Saturday, October 20, 2007
Relative difficulty: Challenging
THEME: "Set Your Mind at Ease" - short "E" sounds in familiar phrases are changed to long "E" sounds, creating wacky phrases, which are clued
One of the least pleasant solving experiences in recent memory. Some of it was my own fault - trying to solve right after a meal while half-watching TV. But most of it was just the puzzle, with its uninspired theme and too-clever cluing and slew of absurd and obscure words. If you love cute little plays on words, you probably loved this theme. It just made me groan. A lot. I have about a dozen frowny faces written on my puzzle print out right now, possibly more. There were amusing or clever answers here and there, but not nearly enough of them.
- 23A: Organization of easily frightened people? (chicken league) - "chicken leg" = weak original phrase
- 40A: Result of not wearing rouge? (blank cheek) - no, even as a joke, this phrase seems untenable
- 13D: Bundle of pies? (pastry sheaf)
- 16D: "Mr. Cowell, grab that 'American Idol' contestant!"? ("Simon, seize!") - I almost like this one
- 72D: House Un-American Activities Committee event? (Red hearing)
- 65D: Bully turned Samaritan? (a good meanie) - ugh, no. The way you've phrased the clue, he's not a "meanie" any more. He's a former meanie. A GOOD MEANIE is a paradox. This answer was near the heart of all my problems with this puzzle - specifically, in that corridor from "Oregon" to somewhere around "Oklahoma."
- 97A: Strict Jesuit? (hard priest)
- 117A: Smart fowl? (educated geese)
On to the assorted frowny faces:
- 1A: Drink with a straw (soda pop) - most any non-alcoholic, non-hot drink can have a straw.
- 20A: "Day of _____" (what "Dies Irae" means) ("Wrath") - grrr, ANGER fit too.
- 46A: Right triangle figure (sine) - "ratio" would have helped me out here, but I guess RATIO is already in the puzzle at Q RATIO (69D: Market value of a company's assets divided by their replacement cost). Didn't stop you with "detectors," but whatever. Btw, I really liked Q RATIO.
- 49A: It goes around at an amusement park (stile) - TURNstile is the word we use in America, dammit (I shouldn't complain - this is the word that helped me crack the horrid N.J. part of the puzzle)
- 75A: Freedom from government control, for short (dereg) - what kind of wonky d@#$# says this?
- 90A: It may not need clarification (oleo) - o how I want to punch this clue in the face ...
- 116A: "The Break-Up" co-star, 2006 (Aniston) - frowny face for forcing me to remember that this movie ever existed.
- 5D: Commercial end for Water (Pik) - ugh. It's true enough, but "Commercial end" feels clunky too me here.
- 8D: Precious, to a Brit (twee) - you left out "overly" or "affectedly"
- 34D: 13 years before the Battle of Hastings (MLIII) - just lazy
- 67D: 1932 Democratic campaign plank (repeal) - the repeal of Prohibition; this word seems stupid standing on its own.
- 19A: Open-mesh fabric (etamine)
- 21A: Oil used in making polyurethane (aniline)
- 33A: Italian eyeglass (lente)
- 59A: HBO founder Charles (Dolan)
- 100A: Peru's El _____ volcano (Misti)
- 36D: Banded rock (gneiss)
Now for my particular disaster: As I've said, I had a horrible, mostly blank patch stretching from just under BLANK CHEEK to down around ENROLL for what felt like a very long time. First problem - could not for the life of me think of two easy answers. First BSMT (40D: Real-estate ad abbr.). I had BSM- and figured the "S" must be wrong and the answer must be BRMS (short for "bedrooms"???). Second, ON TO (91D: Latch _____). I could think of literally nothing that could possible follow "Latch" except "key child." So those hurt. But the real killer was 83A: Object rising in a Van Gogh landscape (moon). Here is an occasion where knowing something about art actually hurt me. I was dead certain that this answer was CROW. I recently saw an entire episode of "Simon Schama's Power of Art" dedicated to Van Gogh's "Wheatfield with Crows" (1890). I think that I got the idea that they were "rising" (now that I think of it) from a Shakespeare sonnet that has the line "like to the lark at break of day arising." Why I attributed a Shakespeare line about a lark to a Van Gogh painting of crows, I don't know. But hanging on to CROW as long as I did absolutely destroyed me. Getting the actual, ordinary, boring, easy answer was very deflating. All the answers I had trouble with in this section: ZAGS (73A: Turns the other way) and SUEZ (51D: Red Sea port) and PRAM (58D: Cornwall carriage) and the magnificent NEWSREELS (84D: Onetime Movietone productions) - all fell easily into place once I changed CROW to MOON.
Yesterday STREAMER, today, STEAMER (25A: Clambake item). Not sure what one is. Google says it is a particular kind of soft-shell clam. Why did I not know that "Penelope" was the name of the poor cat pursued by the (presumably) priapic Pepe LEPEW (52A: Cartoon character who amorously chases Penelope)!? Hate being ignorant about vintage WB cartoons. I remember NAST as [Tweed twitter] from a puzzle 10 months ago. Today he's clued in equally (to me) puzzling fashion: 111D: Cartoonist who created the Tammany Hall tiger. While I know ESTE is Spanish for "East," I think I did not know that "sur" is Spanish for "South." Now I do: 114D: 90 degrees from sur.
And now, some smiley faces:
- 31A: Place to buy a hookah (bazaar) - The whole "K" and "Z" and double-vowel extravaganza in this clue/answer makes me happy
- 110A: Houston pro soccer team (Dynamo) - did not know this. Just like the word.
- 14D: Blue chip, maybe (ante) - really very clever
- 85A: Brand of Lego bricks (Duplo) - why do I know this? Very cool-looking brand name.
- 34A: "The Treachery of Images" artist (Magritte) - a long, glorious gimme - an artistic success to make up for my Van Gogh disaster
- 101D: W.W. II nickname (Il Duce) - a bastard, I know, but this "nickname" amuses me for childish reasons...
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld