Saturday, October 27, 2007
Relative difficulty: Challenging
This was the hardest puzzle of the year for me. I thought I had post-yoga brain melt yesterday when I took forever to do DQ's puzzle, but now I don't know. Maybe I am in a serious slump - or I'm not eating right or sleeping enough. Whatever it is, I am off my game. This was hard to begin with, and by the time I got down to the final SE corner, it turned borderline impossible.
The one clue that annoyed me most because I picture the cluer with a smug, self-satisfied grin on his face:
45D: One who's waited upon (Godot) - now you know that once people get the "G" - from SIG EP (44A: Member of a popular college frat) - they're going to take one look at that clue and write in GUEST. When the "T" in GUEST turns out to be correct - the first letter in TOMATO RED (65A: What green might ripen into) - they're going to keep GUEST in place, naturally. And for a Long Time. For many many many minutes, my entire SE corner had only the following entries in it:
- GUEST (wrong)
- TOMATO RED (correct, but only because my stepmom used to drive a convertible red BMW with the license plate "TOMATO" - or was it "TOMATAH"? One of those)
- ASK TO (48D: Provide an invitation for) (this one went in and out and in and out; the cluing on it is superlatively awkward)
- LUNAR (49D: Kind of cycle)
- SMILE (wrong) - actual answer is EMOTE (50D: Mug, e.g.)
I should add that originally I had BOUT for SUMO (55A: Heavyweights compete in it), and getting SUMO was a huge part of getting any traction down there. But still, I was stuck badly until I gave up SMILE. If only I had remembered SALEM (47A: Parliament rival), I don't think I would nave had Nearly as many problems. In fact, once I finally got it, the corner fell reasonably quickly. I just couldn't think of a cigarette starting in "S." And then when I had SMILE where EMOTE was supposed to be, I thought the SALEM clue might actually be SALSA ("Is there a cigarette called "SALSA?" I haven't smoked for 16 years ... maybe there are new brands...").
I just started writing a story with a couple friends (OK, students) of mine; we started with a sentence we found somewhere, and then one of us wrote a sentence and passed it to the next person, who wrote the next sentence and then passed it on, and so on. I told someone about this ridiculous project yesterday, and he said "Oh, like an EXQUISITE CORPSE." I was like "???" Never heard the term. And then last night: 39A: Classic laugh-inducing parlor game with writing or illustrations (exquisite corpse). Super-weird coincidence. Technically, I think an EXQUISITE CORPSE game involves each new contributor not really knowing much about what other contributors before him/her have done, so our story doesn't quite fit the definition. I think. To see the sentence we began with, go here and play the audio file of the sample sentence (under "Word Tutor"). If it hadn't been for the audio file, this project would never have happened. Be warned, once you play the audio file, you might want to keep playing it over and over again because of its inherent hilarity.
I would like to thank the following words, which were either gimmes, or which came out of the blue like a weird revelation. Without their help, I might still be trying to solve this @#$#!
- 8D: Range option (Amana) - the only answer I ever considered. Came to me instantly. Our fridge is an AMANA.
- 31D: Factory seconds: Abbr. (irrs.) - again, the only answer I considered.
- 42A: Vintner's prefix (oen-) - gimme
- 32A: It served the Mid-Atlantic until 1976 (Reading Railroad) - I was dying in the middle of this puzzle until the "LR" way over in the Kentucky section of the puzzle made me consider RAILROAD as a part of this answer (I had previously entertained AIRLINES) - and READING was the first RAILROAD that came to mind.
- 62A: Sent regrets, say (RSVP'd)
- 64A: Priceless instrument (Amati) - both of these were easy, and made the SW by far the easiest part of the puzzle.
- 14D: Band with the highest first-week album sales in music history (*NSYNC) - Not sure if I'm ashamed or proud of how easily I got this. Came to me as readily as AMANA.
- 24D: Some religious fundamentalists (Shiites) - kept putting it in and taking it out; for a time, this was the lone answer traversing the empty middle.
Going by quadrant: as I hated the MYSPACE clue yesterday, so I hated the 1A MARK CUBAN clue today (1A: Billionaire sports entrepreneur who heads HDNet). Quit corporatizing the clues. Yesterday at 1A we had News Corp in the clue, today HDNet. Is the puzzle taking money from sponsors now? Why are corporations getting 1A billing so often? This quadrant fell pretty easily. AMANA allowed me to guess both TIME and BAG as parts of the Across answers:
- 15A: Within the next few minutes, potentially (at any time)
- 17A: Case made for a shooter (camera bag) - hate the forced trickiness of the clue
Loved: ATARI (2D: Breakout maker). Did not know CYR (5D: France's Saint-_____ l'Ecole).
The NE was tough at first, but came around eventually. It's actually a nice, lively corner. I like ELFIN (10A: Like some seasonal helpers - should say, "fictional" or "mythical," but whatever) over ROLLS (16A: Some piano players) over ROILY (18A: Agitated) - lots of energy up there. Toy-making energy. I had no idea Anita LOOS was a playwright (11D: "Happy Birthday" playwright). I have a great paperback of "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." Behold:
All right, that pretty much covers the puzzle. Here are the smiley faces for the day:
- 34D: Old Spice alternative (Aqua Velva) - both of these, er, "scents," will forever remind me of cheesy, possibly mustachioed men from the 70s and perhaps early 80s. [update: You must watch this now!]
- 33D: Foreignness (exoticism) - right next to AQUA VELVA - these two answers look Great together.
- 26D: Old settings for many out-of-tune pianos (saloons) - Best Clue of the Day
- 25A: Dr. Seuss's "Too Many _____" ("Daves") - my pop culture cred takes a hit on this one. I had No Idea.
- 30A: Marathon runner Gebrselassie (Haile) - if you've seen one "selassie," you've seen 'em all, I guess.
- 9D: Ben-Gurion setting (Negev)
- 20A: Its motto is "All for our country": Abbr. (Nev.) - I had NRA
- 29D: Connecticut city on the Naugatuck (Ansonia) - absolute worst answer of the day. WTF!? If it's going to be a mystery place, it could at least look or sound like something I've heard of before.
- 37D: "The Mischievous Dog" author (Aesop) - blecch. Could have been anything - I got it only after getting the -OP from crosses.
- 43D: "Lady for a Day" director, 1933 (Capra) - easy to get from crosses, but I've never heard of the movie.
- 46D: Ecuador's southernmost coastal province (El Oro) - uh ... no. but unlike ANSONIA, at least this answer contains familiar letter combinations - in this case, actual, recognizable Spanish words.
- 59D: Takeaway game (nim) - ?????????????????? Played by rats?
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld