Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: Driving to an unfamiliar place - theme answers are all things one does when one gets lost while driving somewhere. Bonus feature today is a NW-to-SE diagonal clue!
I have a dentist appointment in exactly 50 minutes, which means I've got about half an hour to write this up, tops. So sorry. A thousand pardons.
I sailed through this puzzle without having Any Idea what the theme was, or even reading a single theme clue, until I was nearly half done. Interesting that in a puzzle about getting lost and taking shortcuts, I solved this in such an oddly circuitous fashion. Somehow, after flubbing the NW corner completely, I got STEER (4D: Be in control) and the "R" gave me TORTE (24A: Rich dessert), and then I was off and running - sprinting, almost - on a nearly perfectly southeasterly diagonal. I hit the SE, solved it, and then went due W, and solved everything in my path - still no sign of a theme (I'd blown right through that 15-letter theme answer in the middle of the puzzle without looking). Finally I hit the completely inscrutable 55A: What you might do next?, which, initially, I did not know was a theme clue. BUY A what now? I then saw 39A: What you might do next? and figured that this was the theme - all answers would have something to do with the word NEXT ... BUY A what? I don't get it. Then I Finally got around to looking at the "first" theme clue, and it all became semi-clear.
- 22A: What you might do while driving to an unfamiliar place (get lost)
- 39A: What you might do next? (find a gas station)
- 55A: What you might do next? (buy a MAP!)
It was not until after I'd solved the puzzle completely that I noticed that (in AcrossLite format) this puzzle had Notepad instructions:
- DIAGONAL: What you might do eventually to make up for last time (take the shortcut)
In the end, I really liked the puzzle. It was frustrating to solve it from the bottom up and thus have the theme obscured for so long, but, frankly, that might actually have helped. My brain was undistracted by theme-thought and I just solved the clues in front of me, 1, 2, 3, boom, boom, boom. Even with the theme confusion - and a totally botched NE corner - I came in under 6 minutes.
By way of explaining some of my beefs about yesterday's puzzle (whose author, by the way, appears to be a thick-skinned sweetheart ... all politeness and humility ... sickening, really) let me praise today's short fill, which, while not shocking or even terribly unfamiliar, is yet, on the whole, somewhat more colorful than yesterday's. Somehow, odd letter combinations tend to please me even if the words are common in crossworld - words like RHEE (68A: South Korea's first president), which crosses the cleverly clued BARR (55D: Roseanne, again). Or SIOUX (54D: Victors at Little Bighorn) crossing my beloved SKUA (67A: Gull-like predator). Of course, it helps that this puzzle also has a Discernible (and enjoyable) theme.
Can't believe I blanked on 1A: "Jabberwocky" start ("Twas...") both because it's in the puzzle a lot and because my wife knows that poem well and can recite parts of it off the top of her head. She's weird like that. I absolutely love the symmetricality of WHOLE HOG (5D: All out) and TROOPERS (41D: Smokeys), for reasons that maybe you can explain to me. I've narrowed it down to two possibilities. Either 1. it's because HOG is slang for a motorcycle, which a TROOPER might ride, or 2. it's because a HOG is kind of PIG, and PIG is pejorative slang for a COP, of which TROOPER is one variety.
- 17A: Zuider Zee sight (dike) - I would rather see ZUIDER ZEE in the grid than in the clue, even though I've no idea what / where it is.
- 50D: Be too good to (spoil) - can't figure out the syntax here ... and I just did. F@#$! It's obvious. I thought "to" was an infinitive verb waiting to happen... "Too good to WHAT!?"
- 12D: Publican's stock (ales) - I had AMMO. I then went to 13D: Made rhapsodic (sent) and entered SANG. Hence my above comment about a botched NE corner.
- 36A: Vintner's prefix (oeno-) - told ya so
- 43A: Garland's "cowardly" co-star (Lahr) - STILL pausing over this guy's name Every time it comes up: BAHR? BEHR? LEHR? Every Time!
- 40D: Relevant, in law (ad rem) - despite many years of Latin, I completely forgot the accusative form of RES and entered ... RES. "BUY A SAP!? Are we going to knock someone out on the way to gramma's house?"
- 46D: Emulates Daniel Webster (orates) - I'm just happy that I got this from the clue alone, without even looking at the grid. Feels like I'm developing finer and finer puzzle reflexes.
See you tomorrow,
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld