Saturday, April 21, 2007
Relative difficulty: For me, Brutal
THEME: 29A: With 37-Across, mid 20th-century avant-garde movement (Theater of / the Absurd) (or, none)
ABSURD is right. Many things about this puzzle, and my initial answers, were ABSURD. Head cold persists, and so maybe that was the problem, but I could not get a hold of this puzzle for the Longest time. Coincidentally, last night I was reading through some old posts (from last year) and came across a Byron Waldon puzzle that it took me 1 hr and 18 min. to finish! Today's didn't take me that long (I've improved some as a solver since that earlier Walden effort) but it still took me Well Longer than even your average Saturday puzzle, with much time spent staring at a pathetically partially-filled grid. I actually had that "I'm never going to solve this" feeling at one point, and that rarely happens anymore.
After a lot of time and only a few sporadic entries, I finally took a look at the SE and was able to put it together in reasonable time ... only, the way the grid's constructed (NW and SE quadrants accessible only by the tiniest of apertures), my success down there gave me no additional help with the rest of the puzzle. I had already guessed the -THERAPY part of 27D: Psychiatric discipline pioneered by Margaret Naumburg - that's what got me into the SE - though I had blindly guessed EST THERAPY (before my time, but I'm sure "est" is something).
At this point, I can't even remember how I managed to finish. To give you an idea of what kind of haze I was in by the end, I'll tell you that I had one square wrong, and you will probably never guess which. I don't mean "wrong by sloppiness," I mean "wrong, though I for some reason believed it to be right." I will leave you to guess what that square was. No, I'll give you three options, and you tell me which intersection I blew.
51A: Adm. Rickover of the 40-Across [USN] (Hyman)
41D: Mulcts (fines)
3D: Old Indianapolis-based automaker (Stutz)
22A: Shah _____ Pahlavi (Reza)
42A: Parliamentary doings, e.g. (acta)
45D: It's not original work (apery)
Where to begin with this puzzle?
29D: Subject of 2004's best seller "American Dynasty" (the Bushes) - nailed it! Gimme. Know how much it helped me? Almost none. Nice long answer, and it just sat over there for a while, with only the meager ELISE (54A: "John Q" actress Kimberly) sticking out of it (how do I know Kimberly ELISE?).
57A: Forsooth (yea, verily) - another gimme. The first thing that sprang to mind. I believe Daffy Duck has uttered "forsooth" and "yea verily" in quick succession somewhere in his cartoon history.
14D: Mall rats, typically (teen crowd) - pardon me while I GROAAAAAANNNN. Like the rest of the solving world, I wanted TEENAGERS, but that gave me INA instead of INC at 24, and I was pretty positive about INC - 18A: With 24-Across, Fortune 500 company founded by two college dropouts (APPLE / INC.). A lot of time was spent trying to get TEENC- to be anything. for a while I thought 28A: Recourse? was SEED (think about it ... there's logic there somewhere), which put a "D" after the "C" in 14D, making me think the answer had something to do with TEENS and their CDs. Head cold!
2D: Down _____ knee (on one) - I swear to you that for the majority of solving time, I had AT THE written in here. This kept the (mostly) tractable NW utterly mysterious to me for a long while.
6D: English poet laureate of 1692-1715 (Tate) - OK, I declare that 99% of you did NOT know this, even if you ended up getting it right. Oh really? You knew it? OK, what's the dude's first name? ... I'm waiting ... it's NAHUM! I taught this guy's @#$#-ing libretto for Purcell's "Dido & Aeneas" last term and I still had POPE written in here. Man alive, that's some obscurity right there. I preferred yesterday's TATE, by a long shot.
12D: Chronic fatigue syndrome, informally (yuppie flu) - beautiful, highly original answer, and one of the first longish answers I put down. Seems a little cruel and derisive, though, for the Times. The very name kind of demeans the sufferer a bit. Derision for the diseased is not the Times' normal M.O. Not that I'm complaining, exactly. Just noting.
36A: Trevanian's peak (Eiger) - Huh. Really? Whatever you say. I know (of) one EIGER, and it is a Sanction.
23A: A lot of Tijuana (bars)
21D: Settings for some special deliveries: Abbr. (ORs) - didn't like either of these intersecting answers. Took me a long while to allow myself to write in BARS. I'm sure there are a "lot" of BARS in Tijuana, but the phrasing here makes it sound as if the geographic space they take up is considerable relative to the size of the town. Maybe it is...
34A: Showstopper (hard act to follow)
33A: Like a showstopper (boffo) - when's the last time you even saw the word BOFFO, let alone heard someone use it in a sentence? Dated colloquialism! Love it.
52A: 1969 Frank Sinatra album featuring Rod McKuen songs ("A Man Alone") - I know this will cause gasps from the audience, but ... Who's Rod McKuen? In my head right now, he is a cross between Rod Steiger and Rod Serling. This answer was easy to get from crosses, but I've never heard of it. Seems like Sinatra shows up a lot in Friday / Saturday puzzles. He's Sicilian, he sang a song about "Old New York," etc.
23D: Toulouse-Lautrec hangout (brothel) - I had no idea. His paintings and prints are Fabulous. I was looking for MOULIN ROUGE or FOLIE-BERGERES or LOUVRE or any French place whose name I actually know.
42D: "How to Read a Book" author Mortimer (Adler) - damn, I've held this book in my hand and I still couldn't come up with this guy's name. I think this book was famous (academically speaking) back in the day (i.e. before my time).
47D: Santa's drawer (Nast)
19A: Began drawing (enticed)
Different uses of "draw," both of which confused me for a while. I was sure that the Santa clue had to do with one of the reindeer "drawing" his sleigh (not sled or sledge). No reindeer have four-letter names, so I thought of Rudolph and his NOSE - two letters right, but ultimately wrong. ENTICED seems poorly clued here. Why "began?" I wanted something like SKETCHED here. Oh, NAST is an illustrator who, like much of this puzzle, is before my time. He drew creepy bulbous Santas in tight-fitting pjs.
39A: What cuirasses cover (chests) - this was a gimme for me. Had the "H" and absolutely knew that the answer ... was THIGHS. I played D&D as a kid and was trained as a medievalist and still tanked "cuirasses" (imagining that they were either chaps or jodhpurs, apparently)
An admirably difficult puzzle, all in all. Sometimes, it's good to be reminded of my mortality. Speaking of mortality, MORTAL FOES (9D: They fight to the finish) reminds me of last night's amazing Yankees / Red Sox game. Nothing in sports can compare to the awesome spectacle of these two teams going at each other. This is no hyperbole. I won't bother giving you game details, because the game has already been written up beautifully by my friend Mr. Murphy over at "Sophocles Was a Red Sox Fan" - a great blog deserving of wide readership, even if you're a Yankees fan. The guy loves baseball, loves his team, and he can write. Thumbs up.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld