Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Onion February 9 2011

Very fun puzzle. In addition to the timely theme, there were several nods to the winter weather we're having now.

By: Brendan Emmett Quigley
Difficulty: 4/5
Theme: Valentines Day cliches.

Themed answers

The theme was cliche break-up lines.
  • 17A. Cliched start of a depressingly-timed February 14th speech (THISISNTWORKING)
  • 25A. Second cliche of the speech (WEVEGROWNAPART)
  • 43A. Third cliche of the speech (ITSNOTYOUITSME)
  • 56A. Final cliche of the speech (LETSSTAYFRIENDS)
  • Other non-themed but February/Valentines related clues:
  • 33A. In a cold way (ICILY)
  • 31D. Valentine's Day bunch (ROSES)
  • 44D. Like February weather, at times (SLOSHY)

Dirty clues

Racy crossword! Lewd crossword.
  • 20A. Booty, as it were (SEX)
  • 6D. Johnson (WANG)

Points of interest

  • 43A. Mash note fodder (POEMS) There are some things from my youth that I was curious about but that I never succeeded in understanding. They maintained a level of mystery that endures to this day. One of those things was Mash.

    I think a girl friend of mine did a Mash to me once, and I liked thinking up different types of cars and houses, but when she started counting and crossing stuff off, it was like she had switched from, say, basic arithmetic—adding and subtracting the number of apples Jimmy has if he gives some to Suzy—to calculating the area under the curve. Her calculus was a technology that was way over my head at the time, and since we all know that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, that's exactly what it looked like to me: incomprehensible mumbo jumbo, and as such I summarily dismissed it.

    Hopscotch was like that. Especially the "varsity" kind that involved throwing a stone at the grid. There was turning and hoping and picking up the stone, and I could never understand—not that I ever bothered to ask—how winning or losing was determined in this game.

    The folded-paper "fortune tellers" were not like that. It seems like something that should fall in line with Mash and hopscotch as an intrinsically girly thing that exists to confuse and confound little boys, but it didn't for me. I really liked making them. I was a sucker for the Grand Reveal, for the rising action, the slow boil, the build of anticipation. That's really what that mechanism was. It's such a great stick for such a great carrot. You had to go through the mandatory "pick a number" and the required "pick a color" in order to get your "fortune."

    I carefully crafted these things. I considered how many letters were in each number and color, and I liked going for unlikely ones. ("Shiny" was one color I chose, and I once offered 101 as an option for a number to see if anybody would choose it. They did and they thought the joke was on me for having to count it all out, but oh no. They sat there while I did it. Sucker!)

    The fortunes were always the punchlines. As an eight year old I had a strong predilection for the absurd. My fortunes were usually something like, Your sandwich is moldy! or EAT A BUG!
  • 38A. They're full of garbage (SCOWS) They're flat-bottomed boats, like barges. I feel like they're very iconic things. I can imagine seeing one drifting through the New York Harbor. For some reason, in my mind, this is attached to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? I may need to re-watch the original movie to see if there's a scene where somebody finds sanctuary on a scow. Not full of trash but full of fish?

    Also, this made me think of a Nintendo game I used to play all the time. This was an era where video games could—and were—made by entities like Dominoes Pizza.
    Remember the Noid? He was a character from Dominoes pizza advertisements in the 80s. And he was the star of Yo! Noid, an insanely hard and addictive game for the NES that kept me entertained for countless hours.

    (One part of the game involved fighting bad guys on the docks, and I'm pretty sure we eventually made it to a SCOW, where there were flying fish and seagulls to fend off.)

    The other thing this made me think of was one of the first books I ever had. It was a children's illustrated dictionary. (The other "first book" I remember having was a book of Greek Myths.) I can't remember who published it, but it had a bright red cover. I loved that damn book. I would sit down and read it like one would a novel.

    The best part about it was what I guess you would have to call the preface. It presented quirks of the English language in a comic book style way. My favorites were the one about about pronunciation ("crik" vs. "creek") and the part about homophones.

    The final panel of the homophone section depicted a couple in a Chinese restaurant and the guy said something like, Wow look at that junk! And the girl was like, what? The menu looks good to me! And the guy, pulling aside the curtain, said no! Look that that junk!

    The junk was a boat.

    I thought that was so effing cool, because I didn't know that junk could mean boat. This clue made me think of that because I didn't know the word SCOW. I didn't know it means boat.

    Another anecdote I have about that book is that once as a kid, I wanted to have an alter-ego, an alias to which I could credit all the silly poems and songs I would write and the silly things I would do—the silly performances I would put on.

    I couldn't, or didn't want to, think of a silly enough name for this persona, so I did something I learned from TV.

    On Duck Tales [1], when Gyro invented the GizmoDuck suit, he needed a secret, obscure word to activate the suit. So he went to his dictionary and thumbed flipped through it until he found blatherskite, a word he considered so infrequently uttered that it would be safe enough to use. (Of course Fenton Whatever would become Gizmoduck upon hollering his favorite emphatic phrase, Blabbering blatherskite!)
    So when I wanted a silly sounding and obscure word, I flipped through my dictionary to find it, not realizing at the time that nothing in my illustrated childrens dictionary would be anything close to obscure.

    I settled on stanza.

    After finding this word, I burst forth from my room and announced to my little brother, in my silliest voice, accompanied with my silliest cross-eyed face, I'm Doctor Stanza!

    He failed to react with what I felt would be an appropriate amount of awe—or at least respect— for the research I had put into this name. I had read a friggin dictionary after all.

    Anyway, shortly thereafter, I either learned that this is a common word and a silly choice for what I was trying to do, or I got distracted by my Legos. In either case, I quickly abandoned that project.

    So. Scows. Junk. Duck Tales. Stanza.

1 If you're at all interested in anything that I've said, I really have to insist that you read this post from this blog that I found on the Internet.

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