Saturday, September 24, 2011

Scavenging Southern food fish / SUN 9-25-11 / Often-parched gully / Leonine movie star of old / Black Watch soldier's garb

Constructor: Paul Hunsberger

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Entwisted" — familiar phrases have their N "twisted" to make a Z, creating wacky phrases, which are then clued "?"-style

Word of the Day: MUDCAT (33D: Scavenging Southern food fish) —
(Life Sciences & Allied Applications / Animals) any of several large North American catfish living in muddy rivers, esp in the Mississippi valley (Collins English Dictionary) (
• • •
Coincidentally, as I pasted in that definition of MUDCAT (a southern fish), "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" came on ...

This theme did next to nothing for me, though the grid offered up some amazing surprises along the way—I'm a particularly big fan of "IT'S ALL GOOD!" "WHAT THE HEY!" and GROUPIES. A rapper might have GROUPIES and a POSSE. KID ZAPPER would be a good rap name. Now Kenny Rogers's "Lady" is on

OK, I'm turning Spotify off now. I've see the N->Z puzzle done, and done much better, before. I found SEE JUSTICE DOZE to be, by far, the worst theme answer in the puzzle: both because the base phrase feels less solid than the others, and (more importantly) because of the vowel-sound change in the "Z" word. No other theme answer has that. I get that you're just tipping Ns on their sides, and nobody said sound was relevant, but nonetheless, as the only sound-changer, this one sticks out badly. Not surprisingly, the toughest part of the puzzle for me was everywhere around, and especially above, SEE JUSTICE DOZE. My last letter was at the MUDCAT (?) and MCM crossing. A HAM is a ham radio operator? That's what they call themselves? OK. I don't especially love the crossing of REEL and EELS, but I would watch an animated movie review show called "REEL EELS" where two cartoon EELS review the latest offerings from Hollywood and then give their take on some vintage film that has fallen off most people's radars—like, say, "Fatso" (1980), which just arrived for me today via Interlibrary Loan. I would pay to see those EELS review "Fatso."

Theme answers: 
  • 21A: Result of being badly beaned? (GREAT DAZE)
  •  23A: Scraping kitchen gadget with nothing in it? (EMPTY ZESTER) — since when does a zester Ever have anything "in it?" Awkward.
  • 45A: Pale yellow-shelled sea creature? (MAIZE LOBSTER)
  • 60A: View the effects of a big lunch in court? (SEE JUSTICE DOZE)
  • 67A: Fluorescent candy? (HIGHLIGHTER PEZ)
  • 92A: "Cheers" spinoff mania? ("FRASIER" CRAZE)
  • 113A: Hapless Roman ruler? (EMPEROR ZERO)
  • 115A: Taser for children? (KID ZAPPER)  
How is OLAV an alternative to Ole or Edvard? Like ... an alternative name you might give your child if he were Swedish? Very weird clue. Again, foam is the defining characteristic of a cappuccino, not so much of a LATTE. I've never heard of FREE-RUN chickens. In America, we call them "FREE-RANGE." NITE Owl is the name of one of the heroes in "Watchmen"—I don't remember the cafe from "L.A. Confidential," though it hardly matters as the answer was easy to infer.

  • 5A: Often-parched gully (WADI) — one of the sillier-sounding geographical words, but I still like it.
  • 9A: Goal of phishing (SCAM) — I wrote in SPAM, but that's more the phishing itself than the goal.
  • 19A: 1997 best seller subtitled "Her True Story" ("DIANA") — first guess: LEONA.
  • 41A: Leonine movie star of old (LAHR) — Cowardly Lion portrayer of crossword fame.
  • 64A: Land of King George Tupou V (TONGA) — Did you know that Tonga was named the sixth most corrupt country in the world by Forbes magazine in 2008. Wikipedia!
  • 10D: Polyphemus, to Odysseus (CAPTOR) — all I could think of was CYCLOPS, but I guess he was CYCLOPS to everybody, not just Odysseus.
  • 70D: Unemployed persons with full-time jobs (HOME MAKERS) — interesting clue.
    Kind of ingratiating clue. I half-expect it to be followed up with "... am I right, ladies?!?"
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. today is the 5th birthday of this blog. [noise maker sound]!

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