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Jun 2, 2008

Monday June 2, 2008 John Underwood

Theme: BLOW UP

17A: Blow up: EXAGGERATE

29A: Blow up: EXPLODE

40A: Blow up: ENLARGE

47A: Blow up: INFLATE

63A: Blow up: HIT THE ROOF

J'accuse! Too many yawn-provoking identical clues. Please don't expose the puzzle title in the clues any more! Please don't deprive me of the fun to analyze and ferret out the theme. Plus, I want to understand John Underwood's original thinking process in creating these 5 different theme entries.

This puzzle really has some ZIP (32D: Nada). It is one letter J away from a pangram (with all 26 letters of the alphabet in one grid). But, Flaubert, who was famous for his "le mot Juste", would be very impressed with how this constructor sprinkled his "Madame Bovary" in this puzzle.

Let's see, in what EMMA (10A: Mme. Bovary) considered to to be the FINEST (51A: Superlatively superior) days of her life, her husband Charles, who did not really care too much about TATTY (52D: Shabby) curtains, often thought he was the luckiest man on earth, to come back home with a warm meal on the table, no matter how late he returned from work. He often took off his FROCK (37A: Dress ) coat, ate in greater comfort and recited to EMMA the names of the people he had met during his rounds.

But his conversation was too boring for EMMA. She craved to belong to the ELITE (36D: In crowd). Sadly she found a HERO (57D: Leander's love) in the rake Rodolphe, who OGLE(D) (50D: Undress with one's eyes) EMMA at his first visit to the Bovary's and decided to seduce her. And you could imagine the TREMOR (24A: Nervous thrill) she experienced during this adulterous affair. But of course, she was mercilessly deserted and eventually reencountered Léon when she and Charles attended an OPERA (1D: Highbrow entertainment). Alas, Léon grew disenchanted with EMMA when her attention started to AFFECT (s) (44D: Bears upon) his work. There are some arguments about the symbolic purple STOLE (55D: Simple wrap) that EMMA found comforting. I think it refers to the priest and the spiritual awakening.

Sorry for the babbling. I just love this novel. Here we go:

ACROSS:

5A: Skin of a noodle?: SCALP. Very creative clue.

14A: Stick for hopping: POGO. Also the title of a comic strip. Here is a good one: We have met the enemy and he is us.

15A: Fifer's drum: TABOR. I had no idea. Is it a gimme to you?

19A: Young troublemaker: PUNK. You've go to ask yourself one question: "Do I feel lucky?" Well, do ya PUNK?

20A: Bureaucracy: RED TAPE

21A: 48D just clear the bottom: AWEIGH. Dictionary says it's "(of an anchor) just free of the bottom; atrip". I had no idea. AWEIGH ANCHOR (48D: Boat holder) is not a familiar nautical term to me.

23A: Ore analysis: ASSAY

27A: Washington, the prez: GEO. What?? Who calls him so?

32A: Zorro's marks: ZEES. I like this clue.

39A: Smarts stats: IQS. Another great clue.

43A: Post-larval: PUPAL. Hmm, LAP UP anagrammed.

46A: Unskilled laborer: PEON

53A: "Einstein on the Beach" composer: GLASS (Philip). I did not know him. Just learned this morning that Philip GLASS is Ira GLASS (This American Life)'s father's first cousin.

57A: Domestic sci.: HOME EC (Home Economics)

67A: Like Humpty Dumpty: OVATE

70A: Change color again: REDYE. And 25D: Changes title: RENAMES. Two RE prefixes is too much for me.

DOWN:

2D: Curses: POXES. I only knew POX as the smallpox.

4D: G. I. IDs: DOG TAGS

6D: Proofreaders' symbol: CARET. The inverted V.

9D: Signal enhance: PRE-AMP. Want Pamper?

10D: Type of penguin: EMPEROR. Great parallel with MING (12D: __ the Merciless). I had never heard of the "Flash Gordon" comic or movie, so I had no idea who the evil EMPEROR MING was. MING is always a Chinese Dynasty to me of course, and Yao MING. The character looks like this. The left part means sun, the right part means moon, together, it means bright.

13D: Egyptian life symbol: ANKH. The Egyptian cross. I tend to confuse ANKH with ANKE (Huber of tennis). In yesterday's puzzle, ATON was clued as Egyptian god of sun.

18D: Motown's Marvin: GAYE. I think I am scarred by this tough puzzle. Need some tender Healing from GAYE.

22D: Author of "A Man in Full": WOLFE (Tom). His books are too thick for me to read. I can hardly hold "The Bonfire of the Vanities" in my hand. Anyway, "A Man in Full" is about a real estate mogul in ATLANTA (60A: CDC location) during the city's economic booms in the 1990s, according to Wikipedia.

34D: Distant beginning?: EQUI. Equidistant (equally distant).

34D: Armchair athletes channel: ESPN

36D: "Dallas" role: ELLIE. Got it this time.

46D: North Star: POLARIS. POLARIS Industries is a manufacturer of ATVs and snowmobile based here in MN.

C.C.