Saturday, September 22, 2007
Relative difficulty: Medium
Don't know how I managed to do this in around an average time, because looking at it now, there is much that seems insane and unknown to me. Spent a few minutes fumbling around in the NW and getting nothing except SALTS (5D: Smelling things) and REMITS - which was wrong. So I moved on. My first answer in the grid was OWNS UP TO (20A: Admits) - why was that a gimme? Then with just that "N" in place I got NAP TIME (21D: When the kids are out - great clue), and between those two answers, I managed to polish off the NE and center of the puzzle in fairly short order. But had to struggle in every quadrant but the NE.
With -ATORIUMS in place at 33A: Rest stops? I filled in MORATORIUMS. Would not give it up until YOW at 42A: "That hurts!" provided a "Y" that meant 33D: Source of lecithin had to be SOY BEAN, which meant MORATORIUMS was wrong and had to start with an "S." Further problem: I though the word in question was SANITARIUMS, which, it turns out, is an alternate spelling of the correct answer: SANATORIUMS, which looks wronger and wronger the more I look at it. But eventually I gave in to SANATORIUMS, and the SW went down from there.
Notable answers in the SW:
- 35D: Part of the Tribune Company (Newsday) - pairs nicely with another publication, THE NATION (14A: Weekly since 1865), in the NW
- 49A: Not broadside (end on) - I know HEAD ON, but not END ON ...
- 52A: Jaguar maker (Atari) - !?!?!? It's a video game?
- 54A: Band active from 1995 to 2002 (N*SYNC) - had TONIC here for a few seconds ... no, of course you don't know who TONIC is. It's a stupid answer.
- 47D: It's hard to walk on (corn) - wouldn't know. I have a bunion, I think, but no CORNs.
- 46A: One use for anise (biscotto) - the rarely seen singular form of this word. Nice.
Here's what the grid looked like after the SW was completed (I decided today I wanted to freeze-frame the solving experience at about midpoint):
In the SE, the long Acrosses were fairly easy to get, but that upper part of the quadrant was on the verge of remaining vacant until I saw the life preserver that was 36A: Dobby or Winky, in Harry Potter. I performed the voice of Dobby only last night while reading to Sahra, so I'm well aware that Dobby is a House ELF. That answer, mercifully, gave me the first letter to all the long Downs in the SE. The best of those was 38D: Kind of crystals (Folgers), followed closely by the cleverly clued EL NINOS (36D: Current events around Christmas). The "Hamlet" clue / answer is weird; you never refer to scene numbers without also referring to act numbers. You would say Act I, Scene iv, not just SCENE FOUR (53A: When Hamlet first sees a ghost). Besides ELF, my other 3-letter gimme down here was 51D: "The Partridge Family" actress (Dey). Had no clue about the Rialto Bridge, so CANAL took a while (45A: Rialto Bridge sight).
In the NW, with the final "-PY" in place, I finally got 1A: Mad magazine feature (Spy Vs. Spy), which gave me the first letters of all the Downs up there - highly important, given the craziness of the puzzle's first three Downs:
- 1D: Figure in many jokes (St. Peter) - was looking for PRIEST or RABBI. I don't like jokes and thus don't know many.
- 2D: Troop group (phalanx) - this took me forever. On further review, I proclaim PHALANX to be one of the very weirdest-looking words in the English language.
- 3D: Arabs who are not in OPEC (Yemenis) - usually it's the country, not the people, who are in (or out of) OPEC.
My favorite answer up here is PAMELA SUE, the throwback answer that nobody sees coming when they look at a simple-looking clue like 17A: Martin of Hollywood. She played Nancy Drew before going on to play the improbably named Fallon Carrington Colby on "Dynasty." ENIS (25A: 1990s N.F.L. running back Curtis _____) was unknown to me - far more unknown than his NFL counterpart answer in the NE - CBS SPORTS (9D: Home of "The NFL Today").
Other noteworthy clues:
- 9A: Spherical bacteria (cocci) - here's a non sequitur: I had a T.B. test yesterday (needed for volunteer work I'm doing). Result appears to be negative (no big lump in my arm at injection site).
- 18A: Quaint contraction (shan't) - My mom is the only person I know who would use this contraction unironically.
- 26A: _____ Paradise of Kerouac's "On the Road" (Sal) - something else I've never read.
- 41A: "Pinocchio" character voiced by Mel Blanc (Cleo) - I always forget this fish's name.
- 10D: Bishop Museum setting (Oahu) - randomest clue! What non-Hawaiian is going to know that?
- 13D: Cantillates (intones) - well there's a new word for me ... "Cantillates," I mean, not INTONES.
- 11D: Small sunfish (crappie) - not an appetizing name.
- 44D: Rounds: Abbr. (rtes) - I don't get it. How are rounds "routes?"
- 15D: 1995 political book subtitled "Leader of the Second American Revolution" ("Newt") - I can't actually believe a book that pompous-sounding ever saw the light of day.
Finally, a big thank you to Mark Diehl or Will - whoever was responsible for cluing LEE as 28D: The General _____, "The Dukes of Hazzard" auto. Along with PAMELA SUE Martin, and the immortal "SIT ON IT" (26D: "Happy Days" catchphrase), the General LEE formed a kind of trinity of Rex's Early TV-Viewing History.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS Happy Birthday to my daughter, now 7.