Friday, May 11, 2007
Relative difficulty: Hard
Anatomy of a Solution
I blew through the first part of this puzzle, polishing off the NW so quickly that I thought I might be looking at a record Saturday time. Noooooo such luck. After GLUESTICK (1A: Modern arts-and-crafts tool) came to me immediately and the rest of the NW fell quickly, I found myself seriously slowed down. Managed to hack my way down to the middle, miraculously getting OPERA GLASSES (39A: Play things) off of just the double-S. And then I hit my first of what would be three total stalls. Had the AND in 31A: Evasive tactic (song and dance) and could come up with only DUCK AND COVER. Finally I noticed a gimme, ART DECO (40D: Like Manhattan's Chrysler Building), which, along with GALAS (33D: Showy events), allowed me to get POST-IT (48A: Brief attachment to a report, maybe), which allowed me the brilliant guess of PATSY (48D: One easily pushed over) off of just the "P" - then the fabulous "Y" cross KISSY (62A: _____-face), and the SW pretty much fell from there.
After inferring the name of a Disney princess I'd either not heard of or not heard of in a while - 28D: Disney's Princess _____ (Oona) - I got SONG AND DANCE and felt sure the NE would open right up. Not so much. Thought 13D: Creator of the Mayfair Witches (Anne Rice) was the guy who wrote "Witches of Eastwick," so racked my brain for his name, to no avail. What the hell is his name? Hang on ... Oh criminy, it's Updike. O well. Anyway ... NE remained very intractable because of multiple wrong answers, including MARTA for 10D: Comedian/actress Wilson, an original cast member on "MADtv" (Debra) - where the hell did I come up with MARTA? - and MATCH for 10A because I thought 56A: With 10-Across, stalemate (cul-de-sac) was TIE MATCH. Even after I got the --SAC in there, it looked horribly wrong. "What word ends -SAC? No word in English!" Well, not originally English, no. All the Acrosses up here were troublesome, including 16A: Ecuador's Santa _____ Peninsula (Elena), 18A: Nonsense (beans), and 21A: Small bay (armlet). BEANS!? The problem here is that there must be two dozen words in English that could mean "nonsense" - and by "two dozen" I mean "so many I couldn't begin to name them all so I made up the number two dozen." [addendum: forgot to add that I was confounded by 11D: I, O or U, but not A or E: Abbr. for what seemed a very long time. Knew the answer was ELEM. before I knew what ELEM. stood for in this instance: ELEMent. Think Periodic Table.]
Which brings us to the SE and Rex's Last Stand. With just ART DECO giving me any purchase on the SE, I was in something of a jam. Three answers, for each of which I had lead letters, would have been incredibly helpful, but they wouldn't come. Those answers:
- 43A: Where the Peacock Throne was built (Delhi) - couldn't get DUBAI out of my head even though I Already Had the "E" in Place!
- 49D: Like seconds: Abbr. (irreg.) - wanted IRREG from the get go, but thought "No, that doesn't make any sense." Shouldn't the clue read [Like some seconds...]? Are all "seconds" IRREGular?
- 50D: Lord Byron's "The Lament of _____" (Tasso) - always hate it when I tank a literary clue, but there was no way I was gonna get this without either the final "O" or the first four letters in place.
So, stuck as I was, I desperately threw wee TAD (59D: Smidgen) into the SE as bait, hoping to get a bite from the bigger fish down there. Nothing. Tried DIME and then DROP for 54A: Small amount (dram). Nothing. Briefly entertained the correct MAKO for 55D: Speedy fish, but couldn't do anything with it. The "K" seemed nuts. [Speaking of nutso "K"s, check out POLITICK - 35D: Make campaign stops - in the SE corner. The more I look at that word, the wronger it seems] So I went back and tried to guess at place names for 43A, finally testing DELHI, which instantly made HAULERS (45D: Semi) and IDLERS (46D: "Leave business to _____, and wisdom to fools": Congreve) pop into view. This allowed me access to that beautiful but elusive threesome of VERSATILE (58A: Like character actors) on top of ICE SKATER (61A: One studying camels - brutal!) on top of DO-GOODERS (63A: Naive types, sometimes). Bing, bam, SE is done! Except...
I've got this one word I don't know: LYCITE. The "Y" came from DYAD (clued 51A: Couple), which seemed rock solid ... but the clue for LYCITE was 44D: Classic DuPont brand, and if it was "classic," why had I never heard of it? I'd heard of ... LUCITE, but that would give me DUAD, and yuck, that can't be right. DUAD?! That's a horrible word. Not quite DUD, not quite DAD, not quite DOODAD. Ick. But in the end I decided that LUCITE sounded too right, and DUAD, looking almost like DUAL, was at least plausible. So I went with it. And DUAD was right after all. Happy Pencil. The End.
EPISODE I (36D: Series opener) and CAESURA (8D: Break) are good fill, but I've seen them both recently. It was a good day to know your Renaissance Revenge Tragedies, as the three-letter KYD (9D: "The Spanish Tragedy" dramatist) gave solvers valuable Scrabble letters. I was happy to be reminded of Piper LAURIE's (2D: "The Hustler" Oscar nominee) performance in "The Hustler," a Paul Newman movie I like (and own). 6A: Air part ("tra la") could have been deadly, but the crosses made it obvious. Lastly, MOTS (53D: Cracks) is pretty damned weak, but the SW is redeemed by a great puzzler of a clue - 60A: Dot follower (cents). When COM wouldn't fit, I chewed on other possibilities for a few seconds, and there it was. I know it's a good clue when I actually register and even remark on its quality mid-solve. Yes, sometimes I talk to / at / near the puzzle. Don't judge.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld