Sunday, April 7, 2013

High Hopes

This week's Premier Crossword by Frank A. Longo is titled "Tee Time" but of course it has absolutely nothing to do with golf. Instead Frank challenges us to take familiar phrases and insert a "T" therein to create a wacky new phrase, clued "?"-style.  As usual the puzzle is theme-rich with nine long answers stuffed, symmetrically of course, into the 21 x 21 grid:

23a - DETERCROSSING - Dissuade people from using a bridge?
34a - SADDLESTORE - Horse riders' shop?
42a - ROBBERBARTON - Thieving Fink?
58a - SOPRANOATRIA - Open courts used by opera singers?
69a - MORTALDILEMMA - Predicament experience by humans?
80a - BASTESLOADED - Moistens meat while drunk?
94a - STACKLUNCHES - Arrange meals neatly in a picnic basket?
103a-BLOODYMARTY - Actor Feldman after a bad fight?
119a-PETERPRESSURE - Stress caused by a "Great" czar?

Well, I liked the puzzle well enough but I have to say it didn't make me say OOH (115a - "Nice One"!). On the other hand the solving experience was certainly not something I had to ENDURE (18d - Tough out), either. It was enjoyable but, for me anyway, lacking the "je ne sais quoi" that I have come to expect from Frank Longo. Probably the only thing really wrong with the puzzle is my high expectations so let's move on.  First to the theme answers:

Frank managed to find eight common phrases which can be transformed into other more or less meaningful phrases that fit the clues.  I say eight because "soprano aria" doesn't strike me as a phrase that anyone is likely to hear in common usage (other than in a conversation about opera, I guess) whereas the others all seem totally "in the language". But still, eight out of nine ain't bad. I had some difficulty coming up with ROBBERBARTON because I have never heard of the film "Barton Fink" ( per wiki: Barton Fink is a 1991 American film, written, directed, and produced by the Coen brothers. Set in 1941, it stars John Turturro in the title role as a young New York City playwright who is hired to write scripts for a movie studio in Hollywood, and John Goodman as Charlie, the insurance salesman who lives next door at the run-down Hotel Earle.). As to MORTALDILEMMA, I don't see any "dilemma" at all, because we are all going to die and there are no choices to be made - unless Frank is referring to one who would sell his soul for the chance to be immortal? I guess that would constitute both a "moral dilemma" and a "mortal dilemma". My favorite, though, was BASTESLOADED because that pretty much describes the grilling process around my house on any given weekend. It just now occurred to me that PETERPRESSURE might be a condition caused by drinking beer in a place with no facilities. Last, I would like to DETERCROSSING words like ACACIA (79d - Mimosa-family tree) with arcane stuff like Puerto Rico's ARECIBO Observatory (83a), because I hate needing a luck guess to finish a puzzle. Was that cross tough for anybody but me?

The non-theme fill had some interesting characteristics, including a military rank mini-theme with a SGT (35d - USAF NCO), a LTCOL (64d - Rank above maj.) and an ADM (29d - USN ranker) (I totally do not understand that last clue - how does "ranker" fit?). A pair of 3 letter answers look puzzling in the grid (93d - Decked in a boxing ring > KOD and 110a - Endorsed > OKD) until you mentally insert an apostrophe, then they're fine. NAUGHTS (116a - Zeros) is a cool looking word that I don't use often, and you don't often see ELLIOTT (123a - Boy in "E.T.") with two ls and two ts, but I just now learned it's also the name of a rock band (per wiki: Elliott was a rock group from Louisville, United States. They released four albums and several 7"s in their eight-year existence, and were signed to Revelation Records.) Let's see what they were all about:

OK, I'm glad Frank used the "E.T." kid as the clue, but it's always good to hear some new (to me) music. Seeing the seemingly incomplete TRALA (50d - Merry refrain) and the even more abbreviated SHA ( 121d - __Na Na) in the grid makes me wonder if any song has ever had "tra la la, sha na na" as a lyric, and of course google provides the answer with this refrain from "Please Get Me Down" by Tiktak:
I'm up too high, please get me down
I say, tra la la laa, sha na na na na na na na naa
I'm up too high, please get me down
I say, tra la la laa, sha na na na na na na na naa
So help me get my feet back on the ground

To which I say, "YEGODS" (12d - "Holy Moly!") - is there nothing you can't find on the internet?!

I'll close with a mention of this week's Random Roman Numeral, CVII (76a - 107, in old Rome), just to let you know that Frank's streak is still alive.  We'll see what next week brings - as always, I will have high hopes and I'm sure Frank will deliver.

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