Saturday, June 9, 2007
Relative difficulty: Hard
THEME: "All About National Public Radio"
I liked almost nothing about this puzzle. I disliked it so much, in fact, that I'm barely going to write about it [again, this ends up being a lie]. I'll let you all have at it. I do, however, have to detail some stuff that I think is terrible.
But first: It was just HARD for me. Fully three places in the puzzle had me utterly stuck, sometimes because of Terrible cluing, other times because of my ignorance.
Place I got stuck #1
93D: Capital of Valais canton (Sion)
92A: World's biggest city built on continuous permafrost (Yakutsk)
These intersect at the "S." By any standards, these are both geographical obscurities. It's bad enough when obscurities intersect, but obscurities from the same area of knowledge? Bad form. I guessed correctly, somehow.
Place I got stuck #2
16D: Words of endorsement ("sign here")
Now, my rage at this clue is offset somewhat by my own sloppiness. I had SIGN and wrote in SIGN ME UP, because, well, it's not a good answer, but it implies that the speaker "endorses" something ... unlike the actual answer, which are words encouraging another party to endorse something. You have to torture that clue to make it cough up SIGN HERE. I had a huge gap around the bottom of this answer for a Long period of time because of my error.
And #3, The Biggest Problem: The Montana region of the puzzle...
- 5A: K.G.B. predecessor (OGPU) - never heard of it
- 6D: "Just a _____" (Marlene Dietrich's last film) ("Gigolo") - know it only as a David Lee Roth song
- 7D: 1914 Booth Tarkington novel ("Penrod") - barely barely barely heard of it. Of all the Booth Tarkington novels ... look, if you can name one Booth Tarkington novel, that novel is "The Magnificent Ambersons." If you can name another, maybe you can name this one. I sure couldn't.
- 34A: Doc's wife in "Come Back, Little Sheba" (Lola) - no idea. Just ... none.
- 8D: Disentangle (unpile) - this is the mud icing on this trash heap of a cake. Not aware that UNPILE was a word, and certainly not aware that it meant anything approaching "disentangle"
- 23A: Tax relief, e.g. (campaigNPRomise)
- 39A: Mary Shelley subtitle, with "The" ("ModerNPRometheus")
- 58A: TV star who directed the 1999 documentary "Barenaked in America" (JasoNPRiestley)
- 83A: Fall event, usually (seasoNPRemiere)
- 101A: Matter of W.W. II secrecy (ManhattaNPRoject)
- 121A: Serigraph (silkscreeNPRint)
- 3D: Contortionist (humaNPRetzel) - best of 'em all, and I somehow got it off of just the "H"
- 66D: Russian literary award established in 1881 (PushkiNPRize)
Here are some (more) ridiculous "words"
- 52A: Free, in a way (unpeg) - ugh - well, it's a step up from UNPILE, I'll give it that
- 63A: Consume piggishly (englut) - well now you're just making words up. What's next, monkeys banging on a keyboard?
- 76A: Answers, for short (sols) - short for "solutions," I get it. Just ugly.
- 88A: Palatable (sapid) - got it off just the final "D" and groaned as I typed it in
- 111A: Permanently (in pen) - horrible. Some pens erase now. Maybe you've heard. And just because something's "in pen" doesn't mean it's "permanent."
- 128A: _____ cards (ESP testers) (Zener) - aha, there we go! Monkeys typing!
- 43D: Flag raiser (halyard) - never seen the word in my life
- 40D: World's smallest island nation (Nauru) - I'm including this, even though it was in the puzzle just a day or so ago, because, well, it would have stumped me last Sunday.
- 105D: Second-highest mountain in the lower 48 states (Elbert) - how the hell can I Never have heard of the second-highest US mountain not in Alaska!?
- 100D: The whale in "Pinocchio" (Monstro) - Haven't seen the movie in forever, had no idea. It's a nice, colorful answer, but with so many things killing me today, I didn't need one more, however fair.
- 48A: Big letter (epistle) - not a requirement that it be "big"!!! Formal, yes. Big? Sometimes ... but not always. Many classical epistles aren't that long. I had EPSILON here for a while. Not sure why it would be "big" either ... but it is a letter.
- 9A: Crookspeak (argot) - now I know what ARGOT means, but ... it doesn't mean this! Or, rather, it doesn't mean only this. Any kind of specialized language might be called an ARGOT. Here's a definition of ARGOT I lifted from Wikipedia, attributed to Bruce Sterling, that I think is way way more accurate:
"the deliberately hermetic language of a small knowledge clique.... a super-specialized geek cult language that has no traction in the real world."I live among academics. I know of where I speak.
Now I'll tell you the stuff I liked. I've already mentioned HUMAN PRETZEL - beautiful. Also really loved 59D: Initial sounds of a relief effort? ("Plop plop") - "... fizz fizz, oh, what a relief it is" - I'll take advertising jingles any day of the week, Alex. Lastly, the cluing on PEC is superb: 14D: Lifter's rippler. I'm off to try to forget this puzzle.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld