Thursday, May 10, 2007
Relative difficulty: Easy to medium
One word: smooth. Nothing mind-blowing here, but that doesn't matter because the fill, especially the long fill, is uniformly interesting - cool, unusual, unexpected. A little on the easy side for a Friday - if I'd been timing myself, I might have found myself with a record Friday time. There was no point at which I got truly stuck or had to slow down significantly. I had just one false start, and it was a small one: REP instead of COP for 55D: One who handles bookings (you can see why I was confused - beautiful little trap). Oh wait, I had ISIS for IRIS too (32D: Goddess of the rainbow). And there was just one square about which I was uncertain, located at the following intersection:
34D: "Heart of the Tin Man" author (Jack Haley)
45A: Cheers (hails)
Pretty much had to be an "H," but I'd never heard of the author in question and I couldn't quite make HAILS mean "Cheers." Even now, I have to exert mental effort to get those two words to align.
The prettiest word in the grid is HERCULEAN (15A: Formidable, as a task) - one of my favorite words. I use it whenever I can (which is to say, not often - it's not an everyday word, and overuse would be pretentious). The ugliest word ... let's see ... well, I do hate the way SEGUE (53A: Skillfully switches topics) looks, and both SICK LEAVE (54A: People generally don't take it well) and ODOR EATER (57A: Shoe insert) have negativity built into their names, but I'm going to give the award to SOURSOP (38D: Tropical fruit with white pulp and black seeds), a fruit of which I've never heard and hope never to encounter (if it tastes anything like its name sounds ... or looks).
48D: "When the _____ Breaks" (old blues song) ("Levee") - I like this answer because I know this song only because of my sister, who for some reason used to sing (comically) the Led Zeppelin version of this song not infrequently. I think it was some inside joke with her friend Sarah. I remember being doped up from a pinched nerve in my neck, headed home from the beach in my sister's car, some time in the late 80's, and this song was on. I think the tape might actually have been stuck in the tape deck. It's ... not a soothing song.
19A: Ladies in men's rooms? (pin-ups) - I do love pin-up girls (the old-timey ones from the 40's and 50's). As I've said before, there is one hanging in my downstairs bathroom, a gift from my friend Shaun who Knows What I Like. PS this clue rules.
35A: It may have two sides (entree) - another superior clue. I got stuck here longer than anywhere else because of my ISIS for IRIS error (see above), which gave me ---SEE for this answer. Thought it might be French. Thought maybe there was some reverse SEESAW called a SAWSEE (that would have "two sides," wouldn't it?). Etc. I worked it out.
41A: One-horse town (Podunk) - is that capitalized? I always think of PODUNK as an adjective modifying "town," but this'll do. Got this off the "K," and it's such an odd-looking little word ... it immediately made me very happy. Seriously, if you say it over and over, or even just stare at it for a bit, you won't be able to keep from smiling. Can't say that I've seen PODUNK in the grid before. Superior fill.
23D: Film director Anderson (Wes) - directed "Rushmore," one of my very, very favorite movies.
31D: Upholstering tool (staple gun) - another fun entry. I like the way it sounds. I also like that it's in the same grid with STEEPLE (27D: Feature of the high church?) and GLUON (44A: Theoretical massless particle), which intersect, making a weird, somewhat L-shaped parody of STAPLE GUN. I did not know GLUON at all, though it sounds vaguely familiar now that I see it / say it. GLUON. GLUON. GLUON. I'm in love with the way words sound today. Why? Since I didn't know GLUON, let's SEGUE to ...
Other Stuff I Didn't Know
33A: City where the Caesar salad was invented, 1924 (Tijuana) - I like the added touch of providing the exact date. "Oh, 1924! Now I know." Had to get crosses, up to ---UANA, before I realized the answer.
26A: Assessment on out-of-state purchases (use tax) - don't think I have heard this phrase, though I do believe I have paid this. Is this anything like where you have to tell the IRS how much money you've spent on internet purchases so they can tax you properly? USE TAX seems a really lame term for this tax, which doesn't sound like it's about USING anything. Some CPA out there will explain.
2D: His statue (minus its head) can be found in Arlington's Freedom Park (Lenin) - wow, really? Arlington, VA? Seems pretty ... macabre, or something. These longish, informative clues (see also the Caesar salad clue, above) are more characteristic of NY Sun puzzles than they are of the Times. At least that's my immediate, unthought-through impression. I like such clues. Why not learn something from your puzzle (even if you are doomed to forget it shortly after you're done).
Lastly, I will confess to having to play the "run-through-the-alphabet" game with 39A: You don't sit still in them (rockers). The only word that wanted to be there was DOCKERS, and I honestly thought for a second about how I might justify DOCKERS as an answer. They're ... activewear. Maybe DOCKERS has a new slogan: DOCKERS, for men who don't sit still (men with tics ... or hyperactivity disorder). So I ran through the alphabet ("... LOCKERS? ...") until I got to "R" and got slapped with the obviousness of it all. Again, a minor hiccup in an otherwise smoooooth solving experience.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS David Quarfoot just called my attention to the fact that last night on "The Colbert Report," Stephen Colbert mentioned the NYT puzzle from this past Saturday, in which STEPHEN COLBERT appeared as 1- and 8-Across. View clip of that segment here (in the segment entitled "He's Singin' in Korean").