Tuesday, May 8, 2007
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: "Winston Churchill's description of a fanatic" - ONE WHO CAN'T (17A) / CHANGE HIS MIND (27A) / AND WON'T CHANGE (44A) / THE SUBJECT (60A)
Not a big fan of quips, but this puzzle was So Easy that I hardly felt the pain. I did this puzzle faster than I did Monday's (that just shouldn't happen) - in fact, I did it faster than I've ever done any Wednesday puzzle, ever. The non-theme fill here is pretty Monday-ish overall, with only a couple of answers providing anything in the way of trouble. I should have taken it as an omen when I got the answer SPEED DEMON (11D: Leadfoot) off just the "S." I even got 14A: It's a killer (orca) with No crosses. So easy was this puzzle that I have very little to say about it, which should make light work for me tonight. I ran into trouble in just one place. I tried to anticipate the structure of the quip, and figured that since the first half begins ONE WHO CAN'T CHANGE, the second half would do the same. So I put CAN'T where WON'T was supposed to go, and off the (incorrect) "C" I entered CRINGE for 45D: Squirm (writhe). Since the "C" (from CAN'T) was plausible, and three other letters in CRINGE were correct, it took me a little time to unearth the problem. But as obstacles go, this was pretty minor.
Nothing terribly noteworthy about the puzzle, but lots of little things that are perhaps worth mentioning. I thought WRITHE a very good answer, especially when paired in alliteration with the puzzle's other motion word, ROIL (1A: Churn). There were several nice multiple-word answers, including SPEED DEMON, LAWMAN (4D: Tin star wearer - OK, that's one word, but it's made out of two), FOOTREST (5D: Barber chair feature - again compound word, sort of counts), REELED IN (25A: Secured, as a fish on a line), OLD HAT (46D: Commonplace) and the flashy three-word ALL DAY LONG (29D: From dawn till dusk). I especially like that that last one intersects yet another longish temporal answer, BIYEARLY (49A: How often federal elections are held). 43A: "Lead _____ King Eternal" (hymn) ("On O") is a colorful if desperate attempt to avoid referring to Yoko.
Sadly, there is a ton of crosswordese in this puzzle. Let's see, there's (deep inhale): TSAR, OBOES, SLOE, EINE, ETO, OTOE, TETE, ECON, STET, with the last four of these all coming from the very sad southeast corner - when RENT is the most original answer in a corner, you know that something is very wrong. My favorite word in the puzzle is ABYSMAL (39A: Dreadful) - it's an elegant word, and that "Y" in the third position is unusual and tricky - got that "Y" off of 22D: "Elder" of ancient history (Pliny) and couldn't do anything with it. Had to wait for some more crosses. One of those crosses - the "S" - came off of that damned chimp whose name I can never remember: 26D: Orbiting chimp of 1961 (Enos). Someday I want to see ENOS clued [Chimp, spinoff, or book in the Book of Mormon].
Yesterday's NY Sun puzzle had BEDIM as an answer, and I complained about it (elsewhere) for being just plain ugly and stupid-sounding. Even though today's BECLOUDS (40D: Obscures) is a somewhat more ridiculous word, I like it better. It sounds more poetic. Seriously. Say them out loud right now. You will see that my characterization is APT (39D: Bldg. unit). APT!
Many of you probably won't know who Stanislaw LEM is (51A: Science fiction author Stanislaw). He was a prolific Polish sci-fi writer who is probably best known for his novel Solaris, and only then because it was made into a (sadly) forgettable movie starring George Clooney. LEM died last year at the age of 85. I always liked the idea that this sci-fi writer had a name that was also an acronym for Lunar Excursion Module - the "lander portion of the Apollo spacecraft" (Wiki).
Lastly, I misunderstood 28D: Double-timed, assuming that the clue was synonymous with "Two-timed," or "cheated on." Briefly thought that HIED referred to some kind of sex act (or sex act euphemism) I'd never heard of, until I realized that "Double-timed" referred, innocently and anti-climactically, to tempo, not adultery.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS Forgot to mention how much I appreciated the highly and unintentionally comical Al HAIG quote in the clue for 18D: Alexander who said "I'm in control here" - for those who are too young to remember, HAIG said this to reporters immediately after Reagan got shot. Reagan's getting shot is not so funny, but HAIG's bold pronouncement of his own advancement to the throne - rich! (OK, so he wasn't really staging a one-man coup, but it's funnier to imagine it that way)