Monday, November 19, 2007
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (again, it's RELATIVE difficulty)
THEME: Things you'd find in a PAPER (40A: Where you may find the ends of 17-, 23-, 52- and 63-Across)
Before I get a bunch of comments saying "What do you mean, 'Challenging,' I thought this was easy. Way easier than yesterday's, which you rated 'Medium,' etc." let me first say, sigh. Second, the difficulty ratings are relative to the day of the week of the puzzle. So this puzzle, today's, I found "Medium-Challenging' ... For A Monday.
Why? I don't know. I just stumbled over a lot of answers, some of which seemed perfectly fair, others of which seemed kinda ugly. Take CRIPES (5A: "Jeepers!") - I could not come up with that word at all, and its first two crosses - 5D: U.S. health promoter: Abbr. (CDC) and 6D: Auto last made in the 1930s (REO) - also did not come instantly. I can't remember the last time I heard someone say / saw someone write CRIPES. I hear both CRIMINY and YIPES more often. This CRIPES must be their bastard son. Further, 27A: Searched (trolled) tripped me as well. It's just not the first word, or second, that comes to mind with a generic clue like [Searched]. In other parts of the puzzle I was just slow on the uptake. Took me a couple beats to retrieve the very easy (bordering on Pantheonic) DENALI (15A: Native name for Mount McKinley), and I looked at B--- for what felt like a while before the name I wanted, BURR (36D: Jefferson's first vice president) finally leaped into my head. Other hiccups included:
- SEDGE (33D: Marsh plant) - I have had SEGO / SAGO confusion before, and those words were fighting it out in my brain while SEDGE sat mildly, quietly by.
- SMITH (52D: Suffix with black or silver) - never ever thought of -SMITH as a suffix. I suppose it's correct, just not intuitive to me. Thus, another hiccup.
- BEANIE (70A: Freshman's topper) - come on. COME ON. When is the last time any "freshman" wore a BEANIE??? This kind of outdated cluing has to go, or it has to be clued as outdated. It is a question of date, right? Is there some college ritual still going on of which I am unaware?
Then there's the theme, which ... wasn't strong. Theme entries:
- 17A: Subversive group (fifth column) - here was the main problem - the reason I got off to such a poor start: I've Never heard of this phrase. Pure, plain ignorance. FIFTH COLUMN means nothing to me right now.
- 23A: Soap or lotion, say (toilet article) - had trouble committing to it because my ear wants only TOILETRY ARTICLE
- 52A: Notorious stigma (scarlet letter)
- 63A: Coveted film honor (Best Picture)
So there wasn't a lot of joy in puzzleville today - though I should say that I got through the puzzle in reasonable time (4:45), despite all my tripping . I did love ELMIRA (9D: New York city where Mark Twain is buried), since that's where I go every Tuesday night to teach (in the maximum security prison). Also, I find I have an inexplicable love for IBIS (37D: Curve-billed wader). The VILE (22A: Repulsive) / VIALS (22D: Pharmacy containers) intersection was mildly cute. Otherwise .... well, see you tomorrow.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld