Friday, August 17, 2007
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
Choppy waters here, but I managed to sail through, eventually. I think yesterday's puzzle was actually harder, though I have no empirical evidence. Just my gut. I learned a new word today: REVET (20A: Face with stone). That was one of two places in the puzzle where I just had to cross my fingers and hope I had a word. The other place was in the SE, where the cluing on 41D: As yet uncollected for (owed on) was so awkward that I couldn't figure out what type of phrase could go there for a long while, and thus two crosses, 40A: Relatives of pollocks (cods) and 46A: High-tech surveillance acronym (AWACS) had holes in them for a while. Never heard of a "pollock" or AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System).
Had LANDED for CAMPED (6A: Settled down securely), but because of the correct "A" and "E" I got my first toehold with ACS (7D: Filter holders, briefly) and EVERYONE (10D: Who's a critic?). I am not thrilled with the annoyingly prefixed 14A: Do further work on a bird? (recarve) and 9D: Give shades to in advance (precolor), but most of the other fill in the puzzle was good to very good. Took me Way too long to get ASPCA (1A: Adoption option: Abbr.), but once I did, the NW fell pretty quickly. The really tricky answer for me up there was 4D: Water fleas, barnacles, etc. (crustacea), which I could not see without that initial "C" from ASPCA. After I got the "U" from CORRUGATED STEEL (15A: Construction material), I confidently wrote in AQUAFAUNA, thinking, "Wow, what a fantastic word." Another fantastic word that is actually a word, and actually in the puzzle: HEPTADS (35D: Water polo teams, e.g.).
SAMISEN (13D: Banjolike Japanese instrument) is one of those words I've seen before but couldn't recall, and probably won't be able to recall in the future. I saw a woman play a Chinese banjolike instrument earlier this year. It was called a PIPA. There's lots of crosswordese in the puzzle, but it's all so trickily clued that it doesn't feel so tired:
- ACRE (19A: Parcel part)
- SERA (23A: Hospital supplies - that one's not so tricky)
- STOA (24A: Feature of some classical architecture - that one isn't either)
- ALOE (clued viciously as 26A: Fragrant heartwood ... ??)
- ELSA (not the lion, but 37A: Actress Pataky)
- STET (47D: Galley countermand)
- SI SI (49A: "You betcha, Bartolomé")
Today's weird name of the day goes to ABRA (25D: Julie Harris's "East of Eden" role), narrowly edging out DUZ (52D: Old washday choice). LEIFS (39D: Conductor Segerstam and novelist Enger) and HOYT (22A: Waite _____, Hall-of-Fame Yankees pitcher) finished a distant third and fourth, respectively. Cute pair of twin clues today in 34D: Thighs may be displayed in it (erotica) and 33D: Thighs may be displayed in it (meat case). I'll take the former thigh display any day.
My wife does not like it when people mimic her accent, but occasionally I like to parody all pseudo-British accents, and that parody will usually involve some version of 38A: Cockney greeting ('ello), possibly followed by "guv'nuh." 35A: Writ introduction? (habeas) was a cute gimme. Less cute, but no less a gimme, was 50A: "_____ Work" (George F. Will best seller) ("Men at") - I own that book, though (as with many of my books) haven't read it.
My old DATSUN was decidedly not a "roadster," so I have no idea what 54A: Some bygone roadsters is thinking of. Unless "roadster" is being used Very Generically. My DATSUN also did not have TINTED GLASS (16D: Auto option).
There were at least five film clues today, including 5D: Lee of Hollywood (Ang), 8D: 1932 Garbo title role (Mata Hari), that ELSA woman (see above), 31D: Eastwood played him in five films (Callahan, aka Dirty Harry), and, possibly, EROTICA (also above). Oh, and the nicely clued OFF CAMERA (30D: So as to avoid getting shot).
The DANUBE (42D: It rises in the Black Forest) was easy to get with a couple crosses, but SANER (57A: Less like a yo-yo), for some reason, was not. Did not know 27A: James Bay native (Cree), but pieced it together - that's pretty rough cluing, as the clue suggests Nothing about Native Americans. Doesn't get more Anglo-sounding than "James Bay" (located in Canada). Not much else to say except that I was strangely proud of myself for getting SCALAR (43D: Graduated) off of just the "R" and BORONS (29A: Five atoms in a ulexite molecule) off of just the "N." What an anticlimactic way to end the entry. O well.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS Pop Sensation has been updated, with many new scans from my vintage paperback collection
PPS It's Saturday morning now, 8:46am, and Google Trends tells me that tons of folks are searching for Steffi GRAF (36A: 1988 tennis Grand Slam winner) today. My god, there is no predicting you people. She's only one of the winningest woman in women's tennis history. At least two different authorities ranked her as the greatest female player of the 20th century (I'd dispute that - Martina was greater, but still, GRAF was undeniably Great). In fact, GRAF's 22 Grand Slam singles titles is second place all time, man or woman, behind only Margaret Court. She's married to Andre Agassi. 1988 isn't that long ago. Why don't people know her!?
You know I hate when people ask, usually smugly, "how could anyone not know that?" - and yet... never even to have heard of GRAF's name!? To resort to Googling?! Actually, I've been amazed at how many of my most popular searches are for 3-and 4-letter words. It's like ... people just want a little boost. One of yesterday's big winners was RICO, for instance. Being able to see how people search is a really interesting window into the nation's puzzle-solving habits.