Saturday, September 8, 2007
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: "The Process of Elimination" - 127A: The Process of Elimination: In the answer to each starred clue, cross out any letter that appears _____; then read the letters that remain (twice)
This puzzle is a good - no, great - example of how an amazing feat of construction does not necessarily result in an amazingly enjoyable solving experience. I'm stunned at the structural complexity of this puzzle, but the payoff was anticlimactic, and the non-theme fill was ... well, it was OK. It certainly wasn't bad. I'm just saying that this is a very show-offy puzzle that was only moderately fun to do. If you do what 127A tells you, the remaining letters (exactly one per answer) spell out LEFTOVERS. At first I thought the word was going to have something to do with ELVES, but then I realized I had mistakenly put the "E" before the "L."
- 25A: *One who gets beaten badly? (sore loser) => "L"
- 27A: *Sticks in the medicine cabinet? (anti-perspirants) => "E"
- 40A: *Forbidding countenance (hatchet face) => "F"
- 49A: *Lacking compassion (hard-hearted) => "T"
- 68A: *"It's true, like it or not" ("If the shoe fits...") => "O"
- 87A: *British motorist's right? (driver's side) => "V"
- 94A: *1999 romantic comedy based on "Pygmalion" ("She's All That") => "E"
- 108A: *It's taken by doctors (Hippocratic oath) => "R"
- 115A: *Follow-up to a potential insult ("... no offense") => "S"
One horrible cross that I think is borderline unfair, though I went with my gut and guessed right:
- 64A: "Sketches by _____," 1836 (Boz)
- 51D: Expert, in England (dab hand)
Somewhere in the back of my head, the BOZ answer came to me, though I know next to nothing about Dickens and have certainly never read said sketches. DAB HAND is absolutely extraterrestrial, as far as I'm concerned. This crossing underscores one of the most annoying features of this puzzle, which is its insane Anglophilia. In addition to those two answers, we get:
- 84A: "Holy moly!" ("Egad!")
- 87A: *British motorist's right? (driver's side)
- 38A: Battle of Britain grp. (RAF)
- 59D: Head of England (loo)
- 86D: People who haven't a chance, in Britspeak (no-hopers) - that's the absolute worst of the lot
- 95D: Waugh's "Sword of _____" trilogy ("Honour")
I'm sure there are others lurking in there, but these just stood out for their aggressive Englishness.
I got 1A: Talk follower (Q and A) right off the bat, no hesitation, which felt great, as that's the kind of answer that normally trips me ("What the hell's a QANDA!?"). Know EQUUS (19A: Horse genus) better as a play - one in which Daniel Radcliffe, aka Harry Potter, recently starred. Naked. Of the two Middle Eastern kings in the puzzle, I got HUSSEIN (42D: Late Jordanian king) easily, but had a harder time retrieving FAISAL (69D: 1960s-'70s Saudi king). 60A: Song that Elvis's "It's Now or Never" was based on ("O Sole Mio") provided a soundtrack for my solving experience - the tune got in my head, and it would not leave. I suppose there are worse songs to get stuck in your head. I'd make a reference to something by 41D: Jazz singer Laine (Cleo), but I have no idea what she ever sang.
There are many tricky or exotic or otherwise mysterious little answers in today's puzzle, including:
- 12D: "East of Eden" twin (Aron)
- 15D: Ferrer of "Lili" (Mel) - I'm sure he's famous, I just ... I had nothing
- 16D: Site fortified by Herod the Great (Masada) - couldn't place this on a map right now if my life depended on it
- 28D: Minority member in India (Parsee)
- 58A: Typewriter brand (Royal) - "Typewriter"!? What year is it?
- 81A: Belgian painter James, known for bizarre fantasies with masks (Ensor) - actually a gimme for me, but maybe hard for others. He's been in the puzzle fairly recently.
- 71D: Vehement (fervid) - you know, it's weird ... I thought the word was FERVENT. What the hell is the difference!? Oh my god, the answer is: NOT MUCH! The first definitions of both involve the phrase "marked by ... zeal." FERVID sounds more diseased, less innocuous.
- 94D: "Sophie's Choice" narrator (Stingo) - yikes! That's pretty rough.
- 92A: "The Princess Bride" character _____ Montoya (Inigo) - remembered the "Montoya" part, not the INIGO.
- 123A: Near East hotel (serai) - never ever seen this word. How is that possible. Seems like it should have become crosswordese by now, with those common letters in such a weird combination.
- 80D: Intl. commercial agreement first signed in 1947 (Gatt)
Here are some answers I really dislike:
- 9D: Blockhead (stupe) - no no no. That's just not a word, no matter what any dictionary says.
- 10D: Down in the dumps (mopish) - DITTO!! I had the much more sensible MOPING for a while.
- 72A: _____ up (get dressed) (tog) - "TOG up?" Is that British too?
Answers I loved:
- 102A: The Big Aristotle, in the N.B.A. (O'Neal) - Shaq at his self-promoting goofiest
- 20A: Dantean division (canto) - I start teaching the Big D again next week. He makes Hell fun. [given how many of you are searching this clue, I should probably explain: a CANTO is the equivalent of a chapter (you all were probably thinking the "division" would have something to do with RING or LEVEL or something, right?). Inferno is divided into 34 cantos, then 33 each in Purgatorio and Paradiso, for a total of 100]
- 63D: Letter-writing aid (stencil) - tricky, in a good way
- 29D: Reference books? (read) - awesome; "Reference" is a verb - who'd have thought?
- 56D: Wade at Cooperstown (Boggs) - was my hero when I was a teenager; then he joined the Yankees and won a World Series. Then karma came back around and he went out of the league, ignominiously, as a DRay. I still love him. Greatest hitter of my lifetime to date (yes, better than George Brett and Rod Carew and Tony Gwynn, etc.)
I also love SHAKE A LEG (35D: "Hurry up!") running directly parallel to TARANTULA (36D: Fuzzy crawler). Lots of great letters, and a kind of thematic relationship too. You would shake your leg hard if you felt a tarantula on it, is what I'm saying.
It's late and ickily hot and sweaty here in upstate NY - worse than it's been all summer. So I am done. Off to hang out in our home's one air-conditioned room.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld