Thursday, May 3, 2007
Relative Difficulty: Medium High
This puzzle was maddening. I don't think it's ever taken me as long to ferret out an incorrect square as it did today - this is because the letter change affected the apparent pronunciation of the words in question Not At All. I changed and unchanged several squares before finally going back to square one and submitting every square to potential consideration. But actually I'm getting ahead of myself.
I had one square flat out wrong:
13D: August Wilhelm von _____, leader of German Romanticism (Schlegel)
22A: "Mârouf" baritone (Ali)
I had SCHNEGEL and ANI, thinking SCHNEGEL sounded like a plausible name and knowing that ANI is crosswordese for a kind of blackbird ... so maybe it's the name of some character in an opera? No and no. That's a brutal high-culture crossing that absolutely made my knees buckle. No chance. Had to Google (yes, *I* had to Google - it happens; rarely, but it does).
I also had to go back and change a square that I initially had wrong, but figured out on my own:
40A: Seine feeder (Aube)
42D: Early center of Christianity in Mesopotamia (Edessa)
Had AUBO and ODESSA - I'd guessed on the "O" in ODESSA and never checked the cross (sloppy).
So what was the square that did me in - that had me completely stumped and groping around desperately for minute upon minute? I'll let you guess (answer revealed at very end of today's entry). It's not that hard when you think about it.
For all of the frustration, I really enjoyed the puzzle. The long answers were very easy to uncover, and they were nice, familiar, everyday phrases. The best of these, in terms of cluing, was 8D: Where no one has any business going? (residential area), which I got off the first three letters. Took me far too long to get 21D: Ones who can handle adversity (tough cookies) because after getting -OUGH- I entered an initial "R" instead of "T" - this gave me SEMIRES for 20A: Many Middle Easterners (Semites), which I honestly, albeit briefly, thought was just a name for a people I'd never heard of (surely a large category). Other long fill included:
- 7D: Remark introducer (let me just say...)
- 31A: Ones not getting their deserved acclaim (unsung heroes)
- 34A: Ancient (as old as the hills)
- 37A: Treated fairly (did justice to)
Love the word OOMPHS (18A: Zips) in the grid, thought the plural makes me cringe a bit. Not sure why 26A: Tommy guns? has a "?" in it. I thought a STEN was a tommygun. Is it the space between "Tommy" and "guns" that makes a difference, somehow. Oh, here we go, Tommy Atkins (or just Tommy) was a common WWI-era name for a soldier in the British army. So British soldier's guns, STENS, got it.
54A: Maturity (ripeness)
57A: Creepy feeling (eeriness)
Two -NESS words right on top of each other, with the -NESSes matching up, and one other (bad) -NESS word in the grid - 14D: Indifference (easiness). Can't say that I like it. Further, I had problems with the non-lilting quality of the following combo:
52A: With 36-Down, "Very strange..." ("It is an / odd thing...")
I think that the non-contraction - IT IS - is throwing me, because the whole phrase is so colloquial that I have a hard time hearing it with IT IS. Too formal-sounding. I do like that this four-word phrase is broken into two two-word phrases, which then intersect one another.
Got burned by ERGOTS (58A: Grain fungi) many months ago, so I was ready for it this time. Love the splashiness of Sister SOULJAH (24D: Hip-hop's Sister _____) in the grid. My feelings toward REDOS (25A: Makeovers) and REPRO (45D: Magazine proof) are quite tepid - don't know the context in which one would use the former, and have never heard the latter used in relation to proof pages. Are the SOO canals (53D: _____ Canals) in your ears? Oh, no, they are actual canals - formally known as the Sault Sainte Marie Canals, they bypass the rapids on the St. Marys River between Lake Superior and Lake Huron. Liked that JEU (29A: Roulette or vingt-et-un) was clued via gambling, especially because the clue is subtle - "Roulette" is the same in English and French; only "vingt-et-un" gives away the Frenchness of the answer. I like ADELAIDE (34D: City of 1.1 million named for the wife of King William IV) because it's Australian, and thus Antipodean, and thus if I squint at it really hard, it reminds me of my Kiwi wife (who lived for a time in Australia, though not ADELAIDE, as far as I remember). Took me a few beats to understand 1A: You can always identify a Republican by one (capital "R"), until I realized that this is how elected Republicans are signified in the media, e.g. "Orrin Hatch (R-UT)."
Let's end with a pop cultural quartet.
Nicky KATT (48D: Nicky of "Boston Public") will always be [Nicky of "Dazed and Confused"] to me. "I only came here to do two things tonight: kick some ass and drink some beer ... looks like we're almost out of beer." God that movie's great.
Zubin MEHTA (30D: Boulez's New York Philharmonic successor) is a very famous conductor whose first name beats his last for crossword-worthiness. For a while in the late 90's, for no reason that I can recall, I would often call my cat "Zubin." It just sounded good. His real name is Wiley (named, in fact, for the actor who plays the lead role in ... "Dazed and Confused").
I own a first edition, dust-jacketed copy of "END AS a Man" (38A: "_____ a Man" (Calder Willingham novel and play)) that is worth hundreds of dollars. I got it for a buck at a university book sale. It's an exposé of life at a southern military college, and its man-on-man action got it in a bit of hot water back in the day (late 40's).
Counselor TROI (27A: Enterprise counselor) - oh how I wish you knew how to spell your own name. Then maybe I wouldn't have lost precious minutes of my life hunting down your stupid "I" when a "Y" would have done just fine. OK, I should have known that 28D: Pakistan's chief river was INDUS, not YNDUS, but ... well, you know rivers. They're spelled every which way ... I mean, look at AUBE, for god's sake.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS I would like to thank Ken Jennings for linking to me in a recent post he wrote about the portrayal of Mormons in the mass media (his Mormonism was the subject of a crossword clue this past Sunday). I want to point out, though, that apparently some of his own readers don't read his blog very closely. Jennings wrote a most excellent entry a while back excoriating people who use trivia to act like smug know-it-alls ... and yet THIS is the message (verbatim, bold text and all) I found in my inbox this afternoon from a proud Jennings reader (responding to my admitted ignorance about the poet Alfred NOYES):
You never read "The Highwayman"?To which I replied:
Shame on you!
It was written by Alfred Noyes
Blame Ken Jennings for all the leters like this you get. He linked yo your blog.
Do you mean letters wherein people misspell basic words like "letters" and "to?" Yes, I'll be sure to write Ken and thank him.