Saturday, April 28, 2007
Relative difficulty: Easy to Medium
There are many surprising aspects to this puzzle.
15A: Cosmetics dye: Var. (eosine)
41D: Russia's Rostov, e.g. (oblast)
OBLAST was in the puzzle just last week - I know because I blogged it after it came from outer space to wreak havoc on my world. O-BLAST will be the first superpower I give my as yet uncreated superhero avatar. EOSINE ... I know I've seen it recently. It was in the NE of some puzzle, and I had to guess at the "S." I was prepared for both of these jerks. It's always nice not to get bitten twice.
Since when is this much crosswordese allowed admission to the Saturday puzzle? I'd expect maybe one little word - something that couldn't quite be avoided, clued in an insane way so as to hide its commonness, like a zit under concealing powder. But here, we're not talking one zit - we're talking a full-on breakout, and all the genius cluing in the world couldn't hide it if it tried. First there are successive Pantheon members of the Highest Order:
- 23A: Louvre Pyramid designer (Pei) - the very first entry I ever wrote, way back on September 25, included a write-up of this guy and his Louvriciousness. He is A-List Pantheon material (though I currently have him as C-List ... that will have to change).
- 24A: First name in courtroom drama (Erle) - little harder to see than PEI, but one of the few proper nouns that is actually more Pantheonic than Pei. Possibly the most Pantheonic proper noun (and yet ... he is not in the Pantheon! Massive oversight. That will have to change).
Just look at how many sizeable answers are overwhelmingly "WOF" (new word for a word that can be completely deciphered from the aforementioned "Wheel of Fortune" letters):
- 7A: Gauged (assessed)
- 14D: Something a loser may skip (dessert) - that "loser" bit is a bush-league attempt at a fake-out
- 6D: Catfish Row in "Porgy and Bess," e.g. (tenement) - really like the clue, though
- 35D: Feeler (tentacle) - also a virtual gimme
- 28D: Victorious soldier in May 1775 (Ethan Allen) - super-easy to guess with just the first couple letters in place, but goes nicely with the other Revolutionary-era clue in the puzzle (and also one of the randomest partials ever), 7D: "What _____ of the face is here!": Thomas Paine, "Common Sense" ("a slap")
Today's IDENTITY THEFT (32A: Wallet loser's concern) is possibly the longest straight-up gimme I've ever encountered. It must surely be the very first phrase that pops into most folk's minds upon reading the clue, and it fits, and it's the most crucial answer in terms of giving you access to all parts of the puzzle. I love the phrase here, but it needed to be clued at a higher level of difficulty.
I enjoyed the intersection of 34D: Sommer of "The Prize" (Elke) and 45A: Three-time speed skating gold medalist Karin (Enke) because, together, their names sound like the title of a comic strip about a couple of precocious and possibly super-powered children who fight evil-doers somewhere in Germany. TRIVET (1A: Table saver) is a nice, semi-unusual word I haven't seen in the grid lately, if ever. Sadistic constructors who want to use TRIVET in the future might think of cluing it via Nicholas TRIVET, a prolific and important (though now barely known) scholar and chronicle-writer of early 14th-century England. DPS (21A: Twin killings, in baseball: Abbr.) was a gimme (short for "double plays"), and the first thing I entered in the grid. Don't know if the Red Sox turned any DPS in their demolition of the Yankees last night. I'll have to check. INUIT (29A: Language from which "kayak" comes) was yet another gimme in this puzzle, bringing the total now up to something like half a dozen! 54A: Lévi-Strauss of France (Claude) - yet another gimme, especially for those who have gone to graduate school in the humanities or social sciences since 1980.
For all my grousing about the puzzle, it does have some admirable features. First, I learned a new word in ISOGON (3D: Rectangle or square) - so much prettier than yesterday's math-related ADDENDS. I may have seen TABLAS (48A: They may accompany sitars) before, but if so, I forgot it, and had to make an educated guess as to that second "A" - where TABLAS crossed the unknown (to me) Harry LAUDER (43D: Knighted Scottish singer Harry). I figured LAUDER was more likely than LEUDER or LOUDER, etc. Thanks to ESTEE LAUDER for establishing name precedent. Don't even know who Little Nell is, let alone that her last name is TRENT (31A: Last name of Dickens's Little Nell), but this clue is better than [Council of _____]. I would also have accepted [QB Green].
Two great female figures of pop culture make appearances today in ROWENA Ravenclaw (2D: Miss Ravenclaw, who co-founded Hogwarts School) and EVE ARDEN (55A: Player of Principal McGee in "Grease"). We have just begun reading the Harry Potter books to our 6-year-old at bedtime and she is intrigued, if somewhat worried that things will get excessively scary at any second. And long-time readers of the blog will know my affection for all things "Grease" (the 1978 movie, that is), mostly having to do with my life-long crush on Good Sandy (not the leathered tart at the end of the movie). 50D: Early copter (giro) looks odd - that "I" really wants to be a "Y." My favorite word in the puzzle just may be DICKERED (33D: Did some horse trading) - there's something pleasingly old-fashioned about it. Lastly, there are two very cute "?" clues: 42D: Top of a closet? (blouse) and 32D: Cry after falling hard? ("I'm in love!"). I'll leave you on that ecstatic note. Enjoy this spring Saturday, even if it's gloomy and rainy like it is here.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld