Friday, December 14, 2007
Relative difficulty: Medium
Another Great Manny Nosowsky puzzle - I have very few complaints about this one. There's a host of fresh answers here, including three 15-letter multi-word answers across the middle of the puzzle and one fantastic (if oddly split) two-part answer. My big problem today was the puzzle's geographical provincialism - which is to say, my own geographical ignorance. Let's just say that if I were ever to appear on "Jeopardy!," I would steer very clear of a "New Jersey Geography" category. I was saddened by my complete inability to get 20D: Neighbor of Hoboken, N.J. (Union City) even with the first two letters in place. I felt sure that if I could just get it, the middle part would open right up. I desperately wrote in UNANDILLA at one point, because it sounded like a name of a place I heard of once ... turns out I was thinking of UNADILLA, NY. No help.
15-letter answers are far far harder to get the more words they have. Parsing A LOT ON ONE'S PLATE (38A: Much work to get done) was well nigh impossible for me until I had a huge chunk of the West in place. Another element of parsing difficulty: loads of common letters. CLEARANCE CENTER (39A: Place for good deals) was just a bunch of A's, E's, and N's for a while, and RETURN TO REALITY (35A: Snap out of it) was likewise mostly "Wheel of Fortune" gimme letters for a good chunk of time.
My time on this puzzle was mediocre for me - mid 9's. But I was super-proud to have finished the latter half of the puzzle in about 3 minutes. I just got horribly stuck in the middle, but for some reason, little old ECO (43A: "Baudolino" novelist) was the wee gimme that gave me the momentum I needed, and I tore up the second half of the puzzle from there. ECO to OAKEN (44D: Of a durable wood) to PREBAKE (57A: Cook first, as pie crust) to BRO (58D: Bart, to Maggie) took about 10 seconds, and the SW fell from there, which allowed me finally to get the lovely RORSCHACH (TEST) (36D: With 14-Down, something that can have you seeing things). That gave me enough at the front end of the 15's to pick them off one by one, which led directly into the SE, where only the eely 59A: Cardiff Giant or Piltdown man (big hoax) gave me any trouble. The end.
Magical Mystery Words:
- 16A: Luxembourg grand duke in whose name an annual art prize is awarded (Adolphe) - no way. Got it once I had the -LPHE, but this one is totally off my radar.
- 22A: French city where William the Conqueror is buried (Caen) - very proud of myself for sticking this one out. I threw 4-letter French cities at this answer like they were punches (ST LO, NICE ...) until one of them finally landed.
- 29A: Ba preceder (alif) - Arabic? Had ALEF for a bit. ALIF is also a surgery acronym.
- 62A: University with campuses in New York and Rome (St. John's) - more puzzle provincialism. I know ST JOHN'S from their basketball team, so I got it fast enough, but the "Rome" part of the clue meant zero to me.
- 3D: Guam's _____ Bay (Pago) - PAGO PAGO is in American Samoa. That's what I know about PAGO.
- 6D: Leader of the Alamo siege (Santa Anna) - knew this, but have only ever seen it spelled like the California city / winds: SANTA ANA. Wrote in ANNA but did not feel good about it.
- 33D: Sea _____, denizen of the North Pacific (otter) - took me a while. It's an extraordinarily non-specific clue. Enjoy the cuteness.
- 55D: Flow in a coulee (lava) - "coulee" is a new word to me. "Stream of lava" appears to be the fourth definition.
- 8A: Watches in astonishment (gapes at) - I had GAZES AT. Just kidding.
- 15A: Went for unhesitatingly (leapt at) - first answer in the grid - I love the ballsiness of following an "AT" phrase with another "AT" phrase.
- 18A: Plant material used for fuel (biomass) - a great, original answer. Sadly, my first attempt here was CORN OIL, which led to AEON instead of SPAN (12D: Period of time), so I was all kinds of messed up in the NE.
- 19A: Brawl-ending cry ("Stop it!") - somehow I doubt that this would end any self-respecting brawl.
- 45A: It may be kept in a boot (tyre) - I had TIRE back when I thought the "boot" in question was the lock a cop will put on your TIRE if you have been parked illegally and are subject to being towed away. But here, of course, "boot" = British for your car trunk.
- 34D: Wayne W. _____, author of "Your Erroneous Zones" (Dyer) - why do I know this!?!?
- 24A: Work an aisle, slangily (ush) - this little bastard is going to force his way into the Pantheon for sure. I don't like him, but he's everywhere.
- 27D: Relatives of the Missouria (Otoes) - when USH arrives at the Pantheon, he will be greeted by a large group of OTOES for some kind of induction ritual I haven't invented yet. The OTOES, as a people, pretty much rule the Pantheon, though the INCAS are not to be underestimated.
- 63A: Zealots have them (agendas) - Chess clubs have them too. Yeesh.
- 10D: Dilapidation (poor shape) - good answer. Sadly, I had POOR STATE.
- 49D: Actor _____ Cobb (Lee J) - Really? Again? I guess if you really need LEEJ as your answer, you don't have a lot of options.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS some more Cureton Creations: