Saturday, July 28, 2007
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
Very simple, elegant grid shape for a reasonably simple, elegant Saturday puzzle. The strangest part about the puzzle, to me, was the quality of its short answers. The ones on the outskirts of each quadrant were astonishingly easy (about half gimmes), while the ones in the center of the puzzle, joining all the quadrants together, were the most challenging part of the puzzle. The quadrants opened up really fast once a few of those four-letter border answers were in place - but I slogged through the center of the puzzle (fitting home of the word BOG) with educated guesses, stepping over odd terms or names I'd never heard of before. I completed the grid very, very quickly (for me - somewhere in the 12 minute range), and then spent over five minutes trying to ROOT OUT (55A: Expose and destroy) my one wrong square. The square in question ... is not that surprising.
- 35A: Red stain in a lab (eosin)
- 35D: Young members of a convocation (eaglets)
EOSIN is a former enemy whom I should have seen hiding there in ambush. I had ROSIN and RESIN here, which gave me RAGLETS for EAGLETS. Since I had No indication that 35D was an avian answer, I figured RAGLETS was just one of those Saturday words that you don't know, but accept as a real world in someone's universe. The center of the puzzle was hard, as I've said, because after the easy NAILS (27A: Aces), and TABOR (24D: Drum accompanying a pipe), I was stuck. I wasn't even That sure of TABOR. I've taught Homer a lot, but had no idea about 28D: Island said to be the home of Homer's tomb (Ios). And BOG (30A: Common site of archaeological remains) just felt a bit unsolid (as BOGs are wont to do). Also never heard of 25D: The _____ Marbles (Elgin). They are a large collection of marble sculptures removed from the Parthenon in the early 19th century and brought to Britain, probably illegally. Nobody beats the western colonial powers for despoiling the world of its art - not to mention its natural resources, happiness, etc.
So happy to see the quick return of ONE O' CAT (15A: Sandlot game) to the grid. Today we learn that this mystery game is played on a "sandlot." What will we learn next? HAD DIBS (1A: Claimed as one's own) was one of those very tentative guesses, where I mentally filled it in and then tested the Downs in my head. And they worked. Lucky. Gimmes up in the NW include 19A: Rock guitarist born David Evans (The Edge) - guitarist of the band U2 - and semi-frequent puzzle denizen 5D: Immobile in winter (iced in).
In the NE, I took a stab with ARBORED (18A: Lined with trees) which gave me the easy SPAS (8D: Bath and others), which gave me PILSNER, which was wrong. But PALE ALE came out eventually (16A: Draft pick). Hurray for Mike Brady as a beautiful clue for STEPDAD (20A: Mike Brady of "The Brady Bunch"). Someone will tell me whether ARLENE (22A: Longtime "What's My Line?" panelist) is a first or last name. I'm guessing the latter, but that seems absurd. I got 13D: "_____ and Franklin," 1976 biopic (Eleanor) simply by thinking of all the Franklins I know. After Franklin from "Peanuts," FDR was the next one my mind went to, which made ELEANOR easy. As for TARTANS (9D: Carnegie Mellon athletes), why would you name yourself after a fabric pattern?
What HAD DIBS was to the NW and ARBORED was to the NE, ON A TEAR (41A: Running wild) was to the SW - tentative but ultimately correct guess that opened the quadrant right up. It's a very multi-wordy, colloquial quadrant, with not only ON A TEAR, but NOW WHAT? (31D: "Again?!"), IN A RUSH (32D: With no time to lose), and THE REST (54A: Others), the last of which has lodged the "Gilligan's Island" theme song in my head this morning (song used to end its list of castaways with "... and THE REST" until the phrase was later changed to "the Professor and Mary Ann").
In the SE, NON-HERO (36D: Melville's Ishmael, e.g.) is insane, and yet because of its Moby Dick-ness, I kind of like it. ARTISTE (53A: Pro performer) also feels pretty forced, but unlike NON-HERO, it has nothing to redeem it. OLOROSO (38D: Bristol Cream ingredient) is a kind of sherry and totally off my radar. I filled in CLAR (49D: Woodwind instrument: Abbr.) instantly, and then came ROOT OUT. With that "U" in place, SILENT U was a piece of cake (39D: Guide feature?). 46A: First name in electrical engineering sounds hard, but once you get a few crosses, it's clear that it's just TESLA's slightly less known first name, NIKOLA.
I'm 85% recovered from illness, and was well enough yesterday to go see "The Simpsons Movie." No spoilers, but I will say it CHEERED (49A: Made happy) me quite a bit.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld