Sunday, March 18, 2007
Solving time - mid 20's, on paper
THEME: "Initial Substitutions" - X + Y phrases are crossed at an ampersand (&) by the initials of X and Y, e.g.
18A: Tenant's desire (room & board)
4D: Music category (R & B) - "R" for "room," "B" for "board"
I was quite stunned to see that many people apparently did not grasp the theme, even once they'd finished the puzzle. Few themes have made themselves known to me more clearly than this one. First thought: rebus (ampersand where a letter should go). Check the ampersand cross, and there it is. My first reaction to discovering the theme was: "wow ... cool." Usually in rebus puzzles the answers that intersect at the rebus don't have anything to do with each other, but here they are intimately connected. Plus the ampersands have rotational symmetry, so ... sweet! Theme was very easy. All the phrases are well within the language and once you know the theme, all the ampersand crosses are gimmes. To make up for this easiness, the non-theme fill was harder than your average Sunday - I genuinely struggled in three different regions of the puzzle. But, while architectural feats like this one often involve compromises in the elegance of the non-theme parts of the grid, all things considered, the trade-off here was worth it. A truly clever Sunday puzzle idea. The Ampersand Pairings:
20A: Really rough (down & dirty)
13D: Game with orcs and half-elves (D&D) - the nerds also get 90A: 1999 "Star Wars" release ("Episode I") today
9D: First two (Adam & Eve)
32A: "American Justice" network (A&E)
48D: Sign at a store clothing bin (mix & match)
66A: Candy treat (M&M)
67A: Basic infirmities (aches & pains)
62D: Store chain since 1859 (A&P)
41D: Equal alternative (Sweet & Low)
70A: Cousin of a credit union (S&L)
86D: Fishing gear (rod & reel)
102A: It's typically off base (R&R) - rest & relaxation
119A: Bruised (black & blue)
114D: Offerer of cozy accommodations (B&B) - bed & breakfast
120A: Nursery rhyme dish (curds & whey)
118D: Musical genre (C&W) - Country & Western
The "ARIZONA" portion:
BERET (109A: Round top) was at the epicenter of problems I was having ... down there. Had the -ERE- part and still couldn't see it. Had to guess (correctly) at 110D: "The ability to describe others as they see themselves": Lincoln (tact) in order to get the final "T" which then allowed me to see the initial "B" - which led me to my next big problem ... down there. With the "B" in place, I figured that 109D: Shy must be BALK (where "Shy" is a verb), but that gave me the odd-looking BIKEL for 122A: Theodore of "The Defiant Ones." BIKEL ended up being correct, thank god. BIKEL's career in film spans 50 years. Neeeeeeeeeever heard of him.
The "COLORADO" portion:
Teeny answers screwed me up royally over here. First, the requisite arbitrary Latin date, in this case 68D: Year in the reign of Antoninus Pius (CLV) was unknown to me in its last latter for a long time because I could not see 79A: Major player in the movie biz? (VCR) [a clue I do Not like, for reasons not least of which is the VCR's near obsolescence]. I just had -C- for a while, because of the aforementioned Latin and because 80D: Hi-_____ (Res) wanted only to be Hi-FIS. I really really hate the phrase Hi-RES, for irrational reasons. It just rubs me wrong. RES crossed the word that baffled me for far too many seconds, a word I was forced to write out at the puzzle margins just get a better view of it: H-RAL-S. My brain couldn't put it together. Even without the clue, you can see that only one word (I think), and it's common, can go there. But even with the clue - 85A: Proclaims - I drew blanks. Once I wrote it out in big letters on paper, the answer came quickly. Sometimes the cramped feel of the Sunday puzzle (printed out in Across Lite) can do bad things to my puzzle vision.
The "INDIANA" portion:
The trouble here stems from one particular intersection: 44A: Noisy celebration (shivaree) crossed with random German answer 34D: German port (Kiel). If I've ever seen the first word, it was while studying for the SAT. Never ever ever heard it used. KIEL could be anywhere, Germany. They intersect at the last "E" in SHIVAREE. All along I wanted SHIVAREE to be something like SHIVARI or SHIVARTI or something ending in "I." I think I was thinking of the cheese called HAVARTI. Anyway, I guessed the "E" there, just as I'd guessed the "K" in BIKEL, and it all worked out.
92D: English royal known as the Empress Maud (Matilda)
98A: Fairy queen, in Shakespeare (Mab)
Way way too much English royalty beginning with "M."
113A: Building support (cross brace)
Unknown to me, but inferrable. See also ENARM (104D: Gird for battle)
61A: Locale for a vision of the Apostle Paul (Troas)
This falls under the "crap I'm willing to tolerate in exchange for a fantastic theme" category.
69D: Like Longfellow's Evangeline (Acadian)
This word always looks to me like it's missing an "R." I have never read Longfellow. I believe I have said that before. And so I iterate it here. First medieval royalty, then the Bible, then poetry ... I feel my credibility as a Ph.D. in medieval English literature slowly eroding...
14D: Like the labyrinth of Knossos (Minoan)
Whatever you say! Actually, if the answer had been CRETAN, I would have got it. MINOAN civilization originated on Crete. Theseus, Ariadne, and the Minotaur (so THAT's where he gets his name!), I know them well. Did you know Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly was in Labyrinth (1986), with David Bowie! It's true. Lots of ancient stuff in the grid, actually. TROAS, MINOAN ... also MEDE (92A: Subject of Cyrus the Great).
123A: Subject of una sinfonia (tema)
Not sure whom to thank here, but somehow I knew this, where even one year ago I don't think I would have. By default, I will thank Andrew (as cellist, as opposed to Andrew as mathematician or Andrew as TiVo whore).
76D: Photographer Richard (Avedon)
His name is familiar, but I can't picture his, uh, pictures. He did a lot of stunning, sexy-ish portraits of celebrities in the 60s and 70s (as well as a lot of cool non-celebrity-oriented work, pictures of ordinary / odd-looking people, etc.) Here is a picture I like:
2D: Cream-filled pastry (cornet)
I know this as a musical instrument, and only as a musical instrument
23A: Acquirers of lost property (abandonees)
A legal term that makes No sense. Dumpster babies are ABANDONEES. Ariadne (see above) was an ABANDONEE. She did not acquire lost property.
39A: Desert attribute (aridness)
Easy enough, but Google say: ARIDNESS (ca. 26K hits), ARIDITY (725K)
TALLY UP for TOTAL UP (5D: Calculate, as the bill)
RANGES for RENEWS (88A: Extends)
AT ANY COSTS for AT ALL COSTS (116A: No matter what)
ANY MOMENT for ANY MINUTE (49D: Imminently)
1A: Home of the Natl. Hollerin' Contest (N. Car.) - excellent 1A clue! Didn't know it, but I could eventually guess it. HOLLERIN'! That should be a rap anthem.
1D: "You're doing it all wrong!" ("No, no, no!") - hotly colloquial. Always appreciated.
10D: Old "Romper Room" character (Do-Bee) - before my time, but HOT (35A: Stolen) answer nonetheless. Actually, maybe "Romper Room" was in my time, but I hardly remember the show. If I ever watched it, I didn't watch it much.
6D: Kind of yoga (Hatha) - Know it. Love it. Would be a knotty, angry mess without it. Moreso.
38D: E Street Band's leader, informally (The Boss) - Always like to see phrases with definite articles in them. Scratches my brain in a pleasing way.
Lastly, there is a mini-wordladder with MAB, NAB (60D: Snare) and NIB (55A: Tip for a calligrapher)!
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS the finished grid today was provided by Orange (Crossword Fiend, link in sidebar), so if there are any errors, she is to blame. I mean, thanks Orange!