Sunday, August 28, 2011

The "A" in U.A.W. . MON 8-29-11 / Deborah of "The King and I" / Actor Jannings who won the first Best Actor Oscar / Capone henchman

Constructor: Andrea Carla Michaels & Michael Blake

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: Breakfast in New York — The last words of the first three theme answers are types of bagels. THE WHOLE SCHMEAR is an expression that means "everything" and a SCHMEAR is something that might be put on an "everything bagel."

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Legendary San Francisco music/comedy club where Lenny Bruce and Woody Allen have performed (THE PURPLE ONION).
  • 28A: Ali Baba's magic words (OPEN SESAME).
  • 46A: Bad place to live when the river rises (FLOOD PLAIN).
  • 52A: Everything ... or what might cover an everything 62-Across? (THE WHOLE SHMEAR).
  • 62A: Item whose varieties include the endings of 20-, 28- and 46-Across (BAGEL).
Good Monday morning, everybody. PuzzleGirl here. As some of you probably know, Our Fearless Leader got "stuck in Detroit" last night and sent up a flare that was pointed right at me. I could have said no. I mean, I'm pretty exhausted from the earthquake and then the hurricane this week. The earthquake — well, I know it wasn't a huge one, but it's the biggest one I've ever felt. And I know all you Californians think we're big wimps out here for getting panicked about it, but I just have to say that y'all didn't have people flying planes into your buildings just a short ten years ago. Around here when a building starts shaking, there's no way not to panic.

So anyway, Rex got all whiny and pathetic and when he does that I can't stand it. I'm such a sucker. I have half a mind to spend the whole blog talking about Rachel Maddow and my weight-loss program (two things Rex accuses me of obsessing about), but I won't do that to you. I mean Rachel is awesome, and yes, as a matter of fact, I have lost 20 pounds, but we have more important things to talk about. Like, say, the puzzle ….

I tell you what. A big ol' Q right in the very first square is an awesome way to start a puzzle, amirite? As it turns out, there was much more Scrabbly goodness to follow. You got your Xs, your Z, your J … as a matter of fact I'm pretty sure what we've got right here is a pangram, which can actually be kind of helpful. If it's starting to look like there's a lot of Scrabbliness in the grid, you start to look for it. So if you're having trouble coming up with an answer, you think about whether there's a word with a Q or a V or a K in it that might work, and sometimes that allows you to hit on something pretty quick.

I have mixed feelings about this theme. I think it's probably fine but, I guess I'm not much of a bagel connoisseur. I know there's such a thing as an "everything bagel" and I know that a "schmear" is something you put on a bagel, but I couldn't tell you any more details about either of those things. Can a schmear be cream cheese? Or maybe that's exactly what a schmear is. Can it be anything else? Answers, people! I demand answers!

Also I've never heard of THE PURPLE ONION or the phrase "THE WHOLE SHMEAR." I'm not saying that the puzzle is necessarily bad just because I've never heard of those things. I'm just saying that I've never heard of those things. The great thing about Monday is that not having heard of a couple things doesn't mean the puzzle is undoable. Chances are (especially if you're dealing with Andrea and Michael) the crosses are all solid and the cluing is straightforward. So, really, no worries.

Most of the time when I'm blogging a puzzle, I like to look through the grid and see which entries jump out at me as especially colorful. Typically, they're the longer non-theme entries — I like to see colloquial phrases and words that seem to me inherently awesome for one reason or another. In today's grid, I don't see anything particularly colorful jumping out at me, but the Scrabbly letters distributed throughout do lend a lot of sparkle to this grid. I'm liking PIXEL, ROLEX, LEVI, SLEAZE, and JUMP. Wait, did somebody say JUMP?

  • 1A: You can stick them in your ear (Q-TIPS). Ear doctors across the country are cringing en masse. But hey, if the average person has a GLOB (10A: Soft, thick lump) of something in there, they're gonna go for the Q-TIP. It's probably better to just accept it and move on.
  • 17A: Bolivian capital (SUCRE). I believe Bolivia has two capitals. Or used to have two capitals. Or something. The other one is … I'm trying to think of it myself instead of looking it up … LA PAZ? Yesss!
  • 24A: Extremity (END). I wanted this to be ARM but already had the E in place, which made me question the cross for a hot second, but I got over it.
  • 25A: Got rid of some tobacco juices, say (SPAT). Ew.
  • 42A: Poet/playwright Jones (LEROI). I once read a book by his first wife called How I Became Hettie Jones that, as I recall, was very interesting. I should probably say, though, that I also read Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose in that general period of my life and when I tried it again last year I found it unreadable. So who knows. It might be awesome, it might suck.
  • 61A: Group of birds (BEVY). Is it quail that come in a BEVY? Apparently, it can be any number of animals, but "especially" quail (according to Merriam-Webster online).
  • 68A: 45 or 78 (DISC). You whippersnappers out there probably don't even know what this means. Sometimes it pays to be old.
  • 22D: Minimal lead in baseball (ONE RUN). For some reason, I kept reading this clue as "Minimal lead in BASKETball" and couldn't think of a three-letter anything that would make sense here. D'oh!
  • 32D: What a murder suspect needs (ALIBI). Okay, this is funny. I had ALI in place and thought "A LIFE?" Like some accused murderer is at home preparing for trial and his snotty teenage daughter tells him to "get a life." Probably not her best move.
  • 47D: Examined deeply (PROBED). I cut a picture out of a newspaper many years ago because it really made me laugh. It was a guy sitting behind a desk and he was caught at just the wrong time for the picture. He had a dorky kind of surprised look on his face. And the caption said, "Joe Smith is the subject of a long probe." Someday I'll find it and share it with you. So you've got that to look forward to.
Love, PuzzleGirl

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