Sunday, November 4, 2007
Relative difficulty: Challenging
THEME: "Common Ends" - theme answers begin and end with same three-letter combination
[updated 10:05 a.m.]
I saw Bob Klahn's name and knew I was in for trouble. This puzzle was So Hard for a Sunday. There were precisely NO parts of it where I felt like I sailed through. Every new clue felt like a slog. On the whole I enjoyed the experience, but I tend to resent the puzzles that seem like they are trying deliberately to be super-difficult. Clever and fun beat difficult. I love a challenge, but challenge without joy ... just sucks. This puzzle did not suck, though parts of it were borderline. I had an error in what I consider a deeply unfair crossing up near the top. But for every moment of teeth-gnashing, I had some fun or otherwise revelatory experience. So ... all in all, a bracing challenge. The theme itself is nothing to write home about, but some of the answers are.
- 23A: Best Picture of 1954 ("ON The WaterfrONT")
- 33A: In addition to (OVEr and abOVE)
- 59A: High-end version of a product (DELuxe moDEL)
- 80A: Singer with the 1996 #1 hit "You're Makin' Me High" (TONi BraxTON) - now here's where (I'm guessing) your typical puzzler and I part ways. I'm going to guess that this clue gave a number of people fits, or otherwise made them think "???" Whereas this was the Very First Answer I put in the grid. Despite singing some crap R&B pop now and again, this woman can sing. Love her.
- 106A: Role for Alec Guiness and Ewan McGregor (OBI-Wan KenOBI) - genius answer; best of the lot by far. I'm still surprised that I spelled it correctly the first time out.
- 116A: Broadcast with Baba Booey, with "The" ("HOWard Stern SHOW") - Perhaps you are thinking "This is a bit of pop culture that Rex will surely enjoy." If so, you are incorrect. I did, however, see that movie based on Howard Stern's life ("Private Parts?") and strangely liked it.
- 16D: Where to find the Windward and Leeward Islands (LESser AntilLES)
- 50D: Fancy salad ingredient (ARTichoke heART) - you'd normally pluralize this when talking about what you want on your salad, but still, a nice, yummy answer.
And I'm back.
I was done in by the following crossing:
- 12D: With Altair and Vega, it forms the Summer Triangle (Deneb)
- 29A: Olympic troublemaker (Eris)
Though I know ERIS as a sower of discord, it was Never a name I considered there. I thought ARES, then I thought IRIS (messenger and goddess of the rainbow). Threw out ARES because I thought IVAN was a much better answer than EVAN for 30D: One of the Brothers Karamazov - and I was right. So I went with IRIS / DENIB. DENEB is the strangest looking word I've ever seen and I've never ever heard of it ever in my life (unlike Altair and Vega). I should have known IRIS was wrong, as it appears in another (deadly) answer in today's puzzle (see below).
There was one other area where I nearly became completely derailed. It extends from TOULA (44D: Bride in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding") in the "Wyoming" section of the puzzle to GEL (87A: Lose liquidity) in the "Missori" section. Problem started when I wrote in NAG AT where ANGST was supposed to go (70A: Worry). Thus I had 71D: Boodle (swag) beginning with "A," which caused me to forget completely what the hell "boodle" meant. Further, I had SET for GEL for a while. So even though I had a very solid EDGAR (61D: Annual literary prize since 1946) going straight through the heart of this section, it didn't much matter.
- 4A: State secrets (blab) - "state" as a verb; nice
- 28A: Half-Betazoid on "Star Trek: T.N.G." (Troi) - this woman is quickly becoming crosswordese, but this clue is loopy enough to make me not care
- 66A: Ring Lardner title character (Alibi Ike) - Love this name - took a while to come to me, but since I've seen him once before in the puzzle, he didn't scare me too much
- 84A: Lovers' plight (troth) - as with [State secrets], above, a nice play on words
- 99A: Master of the double take? (Noah) - Whoever wrote this is surely proud of himself, and he has a right to be
- 111A: Transcontinental bridge, e.g. (isth.) - 7th grade geography words RULE (86A: Reign)!
- 45D: Nursery nappy (didy) - on SO many levels, this answer gets a frowny face. Double frowny face. Ugh.
- 91D: Snap (foto) - what? Apparently "snap" became a noun when I wasn't looking, and then people started actually writing FOTO (perhaps because of the time it saves them to write one less letter...?)
- 97D: Block buster? (ice man) - like ... the guy who delivers ice ... in 1910? I have an image of a caveman bursting free of the ice in which he's been encased for thousands of years. ICEMAN also means "a hired killer." Why not go that route?
- 57D: Common baseball count (one and O) - why don't I like this!? I think it's the combining of number and letter in the same answer; something's rubbing me the wrong way
Mystery clues (look how many!):
- 14A: "The Perfect Fool" composer (Holst) - as far as HOLST goes, I know "The Planets" ... that is all.
- 20A: Anise-flavored aperitif popular in Turkey and the Balkans (raki) - My favorite in the series: "RAKI III"
- 47A: Doll in "A Doll's House" (Nora) - more literary blind spots
- 48A: Biblical name meaning "laughter" (Isaac)
- 63A: Berenstain of kid lit's Berenstain Bears (Stan) - long way to go for STAN. I just had to type "Berenstain" twice. It's a Horrible name. Why oh why couldn't it just be "Berenstein?"
- 68A: "Sweet _____" (1937 Oscar song) ("Leilani") - I got nothing here
- 73A: "Anne of Green Gables" setting (Avon Lea) - looks soooo wrong
- 96A: French mime (Pierrot) - again, got nothing
- 101A: Showy climber (clematis) - I've baaaarely heard of this. Botany!
- 112A: City near Carson National Forest (Taos) - "Carson" sounds like it's in Nevada. Guess not.
- 121A: Champagne department (Marne)
- 122A: French "White House" (Elysée) - so wanted MAISON BLANCHE
- 128A: Key of cartooning (Ted) - I SAID I GOT NOTHING. "UNCLE," already, sheesh.
- 13D: Colt .45s, today (Astros) - so embarrassed not to have known this
- 59D: Oscar winner as Mr. Chips (Donat) - insert generic actor man's face here
- 81D: Moviedom's Massey (Ilona) - if you're counting at home, that's now ... oh, I don't know, at least five film clues I have not known. Ugh.
- 42D: In film, gradual appearance of an image through an expanding circle (iris in) - holy crap this is just the purest of pure insanity. I guess Klahn gets some special pass for super-marginal words because he is such a puzzling bad-ass. I will call it the "RAKI pass." You get one of these on Friday, two on Saturday, one on Sunday. Clearly Klahn had some saved up.
I feel compelled to give a shout-out to Laurence STERNE (17D: "A Sentimental Journey" author), for reasons I don't quite understand. Perhaps it's in honor of my best friend and erstwhile 18th-century scholar Ms. Strohmer. Who can say?
Happy End of Daylight Saving Time,
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld