Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Solving time: 13:44
THEME: Introductory clauses - Four 15-letter theme answers are phrases one might use to open a sentence, all of them clued cleverly as some kind of "intro," e.g. 26A: Hot dog vendor's intro (Frankly speaking...)
Had the Horrible experience today of finishing the puzzle, submitting it ... and getting rejected by the applet. This has happened before, so I quickly scanned the puzzle for errors. Finding none, I resubmitted the puzzle, thinking the applet must be in error (yes, I actually thought this). When that yielded the same rejecting results, I went through the puzzle Across by Across and then Down by Down. Nothing. I mean ... everything worked. So then I Really Really went through each answer (minutes have gone by now).
Now when I tell you the square that did me in, you are going to wonder how in the world I ever Realistically thought it was right. All I can say is, it definitely passed the "good enough" test during the initial solving experience. Then the first search team couldn't find the problem because it was good and buried under a layer of snow. It wasn't til I got out the rescue dogs and sniffed the ground that the killer square emerged.
10A: Wild _____ (oats)
10D: Dropped movie scene (outtake)
My bad entry was at this crossing (the "O"). I had ... a "C." Now let me explain. I started the puzzle by rushing through all the Across answers at the top of the grid. When I got to 10A, I entered WEST and moved on. By the time I noticed it was wrong, I had several of the early letters in 10D. Looking at word that opens "_UT..." and seeing that the first word of the clue is "Dropped," I though that the answer must open CUT. Since a "scene" can also be called a TAKE ... CUTTAKE. I'd never heard the expression before, but it made sense, so I left it. It didn't help that "C" gave me a perfectly plausible, if weak, crossing at 10A: CATS. Wild CATS. Sure, why not?
"Dropped" implies it was in the (finished) movie and then was taken out, while OUTTAKEs are scenes that never made it IN to the movie in the first place. I'm apt to quibble because I'm so frustrated, where if I'd had OUTTAKE initially, I'm sure I would have found it a perfectly apt clue.
26D: More and more of news shows nowadays (fluff)
This is an oddly judgmental, opinion-y clue for the Times crossword. I don't disagree, but FLUFF is pretty imprecise, and the idea that "nowadays" (!?) more "news" (!?) shows are like this seems more like a curmudgeonly eructation than a proper clue / answer pairing.
44D: "That just shouldn't happen" (it's a sin)
These are not synonymous. They aren't even very close. I would say the clue, where I would never say the answer in anything but a super-ironic fashion. Locking my keys in the car ... that just shouldn't happen, but it's not a sin. Speaking of "It's a Sin," my sister tanked a very easy question last night during 80s Trivial Pursuit. I forget the exact question, but it involved "dance poppers" who gave themselves a name that they thought sounded like a rap group. The answer was Pet Shop Boys. They had a minor hit in the late 80s with a song called ... "It's a Sin."
Must go eat breakfast. Leave for home tomorrow. Normal commentary will resume on Friday.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS I just noticed one of the awesomest crosses I've seen in a puzzle in a while, and it warrants official recognition by me:
25A: "Waterloo" quartet (Abba)
19D: Napoleon's place, once (Elba)
Man, that's sweet. See, I thought the Napoleon clue was cute when it was just a doubling of another Napoleon clue on the grid (6D: Napoleon's place [bakery]). But to add yet another dimension - to get to the THIRD layer of Napoleon goodness - and to get there by way of ABBA (which kinda rhymes with ELBA) - that's genius.