Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Title: A Flurry of Activity
Author: Brent Sverdloff
Theme: The puzzle contains five circled letters: S, N, O, and W in the corners and R in the middle. Each of the puzzle's four theme answers begins with a word that rhymes with SWORN, and ends with a word that can follow SNOW.

  • 17a: *Bald car parts (WORN TIRES). WORN rhymes with SWORN, and SNOW TIRES are ... tires that are designed for snow.

  • 63a: *Builder of an immense domed nest of twigs (THORN BIRD). i do not know this bird. i guess a SNOW BIRD is something... perhaps also a kind of bird? it turns out, i just don't know birds.

  • 11d: *Basic breakfast cereal (CORN FLAKES). i'm all over this one, thank you very much. :)

  • 29d: *Admiral in C.S. Forester novels (horatio HORNBLOWER). and i know what a SNOW BLOWER is.

what an odd theme! what would cause somebody to think of it? i never would have figured it out without the notepad hint. in fact, after solving the puzzle, i stared at the theme answers and couldn't figure it out. i noticed the SNOW part, but couldn't really figure out why they all started with _ORN. i guess not noticing the circled R in the middle pretty much killed my chances at figuring out what was going on. anyway, yes, the theme is a veritable flurry of activity: four theme answers, five circled letters, some anagramming, some "this can follow that"... you name it, this puzzle had it.

Sunny Spots:

  • 28a: Beset in two ways at once (WHIPSAW). awesome word.

  • 47a: Gallivant (TRAIPSE). both of these words are terrific.

  • 56a: Total screwup (FIASCO). this one, too.

  • 60d: God with an eight-legged horse (ODIN). wanna know the story of ODIN's eight-legged horse, sleipnir? sure you do! so the aesir (the norse gods) lived in asgard, whose walls had been destroyed in a war with the vanir (some other norse gods). a stonemason named blast (have i mentioned how much i love names from norse mythology?) came by and offered to rebuild the wall, but in return he demanded freya, the most beautiful of the goddesses, as his wife, and the sun and the moon as well. (sounds like defense contractors in the 21st century, doesn't it?) the gods were outraged at this price, but they wanted the wall, so loki thought of a way to trick blast into building at least part of it for nothing. they agreed to his price, but only if the work was completed within 6 months. well, blast set to work with the help of his incredibly strong horse, svadilfari. the deadline approached and he was much closer to finishing than they had hoped. ODIN threatened to kill loki if the gods were actually forced to pay up, but he had another trick coming. loki took the guise of a lovely mare and lured svadilfari into a thicket for three days. without him, blast couldn't finish the job. enraged, he revealed his true form (that of a rock giant) and thor promptly killed him with one blow of his hammer. eventually, loki returned from gallivanting about with svadilfari and gave birth to an eight-legged foal named sleipnir, whom he gave it to ODIN as a gift. thus endeth the story.


  • 9a: "___ Libre" (2006 Jack Black film) (NACHO). jack black is silly.

  • 20a: Florida bay city, for short (ST. PETE). the nearby 25d: Florida bay city (TAMPA) is, um, nearby. but no BOCA, OCALA, or OPA to be found!

  • 26a: Literally, "puffed up" (SOUFFLÉ). i tend to like etymology clues. this one makes a lot of sense.

  • 39a: In the buff (BARE). so many pic options... what would pete do?

  • 40a: Word after shopping or shooting (SPREE). half of this clue would not be found in a NYT puzzle.

  • 42a: Coordinate, as watches (SYNC). the internet has let me down: i can't find a video clip of "synchronize watches!" from parker lewis can't lose. i can't even find an image. lousy internet—56 kajillion terabytes of useless crap, and no "synchronize watches"? ah well, i was probably the only guy who liked that show, anyway.

  • 54a: Goddess of ancient Egypt (ISIS). okay, but she's no ODIN.

  • 70a: Hamlet's cousin? (TOWN). i've seen this clue, but i like it anyway.

  • 7d: Pentathlon event (ÉPÉE). i originally misread this as "pentagon event." that would be pretty funny, if the department of defense still used ÉPÉEs.

  • 9d: Second-largest city in New Hampshire (NASHUA). also the city where i met pete mitchell at a bridge tournament over labor day weekend.

  • 13d: Legal, in a way (OF AGE). is this sexual innuendo? it didn't occur to me while solving, but now i sort of think it is.

  • 27d: Incite (FIRE UP). when i had the F, i was hoping this would turn out to be FOMENT. i love that word.

  • 33d: Letterman's letters (CBS). this one had me for a while (especially since i had NUDE for BARE, and couldn't figure out 33a). eventually i realized it was referring to david letterman, not just any old varsity letterman.

  • 48d: Wayne Manor butler (ALFRED). apparently he's surnamed pennyworth. i did not know that, but i don't really read comics.

  • 49d: Magi's offerings (GIFTS). specifically gold, frankincense and myrrh. hey, how come you never see MYRRH in a crossword grid?

  • 64d: Number in "A Chorus Line" (ONE). okay, that's clever.

Suns of Bitches:

  • 33a: Plastic shoes in which Jibbitz charms are placed (CROCS). i think something is going on here that i don't understand.

  • 51d: Former capital of Alaska (SITKA). whoa. i normally like hard academic clues, but historical geography is not my forte.

a strange puzzle, to be sure, but a fairly enjoyable one. i don't think i've seen brent sverdloff's byline before. if this is a debut, then congratulations to brent. i'll see you all next tuesday. in the meantime, have a merry christmas and a happy hanukkah.



Anonymous said...

Joon, I think you live here in New England and should be very familiar with "snow birds," i.e., those who "fly" to Florida to avoid our relatively harsh winters.

Dan said...

I loved Parker Lewis Can't Lose! The Scrubs-y visual style was way ahead of its time.

If you're OF AGE, you're an adult for all legal purposes (save alcohol)... no innuendo intended, I'm sure. Get yer mind out of the gutter! ;)

Joon said...

evad, that use of SNOW BIRD sounds familiar. i don't know why i couldn't place it. we managed to "fly" south only as far as DC, where it's still freaking cold this week, albeit not as cold as it looked like in chicago on monday night football. ye gods.

dan, the clue was [Legal], not [Adult, for all legal purposes (save alcohol)]. i don't know any other context in which it would be normal to call somebody "legal" interchangeably with OF AGE.

but yeah, parker lewis! i've never seen scrubs, but the cheesy sound effects whenever jerry pulled something out of his jacket, the corny teenage slang, the glass in ms. musso's door shattering every time she opened it... great stuff. i didn't realize it was "ahead of its time" since i haven't seen anybody else do it since.

Dan said...

Never seen Scrubs? I thought you were married to a doctor?
OK, I know you're not much into TV. All my doctor friends love it... I checked it out because I know one of the recurring actors, but it's a quality sitcom.

Point taken about the legal thing...

Joon said...

my wife loves E.R., and always has. i didn't like that show, and in fact, i'm not into the whole medical drama genre. however, over thanksgiving break i developed an unhealthy addiction to house because of the 24-hour marathon on USA. i think i watched 8 consecutive houses. i still don't really dig the medical stuff, and some of the scenes are waaaay too graphic for me (i'm very squeamish when it comes to blood), but ... hugh laurie is just so good, and the character of house is so funny, that it's impossible not to like the show.

if scrubs is anything like parker lewis, maybe i'll give it a shot.