Monday, March 26, 2007
[updated 5:15 pm]
Solving time: unknown (Sat), unknown (Sun), 6:27 (Mon, ugh)
Saturday, Mar. 24: none
Sunday, Mar. 25: "OOH!" - theme answers have familiar phrases ending in "OOH" sound, where "OOH!" word is respelled to a homonym and then clued, e.g. 122A: Sitting Bull being evasive? (Run-Around Sioux)
Monday, Mar. 26: Fauna - three theme answers have the words CREATURE, BEAST, and ANIMAL in them, respectively
Snap shots of each puzzle:
SATURDAY, MAR. 24
This puzzle, particularly its upper half, was harder than anything I encountered all weekend during the ACPT. Maybe my feeble attempts to solve it on Saturday morning - I didn't stick it out; too distracted by anticipation stress - were part of the reason that I was so off my game for Puzzle 1 on Saturday (one of two puzzles wherein I had a mistake, from what I can gather from my scores). At any rate, Rich Norris's puzzle was brutal. I think I rode in the elevator with him at least once this past weekend. FYI.
58A: Drink mentioned in Rupert Holmes's song "Escape" (pina colada) - if you're like me (and god help you if you are, really) you were as grateful as a potential drowning victim being thrown a life preserver when you got to this clue, one of the puzzle's few true gimmes. I read the clues for the entire first half of the grid and got nothing. Finally I scanned around for SOMETHING I knew, and this was it. Thus the SE corner was the first thing to fall, and my pre-competition morning was not a completely demoralizing disaster. I was also aided significantly in the completion of this puzzle by another fairly obvious alcohol-containing clue: 39A: Some come with twists (martinis) - though I was in such highly-wound tournament mode that my first thought was GANGSTERS (you have to go way down the list of "twist" meanings to make that one make sense).
56D: "_____-in His Lamp" (Bugs Bunny classic) ("A Lad") - Another clue I was very happy to see. Not a total gimme, but close. Didn't know it, but it was inferrable.
32A: Fedora feature (snap brim) - I, ridiculously, entered WIDE BRIM, but that BRIM part really helped me out, so sometimes wrong answers aren't all bad. As long as they're temporary, I guess.
15A: "Pretty fishy, if you ask me" ("I smell a rat") - If your fish smells like rat, I would advise that you not eat it and call the Health Code people immediately. This answer came to me out of nowhere, when I had absolutely nothing in the NW. It didn't help much at first, but the little traction it did give ended up being enough. The most brutal Down cross for me up here was 8D: They're pressed into service (iron-ons). I had IRONERS, and then the fabulously made-up IRONORS. I briefly considered IRON ORE before realizing that the stupid shade of green they wanted at 28A: Shade of green was NILE, putting the "N" where I had had an "R" and giving me a nice, belated, somewhat deflated little "aha" moment.
30A: The Rams of the Atlantic 10 Conf. (URI) - that's University of Rhode Island. They are occasionally in the NCAA Basketball Tournament, but not this year. Not even the NIT for them this year. Did I mention that there was NCAA Women's Basketball action (I think that's what it was) in Stamford at the same time as the ACPT, and so the hotel workers had little referee uniforms on? I thought they were dressed up for us. But no.
21A: Group that included the L.A. Express (USFL) - awesomely dated football reference. I remember this league Very Clearly. The Boston team had some kind of sine wave on its helmet. The Breakers, maybe? Anyway, this league lasted about as long as the much later, much goofier football spinoff, the XFL. Has HE HATE ME been a puzzle answer? Best Jersey Name Ever.
48A: Shakespearean title (thane)
33D: _____ B'rith (B'nai)
49D: Hanger? (noose)
55A: Black on the screen (Karen)
These answers all have something in common. Only tournament attendees will know what it is. I will tell you all later.
- 43A: Literally, "disciple" (Sikh) - Forget what I had here first, but it sure wasn't SIKH
- 62A: _____ Hilario, Brazilian-born N.B.A. star (Nene) - yet another reason for NENE to be in the Pantheon. I question the use of the word "star" in this clue.
- 54A: Cagney player in the "Cagney & Lacey" pilot film (Swit) - a mystery at first, and then I got the "W" and knew immediately who it was. The Swit-Gless resemblance is undeniable.
- 24D: Parts of perianths (sepals) - I call this clue "The Brutalizer," especially considering it intersected another clue at which I could only stare blankly: 41A: Pier grp. (ILA). Perianths and SEPALS are parts of flowers. I had _EPA_S, then figured the first letter had to be "S" (from 24A: Utah senator who co-sponsored a 1930 tariff act (Smoot). But the "L" could have been anything, as far as I was concerned. Cursed botany.
- 1A: Stock report heading (Most Active) - Wait, let me just walk over here and look at my most recent ... oh wait, that's right, I've never seen one of these in my life. MOST ACTIVE reminds me simultaneously of rapper Mos Def and the band Let's Active, and if you get both those references then I tip my non-existent hat to you indeed. Actually, all tournament solvers probably have some idea who the rapper is, by now...
- 20A: Grandma Moses' first name (Anna) - who knew? Not me.
- 5D: _____-Mints chewable antacid (Alka-) - why oh why did this take me So Long to get. ALKA is the gold standard of antacid prefixes. Rookie mistake. (For a major, major Rookie mistake, read my Stamford write-up later today, wherein I will detail my triumphs and tragedies - more former than latter, though the latter make for better stories).
- 57A: Detroit's _____ Arena (Cobo) - I lived outside of Detroit for many years and could not come up with this for a good long while. If it had been clued [Detroit's _____ Hall], I think I would have got it instantly.
Didn't get to this puzzle until this morning (Monday, Mar. 26). Just couldn't bring myself to look at a puzzle right before the Tournament's Puzzle 7 on Sunday morning. Very burnt out. It's worth noting that both my errors this weekend were made on the days' initial puzzles, 1 and 7. I always fancied myself a morning person, but I think that without my morning routine, and my normal sleep patterns, I'm actually a bit worthless in the morning.
So I hacked away at this puzzle this morning. I really loved it despite the theme's not being particularly original. Anyone who got the chance to see the "Wordplay" outtakes on Saturday night really had to love the theme answer at 23A: Cuddly sheep? (embraceable ewe). We got to see more of Jon Stewart solving the puzzle that he solves in the movie - he comes to a clue that is something along the lines of [Like Little Bo-Peep's sheep], and his response is something like "I'm going to go with [CENSORED]!" When some people in the audience asked later what Stewart says (I think it was partially beeped in the footage we saw), Will wouldn't say the word, but said that it "begins with 'F' and ends with 'LE'." The best part was hearing the people behind me wonder out loud what that could be, and hearing one of them say, "Oh, it must be FINDABLE." I couldn't tell if it was a joke. I didn't hear anyone laughing (except me, in my own head, at this person's apparent misunderstanding - at least she got the suffix right).
1D: French port (Brest)
2D: Debussy opus (La Mer)
30A: 16th-century council city (Trent)
It's very European up in the NW of the grid. LA MER looks funny in the grid - looks like a comparative adjective, as in TENNIS SHOO (62A: Expulsion from a court?) is a LAMER answer than MOUNTAIN DO (77A: Hillbillies' coif), which is pure gold.
The rest of those theme answers, by the way:
46A: Conservatives waiting in line? (right on queue)
94A: What van Gogh said regarding ears? ("I don't have two")
11D: Cub leader (Akela) - this is from Jungle Book, apparently. I had NO idea what this meant when I had all the squares filled in. I thought AKELA might be the chick from who attended a BEE in a recent movie, but she spells her name differently.
29A: Operatic prince (Igor) - which opera? Was Frankenstein made into an opera?
17D: Calling the author of "In Cold Blood"? (ringing Tru) - I'm just putting this in here because In Cold Blood is one of the greatest books ever written. Capote's writing in that book is unbelievably subtle and gorgeous. One paragraph of Capote is worth a bookful of MAEVE Binchy (77D: Novelist Binchy), I say. My publishers once forced me to include her in an Encyclopedia of Popular and Contemporary Writers that I was editing. Meanwhile, they excluded Art Spiegelman on grounds I still don't understand. Clearly I have never forgiven them.
15D: Kin of -kin (-ule)
117A: Edible spherule (green pea) - A cute pair, these two. Are there other colors of peas?
110D: Alums do it (reune)
125A: Downsize without layoffs (attrite) - these two win the "Wrongest-Looking Words" prize for the day
54A: Pilot's vision problem (red out) - never heard of this before. All Googles of the phrase direct me to Visine-related pages.
86A: Biographer Leon (Edel)
82D: Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt (Alice) - people I don't know (I have heard of EDEL before, vaguely - he has a crossword-friendly name)
25A: Simple digs (lean-to) - Euphemistic clue. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that no one who ever lived in a LEAN-TO ever referred to it as "digs." Well ... maybe some hippie trying some alternative living experiment circa 1971. But that's it.
58A: Blood: Prefix (hemo-)
90D: Verne skipper (Nemo)
100A: Action film hero Williams (Remo)
Scrooge McDuck's other, illegitimate nephews. Introduced in an ill-conceived comic book venture in 1964, these characters were instantly reviled by the public. In 1965, Disney had them quietly killed off.
- 75A: Carnaby Street types (mods) - didn't know it. Before my time. Seems like it was once an interesting place that has had everything distinctive and interesting sucked out of it by the disease that is chain-store culture.
- 47D: 2001 Sean Penn movie ("I Am Sam") - of all the Sean Penn movies in the world, this is the one you foist on me on a bleary Monday morning? I will say that the soundtrack is pretty great - some of the best Beatles covers I've ever heard, including stellar versions of "Two of Us" by Aimee Mann and Michael Penn and "Across the Universe" by Rufus Wainwright.
- 107D: Prince Valiant's son (Arn) - this guy! Learn his name. He will return. As will 8D: Clerical garment (alb). I don't think ARN ever wore an ALB, but I would like to see these two words in a sentence together, somehow.
- 119A: Oscar-winning director of 2005 (Ang Lee) - I like that in the grid his name looks like it could also be clued [Option on a multiple-choice geometry quiz?]
- 104A: Monokini's lack (bra) - What the hell is a monokini? If the diagrams here are any indication, then no one should ever, Ever wear a monokini. Ever. Why not try a nice SERAPE (114A: Taxco wrap) instead.
MONDAY, MAR. 26
Man my time sucked. This one felt like Puzzle 1 felt during the Tournament - seems like it should be easy ... so why am I flapping around like a fish in a bucket? I'm going to blame tiredness, though I see other tournament solvers didn't seem to have many problems.
First, the theme: you call this a theme? CREATURE, BEAST, and ANIMAL make a theme?! If this is all I had to go with, I'd at least have reversed the order in which the theme answers appear, so that I'd have a nice A, B, C progression in my synonyms. Or I'd have made my ANIMAL answer alliterate like the others. Something!
32A: Daily allowance (per diem)
46D: Where originally found (in situ)
I was not expecting this. Tricky Monday fare, especially the latter. I gotta stop selling the Monday puzzle short - low expectations always gets me into all kinds of trouble. IN SITU made the SE a bit thorny, accompanied as it was down there by GRAMME (48D: British weight), which is not a word I've seen before (I assume it's just GRAM with extra letters for extra Britishness, like the "U" in "colour," e.g.).
43D: Alligatorlike reptile (caiman)
41A: Worker in a stable (hostler)
31D: Photographic film coating (emulsion)
These answers were horribly slippery, especially the last one, which took me forever to get, even with half the letters in place. I don't think I could tell you what a HOSTLER does, or how a CAIMAN is different from an alligator, or a crocodile for that matter.
Have I ever told you about the word "could?" How it is the wrongest-looking word in the world to me. I use it all the time, like all English-speaking folk, but if I look at it too long, it starts to creep me out. It looks Nothing like how it sounds. Why "would" and "should" don't bother me, I don't know. But "could" ... it has an inexplicably sinister quality when taken in isolation and really placed under scrutiny. "Could" is my best example of a perfectly ordinary word that just looks wrong. Today's "could" word is DESTINE, which even now is freaking me out. It wants to be DESTINY ... but also DESITIN. And possibly DENTINE. I had a very hard time seeing it as the correct answer for 30A: Preordain. Crossing EMULSION isn't help me come to peace with it. I'm not crazy about UPRISE (2D: Revolt) either - without its -ing suffix, its a pretty ungainly little word.
5D: Day of the wk. ... or an exam usually taken on that day (Sat.) - if you are going to double-clue like this, I'd prefer that the answer make sense for both clues when spoken aloud. "Sat." does not equal "S.A.T.," neither when spoken nor when written. I'm glad I didn't see this clue at all while trying to solve the puzzle.
53A: Four-alarm fire (inferno)
Ah, hell. I realize this isn't clued by reference to Dante, but INFERNO will always mean "hell" to me, which is appropriate in a grid filled with ANGST (51D: Uneasy feeling), DEFECT (10D: Flaw), and, above all, DOOM (33D: Inevitable destruction).
62A: _____ quilt (modern memorial)
I realize that there are technically many A.I.D.S. "quilts" out there, but still, I think of the quilt as one unit, and a proper noun: THE A.I.D.S. Memorial Quilt.
42A: Humor that's often lost in an e-mail (sarcasm) - also often lost in blogs. Believe me.
Thus concludes my 3-day write-up. Quite an OLIO (15A: Hodgepodge) of information and reaction. One more break, and then I'll try to get my Stamford commentary done before bedtime.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld