Thursday, March 1, 2007
Solving time: untimed - I'd rate this puzzle medium-to-easy for a Thursday
THEME: "Mean(s)" - Every theme clue is [Mean] or [Means]. That's it. There are sixteen such clues.
This wasn't much fun. An impressive number of theme clues, but half the fun of doing puzzles is getting to experience clever cluing, and here - well, it was like I was being bludgeoned. "Oh, [Mean] again ... great." The one real hard part of the puzzle, for me, was the great Northeast: I'll start there, give a few additional observations, then stop, as I am super-pressed for time this a.m.
11D: Prefix with -hedron (icosa-)
..... ..... ???? .... [scratch head, scratch head] .... [make unamused, disappointed face] ....
This answer - Andrew, please to be explaining for el presidente, because that is not a prefix I recognize. My -hedron prefix vocabulary runs out at dodeca-. I just found out from a quick Google that ICOSA- is a prefix meaning "twenty." This is a prefix Apple would use if it sponsored the mafia. (I hope you got that - I swear it makes sense, if only in my head). This "answer," if you wanna call it that, absolutely torpedoed my NE corner for a while. I wanted (correctly) 8A: Facility in Phila. or Denver to be US MINT and 19A: Mean to be DENOTE, but that gave an I-O-- to 11D, and that just seemed nuts. Eventually I just wrote US MINT and DENOTE in for the hell of it, to see what would happen, and other answers started to fall into place (including 10D: "Whew!" ("Man!"), which I really like for unknown reasons). I have tiny quibbles with a couple of other answers up there. First NET WT (12D: Contents meas.) - I don't like that constructors can apparently decide arbitrarily whether this abbreviation has an "E" in it or not. I have seen this phrase abbreviated more often (I think) as NT WT. I like it that way. Also, something about the phrasing of 25A: Some standardized coll. exams (LSATS) bothers me. They aren't really "coll. exams," the LSATS. You may or may not take them when you are in "coll." And you take them not to get into "coll." (in the generally understood meaning of that term: an undergraduate institution), but to get into a post-graduate university. And I know that many law schools are probably called "College of Law," but still. Icky phrasing.
More things that made me wince a little:
41A: Surplusage (overs) - clue and answer equally yucky
42D: "Et _____!" (voilà) - a huge stretch as a phrase any English speaker might use. VOILA, yes. "Et?" Eh? Eh? NON (15A: Oui's opposite)
50D: Playing loudly (ablare) - "And the rockets' red aglare, the bombs bursting ablare" - I'm sure this word is legal, and I got it quickly enough, but it's not a pretty word to my eyes / ears
65D: "Oh wad some power the giftie _____ us": Burns (gie) - while I normally love All Things Scottish, Burns's poetry tends to make me Cringe. This is far too far to have to go to get GIE. If you have to go to GIE, you should really think about rewriting the grid.
Here's a infelicitous pairing of intersecting abbreviations:
63D: Genealogical abbr. (desc.)
73A: Short and detached, in mus. (stac.)
They intersect at the "C" - the letter in the far SE of the puzzle. This just highlights the fact that you couldn't get a real word to fit down here, which highlights a certain straining the whole grid seems to have - all to accommodate the dictatorial theme. Was it worth it? I don't know. As an experiment, it's kinda cool. But if the little things about a puzzle aren't right, I'm not apt to appreciate the big things as much as I should.
I'm outta here. Work calls.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld