Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: HERB GARDEN (62A: Where the first words of 17-, 26- and 47-Across may be found)
The theme is pretty straightforward, but the overall grid is pretty impressive. Lots of unusual or colorful phrases, with only a minimum of crosswordese. Well, maybe a little more than a minimum, now that I look at it. Still, an enjoyable puzzle.
Your HERB answers:
- 17A: It's worth listening to (SAGE advice)
- 26A: Sherlock Holmes portrayer (BASIL Rathbone)
- 47A: Perfect shape (MINT condition)
All of the HERB names here are used in non-HERB contexts, of course.
The theme answers are fine, but fairly predictable. I'm a bigger fan of today's longer non-theme answers, like the swell BOY OH BOY (10D: Cry of glee), the regal OCEAN TIDES (30D: They're controlled by the moon), the curious OUTER EAR (38D: Catcher of sound waves), and the dainty HYBRID TEA (54A: Variety of rose) - the last one totally unknown to me. Not sure how I feel about 21A: Conduct a survey (ask around). I like the phrase, but the clue seems a lot more formal than the answer.
Noteworthy features of today's puzzle include a new ELSA (32D: Actress Lanchester, who married Charles Laughton), a variant that's one letter away from a breath mint brand (45D: Haberdashery items: Var. (tie tacs)), a porcine philosopher (3D: English philosopher called "Doctor Mirabilis" (Roger Bacon)), a surprisingly persistent defunct automobile (52D: Old Oldsmobile (Alero)), and the answer to the mystery of what Chester A. Arthur's middle initial stands for (12D: Chester Arthur's middle name (Alan)). Not sure why I know Fort ORD (5D: Fort _____, former Army post on Monterey Bay). Didn't know 6D: Source of basalt (lava). I'm not even sure what "basalt" is, frankly. Had HILT for HAFT in the SW (54D: Knife handle), which made the Swiss river AARE hard to pick up (61A: River of Switzerland). This may be the least Scrabbly puzzle I've seen all year, but it was inventive enough that I didn't mind.
See you tomorrow.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld