Thursday, May 17, 2007
Relative difficulty: Medium
I struggled with this puzzle more than I've ever struggled with any David Quarfoot puzzle. I fumbled around the top of the grid, with only CSI: MIAMI (17A: Hit show with a colon in its name) falling readily into place. I eventually hacked my way through the NW, groaning when I finally got ANTIETAM (15A: Bloody battleground for Lee) (my brain couldn't let go of APPOMATTOX for some reason) and cheering (non-audibly) when I finally figured out that the "V" in the answer for 1A: Controversial court call? was not part of a bigger word but a stand-alone element in the very hot answer ROE V. WADE.
My ultimate downfall was the following crossing:
- 21D: Midwestern tribe (Iowas)
- 29A: Suburb of Melbourne (Kew)
That "W" - well, now it seems so obvious. IOWA = "midwestern," duh. But I'm telling you "W" wasn't even on my radar. The only thing I could think of was "N" - the IONAS? IOTAS? No, that has to be wrong (true). So I had to play the alphabet game, and with "W" being near the very end of the alphabet, it took me a while to figure it all out. I'm not fast on the uptake every day.
This grid is chock full o' answers with unusual letter combinations, from the mid-answer -VW- in the aforementioned ROE V. WADE, to the openings of CSI: MIAMI and CC RIDER (13D: Classic R&B song with the repeated lyric "See what you have done") and T-MOBILE (39D: Sprint competitor) and R-RATING (20A: What a slasher usually gets) and AOL'ER (30A: Many a surfer). Brand names like SNO-CAT (42A: Treaded transport) and ETCH-A-SKETCH (36D: With 9-Across, its images aren't hard to shake off) also really liven up the grid.
One thing I think Quarfoot does pretty well is feature answers that go well together or echo one another in some fashion. The "court" clue for ROE V. WADE (in the NW) is echoed by another "court" clue in the SW, 40D: Court embarrassment (air ball). Jazz greats STAN GETZ (38A: Musician known as "the Sound") and DIANNE Reeves (58A: Jazz singer Reeves) are hanging out together in the SW. The full stack of colloquialisms in the SE reads like one side of a phone conversation:
AFRAID SO ... (60A: "Yes, alas")
WANNA BET ... (63A: Offer that may be answered by "How much?")
IT'S A MESS ... (65A: "The situation looks bad")
Even E-TICKET (3D: Airport printout), EMITTED (8D: Put out), and EMOTE (49A: Cry too readily, perhaps) have a loose but lilting sonorous association. The KING (10D: Hopper around a board) pairing, however, is the True Cross formed at the bottom of the grid by...
41D: Noted terrorist killed in June 2006 (Zarqawi) and
55: Setting of the FX series "Over There" (Iraq war)
Now, strangely enough, this is not the first time ZARQAWI's been in a puzzle (I'm pretty sure I saw AL ZARQAWI in a Sun puzzle in late 2006 - aha, in fact, it was in another Quarfoot puzzle!!!). But that time, ZARQAWI was a gaudy, Scrabbly, 1A answer, where here he has been transformed into one part of a really elegant dyad. Congratulations, DQ, on turning a terrorist into a thing of beauty. Why do you hate America?
In addition to KEW, there were two other answers I didn't know: 56D: Frog genus that's Spanish for "frog" (rana) and 9D: Emmy-nominated "Hill Street Blues" actor (Spano). "HSB" was just before my time (I was a teenager, 10pm was my bedtime), so I can't even picture this SPANO guy. Let me find a picture, hang on .... here's one.
OK, he's vaguely familiar. I know a lot of "non-PC" language, and I was not aware that the suffix -ENNE counted (35A: Non-P.C. suffix). In related crossword fill (see, I told you DQ's answers paired nicely), to counter the apparently sexist ENNE, there's the feministish 31A: First woman to appear on the front of a Wheaties box (Retton). Mary-Lou's face is sooooo much more recognizable than her written-out last name, which even now seems like a combination of letters I've never seen before. Never read SULA (53A: 1973 novel title character surnamed Peace), but you hang around English departments long enough, some stuff just sticks.
Thanks to DQ for another good puzzle - good enough that I forgive him for indulging in some crosswordese (NNE, ETC, EEK, EBB, IN RE) and for dipping once again into the (poisoned!) "playground retort" well - 25A: Childish retort ("Is too!"). I keep wondering when we will be able to seal this well up. Apparently, not yet.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
Oh, a major P.S. - there's an article in today's N.Y. Sun on crossword blogs. I am in it. In fact, I gave a lengthy interview for it. It is not the most comfortable experience, seeing your words come back to life in partial, recontextualized form, but I guess that's probably a normal interviewee sensation. There's at least one flat-out inaccuracy in the article - clearly I don't write about every clue every day (or any day, for that matter). There's also some infelicitous phrasing and at least one misspelling ("nomE de crossword"!?). Further, I'm not sure "Diary of a Crossword Fiend" got as much space, or as accurate a characterization, as it deserves. Still, any media attention is at least a little flattering.