Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: "Two Kinds of Boats" - 38A: What 18-, 23-, 55- and 63-Across each comprises
I'm not very ... nautical. I had no idea there were so many kinds of boats. What's a "Party Boat?" Anyway, there is much that is ungainly about this puzzle, starting with the theme clue and answer, neither of which is worded very pleasantly. There are other items of unpleasantness below. What impressed me about this puzzle was me (I), in that I had many blind stabs that ended up being correct, despite feeling very shaky at first. This was definitely a puzzle where lots of prior puzzle experience paid off. ERIN, EULER, and CAIRO, for instance, came instantly, which they would not have even one year ago, and that helped me sail through this puzzle relatively unscathed. Lots of crosswordese (both high- and low-end), but no real challenges - only one word that was out of my comfort zone. So overall, this was a BLAND (52D: Short on flavor), if somewhat heartening experience.
- 18A: Romantic goings-on (love life) - this slowed me down, as I had the LOVE and couldn't figure out what followed, which kept me from flowing nicely into the NE. Had to go down and approach it from below.
- 23A: Tupperware sale event (house party) - they are called "Tupperware Parties." "HOUSE PARTY" was a movie about very bad haircuts, featuring rap duo Kid 'N' Play
- 55A: Catching cold? (ice fishing) - first, clue = [gag]. Second ... nope, that's it. Just first.
- 63A: Cockpit datum (air speed)
There were two compass directions and one near-compass direction, which just seems lazy:
- 66A: Vane dir. (NNE)
- 10D: Suffix with Brooklyn (ESE) - sorry, still a compass point
- 6D: Sound of a leak (SSS) - pretty damned close
There was also too much of the puzzle talking about itself:
- 40D: "_____ Believer" ("I'm a")
- 57D: Answer to "Who's there?" ("It is I")
- 67A: "You lookin' _____?" ("at me")
And two different times of day. Come on!
- 43A: Early time to rise (six a.m.)
- 71A: When many stores open (at nine)
The only part that gave me trouble was the crossing of PIPETS (47D: Lab tubes) and PHIS (61A: Fraternity letters). PIPETS in general gave me trouble, as I barely know the word. The clue on PHIS is horribly non-specific, but I figured that PIPETS was a better guess for [Lab tubes] than PICETS, so it all worked out in the end. Speaking of non-specific clues, what's up with 22A: Poetic land (Erin)? I mean, I got it instantly, so maybe that means it's a good clue, but ... couldn't many lands claim to be "poetic?" Cuba? Iran? Troy? My greatest triumph of the day was guessing LIAISE (4D: Act as go-between) - a ghastly word - off of just the "E." Got FOCI (42D: Points that may have rays) pretty quickly even though my first instinct was to see "rays" as fish. I live quite near UTICA (34A: Erie Canal city) - always nice to have a geographical edge. Some part of me is pleased to see geographical-sounding answers clued in non-geographical ways:
- RENO (21A: Clinton cabinet member)
- PENN (24D: "All the King's Men" star, 2006)
Lastly, HUB (28D: Important airport) reminds me of a fantastic John Updike story called "The Christian Roommates," which I just finished teaching in my Honors Seminar. "HUB" is the main character's nickname. He practices yoga and prays effusively and tears up letters from the draft board without reading them and steals busted parking meters from the scenes of car accidents ... and generally disturbs the hell out of his more staid roommate ("Orson the Parson"). Why am I talking about this story? Not sure. But it stuck with me, clearly, so maybe it's worth checking out.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld