Saturday, October 13, 2007
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
Here's how it went down.
The NE fell first, and quickly. Had YEAS for 11A: All in favor (pros) but that mistake hardly mattered. The "S" gave me the easy SNEEZE (14D: Cold response?). Then I took one look at 11D: Some dance honorees and immediately tested PROM QUEENS - it fit, plus it gave me Q--Z for 24A: It's often administered orally (quiz). Easy. That corner was done in about a minute or two, even with fancy odd words up there like RAGOUT (12D: Cousin of goulash) and OIL LIT (13D: Like some old-fashioned lamps) and the oddly-clued BUTTE (28A: Birthplace of Evel Knievel and Martha Raye).
Got ASTAIRE (30A: "Follow the Fleet" co-star, 1936) off just the final -RE, which helped open up the middle. With just the final "A" in place, I got the very easy O CANADA (9D: Preceder of many hockey games), and that gave me access to the back ends of all the NW Across answers. But I could get only the ends, not the beginnings, so left the NW and went to the SE, where waters were much calmer. The gimme NICO (42A: One-named singer with the 1960s Velvet Underground) - well, I actually couldn't remember if it was spelled with a "C" or "K." But when ICED OVER was the first thing I thought of for 36D: Like some streams in winter, I thought NICO must be spelled with a "C." Guessed ADA (50A: Lovelace who was called "The Enchantress of Numbers") because I'd heard her name before - from a Saturday puzzle, I think, many months ago. I quickly had everything east of AT IT (54D: Buckling down) in place in the SE.
I left out a stage - the clue 49A: "I'll be Doggone" singer, 1965 caught my eye and I began humming the song to myself. "I know that voice ... who is that? ... hmm hmm hmm 'well I wouldn't be doggone .... I'd be long gone ...' who is that? Aha! Marvin! Marvin GAYE. Woo hoo!" GAYE was surprisingly helpful, because down went SAY HI TO (40D: Greet) and SWEATER (41D: Producer of some beads) instantly, and since I already had IPOS (31D: Corp. capital raisers) in place, I had the back end of GUESS SO (38A: "Seems that way" - nice triple "S," by the way), which made it very easy to guess. I balked at SCANNED (39D: Like many supermarket lines?) - then realized the "lines" must be the UPCs, not the people waiting in line at checkout. Still don't like the clue. Anyway, between 39-41D and 35-37D: from the far SE, the long, boring Acrosses in the SE fell easily. Never even saw the clue for 49D: "Life is Beautiful" hero (Guido).
The NW was harder for me. Back ends of all the Acrosses didn't help - well, eventually I stumbled into AMEN TO THAT (17A: "I hear ya!"). I had tried I HEARD THAT! but then realized "hear" was in the clue, so that couldn't be right. Eventually figures out that 1A: Classic sports lineup was some kind of FORMATION, but ... I? V? Who could say? Ended up being "T." REPUGNANCE (15A: Antipathy) was a word that Just Would Not Come To Me. I had all but 3 letters - -E-U-NANCE - and still couldn't see it. Had to abandon the NW for the SW.
Had trouble getting in to the SW. Had only the S--G at the beginning of the long 26D: 1959 #1 hit for Lloyd Price, and I needed that answer to open things up down there. Got a little help from the astonishingly easy 51A: Cossacks' leader (tsar) and 58A: Natural healer (aloe), but still, the Lloyd Price song wouldn't come. Then STAGGER LEE just popped into my head - from the same place I had kept "I'll Be Doggone" stored, i.e. the part of my brain that stores songs from the oldies / Motown station I listened to almost exclusively when I was 16 years old. SW went down from there.
Then I returned to the NW to make my last stand.
The long Downs up there, but were much harder than they needed to be because two of the short Acrosses that cross them were completely unknown / ridiculous-looking to me. I had TRANS FAT (1D: Dietary danger) and FEMININE (2D: Like some charms) in place, and wanted to commit to OPEN AREA (3D: Range, e.g.), but that would have given me SNA for 22A: Winter fall, in Falkirk, and I just couldn't accept that that is how the Germans spell "snow" in their language [of course it's NOT how they spell "snow" - SNA is @#$#-ing colloquial Scottish ... "kirk" should have clued me in! Ugh]. Further, and worse, OPEN AREA would have given me ANET for 29A: Dill herb. ANET is the least herby-looking word I've ever seen. I checked all the crosses, thought over all my options, and decided to stick with SNA and ANET. Turned out to be the right move. ANET is possibly the most obscure word I've seen in the grid since ZYZZYVA. No dill references on first Google. Googled [anet herb] and got a paltry 26K hits, the third of which directed me to a book titled A Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words, Obsolete Phrases, etc. by one James Orchard. It was published in 1889. And that was one of its later printings (book first appeared mid-century). So ... ANET was archaic one hundred and fifty years ago. Not sure what that makes it today, except Not Welcome In My Puzzle (unless it's clued via Van Halen - see yesterday's puzzle).
Let me look over the grid to find any great / horrible stuff I missed.
- 23A: Fortune 500 company founded in 1995 (eBay) - again, supereasy for a Saturday
- 32A: Precursor to a historical "party" (Tea Act) - knew instantly that the Boston Tea Party was the "party" in question, but could think only of TEA TAX at first. Speaking of Boston ... Sox destroyed the Tribe yesterday, and Josh Beckett, who should win the Cy Young award, beat C.C. Sabathia, who probably will win the Cy Young award - for reasons that no one has made clear to me yet. Anyway, it's just one game, but an important one. Meanwhile, the insane Colorado Rockies just refuse to lose. They've won 19 of their last 20!!! They're up 2-0 on Arizona and headed to Denver.
- 48A: Home of Gannon University (Erie) - good example of Saturday cluing for a Monday word.
- 60A: Revolutionary War general Thomas (Gage) - seems like every week I'm writing in the name of some four-letter general I don't know.
- 5D: Company keepers: Abbr. (mgt.) - killed me 'cause it didn't end in "S."
- 10D: Like a snood, commonly (netty) - god I hate this. I hate the word "snood," and I don't like the word NETTY much better. Its claim on adjectivity seems quite weak.
- 37D: "Isn't anyone interested?" ("No takers?") - fabulous. Love it almost as much as AMEN TO THAT.
- 43D: It can give people flight reservations (jet lag) - this clue hurts me, physically. Part of a general phenomenon I refer to as TTH - Trying Too Hard.
- 43A: Decision maker (judge) - I had OPTER, which is a horrible odd job, but certainly no more horrible than DETERMINER (59A: Decision maker).
- 44D: Legendary Christian martyr (Ursula) - just a cool name.
- 45D: It's open for discussion (dialog) - god I hate the non-"ue" spelling.
- 57D: Org. with its own insurance agency (AMA) - possibly the least interesting clue ever written.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld