Friday, November 9, 2007
Relative difficulty: Challenging
This is how you do a Challenging Friday puzzle. A handful of gimmes or very gettable answers, and then a whole lot of brutality. So inventive was the fill in this puzzle that stretch words like UNLETTABLE (30D: Too awful even to fix up, as an apartment) and FIRER seem just fine to me. I crashed and nearly burned in the NE, where some Native American confusion screwed Everything up for a while. Recovered once I finally cottoned on to the trick in the clue for 11D: He or I, but not you: Abbr. (elem.).
Yesterday OO LA LA. Today, LA DI DA (16A: Pretentious).
This puzzle starts in the far NW with a great intersecting pair - the first answer of which I got immediately, the second of which took me a while:
YOU OK? (1A: Concerned query)
YEAH, I'M FINE (1D: Hope-for reply to 1-Across)
Other interesting pairs today:
PSST (49D: "Over here") and AHEM (18A: "Pardon me")
BLASÉ (14D: Sighing a lot, perhaps) and UNIMPRESSED (3D: Apt to say "So?")
LEU (10D: Moldovan money) and LEONE (27D: West African currency)
I'm sure there are others, but I'm moving on now.
First answer into the grid (after my tentative YOU OK?): ESTRADA (28D: Ponch player in 1970s-'80s TV). So glad my eye caught this clue early, as I was floundering around in the north of this puzzle. Along with UTHER (23D: _____ Pendragon, King Arthur's father), another gimme from yet another area of my expertise, ESTRADA helped make the middle of the puzzle very doable.
Let's talk about the NE, which, as I say, killed me a little. SORTA killed me (47D: In a sense). After being elated that I vaguely remembered DRUSE (29A: Monotheistic Syrian) from another puzzle earlier this year, and after happily getting SAW (24A: Horror film that starts in a filthy lavatory), about which my best friend just sent me a long analytic treatise, I figured I was in good in the NE. Got the cleverly-clued ADIEU (19A: Closing bid?), and then made a horrible mistake by entering CREES for ERIES at 8D: Iroquois' foes. Had no idea which letter preceded SQUAD at 9D: Lee Marvin TV oldie ("M Squad"), but that "Q" was sure to solve all my problems. Only ... incorrect CREES gave me U-EQU-L- for 17A: Without a match, so you can imagine the torture I endured as I tried to figure out why neither UNEQUAL or UNEQUALLED (or UNEQUALLY, for that matter) would fit. A Deathly Trap that probably no one fell into but I. Despite having taught Dante recently, I couldn't get STYX for a long time, figuring that "river" in the clue, 13D: Deep river?, meant "something that rives (i.e. cleaves something in two)." Too clever for my own good, I am. 6A: Without a leg to stand on? (stemless) ... ?! That's just mean. I'm unfond of that clue. Throw in my barely having heard of CORSELET (15A: It's a cinch), my even more barely having heard of LEU (10D), and my complete zoning out on the home perm product that is TONI (7D: Product whose ads featured twins), and you can see my problem(s). I tried every letter of the alphabet in that "T" position in TONI. Did Rice-a-RONI have twins in its commercials? Why couldn't this answer have been "Doublemint!?"
Here's some stuff that baffled me:
- 14A: Vermont senator Sanders (Bernie) - my knowledge of senators is fair to middling
- 36D: Marcel Marceau character (Bip) - maybe if you remember TONI, you remember this. I sure didn't.
- 43D: City connected to the 4.1-mile long Sunshine Skyway Br. (St. Pete)
- 58A: Toeless creature in an Edward Lear verse (Pobble) - these answers are all off my geographical / cultural radar screen. And I mean, JUST off - like, I should know them, but don't.
Here are some startling answers:
- 26A: Weaken, in a way (embrittle) - What does one EMBRITTLE? Peanuts?
- 44A: Result of a new TV series's renewal (season two) - had both "O"s and thought "???" There is currently a writers' strike in Hollywood, so no SEASON TWOs for anyone right now.
- 39A: Hostel environments (inns) - I just like this because "Hostel," like "SAW," is a recent horror film that my best friend also saw. SAW!
- 61A: One with a second helping (dueler) - good example of an answer I was set to hate, until I got it - stared at DU-LER for more than a few seconds.
- 2D: Payment is often sent with one (order blank) - o my god this answer is creepy, in that it has the appearance of normal, but something about it feels very off. I had a really tough time uncovering it.
- 25D: Call slip? (wrong number) - obvious now, but hard to get, primarily because I had FILER for FIRER for a while (63A: Personnel director, at times).
- 33A: Most in need of toning (fleshiest) - first, gross. Second, some fleshy things do Not Need Toning.
- 38A: About 40 degrees, for N.Y.C. (N. Lat.) - the most startling thing here is that my slow brain knew instantly that something about longitude or latitude was at stake.
- 48A: Appoints as an agent (deputes) - [gag]
- 56A: Afro-Caribbean religion (Santeria) - one of those answers that got stuck somewhere in my head, and that I had to drag kicking and screaming into the light, cross by cross.
- 58D: Sharable computer file, for short (PDF) - surprised I don't see this more. This was a lifesaver in the SE.
I'll stop there.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld