Thursday, August 9, 2007
Relative difficulty: Medium
The top half of this was easy, while the bottom half proved ... less so. First answer I got was a total gimme, 19A: "The _____ the limit!" ("sky's"), which gave me the "K" that I needed to get the ALASKA part of ALASKA PENINSULA (6D: It separates the Bering Sea from the Pacific). Unfortunately for me, the PENINSULA part was far longer in coming. I had WATERWAY, and then I had nothing for a while. Thought about ALASKAN PIPELINE for a while, though that made no logistical sense. Anyway, ALASKA was enough to make short work of the entire top half of the puzzle.
14A: Wizards and Magic, e.g. (basketball teams) wasn't nearly as clever as it wanted to be, though I guess with Potter-mania still fresh in the air, it could have been construed as misdirective by some unwary solvers. I would never describe a BANANA SPLIT as "oblong" (1A: Oblong dessert), but I guess it's at least in the vicinity of "oblong" if you squint real hard. I am not old enough for 8D: Compartmentalized box's contents (pills) to be a gimme ... yet, though I got 17A: Suitable for hypertension sufferers (salt-free) pretty quickly. I have never heard of 9D: Two-time Pro Bowler Leon (Lett). I know of Ronnie LOTT, but not Leon LETT (who becomes the second LEON in the puzzle in as many days - weird). Other stuff up here that I didn't know includes the insane-sounding SMERSH (13D: "From Russia With Love" org.) and the sweet-sounding BABKA (14D: Sweet, glazed cake) - I had BUNDT at first, and that "K" was the last letter I filled in in the grid's top half; felt wrong, but KONG was the only answer that made any kind of sense for 21A: Skull Island denizen, for short (which at first I thought was a "Survivor" reference). Stuff I liked in the top half includes the cleverly clued ICE FLOES (10D: White sheets) and the fabulous Ms. ARETHA Franklin (26A: "_____ Now" (1968 R&B album)).
Transition to the bottom half was impeded by my not knowing PENINSULA, but also by my balking at GALLERIES (27A: Old masters reside in them). I put it in, then nothing in the crosses was coming readily, then I thought "masters" would have been capitalized if painters were indeed at issue. Also balked at PEAS (22A: Mushy _____ (British dish)) because I knew of no D.C. team whose name began wit a "P" (22D: D.C. players). Turns out sports weren't at issue; politics were (POLS). Once I worked the middle out and even got PENINSULA, the three long bottom answers still took time in coming. First to fall, strangely, was CAKES AND ALE (48A: 1930 novel that takes its title from Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night"), which I managed to pull off from the letter string -ESAN-. Eventually I figured out PUTTING UP A FRONT (45A: Hiding one's true feelings), but PIERRE L'ENFANT (47A: French-born architect who designed Washington, D.C.) is entirely unknown to me. With Wizards and POLS and now this architect guy in the puzzle, I say there's far too much D.C.-ness going on. That's not even counting the Supreme Court clue - 38A: Baker v. _____ (landmark Supreme Court voting rights case) (Carr), which I'd never heard of, and which crosses another proper name I did not know (35D: Jeremy _____, 1980s-'90s portrayer of Sherlock Holmes (Brett)), which normally I'd complain about, but to be fair no letter but "R" could have connected those two names.
Stuff I liked in the southern hemisphere included, let's see ... well, I like Scotland, so DIRK is good (43D: Highlands weapon). I like primates in space, so I'm pro-CHIMP (29D: Early "astronaut"). I like sports, generally, though the past two days have really pressed the limit of my sports tolerance (not my knowledge, mind you, just tolerance). After LETT and BASKETBALL TEAMS up top, we get 41A: Long known for playing football (Howie) - he's an announcer now for FOX's NFL coverage, I think - and LINE-UP, the clue for which I really liked (30D: It reveals who's on first), although now that I think of it, this answer isn't sports-related at all. It's more concert-related. Baseball LINE-UPs will tell you who's UP first. And second. And so on. HOFFA (41D: 1992 Nicholson title role) is not the first Nicholson role anyone is likely to think of, just like (ugh) GREEN TEA (27D: Ice cream flavor) is not the first, or second, or twelfth ice cream flavor anyone is likely to think of. Needed SORBET (44A: Gelato sans milk) to get the taste of that one out of my mouth. Never heard of SAKS (25D: "The Odd Couple" director) in a non-5th-Avenue context. Love MISS (37A: Overlook) over GENT (40A: Square dance partner). The end.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld