Thursday, June 21, 2007
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: awesomeness (or, none)
I believe this is my favorite puzzle of 2007. I will have to go back and check, but it is up there, certainly top five. My initial excitement was regional in nature - I've got EZ PASS booths (1A: Tollbooth option for Northeasterners) on the interstates to the east of me and ELMIRA (1D: College in south central New York) just down the interstate to the west of me, and those two intersect at the "E" in the far NW. So nice. But then the whole grid opened up from there with a couple of fabulous, long, intersecting wildlife answers, and after that I just slowed down and savored each new clue - I had a feeling that the puzzle was going to be consistently clever and impressive, and I was not disappointed.
The wildlife answers:
- 16A: One concerned with school activities? (marine biologist) - I know the "school" trick is pretty easy to see through, but this answer made me "ooh" nonetheless
- 5D: Birthplace of the first giant panda in North America to survive to adulthood (San Diego Zoo) - almost wrote in SAN DIEGO, CAL, before realizing the actual, better answer. The clue is kind of morbid, in that it makes me think of dying baby pandas.
So I liked a lot of this puzzle - details below - but the one answer that really made my evening (actually it made me exclaim a profane phrase in joyful disbelief) was ... OK, I've been to Disneyland many times in my life, so when I had
for 54A: Disneyland attraction since 1955, I got frustrated, briefly, at having no clue what it could be. Then I got the "A" in the fifth position and MR. TOAD'S WILD RIDE jumped into view. That's the funnest bit of fifteen-letter fill I think I've ever seen. Here's some other stuff.
23D: Cause for some fluff filling (slow news day) - I feel bad for this answer because it's superb but somewhat overshadowed by MR. TOAD'S WILD RIDE, which it intersects. When SLOW NEWS DAY is your second best long answer, you know your puzzle is good.
15A: Plans named for a Delaware senator (Roth IRA's) - F@#$ing Delaware, WTF!? Back-to-back days where Delaware plays a crucial role in the puzzle - and wasn't its status as "The Diamond State" referenced in a very recent puzzle too? Anyway, this answer looks good in the grid.
19A: Itself, in a legal phrase (ipsa) - the only time I had to erase even part of an answer during this puzzle. I had IPSO.
27A: Mathematician seen on a Swiss 10-franc note (Euler) - Yesterday BUELLER, today, EULER. This guy stumped me many months back, you may remember. Not today. I nailed his ass with just the "E" in place.
39A: "Blade Runner" actress Young (Sean) - of all the Seans! HA ha. Nice to see her working again. Whatever happened to her?
42A: Cheer starter ("Sis...")
This answer amuses me. "Sis-boom-bah!" When is the last time anyone unironically cheered that cheer? This answer is fabulously old-fashioned and makes me think of Mr. Burns: "You there! Fill it up with petroleum distillate, and revulcanize my tires, posthaste!" I often hate things that are dated, but sometimes things are SO dated that they re-enter the realm of goodness. It's like with politics, when people move so far to the right that they end up on the left (and vice versa).
58A: It may sit near a jack (gas can) - spent a few seconds wondering how in the world a jack could be said to be near a GAS CAP.
12D: Link between DNA strands (base pair) - the one answer in the puzzle I flat-out didn't know. Luckily the crosses were easy enough.
17D: Books with many cross references? (bibles) - again, the trick is pretty easy to see, but that doesn't keep the answer from being delightful. My wife and I are reading the Bible, cover to cover, over the course of a year. We have a schedule and everything. We just started. It's ... fun. God does some inexplicable @#$#, though, I have to say. I felt bad for Cain, and Ham, and Hagar ... I feel like I'm not reading it right, like maybe if I read it upside-down, or by firelight or something, all would be clear. Anyway, it's fun, and I'm hoping it pays off, you know, puzzle-wise.
7A: Pennsylvania town that was the longtime home of Rolling Rock beer (Latrobe) - This puzzle has a lot of long, weirdly specific clues (à la the NY Sun). Not that I mind. As for this particular clue ... I drank a lot of Rolling Rock in grad school. The green bottles, horse head, and "33" were all somehow aesthetically pleasing to me. The beer was kind of crap.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld