEESE). let's see, six GEESE a-laying... is that right? and then seven swans a-swimming?

  • 39a: Person who no longer has class? (ALUM). i hated this clue at first, because ALUMs still have their graduation year (i'll always be class of 2000). but i guess they don't actually "have class" any more in the sense that they do not attend class. i still don't love the clue, but i'll give it only one thumb down.

  • 46a: Praline nut (PECAN). i thought a praline was its own kind of nut. is it the same as a PECAN? or a kind of PECAN? somebody enlighten me.

  • 48a: Down for the count (KO'D). this would be my third-favorite way of spelling this, behind KOED and then KAYOED.

  • 52a: Half court game? (ALAI). i appreciate the effort to write a more interesting clue for jai ALAI.

  • 63a: Brave opponent, once (EXPO). the second of a quadrumvirate of somewhat knotty baseball clues, although this one wasn't that knotty once you worked out that it was, in fact, a baseball clue.

  • 68a: Qui-Gon Jinn, for one (JEDI). obligatory weird al video: they won't let me embed it, but here's the link.

  • 69a: Provenance (ORIGIN). tough clue. this was related to my problems in the texas area of the grid.

  • 71a: Bullwhackers whack them (OXEN). apparently a bullwhacker is a driver of a team of cattle.

  • 72a: Cabbage (DOREMI). this was the other problem i had in texas: i plugged DINERO in pretty early on. two of the crosses were right, and the other ones were at least plausible: UNO for 67d: Mono- relative (UNI-), and HER for 66d: "Run to ___" (1961 Bobby Vee hit) (HIM). so i was reluctant to let go of it, but there really wasn't anything else that could fit 60d: Dynamic beginning? (AERO-), so DINERO got the boot.

  • 1d: "___ Chameleon" (1984 #1 hit for Culture Club) (KARMA). check out the sartorial stylings of boy george:

  • 3d: Show that featured Hoppy Potty (MAD TV). i know of MAD TV, but not hoppy potty. was that a spoof of harry potter?

  • 8d: World Series MVP a decade after Bucky (OREL hershiser). 1988, ten years after bucky "f." dent. the third clue in the quadrumvirate.

  • 10d: San Quentin, for example (STATE PEN). good answer.

  • 11d: Mountain near Colorado Springs (PIKE'S PEAK). why did the first name zebulon go out of style? i'm just curious.

  • 27d: Freak (out) (WIG). i'm familiar with this slang usage, but i never really understood where it came from. WIG out, as in ... jump out of one's WIG?

  • 29d: Tommyrot (TRIPE). we just saw TOMMYROT in the fill in yesterday's crosssynergy puzzle, so it's a little surprising to have it come up again so soon as a clue.

  • 30d: "'Tis better to have ___ and lost ...": Tennyson (LOVED). that's a rather easy fill-in-the-blank clue for a sun puzzle, even on a tuesday. also in the same vein: 33d: ___ Sea Scrolls (DEAD).

  • 34d: Leachman costar in "Young Frankenstein" (teri GARR). at least i think it's teri. she and MATA HARI should form their own society, along with LENA OLIN and YOKO ONO, for people who get both their names into the grid but usually not at the same time.

  • 42d: Bellow in the library (SAUL). great clue! and a good writer, i guess, although i never really got into him. my mom loves his stuff, but i was slightly underwhelmed by the first chapter or so of the adventures of augie march.

  • 47d: Long of "Are We There Yet?" (NIA). easy enough, whatever "are we there yet?" might be.

  • 50d: Doofus (NIMROD). also the name of a green day CD. not one of their best, but i like some of the tracks very much.

  • 57d: '86 teammate of Nails, Doc, and Straw (HOJO). and here's howard johnson of the 1986 mets, completing not one, but two quadrumvirates. nails is lenny dykstra, doc is dwight gooden, and straw is daryl strawberry. lots of 1980s baseball for one puzzle, no?

Suns of Bitches:

  • 14a: Birthplace of Oral Roberts (ADA). in oklahoma, as you might have guessed. i wonder if she's friends with ENID.

  • 53a: Lemon Grove neighbor (LA MESA). apparently these are both cities in san diego county. i've never heard of either one. but in a refreshing change, today's two obscure geographical clues have nothing to do with new york.

  • 5d: Splat Pack director Roth (ELI). er, splat pack? do i even want to know?

despite the underwhelming theme, this was a pretty enjoyable puzzle. lots of just-knotty-enough spots for a tuesday, some excellent fill, and good cluing overall.

until next time.



Anonymous said...

Joon, it's funny to see how one or two of your comments so often give a clue to your (apparently young) age. The Spiegel catalog was certainly familiar to anyone who watched 1960s and 1970s TV game shows; prizes were often taken from there. Der Spiegel, by the way, is a German news magazine (the largest weekly in Europe, saith Wikipedia).

On the other hand, you seem to recognize Boy George and Culture Club readily enough, so maybe you're not so young as all that :-)

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I'm being provincial -- I was referring to American television, and you may certainly have grown up elsewhere. So maybe it's not youth after all.

Joon said...

i grew up in the states, so it really is just an age thing. 1980s pop culture i can do for the most part. 60s and 70s is dicier; all i have to go on is what i learned in history courses. :P

i will say this: i am older than caleb madison.

Pete M said...

Pralines are candies with pecans in them. They're typically in the size and shape of a cookie.

Me, I loved the ALUM clue. And the Weird Al clip is among my all-time favorites; classic!

Hoppy Potty is more of an Abba parody, the name coming from "Happy Party" in thick Swedish accents. Like this.