Friday, August 3, 2007
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
Damn! I should have done this at the NYT applet - I finally would have been able to see my name on the top ten list, and for a while too. I solved this in just over 16 minutes, the first third of which was spent staring at almost totally empty space. I managed to get ELICITED (9D: Brought out) with no help, but after that - zip. Just a sad little TAC (19A: Central square, maybe) appended to ELICITED. First trip through all of the Downs on top got me precisely squat - ELICTED and OPP. (10D: NE for SW, e.g.), and that's it. Desperate, I inferred a final "S" from the apparently plural 1D: Galas (big dos) and from that got SNL (25A: _____ Digital Shorts (late-night comic bits). Totally guessed 21A: First word of "Shrek" (Once...), which gave me the double-N necessary to get ETIENNE (2D: Saint-_____-du-Mont, church containing the remains of the patron saint of Paris), and then I finally began to take apart the triple-stack at the top of the puzzle. Also totally guessed I LIE (24A: "Lo, here _____, / Never to rise again": "Hamlet"); but as with the "Shrek" clue, you don't need to know this to get it - you just need to stop and think "If I were this answer, what would I be?" I had I SIT for I LIE, but I worked it out eventually. The key is persistence and patience. In other words, KEEP ON KEEPING ON (60A: Last).
I really wanted 4D: Hardy one? (Ollie) to be TESS, and for completely mysterious reasons I was nearly certain that 20A: 50 Cent cover (do-rag) was "MY WAY." Some rapper I know covered, or at least sampled that song. Maybe Jay-Z. ANYway...
God bless Herr EULER (30A: Discoverer of the law of quadratic reciprocity), who appears in the puzzle for at least the third time this year, and second time in the past couple weeks. He got me a little traction in the "Utah" portion of the puzzle. I was wrong about 27A: Drawing of the heart? (tug) at first - I had EEG, but that mistake got me the "G" which got me GRAPE (28D: Gatorade choice) - always good when mistakes work out.
How is the ITALIAN ALPHABET (16A: Dante characters?) different from the English alphabet. Do they have characters we don't???
I like the great carnie quality of the puzzle, with the fabulous, long, intersecting entries BEARDED LADY (34A: Sideshow staple) and DUNK TANK (35D: Charity carnival feature). While at the carnival, why not enjoy a BURRITO (22D: Chihuahua fare)? Or, if the carnival is in the South, some SOPS (47A: Food eaten with gravy) and OKRAS (49A: Mallow family members).
The puzzle has a little bit of everything - lots of tiny sub-themes, from exotic locales like HANOI and BENIN; to musical answers like THAD Jones (11D: Jazz trumpeter/composer Jones), Ray EBERLE (13D: "Over the Rainbow" vocalist Ray), "THE GIRL FROM IPANEMA" (17A: The "she" in the lyric "And when she passes, I smile"), LEO Arnaud (31D: Olympics theme composer Arnaud), YODELING (36D: Higher calling?), and SUZI Quatro (55D: 1970s rocker Quatro); to baseball answers like FARM CLUB (3D: Place for some prospects) and CIN (57D: N.L. Central team, on scoreboards); to higher education answers like TAS (54A: Some stipend recipients, for short) and AMERICAN STUDIES (56A: Interdisciplinary college major); to sciencey answers like EPSOM / SALTS (38A: With 55-Across, MgSO4.7H2O) and NUCLEUS (23D: Chromosome home). . . whew. When I started that list, I had no idea how long it was going to be.
Most colorful answer, for my money, was NICOTINE LOZENGE (59A: Patch alternative). There were two words I'd never seen before: DEMIT (18A: Relinquish) and HAMAN (8D: Villain in the book of Esther). Got temporarily frustrated by 45A: Capital of New Zealand: Abbr. (dol.) - "It's Wellington, dammit," I thought. Ah yes, the old "'capital' = money" trick. Well played, Mr. Walden. Who would expect such bush league shenanigans from the world's most devilish constructor? Not I. I have no idea what any of the following means: 53D: Co-founder of the Non-Aligned Movement, 1961 - but TITO is a name and it fit, so there. I wanted MAYDAY Malone, then SAMMIE, for the ultimately anti-climactic NORMIE (41D: Nickname on "Cheers"). Lastly, I learned that I have a STIRRUP in my ear (6D: Place for a stirrup). Gross / cool.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld