Monday, January 23, 2012

Wife in The Good Earth / MON 1-23-12 / Stimpy's canine pal / Blue 1971 Cy Young Award winner / Pagan nature religion / Popular soup legume

Constructor: Sarah Keller

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Head over heels —three-word expressions, where the first and third words are body parts

Word of the Day: VIDA Blue (60D: ___ Blue, 1971 Cy Young Award winner) —
Vida Rochelle Blue Jr. (born July 28, 1949) is a former Major League Baseball left-handed pitcher. During a 17-year career, he pitched for the Oakland Athletics (1969–77), San Francisco Giants (1978–81; 1985–86), and Kansas City Royals (1982–83) He won the American League Cy Young award and Most Valuable Player Award in 1971. He is a six-time all-star, and is one of only four pitchers in major league history to start the all-star game for both the American League (1971) and the National League (1978); Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson and Roy Halladay would later duplicate the feat. (wikipedia)
• • •

I feel like I'm missing some key component of this theme. Body part + word + body part? Is that it? Not a lot of consistency there. All answers involve parts of the face ... except one. All answers have a preposition for the middle word ... except one. The one obvious answer that would fit the theme isn't even in the grid ("head over heels") (presence of HOOF also reminded me of "HOOF and mouth" disease ... not a great entry, or a pleasant thing to think about—I was in Britain during their epidemic of 2001. Lots of questions at customs about time spent on farms and what not. But back to the puzzle ...). Further, there are only four theme answers and still the grid is a festival of dull crosswordese (ARNE OLAN EDIE LIRR LSATS and on and on and on).  The theme answers are pretty colorful, but this is a somewhat below-average Monday, overall.

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Fiercely (TOOTH AND NAIL) 
  • 35A: Embarrassingly imprudent (FOOT-IN-MOUTH)
  • 42A: Next to one another (CHEEK BY JOWL)
  • 59A: Fast and in large amounts (HAND OVER FIST)

I learned in this puzzle that I don't know how to spell the simple word MAUL (1A: Manhandle horribly). I went with MAWL ... is that a type of hammer or something? I feel sure I've seen the word before ... nope, the hammer is also spelled with a "U" ... I'm sure all those years of reading Chaucer are to blame, somehow. Clue misreading had me wondering what Latin phrase there could possibly be that would refer to how someone does lawn work ("PRO BONO? Why would you cut someone's lawn for fr- ... oh, "law." Yes, that makes more sense"). My wife, who knows very little about sports (particularly American sports, particularly American sports from before she and I met) knew VIDA Blue because that is the name I gave to one of my daughter's stuffed animals many years ago (60D: ___ Blue, 1971 Cy Young Award winner). Against her will. "That's not his name!" "I had his baseball card as a kid. I think I know VIDA Blue when I see him." I can't be the only one who torments his (then) 4-year-old this way ... can I?

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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