Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Longhorn's school informally / WED 10-12-11 / Eminem rap with lyric Guarantee I'll be greatest thing you ever had / Fruit related to cherry plums

Constructor: Gary Cee

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: Separate answers... — idiomatic expressions whose first words can also be synonyms of "divide" (though "CRACK" and "BUST" are drifting ... maybe the first are supposed to suggest simply MARRING in some way)
Word of the Day: "The IPCRESS File" (39D: "The ___ File," 1965 film) —
The Ipcress File is a 1965 British espionage film directed by Sidney J. Furie and starring Michael Caine, Guy Doleman, and Nigel Green. The screenplay by Bill Canaway and James Doran was based on Len Deighton's 1962 novel, The IPCRESS File. It has won critical acclaim and a BAFTA award for best British film. In 1999 it was included at number 59 on the BFI list of the 100 best British films of the twentieth century. (wikipedia)
• • •
Gary. Gary, Gary, Gary. GLARY?

Despite having déjà vu feelings, I enjoyed this puzzle. I like that the first words of the theme answers are relatable to one another only in ways different from the ones in which they are being used in the grid. Related literally, used idiomatically. Consistent ___ A ___ phrasing, also a plus. Only real problem is the fact that no one says "SPLIT A GUT." It's "BUST A GUT" (which outgoogles the former by a 5-to-1 margin), but you've already got BUST in the grid down there. I thought maybe you SPLIT A RIB (feels more natural to me, as a rib is a discrete entity of which you have many, which makes the indefinite article seem appropriate—I mean, how many GUTs do you have that you can split just one?). But I see that SPLIT A RIB is even rarer than SPLIT A GUT, and SPLIT A GUT appears to have dictionary backing, so it's legit, however irksome. 

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Laugh uproariously (SPLIT A GUT)
  • 25A: Perspire mildly (BREAK A SWEAT)
  • 36A: Pay cashlessly (CUT A CHECK)
  • 50A: Begin to grin (CRACK A SMILE)
  • 62A: Boogie (BUST A MOVE)

This was a strange solve for me. Normally, I refuse to be led around by the nose by cross-reference. No, I will not "See 64-Down," thank you very much. But today I got sucked in—probably because in both cases I was confident that I'd know the answer once I jumped over to the cross-referenced clue. 4D: Boxer with an allegiance to 16-Across had to be ALI (boxer, three letters, ALI), so I jumped right over the 16-Across and wrote in ISLAM. This is why it is advisable to actually read clues (16A: One who's called "the Merciful" and "the Compassionate"=>ALLAH). Anyway, I fixed that error quickly‚ but found it mildly disconcerting to be essentially starting the puzzle in the wrong (I mean Northeast) corner of the grid. That might happen on a tough / late-week puzzle, but usually not on a Wednesday. M-W I work out of the NW pretty reliably. So I'm feeling like the world's a bit off-kilter and then I hit another cross-reference: 22D: Michael who starred in 39-Down. As with ALI, I know the answer immediately (actor, Michael, 5 letters = CAINE), and I figure my CAINE movie knowledge will be pretty good so I jump ship yet *again* and head to the SW corner. This is just not how I roll, but it's working for me today. The jumping not only doesn't slow me down, it seems to speed me up, slingshotting me through the grid in a somewhat exhilarating way. I colonize the rest of the grid from my base camp in the SW and eventually end up finishing it off in the far north with a quick STAB (5A: Knife).

Mistakes were predictable. Blanked on the Elvis song and wanted BABY instead of MAMA. Wanted ENSURE instead of INSURE. Other than that, no hangups except for a brief but ultimately uneventful struggle in the south. Couldn't figure out what a Tulsan was. Don't think of MOUSE as a [Computer option]. PC, MAC ... those are computer options. MOUSEs are peripheral devouses. Not sure how TEXAS is "informal"—it's a state name. UT is informal. "SO BAD" is off the relatively recent Eminem album "Recovery" and is by no stretch of the imagination a hit. It wasn't a single. It didn't chart. How it got to be crossworthy, I have no idea. ROTH, ELIOT, KEATS, and ZELDA give the grid a strongly literary feel, while Ringo STARR ... doesn't (5D: Fab Four name).

  • 49A: TV show set at William McKinley High School ("GLEE") — we recently stopped watching this show. Too much out there to watch, and "mildly entertaining show that seems to have come off the rails" wasn't enough to keep us hooked. Unfriended!
  • 64A: Fruit related to cherry plums (SLOES) — the crosswordesiest fruit there is. Plunked it down with only the "S"s in place.
  • 68A: Laura of "Rambling Rose" (DERN) — she has a new HBO show called "Enlightened." Thanks for the info, Terry Gross.
  • 1D: Punk rock concert activity (MOSHING) — is MOSHING still a thing? Sometimes MUZAK makes me want to mosh (31D: Elevator background).
  • 55D: Onetime feminist cause (E.R.A.) — I'm going to re-recommend Ken Burns's new documentary "Prohibition," which is tangentially related to this answer in that the suffragist movement has very close ties to the early Prohibition movement. 
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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