Sunday, January 13, 2013

"Play it, Sam"



Today Frank Longo treats us to a puzzle that has us add IV to (more or less) common phrases to come up with craziness that satisfies the bizarre definitions of the theme clues.  I made a couple of early mistakes, as you can see by the messiness of my completed grid, with "prank" instead of ANTIC at 12d (Shenanigan) and "Fessup" at 15d, where Frank wanted the less colloquial FACEIT (Come out of denial), but I had enough correct crosses when I arrived at the first theme clue at 23a to see the answer right away and discover that Frank had Roman numerals in mind when he titled the puzzle "Plus Fours". So the resulting theme answers are:

STRIVINGQUARTET (23a- Barbershop group trying very hard?) - As I said, this one was obvious to me immediately and the base phrase "string quartet" was familiar enough to see right away what Frank was up to.
SEARCHQUIVERY (30a- Google a synonym for "trembling"?) - I had a lot of trouble with this one and in fact ended up with a wrong letter in my grid, the terminal "Y" where I had an "s".  I  didn't know the word "quivery" and the cross at 34d was no help to me because I didn't know the Ukraine city either. Still, "search query" is a common enough phrase and if I had taken the time to run the alphabet I think I would have discovered where I went ASTRAY (70d, In error).
HOFFMANESTIVATES (42a- "Rain Man" star is dormant in the summer?) - This one gave me fits, too; I knew Hoffman but "estivates" is not a word I have seen before (but it's absolutely correct in it's definition) and I have never heard of Hoffman Estates, which it turns out is a suburb of Chicago.  Happily, the crosses produced the right answer and I learned a new word - life is good.
SANTAIVANA (58a- The Donald's first wife, after being canonized in Spain?) OK, I have a loved/hate relationship with this one - I absolutely love the clue but I hate that I know enough about "The Donald" to know the name of his first wife - I sometimes forget the name of MY first wife, for crissakes! But Santa Ana sounds like a pretty cool place, so I'm OK with the answer overall.
CURSIVEWORD (66A- Part of a sentence written in script?) - I like it as I've been known to use a curse word or two from time to time. Do they even teach "cursive writing" in school anymore? (Probably not, and that's too bad - but I guess nobody actually "writes" these days.)
ADAMSALIVE (77a- Eve's jubilant cry after a hurricane hit Eden?) - Adam's ale is water, a factoid I learned by doing crossword puzzles. Great clue/answer combination.
SALIVARYINCREASE (91a- Response to the aroma of good food?) My dogs start drooling as soon as I pick their bowls up to fill them, so I know a lot about "salivary increase" - "salary increase", not so much.  Still a fun clue and answer, though.
TRIVIALLAWYER (101a- Attorney specializing in petty cases?) - My favorite theme clue and answer by far - I wrote the answer in with barely any crosses because what else could it be?! I know a very famous trial lawyer who has been reduced to a trivial lawyer due to the ethical lapses that cost him his license - he now bills himself as a "consultant".
CARNIVALDESIRES (115a- Yearnings to ride Ferris wheels, see sideshows, etc.?) I love this one, too - one of my "carnal desires" involves 111d (Threesome).

Just to be sure we caught on to the Roman numeral reference, Frank drove the lesson home at 98a, Roman 2,002.  Some other clues I really liked were 3d, Old TV's " ___ in Cincinnati" which produce WKRP, one of my all-time favorite shows; and 10d, Ardor for Bush's successor for which the correct response is OBAMANIA, a word I have never seen before but will definitely use when the occasion arises.

Other miscellaneous thoughts I had during the solve included "do STENOs still exist?" (99a, pro at transcription); "did SSTs really fly at Mach 2?" (14d); "Tilsit is a cheese?" (71d); and "how am I supposed to know what spelling of the Bygone ruler (87a) he's looking for - czar/csar/tzar/tsar? Oh right, it's a crossword puzzle, let the crosses sort it out. And it pains me to admit that I needed all the crosses to produce the answer to 79a, "Cafe ____ (where Ilsa says "Play it, Sam": AMERICAIN. I love that movie. Let's watch that iconic scene that took place in Rick's Americain Cafe in "Casablanca":

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