Sunday, August 5, 2007
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: Bowling - 6 long theme answers end with bowling-related words (though answers themselves are not bowling-related)
Another average Monday for me. My times are astonishingly regular on Monday puzzles - I managed to break 4 minutes a few times earlier in the year, but lately, every Monday is coming out about 4:25. Clearly I'm not trying hard enough to get my speed up, which may not be a bad thing. I figure, over time, my average will slowly come down ... until I get old-person's-brain, and my times start to go back up again; when does that happen? No offense to old people. I'll be joining your ranks soon enough.
This puzzle had a few odd / arcane words - I ran into a brick wall the first time I hit the SW corner because I had no idea what 51A: Book size was going for; and it ended in "O?" I thought maybe it was "quarto," but it didn't fit and seemed awfully technically literary for a Monday. Turns out I was on the right track, just one fold short (a quarto is made from folding one page twice to produce a sheet of four leaves; third fold gets you eight leaves - OCTAVO). Problem in SW was trifold, as I blew OCTAVO in part because I couldn't get two crucial Downs - 47D: Like some balloons, questions and corn (popped) and 48D: Playwright Sean (O'Casey). As my wife can tell you, as far as puzzles go, I am weakest when given word associations like 47D, especially when the associations come in threes. We do the cryptic and the standard British-style xword in The Listener (NZ) every week, and she is unfailingly faster at getting the kind of question that's phrased: "What word can precede x, y, or z?" My normally supple brain just locks up. Not sure why.
Flying through the puzzle, I didn't notice the theme, though I sensed it had something to do with repeated two-letter sets - the two FR's in FREEZE FRAME (17A: Result of hitting the pause button on a movie), two NA's in BANANA SPLIT (11D: Dairy Queen offering), two ST's in FIRST STRIKE (25D: Attack before being attacked). I really liked HAT PINS (27D: Millinery accessories) and TO SPARE (38A: Extra) before I ever knew they were theme answers. Sometimes themes result in forced-feeling fill - other times, themes inspire freshness and creativity. Today, the latter prevailed more often than not. Two appearances of TIN PAN ALLEY (61A: Old-time songwriters' locale) inside of one week is a bit much (see that Periodic Table puzzle a few days back), but otherwise, no complaints. Oh, and while we're on the subject of repeats, PARROTS (56A: Chatty birds) was in yesterday's puzzle. NO LIE (45A: "Honest to goodness!").
Most insane word in the puzzle is BOATEL (12D: Overnight accommodations by the shore). CATO (58A: "The Censor" of ancient Rome) was slightly challenging, but LEO XI (14A: Pope before Paul V, whose papacy lasted less than four weeks)!!! When it comes to popes, the clues may as well be [Early 12th century year] or some such crap because I'm just going to have to piece it together from crosses. Had to piece together OTTAWAS (35A: Chief Pontiac's tribe) from the crosses as well. Everything else was pretty smooth sailing.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld