Friday, December 28, 2007
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
This felt far more Saturday than Friday to me. The cluing was ratcheted up to Hard / Obscure in many places, and some of the fill was esoteric, to put it mildly. If it weren't for a good half-dozen gimmes, I'd have been in real trouble. The puzzle has its merits: the grid is pretty, as my wife pointed out last night, and there are some answers that sparkle in their originality. My favorite part of this puzzle, though, is that the highest value Scrabble letters can be found perfectly positioned in each of the puzzles corners: starting in the NW and moving clockwise - J, Z, X, Q. Amazing.
- 14A: Sci-fi character whose name is an anagram of CAROLINA ISLANDS (Lando Calrissian) - this is the gaudiest clue / answer combo I've seen in a Loooong time. LANDO was played by Billy Dee Williams in "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi."
- 57A: Hopscotch (potsy) - OK, I don't like the answer so much as I LOVE the fact that I remembered the answer from another late-week puzzle earlier in the year. POTSY = a gimme = woo hoo!
- 34D: 1968 hit whose title is repeated three times with "Oh" and then again after "Baby I love you" ("Susie Q") - Again with the insane, detailed cluing. I had to read the clue several times just to figure out what the instructions were. Eventually I got the "Q" from the cross and the answer was instantly apparent.
- 47D: When a football may be hiked (on two) - arbitrary, but accurate enough. I love it.
Rough stuff / Easy stuff:
- 1A: Algonquian Indian tribe (Miami)
- 22D: Northwest tribe (Spokane) - did you know that these are also reasonably well-known American cities? It's true. Perhaps cluers would like to take that route next time...
- 6A: Went sniggling (eeled) - gimme gimme gimme; do a lot of puzzles and you learn about EELS. Also about EFTs (55D: Red _____ (young amphibian)).
- 11A: Singer with the #1 hit "All I Have" (Jennifer Lopez) - gross. She's a way better actress than she is a singer. I like her better (in the grid) when she's JLO. I'd rather not have to think about her singing career at all.
- 22A: "The Da Vinci Code" priory (Sion) - speaking of things I'd rather not have to think about. This book has been in more damned clues than "Canterbury Tales" and "Moby Dick" combined lately. Come on! I'm never going to read it and Tom Hanks's hair looked idiotic in the movie trailers I saw so stop shoving this piece of crap down my throat. Thank you.
- 16A: Otoscope user, for short (ENT) - piece of cake. These are the little answers you have to get if you want any shot at getting the multiple mystery answers you're bound to encounter on Fridays and Saturdays.
- 18A: MedWatch agcy. (FDA) - ditto
- 21A: Chalon-sur-_____, France (Saone) - one of the many 5-letter European rivers ending in -NE.
- 27A: Climber's support (tendril) - the climber is not human.
- 31A: _____ Herbert, TV's Mr. Wizard (Don) - Not my TV. I'll take your word for it.
- 32A: 100 qintars (lek) - weirdly, saw my first snippet of "Merv Griffin's Crosswords" a couple days ago, and a woman guessed LEK for one of the clues (actual answer was LEU). The fact that the woman even dared to guess, and knew LEK, showed that she was a true crossworder. She won, though she botched the final round in ways that seemed inexplicable from where I was standing.
- 37A: Constellation between Cygnus and Pisces (Pegasus) - nearly entered SAGITAR at one point. That is so many kinds of wrong I don't even want to start counting.
- 45A: "_____ of Six" (Joseph Conrad story collection) ("A Set") - Unknown to me. Joseph Conrad's first language: Polish. That's what I know about Conrad. That, and "Heart of Darkness."
- 46A: "A parlor utensil for subduing the impenitent visitor": Bierce (piano) - my favorite quipster of all time. You know what makes this definition? "Utensil." Genius.
- 53A: Some licensed practitioners (members of the bar) - boring ... not sure why.
- 30D: It can fill a yard (ale) - nice clue. A "yard" is a very tall glass for drinking beer.
- 56A: Exercise animal? (quick brown fox) - OK I just now got this. I mean, I know it was a typing thing, but I thought the "exercise" part referred to fact that said fox jumped over a a lazy grey dog. But no, it's a typing "exercise," duh.
- 58A: Tough to dig into, as soil (rooty) - icky word. Next time you need it, try this clue: [_____ Tooty Fresh 'N' Fruity: IHOP specialty].
- 3D: A long time in Lisbon (anos) - weird to go to a Portuguese-speaking country when the word is Spanish too (isn't it?).
- 4D: Fuchsite and alurgite (micas) - insane mineral-sounding clue = MICA
- 9D: 7-in. platters (EPs) - I thought EP was just mini in terms of song content, not in terms of physical size.
- 12D: Mr. Rosewater in Kurt Vonnegut's "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater" (Eliot) - there's also a poet named T.S. ELIOT ... in case you didn't know. I sure missed T.S. today.
- 13D: "Butterfly" actress, 1981 (Zadora) - she appears in the grid way Way more than anyone that ... dated should. I guess her first name is grid-friendly (PIA) and her last name does have that delicious "Z".... still....
- 24D: 2004 Sondheim musical, with "The" ("Frogs") - based on Aristophanes's play of the same name, I'm sure.
- 26D: Corinthian conclusion (omega) - I wanted "leather." Some of you will know why.
- 48A: 1950s British P.M. (Eden) - before my time.
- 38D: Seaman in a ceremonial honor guard (side boy) - to my mind, the most obscure thing in the puzzle. The SIDE BOY / EDEN crossing was super-tentative for me. Isn't a SIDE BOY a piece of furniture? And should you really be calling a grown man (any grown man) "BOY?" It seems ... wrong.
A final announcement: one week from today (January 4, 2008), the American Crossword Critics Association (ACCA) - which is really just me and Orange - will be handing out our Best of 2007 Crossword Puzzle Awards. There are several categories, including:
- Best Early-week puzzle (M or T: themed)
- Best Puzzle Gimmick
- Best Themeless Puzzle
- Best Sunday-sized Puzzle
- and Best Overall Constructor
Plus a few Honorable Mentions and special recognition for certain phenomena that didn't fit well in any category. All major daily and weekly puzzles are eligible (not just NYT). So come back here Jan. 4 and help us congratulate the winners.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld