Friday, March 9, 2007
Solving time - don't know, but longer than normal
THEME: words from outer space (or, none)
As I typed my answers into the applet at the NYT site this morning, I was fairly certain that I had something wrong. I had five different squares circled as possible errors. When I clicked "Done" and the applet responded with "Thanks for playing," I was truly surprised. I was almost hoping that some of them were wrong, so terrible are the "right" answers. This was one of the harder Friday puzzles in recent memory, for me.
1A: He appointed the first chairman of the A.E.C. (H.S.T.) - the "S" stands for ... nothing.
2D: 1987 BP acquisition (Sohio)
22A: Team member (yokemate)
These are your NW all-stars! I'm being facetious, they all suck. First, if I don't know what the A.E.C. is (and I don't) then 1A is a wash (although knowing Truman's initials eventually helped me guess at that "S"). Second, SOHIO ... a defunct, regional gas company??? Yikes. And lastly YOKEMATE, which is absolutely inferrable, but omigod is it bad. [Team member] = OX. It would be YOKEMATE only if you, the solver, were an OX. Are you? No, I thought not. You have to stretch a lot of things to make YOKEMATE acceptable. "Nice pair o' YOKEMATES you got there, Zeke." "Yep." Or, maybe, "Bessie and Hoofster were YOKEMATES," OK. I think this clue is lacking an indication of relationality, if that's a word, and that is bothering me. [Fellow team member] would have bugged me way, way less.
4A: Secretive places (Swiss banks) - I could swear that we had SWISS CHARD in exactly this same grid position a couple of months back. This is an OK clue. I had the SW... AN ... S, and I swear to you that I wrote SWEATGLANDS out to the "G," when I realized it wouldn't fit. I was SO proud of myself for cracking the clue's logic!
14A: Simple choice (A or B) - I always get slightly tripped up by these kind of clues, where a four-letter word is not a four-letter word but a three-word phrase wherein multiple "words" are in fact just letters. You know what I mean.
21A: City at the confluence of the Lehigh and Delaware rivers (Easton)
9D: Singer/film composer Jon (Brion)
First, I'm pretty sure I tripped on EASTON several months back, when it was a Completely Different EASTON. Something about Lafayette College ... or is that the same EASTON? It is? Damn, this place gets far too much time for being a crappy little PA town. It's sorta near Bethlehem which is sorta near Allentown (where they're closing all the factories down, I hear), which is sorta near a highway I take from my crappy little upstate NY town to get to Philadelphia. As for BRION - whatever. This guy is officially Nobody. No offense. I'm sure he's a lovely human being, but he has no business being in my puzzle. His name is like some hybrid of BRIOCHE and ION. Is BRION his last name? O my god he is far too hipster for words. Ugh, I'd probably like him if I met him. I'm stopping now.
24A: Without a break (one act) - "Hey, have you seen the new without-a-break play that's running down at the State Theater!?" No, you haven't. Iffy cluing. I get the logic, but ... [exasperated sound here].
28A: Christmas at St. Peter's (Natale) - How did this bit of Italian get inside my head? I have a friend who is an Italian professor; some of her drunken, nonsensical holiday blather must have seeped into my skull somehow. It's about time she came in handy. (I'm kidding. I kid because I love)
30A: First lady before Eleanor (Lou)
26D: Kind of section (conic)
LOU = [Mary's TV boss]. LOU Hoover? Unfortunate name. CONIC seems entirely arbitrary as an answer here. How about something CONE-specific!?!?!
31A: 2000 best seller on social epidemics (The Tipping Point) - Took me way too long to get. I've never read it, but man that book was / is everywhere. I like this answer so so so much better than the entirely made-up phrase 39A: Ability to let a pitch go by (sales resistance). Would have killed for a baseball-related answer here. This answer makes me want to kill, literally. Speaking of baseball, I can't remember the last time I heard the baseball referred to as a POTATO (35D: Baseball, in slang). Isn't this term dated? I know that homers are referred to as TATERS, still, sometimes. I wonder if there's a relation...
37A: Climax at Daytona (bell lap) - great answer. So many "L"'s. I had LAST LAP at first, but BELL LAP is superior. And I hate car racing of all kinds.
44D: Feed for a fee, as cattle (agist) - [awera f23*#(W3f ... sorry, that was me choking on the jagged bone that is AGIST]
45D: Fictional matchmaker (yente) - apparently any letter in the alphabet can follow YENT-
61A: Communist collectives (state farms)
44D is insane, 45D appeared familiar until neither YENTA or YENTL would fit. I was very unsure about STATE FARMS, as I couldn't believe the insurance company would name itself after a "communist collective" (though its logo is red...). I just put my faith in STATE FARMS, and thank Lenin it paid off.
15D: "Go easy" ("Be gentle") - [or, what one might say before a 36D]
36D: Dental routine (oral exam)
These two have a very nice synergistic rotational symmetry thing going on.
And I'm done with this ragtag commentary.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld