Thursday, September 6, 2007
Relative difficulty: Challenging
THEME: "IT'S REVERSED" (58A: Hint to 17-, 28- and 43-Across) - familiar phrases have "IT" reversed somewhere inside them, creating crazy new phrases, which are clued
This puzzle brutalized me. I couldn't get going at all, and even when I was done I felt like I hadn't made any headway at all. Every single part of the puzzle felt like work. Problems started in the NW where SCOTS (1A: Burns's tongue) was a gimme, as was TRIB (4D: Old New York paper, for short), but I wrote in SHIRT for 1D: Kind of tank (S.C.U.B.A.), and then RAMBLE for 20A: "Blah blah blah blah blah" (babble). Similar disasters followed. I think this Thursday took me longer than any Thursday I've done in a good long while. Not that there's not a lot to like about the puzzle; there is - it just felt deliberately Hard.
- 17A: Wardrobe malfunction? (untied front)
- 28A: Mood after a military victory? (martial bliss)
- 43A: Where porcine pilots arrive? (landing sties) - figured out STIES immediately but could not for the life of me figure out a phrase that went _____ SITES. "Landing" - it's so basic. Ugh.
- 16A: 3.2 million-member org. with a pi in its logo (NEA) - a familiar abbreviation, but this bit little factoid was unknown to me. Mmmm, pi.
- 11A: Camel's end? (ash) - aargh! Tried to think of a suffix. Camel ... ite? Camel ... well, there's another three-letter word that occurred to me, but which clearly would not pass the breakfast table test. Finally, I decided to write in ELL. Clever, right? Right? Come on!
- 19A: Atlantic City hotel, informally, with "the" ("Taj") - lots of casino names came to mind; this was not one of them. That "J"! The cross didn't help me, as it was equally exotic and out of my comfort zone: 13D: Muslim honorific (Haji).
- 23A: "_____ Time" (1952 million-selling Eddie Fisher hit) ("Any") - such a little word, yet so much trouble for me. The crosses were all eluding me (see my NW problems, above). I actually had CRAIG for CONAN (2D: First name in late-night), and the phrasing on the clue 3D: Over near (out by) just made my head hurt. Had no idea what kind of phrase it was going for.
- 48A: Grand Canyon area (rim) - come on! This is very true, and yet of course I was looking for something much more specific; a proper noun, perhaps.
- 8D: Nickname among major-league sluggers (A-Rod) - again, the phrasing threw me. Sounds like the the "nickname" is something that (only) sluggers use, like it's specifically slugger lingo, as opposed to the nickname that Everyone calls that jerk.
- 44D: "_____ U" ("I Luv") - yeah, how about "I OBJECT!" - does the appearance of a phrase on a candy heart make it valid crossword fill? Apparently.
- 52D: "Cross the Brazos at _____" (1964 country hit) ("Waco") - my first guess. A flat-out guess, and one I second-guessed a Lot. Would have helped if I could have figured out its neighbor, 51D: Smooth (glib). I had SLIM (?) and so ... I don't really want to think about it. Even LAO was a struggle, in that I put it in and thought "that ... doesn't look like a word" (57A: Certain southeast Asian). This struggle in the SW made me lose all the joy I might have had at seeing BOS (63A: A.L. city, on scoreboards) in the puzzle.
- 49D: Anatomical passages (iters) - tough but fair; common late-week crossword fill. Still - not easy without some crosses.
- 42A: Estuaries (rias) - like ITERS, a tough word that lives almost exclusively in crosswords.
Again, I'm not complaining about (most of) those answers - just trying to explain why the solving experience felt like it took a ton of effort. Had a real problem with people's names as well, several of which I (guess what?) had never heard of. The worst of these was 28D: Late editorial cartoonist Bill (Mauldin). It would be tough enough for me to name a living "editorial cartoonist" ... come to think of it, I can't name ANY off the top of my head. So ... MA-LDIN stared at me til the bitter end. But wait, you ask, didn't you have INHUMAN in the cross? That would have given you the "U" - puzzle done! Uh, no. Why? Well, because I know lots of people who TOIL, but virtually no one who @#$#@$-ing MOILs (37D: Work hard). This gave me INH-TAN for 36A: Beastly. I don't even like recalling it now, in the pale light of morning.
Other names I had trouble with:
- 33D: Eleanor Roosevelt's first name (Anna) - had no idea
- 51A: Early English actress Nell _____ (Gwyn) - once I got the "WY" part, I realized I had heard of this person before. Still, that took a while.
- 5D: Artist Frank _____, pioneer in Minimalism (Stella) - thank god for various art books I've read and museums I've visited in recent years. Somehow, with just a couple crosses, this guy's name popped into my head out of nowhere. Stella!
- 22D: Emmy-winning Phil (Silvers) - before my time, but familiar enough
STENOG is possibly the ugliest "word" I've ever seen (25D: Trial position, for short). Lastly, I would call an AGNOSTIC (38D: Doubter) someone who doesn't know, rather than someone who doubts (that person, I'd call a SKEPTIC!!). Word derives from Greek: Agnostos = "ignorant"; gnosis = "knowledge." A woman I know well and love a lot used to call AGNOSTICs "chickensh-t atheists." If you knew this woman, it would make you laugh to imagine such language coming out of her mouth. The kindest, most generous woman I know ... just don't get her started on religion, please.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
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