Sunday, July 1, 2007
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "Beforehand" (58A: Earlier ... or a hint to the words circled in 17-, 21-, 37- and 51-Across) - circled letters form words that might precede "hand" in well-known phrases
As with most Monday themes, I didn't see this one until I was done, or nearly done - figured it out as I was writing in BEFOREHAND, but didn't look up to see exactly what all the circled words were. I thought this grid was pretty lively and interesting for a Monday. I'll just give you a handful of answers that caught my attention (in good and bad ways, but mostly good). But first, the theme answers (letters circled in the grid appear capitalized below):
- 17A: Masonry work that may be smoothed with a trowel (stucCO Wall) => "COW hand"
- 21A: Shoving away, football-style (stifF-ARMing) => "FARM hand"
- 37A: More rain and less light, e.g., to a pilot (worSE CONDitions) => "SECOND-hand"
- 51A: Some memorization in arithmetic class (timeS TABLEs) => "STABLE hand"
And now, your Featured Five:
12D: Concerning (anent)
Yuck. This is one of those horribly pretentious words that one should never use. I can tell you that I once saw one of my grad school advisers (an academic through and through) recoil in disdain when she came upon this word in something we were reading together. That is to say, the word offended the sensibilities of someone who reads pretentious academic jargon Every Day - that's how horrible it is. The only time anyone should ever write ANENT is when that person is discussing the work of J.R.R. Tolkien.
3D: Sign on, as for another tour of duty (re-up)
I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: this word has a special place in my crossword career, as it is the very last answer I filled in the very first time I completed a Sunday puzzle (in college) - I had never heard of it at the time, and it sounded so completely made-up, but I didn't care, because ... I had finished the Sunday puzzle! I have never forgotten the word (clearly). I like to use it whenever I can (not often, but more often than I use ANENT).
39D: Laundry implement that might make a 43-Down (iron)
43D: See 39-Down (crease)
You don't normally see this kind of unclued cross-referencing (at 43D) in a Monday (do you?). I had already figured out IRON, but when I got to 43D, because I was going fast and didn't want to move the cursor back to see what the hell 39D was, I got a bit held up and had to get nearly all the answer from the crosses. So CREASE and one other answer in the SW held me up somewhat. That answer...
46D: Radio word after "Roger" (Wilco)
This threw me badly. I was thinking that ROGER was the "R" equivalent of ALPHA, BRAVO, etc. so I was trying to think of "S" words. Had to wait for several crosses before I had the "aha" moment. WILCO is a band, and I would have liked the word clued that way, though I realize that that would likely work better in a Thursday+ puzzle (i.e. too obscure for Monday).
28A: Hen's place (coop)
22D: Hen's place (roost)
And yet a ROOSTer is ... not a hen. I normally don't like the doubled clues, but these were simple enough not to tick me off. Also, COOP complements RE-UP nicely, because ... The COOP was the name of the campus cafe I was sitting in when I triumphantly completed that Sunday puzzle with RE-UP in it. I had no idea until I did this write-up exactly how formative that solving moment was. The cafe was called The COOP because ... well, our school mascot was the sagehen. No, I'm not making that up. Chirp chirp!
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld