7.20.2009

MONDAY, Jul. 20, 2009 — Robert W. Harris



THEME: Moon Landing — a 40th anniversary tribute puzzle, with six (or seven) theme answers arranged symmetrically (or asymmetrically) throughout the grid

Where were you 40 years ago today? I am very certain of where I was: in utero. Where my mom was, I don't know. Probably somewhere in the San Francisco area, since I was born there. This puzzle is very dense, theme-wise, for a Monday puzzle. For any puzzle, frankly, but such theme density is especially rare on a Monday, since it often forces the non-theme fill out of Monday-level comfort zones. Not so here, though some of the fill is less than elegant in places. But any infelicities in that area are trumped by the timely theme, with the particularly lovely TRANQUILITY BASE going right across the middle. COLLINS is the one ASTRONAUT on that mission that I can never remember; ALDRIN and ARMSTRONG are household names. That's because COLLINS was the command module pilot, and had to orbit the moon while ALDRIN and ARMSTRONG got to walk on it.




Theme answers:
  • 16A: 57-Across, 12-Down or 24-Down (ASTRONAUT)
  • 12D: 16-Across Buzz (ALDRIN)
  • 24D: 16-Across Michael (COLLINS)
  • 57A: 16-Across Neil (ARMSTRONG)
  • 35A: Landing site of 7/20/1969 (TRANQUILITY BASE)
  • 42D: _____ 11, mission celebrated in this puzzle (APOLLO)

And one asymmetrical, bonus answer:

  • 9D: 35-Across is on it (MOON)

Crosswordese 101: IAMBS (49D: Poetry feet) — as the resident English professor, I guess it should fall to me to add this one to the Crosswordese 101 registry. Metrical poetry has, as its most basic unit, the foot, and there are a certain number feet per line. So when we talk about Shakespeare's sonnets, say, being in IAMBIC pentameter, what we are saying is that there are five (pent-) IAMBS per line. An IAMB is a set of two syllables, unstressed/stressed, exemplified by words like "Belize" or "endow." Iambic pentameter = IAMB x 5, e.g. "My MIS/tress' EYES/are NOTH/ing LIKE/the SUN." There are other kinds of poetic feet — dactyls (stressed + 2 unstressed), anapests (2 unstressed + stressed), trochees (stressed / unstressed), etc. — but ANAPEST is about the only one you'll ever see in crosswords. There are different kinds of meter too: tetrameter has four feet per line, hexameter six, etc. If you'd like to know more, just come to one of my September lectures, where I deal with all this technical crap in one very animated hour (wherein I roam the aisles and recite random bits of poetry, causing students to be too amused / disturbed to fall asleep or talk or check their text messages).

There's some ugliness here today. Is it legal to have "set" in the clue for SETTEE (44D: Part of a living room set)? Feels very wrong. PSEUD is one of my least favorite stand-alone words (46A: Pretentious one). Never heard anyone use it. Ever. Only a PSEUD would use PSEUD, I think. Is that a paradox? Whatever it is, blecch. The -IER triplets aren't much prettIER. "Once upon a time there were three little words named DALL IER, SUDS IER, and BOX IER. They got stranded in the GOBI and had to eat their OX TEAM (52A: Yoked beasts, collectively) just to survive. The end."

Awesome words include PINCER (20A: One of a crab's grabbers), CHIMNEY (15D: Sweep's milieu), and the phenomenal and kinda sorta nearly thematic (in that it involves outer space) QUASARS (36D: Highly luminous cosmic objects).

Happy Moon Day. See you Friday.

~RP

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

Everything Else — 1A: Federal job safety org. (OSHA); 5A: Gorilla and gibbon (APES); 9A: __ Hari (MATA); 13A: Prison uprising (RIOT); 14A: Pot pie veggies (PEAS); 15A: Early programming language (COBOL); 16A: 57-Across, 12-Down or 24-Down (ASTRONAUT); 18A: Secretly stock up on (HOARD); 19A: Wicker furniture maker (CANER); 20A: One of a crab's grabbers (PINCER); 21A: Gaza Strip gp. (PLO); 23A: TV kid "in the middle" (MALCOLM); 26A: Sch. with a Providence campus (URI); 27A: Holy, in Le Havre (SACRE); 29A: "The Good Earth" mother (O-LAN); 30A: Luke, to Darth (SON); 31A: Slipper or sandal (SHOE); 32A: Dawdling type (DALLIER); 35A: Landing site of 7/20/1969 (TRANQUILITY BASE); 40A: What bikinis expose, informally (TUMMIES); 41A: Informed about (IN ON); 42A: Sit-up targets (ABS); 45A: Yemen city (ADEN); 46A: Pretentious one (PSEUD); 47A: "The Tell-Tale Heart" author (POE); 48A: More foamy, as soap (SUDSIER); 51A: Naval noncom: Abbr. (CPO); 52A: Yoked beasts, collectively (OX TEAM); 54A: For all to hear (ALOUD); 56A: It's slightly larger than a quart (LITER); 57A: 16-Across Neil (ARMSTRONG); 61A: Ogles (LEERS); 62A: Asian desert (GOBI); 63A: Resting on (ATOP); 64A: Nabisco chocolate-and-creme cookie (OREO); 65A: Get up (RISE); 66A: Mother of Castor and Pollux (LEDA); 1D: "... man __ mouse?" (OR A); 2D: Girl sib (SIS); 3D: Wintertime drink (HOT COCOA); 4D: Gillette razor (ATRA); 5D: Sleep disorder (APNEA); 6D: Oyster's gem (PEARL); 7D: __ de Cologne (EAU); 8D: Former fast flier, for short (SST); 9D: 35-Across is on it (MOON); 10D: Beaded calculator (ABACUS); 11D: Bullring VIP (TORERO); 12D: 16-Across Buzz (ALDRIN); 15D: Sweep's milieu (CHIMNEY); 17D: "Drinks are __" (ON ME); 20D: Braids (PLAITS); 21D: Sibilant "Hey!" ("PSST!"); 22D: Bert who played a lion (LAHR); 24D: 16-Across Michael (COLLINS); 25D: Hardy of Laurel and Hardy (OLLIE); 28D: Apartment payment (RENT); 32D: Kind of bullet that expands on impact (DUMDUM); 33D: Got ready to fire (AIMED); 34D: Score-producing stats (RBIS); 36D: Highly luminous cosmic objects (QUASARS); 37D: Often-amusing story (ANECDOTE); 38D: Gazpacho, e.g. (SOUP); 39D: Within: Pref. (ENDO-); 42D: __ 11, mission celebrated in this puzzle (APOLLO); 43D: More squarish (BOXIER); 44D: Part of a living room set (SETTEE); 46D: Methodist, e.g.: Abbr. (PROT.); 49D: Poetry feet (IAMBS); 50D: Borden mascot (ELSIE); 53D: Architect Saarinen (EERO); 55D: Russia's __ Mountains (URAL); 57D: Part of USDA: Abbr. (AGR.); 58D: French king (ROI); 59D: Nonverbal assent (NOD); 60D: Coll. student's concern (GPA).

28 comments:

sfingi said...

The hardest part for this oldster was seeing the numbers in my newspaper. Same with the LA. So pleased with myself! But it's only Monday.

As a girl nerd, why have I never been interested in astronauts? Are they a guy/hero thing? Are there heroines yet? There weren't when I was coming up.

mac said...

I bet this themed puzzle took a little longer to make, and had been on hand just for today.

I completely agree with Rex's write-up, and thanks for the iambs refresher. Never saw ox team, usually team of oxen. Good old Mata Hari!

jeff in chicago said...

I was 12 when we landed on the moon. The perfect age for being a total NASA junkie, which I was. That Sunday the TV was on all day. While there has been much said about Walter Cronkite this past weekend, for space news it was all about ABC for us. I thought Jules Bergman knew everything. And Frank Reynolds, too. I was very pleased to see a puzzle dedicated to the event.

And Rex: Love Love Love that you used Sonnet 130 for your "iamb" lesson. I often use that one for auditions. It is particulary hilarious if you speak it with a "Jersey guido" accent and with a sarcastic tone. "And in SOME perfumes is there more delight/than in the breath that from my mistress reeks." Funny stuff.

Crosscan said...

I was almost 7. My dad took pictures of the TV set. No VCRs, YouTube or any of that stuff in those days. I feel sorry that so many people have not been alive to see us on the moon. Time to go back.

Oh, nice puzzle.

humorlesstwit said...

I was in the nurse's office at Boy Scout Camp getting my scalp sewn up at the first moon landing, so I alone of all the campers got to see the first moon landing. At the last moon landing, I was in a friends room, listening to Pink Floyd, smoking weed, listening to his Persian cat howling.
What happened during the intervening years?

shrub5 said...

@RP: Agree with you re PSEUD. I've never used or even seen it as a noun, just as an adj./prefix (pseudo-.)

In the SE corner, ATOP over LEDA -- where is SWAN?

Thank you Robt Harris for the walk down memory lane and a clever Monday puzzle. Forty years ago today I was just starting my first "real job" at UCSF Medical Center.

PS: Both SST and PSST??

*David* said...

I don't remember anything from the landing on the moon. I was told that I was seriously into breastfeeding at that stage in my life.

The PSEUD/CPO/ENDO section was the only part that bothered me a bit otherwise liked how much theme was stuffed in to the xword. I was thinking SEA OF TRANQUILITY for central theme but anyways....

Gary Lowe said...

Very nice puzzle.

- Been to Malaysia, I won't be associating CANER with a furniture maker, but you wouldn't clue it methinks.

- Not a gun guy, but I thought DUMDUM bullets tumbled end-over-end, and HOLLOWPOINTS expand on impact. Off to look it up ....

Gary Lowe said...

.. wrong again. There's plethora of info on the web if your thing is ballistics, tho.

OhioGeek said...

I'm with Rex on PSEUD - not a real word as far as I'm concerned. I tried getting poseur in there, based off the .seu. but not enough room. I am old enough to have appreciated the space race and the moon landing. Funny story -- at the time my family had a only B&W TV. Dad decided that the moon landing coverage rated a color TV. So he brings home a teensy portable color set and we all huddle around it to watch the moon landing in...you guessed it - black and white. Still thrilling - missed school and everything to watch all the related activities. Thanks Mr. Harris for a fun puzzle, and thanks Rex, as always, for a fun write-up.

obertb said...

Watched the first moon landing from a room I was renting for the summer in Quebec City, Quebec on an old, borrowed, extremely snowy b+w TV. Next day bought a photo of the astronauts, painted beards and long hair on them and sent it back to my hippy dipshit friends in the U.S.--much to their amusement. The photo still exists, but looks much less radical than it did back in the day.

James said...

When we landed on the moon, I was fresh out of college ... and working as a computer programmer for a NASA contractor across the street from the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston. It was very exciting being in the middle of the MSC "community." And I may still have the next day's Houston Chronicle stashed away somewhere!

chefbea said...

I was in front of the TV set in St. Louis watching the moon landing.

Great puzzle but I agree with Rex - too many "ier" words

KJGooster said...

Nice puzzle, though the moon landing was before my time by a couple years. Like David, I thought I was off to a flying start, scribbled in SEAOFTRANQUILIT -- D'oh!

Overall pretty entertaining for a Monday, though.

Anonymous said...

I liked the puzzle a lot. A few clunkers as noted, but much better than the usual Monday puzzle.

Denise said...

I was a newly-wed, watching a small black and white TV in a large room full of people. So exciting.

My four year old grandson is obsessed with the moon landing, and he can quote Neil Armstrong, making his voice sound like the old recording: "One small step . . ."

The theme made the puzzle easy -- the answers were so obvious. Nice memorial to a special day.

Eddie Q said...

Ok, so I did not enjoy this one. 40 years ago my mom was only 10. Boo.

embien said...

Do people go around saying "hmmm, SEA OF TRANQUILIT won't work, neither does TRANQUILITY SEA. What can we do? How about TRANQUILITY BASE? Perfect! Fifteen letters!

Of course, now that we know NASA "accidentally" recorded over the original tapes, who's to say that it really happened? (Just kidding; I saw it on TV and Walter Cronkite announced it, so it must be true.)

Anonymous said...

I was exactly 12 days old. I was born in Capetown South Africa, and no one in our neighbourhood had a T.V. set, so they listened to it on the radio. Rex, thank you for explaining iambic, I learn something new every day (usually from this blog!)

mac said...

It's sweet how some of you say in your comment: "....WE landed on the moon".

PurpleGuy said...

I was in Hong Kong, on R&R from VietNam when the moon landing occured. Remember it vividly.
Very nice and doable puzzle for a Monday.
I.too,took exception with PSEUD, and ranted out loud!
Thanks, Rex,for another great write up.

Charles Bogle said...

Had same false start as @embien w SEA instead of BASE (TRANQUILITY); good stories @shrub5; agree w @RP-PSEUD...

I was 16. How incredible. Check out Tom Wolfe's piece on OpEd page today's NYT-NASA got rolled after moon accomplished

Note identical Q and A here and in NYT today-

Other awesome words today--DALLAER, ELSIE (that dates me), ANECDOTE

Thank you Mr. Robert Harris-terrific puzzle

chefwen said...

I had just graduated from high school and my boyfriend (now my husband)and I watched it at my parents house on a brand new TV that my dad bought specifically for the event. It was very thrilling to watch. Dad likes to be a part of "history in the making".

Thank you Mr. Harris, that was fun.

Joon said...

yeah, i was, um... my parents hadn't even met yet. whatever. it's still cool.

i couldn't fly through this one because i tried practically every permutation of TRANQUILITY and SEA/MARE before giving up and relying on crosses. and some of those crosses were pretty weird. oh well. still, nice theme and i'm glad michael COLLINS got a mention.

fergus said...

Eleven years old, lying on the hillside across the street in suburban Chicago, dusk with fireflies, gazing up at the moon, gathering a bit more profundity. I brought binoculars, though I was under no illusion I'd see the LEM.

(Just to test for any false memory, it would be amusing to see what the actual phase of the moon was on that date. I recall a broad moon -- waxing gibbous one might say -- becoming brighter. that night. That phase would cohere with summer lunar appearance at dusk; and generally I trust my recollections.)

jeff in chicago said...

@fergus: look here

http://stardate.org/nightsky/moon/index.php?month=7&year=1969&css=moon.css&Submit=Go

looks like it was slightly less than a half moon that day.

fergus said...

Thanks for the reference, Jeff. Even if it were only a waxing crescent, I knew the moon was present that night. I wonder if Mission Control made sure that for the date, there hadn't recently been a New Moon?

Burner10 said...

I'm doing the math... So I was 14 and my fond memories of the big step was the possibility...realized! If we can walk on the moon anything...
Today a lovely Google moonscape (not on the phone version) and with this puzzle to start the day - feelin quite groovy.