Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Michael of "Superbad" / THU 8-25-11 / Harold of the Clinton White House / Lepidopterist's tool / Patty Hearst alias / Tennis great born in Serbia

Constructor: Patrick Blindauer & Francis Heaney

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: Food Pyramids — Circled letters form the name of a food in the shape of a pyramid.

Hi hi, Andrea Carla Michaels here getting to blog today's SASSY (1D: Fresh) puzzle. The lovely PuzzleGirl will help me technically: editing, embedding the images and doing my laundry, because she's just that kind of friend! Speaking of friends, should I recuse myself because Patrick Blindauer and Francis Heaney and I are close buddies? Full disclosure: Patrick and I are frequent puzzle collaborators and I'm going to Patrick's wedding in a couple of weeks.* Well, I would pass on guest-blogging, if I didn't honestly love this puzzle and felt the least bit conflicted. Instead I've got lots to say about this little gem … and Rex was nice enough to let me sit in and say it!

First of all, let's look at the construction. You've got four food "pyramids" stacked across the grid: SOUR CREAM, COBB SALAD, SNOW CONES, SWEET ROLL. Clever, clever construction, if not the most nutritious four-course meal. Love me some Cobb Salad, tho you never know what you are going to get. Sometimes they forget the avocado and put peas in there, sometimes there is a hard boiled egg, sometimes blue cheese delicately sprinkled, sometimes just a huge chunk. It's always an adventure! Hmmm, now that I think about it, is a COBB SALAD a "food" per se or a type of meal made of up different foods? Same slight stutter in initially wanting SNOWpeas because I was unsure if snow cones were food. (By the way, do not, I repeat, do not look up "SNOWCONES" in the Urban Dictionary.)

One minor quibble, theme-wise. Being a start-at-1A solver, I'm not sure I wanted the theme circles to be given away in just the second entry of the grid .… I would rather have been enlightened at the end.

Loved that the grid was rife with food imagery! Patrick and Francis sweetened the solving experience with a little SUET here (4D: Ingredient in some English pudding … yuck), a little ROCA there (49D: Almond ___ (candy brand)), sprinkled with LESS SALT (24D: Dietary dictum for one with hyper tension … and with an echo of EKCO (30D: Kitchenware brand), all washed down with some wine (48D: Blush stoppers (CORKS)).

I would rate this fairly easy, because although I don't time myself, I see my only writeover was CaliSTOGA for CONESTOGA (38A: Pioneer carrier). That would be my Word of the Day, but you can look it up yourself. Just do not google SNOWCONES! I'm serious! I'll never sleep again!

Being a lady of a "certain age" (OLDIE?) I had an easier time with certain clues, e.g. SHE'S A LADY (33A: 1971 Tom Jones hit). How cool is that that Francis and/or Patrick spotted the word SALAD in there???!!

And I still vividly remember the SLA and TANIA (37A: Patty Hearst alias).

Some folks might have had trouble in the heavily-peopled far right middle section, what with EDIE (28D: Falco, of "Nurse Jackie"), the aforementioned TANIA and ICKES (40A: Harold of the Clinton White House). ICKES will live up/down to his name and be icky for some. Why on earth did Harold's parents not change their name when they had the chance? Younger folks are probably more likely to suss out KYLE (60A: "South Park" Boy), CERA (27D: Michael of "Superbad") and ELMO (15A: Friend of Zoe and Abby). I didn't know who Zoe and Abby were. "Sesame Street" premiered in 1969 … I was already ten and knew my alphabet fairly well at that point, so the Muppets were not part of my education. Though I have a vague recovered memory of two silhouettes mouthing, "MMM … OP … MOP"! Trickiest clue, I'm guessing, was "55D Mad people, e.g.: Abbr." If that tripped you up, the answer is EDS., which is short for editors, as in editors of MAD Magazine. Get it now? You're welcome! In my lifetime, we've gone from "What me worry?" to "No worries." Whenever someone says "No worries" instead of "You're welcome," I always feel compelled to respond, "Some worries!" (Then again, I'm Jewish.)

You could see the constructors' predilection for Broadway peek out with the RAITT clue referring to Bonnie's dad John, rather than the "Let's Give Them Something to Talk About" songstress. Bonnie lives here in San Francisco. We have mutual friends and I occasionally run into her, and we have this weird vibe where something always goes terribly wrong between us (once she sort of accused me of stressing out her blind poodle, but that's another story for another time!).

Speaking of San Francisco, I took TROLLEY CAR (54A: Conductor's place) as a personal shoutout to me. But then again, I take everything personally … even CLOBBER (my favorite word in the puzzle!)

Needless to say, these two brilliant creators rarely have DRECK (58A: Shoddy stuff) in their puzzles. The closest they come is DIPL. (42D: Embassy worker), which a little birdie told me may even have been changed. If WEEP were simply changed to PEEL, DIPL. would be transformed into DILL, two more food references (!). Plus you wouldn't lose their clever SEOUL entry (44D: City whose name sounds like a fish). That, by the way, is why Patrick and Francis are too clever by half … and I mean that in a good way … Their SEOUL is a triple Seoul Food/Sole Food/Soul Food pun! And, as we know, Seoul is the brevity of wit! (You would, however, lose the lovely Ms. Fay WRAY (51D "King Kong" costar, 1933).)

Finally, I would be betraying my Minnesota roots if I did not mention the very light Scandinavian theme (by light, I mean a total of two clues!). Scrabble players will recognize RYAS (29D: Scandinavian rugs) if they know their three-letter words (-YA also takes a P front hook!) … and PELLE (45D: "___ The Conqueror" (Max Von Sydow film)) is Norwegian, even tho Max Von Sydow (who was nominated for an Academy award for his role) is Swedish. That was a gimme for me as I have been in love with his son Clas going on 35 years now! Fun fact: Max Von Sydow (who's played everyone from Jesus Christ to the Exorcist to Ming the Merciless to the assassin in "Three Days of the Condor"; he was in all the early Bergman films and was the knight who played Chess with Death!) looks just like the picture on a $20 bill.

And on that (twenty-dollar) note, I'll say CIAO! (56A: Foreign farewell)

HUG (34D: O, Symbolically),


* P.S. By the way, if you love Patrick's puzzles, be sure to check out his website. And you can hop on over to the Crossword Fiend Forum for a little puzzle I made for Patrick and his lovely-bride-to-be Rebecca in lieu of a proper engagement present!

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