Sunday, August 19, 2007
- 17A: Fortune-seeking trio (Little Pigs)
- 11D: Trio at sea (Men in a Tub)
- 36A: Grass-eating trio (Billy Goats Gruff)
- 33D: Trio on the run (Blind Mice)
- 57A: Gift-giver's trio (French Hens)
Which of these theme answers is not like the other? Which of these five just doesn't belong? Answer below.
This puzzle is weird. Fun, but strange. The theme does not hold together very well, for two reasons. First, none of the trios is clued in relation to what they are best known for, or they are clued so vaguely that the correct answer does not jump to mind. A little difficulty is fine, but ... when I think of the three LITTLE PIGS, the first thing I think of is the wolf trying to blow their house(s) down, not the fact that the pigs are "fortune-seeking." And the BILLY GOATS GRUFF are clued in relation to the fact that they eat grass?! That's pretty weak. But the bigger problem here is with one answer: FRENCH HENS. All the other answers are from children's songs or rhymes, but those HENS are from "The Twelve Days of Christmas," which is a carol for everyone. Moreover, the HENS are not anthropomorphized in said carol, while all the other featured TRIOS are people (the MEN IN A TUB) or people-like animals. Lastly, and most importantly, all the other TRIOS are CENTRAL to their rhymes - the rhymes are ABOUT them. But the HENS? They are only one of twelve gifts, and they don't even DO anything. Which of these theme answers is not like the others? The answer is FRENCH HENS.
Three of the four long non-theme answers here are really good, in that they are colorful and I needed more than a couple of crosses to get them. 9D: Peaceful interludes (respites) tricked me because "peaceful" seems an extreme way to describe RESPITES, which I think of as mere lulls. But it's accurate enough, so fine. I had the GLI- in 38D: Minor hang-ups (glitches) and still had to go fishing for other crosses before it came to me. Lastly (or firstly, if we're talking about the order in which I actually solved them), there's MALARKEY, which is a hell of a word to try to uncover with only a few crosses. I don't normally think of MALARKEY (5D: "Nonsense!") as an exclamation the way "Nonsense!" is. "That's a bunch of MALARKEY." So there's a lot of slant cluing going on here, but it's not over the line.
The longer Across answers were pretty sweet too, with three of them being two-word phrases and the last being a titter-inducing lake I remember from 7th grade Geography. 24A: Hits the roof (sees red) goes nicely with 43A: Pedestrian's intersection warning ("Don't Walk"), as the pedestrian who sees a DON'T WALK sign literally SEES RED. SAT DOWN (48A: Took a load off one's feet) is nice insofar as it crosses SANTA (48D: December list keeper), and one might sit down on SANTA's lap. And what's not to love about Lake TITICACA (28A: Peru-Bolivia border lake)?
I'm not fond of WANLY as it's clued (50D: In a weak manner), not because it's a bad clue, but just because I'd never ever say WANLY. When I think WAN, I think pale, and even if I were describing something or someone pale, I probably wouldn't use WAN unless I were being deliberately hyperbolic or old-fashioned. I'd use ASHEN before WAN. Not a fan of WAN and its related word forms - that's what I'm telling you here in these words that I am somehow writing a lot of. Also not fond of the way that NARC is clued (54A: War on drugs fighter). That overly politicizes what a NARC does. Even to describe drug-law enforcement as part of the "War on Drugs" (a phrase that didn't exist before the sloganeering of the Reagan administration, as far as I know) is to put the activity into the stupid and ineffectual language of politicians who have done nothing but FAIL to deal very successfully with America's drug problem. I think the "War on Drugs" was the first fine-sounding but theoretically eternal and unwinnable "war" that we as a country declared. I think Reagan also invented the idea of a Drug Czar. Czar? Of all the titles we could adopt. Criminy. I can only pray that we have better luck with the so-called "War on Terror." All I'm saying is that if you frame matters in terms of war, then you better have a realistic and compelling vision of how to win and what winning looks like. Otherwise ... try another metaphor. If OBAMA (14A: Politician who wrote "The Audacity of Hope") gets elected, maybe he'll have some fresh ideas. Until then (and perhaps long after), constructors will happily continue to welcome him into their puzzles, as his name is a sweet new five-letter combo never-before-seen in CrossWorld.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld