Wednesday, January 3, 2007
Solving time: Under Protest
THEME: Punctuation - Rebus (or so I thought) puzzle where punctuation symbols stand in for letters in theme answers and their crosses, e.g. 49A: President (,nder-in-chief - that is [COMMA]nder-in-chief)
Oh, applet. Applet, applet, applet. If it's a rebus, then symbols go where letters normally would. So why, when I put all the right symbols in the right places, would you Not Accept My Grid!? I know, I'm a novice at the applet, and I should have known the rule (is it a rule?) that you just put in the First Letter of whatever symbol or idea or multi-letter entry is supposed to go there. I figured this out very very late. My official time is something over 20 minutes, which is ridiculous. I'm guessing it was closer, much closer, to 10, but I'll never know, as I didn't look at the time when I first pressed "DONE" and I had hidden the clock anyway. So ugh x infinity. Plus one. But seriously, for this puzzle of all puzzles, why not just accept the . and , and : and - ?
I will wait til tomorrow to blog this, as my frustration is too fresh for me to see the puzzle clearly. It has many fine features, and my big big problems were in the N and especially NW, where 14A: Puncture (hole) eluded me til the Very Last Second (or what would have been the Very Last Second if the applet had behaved properly). I had BORE, both because I did not know 3D: Asia's Trans _____ Mountains (Alai) (I had URAL at first), and because I could not see 1D: Tool holder (shed) for the life of me and thought maybe an S-BED was something... that's my favorite preposterous supposition in a good long while. Both the SHED and the HOLE clues are pretty tricky, the former because "holder" somehow suggests a belt or some other implement actually keeping the tools in place or elevated, and the latter because "puncture" immediately suggests verb, not noun (though upon reflection, yes, "puncture" can indeed be a noun). So when the applet rejected my first come-on, I thought my NW corner was still f-ed up. The whole SHED-HOLE struggle had me doubting myself. But after many, many diligent scans of the Entire Grid, I decided no, the grid is right ... there is a technical problem. When I saw that you cannot put more than 4 letters in a single square, I thought "well, COMMA has five letters, so that will never work," and so I remained stumped until I finally read the fine print about the first letter of a symbol being adequate. Even when I changed all the symbols to letters, I was very very dubious that this would have any effect. And yet ... tada!
43D: Pork _____ (loin)
51D: Show eager anticipation (drool)
These words really should not be anywhere near each other, especially with NUDE (21D: Botticelli subject) and CRAVE (52D: Hunger for) so nearby. It's all too disturbing. ABRADES (42D: Rubs) isn't helping.
48A: Having I-strain? (selfish)
9D: Small bag (carry-on)
These words both want to be other words. Every time I look at this grid I keep seeing SHELLFISH - the word sits underneath PAELLA for god's sake (44A: Spanish entree) - and CRAYON. Likewise, REINA (19A: Isabel, for one) looks like its missing a "T" and SHIRR - well that word just looks wrong in any context.
63A: Singular, to Caesar (rara)
Ooh, I don't like this. "Singular" seems to imply, if not outright declare, ONE-ness, where RARA means "rare." I understand that somehow, colloquially, "singular" means exceptional and not necessarily unique, but still, I was looking for some form of one, like UNA or something.
20A: Condescend (deign)
32A: Poured (rained)
19A: Isabel, for one (reina)
58D: Skates (rays)
66A: Uncommon trick taker (trey)
When the REINA would not DEIGN to help her subjects, God sent a plague: it RAINED RAYS for TREY days.
9D: Small bag (carry-on)
Hmmm. "Small" compared to what? A CARRY-ON is huge compared to a toiletries bag (which, incidentally, I no longer CARRY ON airplanes, as officials are sure to confiscate it for its dangerous shampoos and unguents). I really wish this answer had been clued ["_____ My Wayward Son"].
15A: "The Last of the Mohicans" woman (Cora)
68A: _____ Gwyn, mistress of Charles II (Nell)
These two answers were blind spots for me, but gimmes for Polly (my new name for my wife - I've been instructed by Andrew not to refer to her as "Wife" anymore, as it sounds misogynist, bigoted [I wrote "bigtoed" just now, ha ha], and hateful to him. Done and done, sir). This is the second CORA this week that I haven't known. Makes me wish for the return to the puzzle of Irene CARA. My knowledge of Fenimore Cooper's work begins and ends with Twain's evisceration thereof - one of the greatest pieces of humor / literary criticism ever written, especially if you have ever been forced to endure a Cooper novel. NELL Gwyn was somewhere in the back of my mind, as I have a friend / colleague who is deliriously and orgasmically in love with all things Charles II. Seriously. He came [!] dressed as Charles II to a Halloween party last year (I, on the other hand, put on my Batwoman T-shirt, then spent the rest of the night saying "... no, BatWOMAN ... she's a lesbian now, you know...").
25A (THEME): Sprint (hundred yard -)
13D (THEME): Haphazardly (slap -)
SLAP [DASH] gave me the theme in one epiphanic moment early in the solving experience. Or, rather, it clued me into the rebusness. I thought [DASH]es would be everywhere, but then [COMMA]NDER-IN-CHIEF forced a reconsideration of that assumption. The theme answer it somehow took me longest to get was 40A: Without a regular schedule (a[period]ically), first because it's a word you hardly ever hear, and second because in puzzle-rush mode, I was not paying attention to precisely where rebuses should go. The Down cross, 29D: Week or month at the office, usually (pay [period]), was not helping, as I had only the PA- (the "Y" being as yet invisible because SYM (37A: Kind of orch.) is not an abbrev. with which I was familiar, though yes I can see that it stands for "SYMphony"). Where was I? O, the themes. The [colon] was also tricky at first - even after I had figured out 33A: Haiti, once (French [colon]y)), I couldn't get 35D: Wearers of eagle insignias ([colon]els) for way too long. Wanted COLONIALS or COLONISTS. Damn Your Unphonetic Spelling, COLONELS!
Enjoyed seeing 59A: Sci-fi figure ('droid) in the grid. Like the way DIOR (31A: Classic Paris couture house) is sitting in a very neatly centered way right atop the FRENCH in FRENCH [COLON]Y. Somewhere I.M. PEI and Mr. and Mrs. ROPER (from TV's "Three's Company" as well as the short-lived spin-off "The Ropers") are feeling slighted that they were passed up as cluing options in this puzzle (see 44D: Canadian prov. and 22A: Rodeo performer - the latter of which I had initially answered with CLOWN, which, coincidentally, was what I felt like when I kept getting rejected by the applet ... and the commentary has come full circle).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld