Monday, December 10, 2007
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: S [variable] ING phrases ??? - all theme answers are two-word phrases where the first word starts with "S" and ends in "ING"
Unless I'm missing something crucial, this is a pretty weak theme, especially for Ms. Lempel, who normally turns out fantastic early-week puzzles. As is typical on a Monday, I never saw the "theme" til it was all over. Finished this one in 3:27, just 5 seconds off my record time. What I noticed today was how little snags, or little successes, can make a (relatively) huge difference in your solving time. Those differences become more noteworthy the faster you solve, obviously. Today, for instance, I was really helped by correct guesses on GREGG (27D: One of the Allman Brothers - here I was guessing on spelling) and WPA (60A: F.D.R. job-creating measure: Abbr. - an abbr. I learned from crosswords) and ELSA (31A: Schiaparelli of fashion - a Pantheonic crossword name more commonly clued via the [apparently non-] fictional lion) and TWEEN (54D: 11- or 12- year-old). But I was slowed down by not getting answers like AUSTRIA (40D: Home of the von Trapp family), and especially WALSH (1A: John _____, host of "America's Most Wanted"), right off the bat. I also sort of shot myself in the foot, time-wise, by drifting down the east side of the puzzle and so coming at many, many Across answers from the back end - harder to solve that way. It's amazing how much traction an answer can give you (or not give you) simply by its position. Those answers are always most valuable that give you a run of first letters in the crosses - anything running along the top or far west of a particular quadrant. Thus, not getting WALSH is a far bigger deal than not getting some other random five-letter word in the puzzle.
- 16A: Appetizer with sweet and sour sauce (spring roll)
- 10D: Goliath's undoing (sling shot)
- 26A: Deadly long-tailed fish (sting ray)
- 48A: Monotonous voice (sing song) - I challenge. A SING SONG voice has more than one tone, I contend. "Monotonous" makes me think of droning, which SING SONG does not. Wife's reaction: "Isn't SING SONG the opposite of 'monotonous?'"
- 33D: Make-or-break election bloc (swing vote) - I never thought I'd vote with the Oprah bloc, but it looks like that's what's going to happen. We'll see.
- 63A: Gangly guy (string bean)
I am going to overhaul the Pantheon (see sidebar) completely in the New Year. So many new contenders ... while many of the current occupants really haven't earned their keep in the past year. ATARI (13A: _____ 2600 (classic video game)) is one of the leading new contenders for induction. Not sure why it's taken this word so long to become a staple. Maybe it's because those to whom the word is familiar are finally entering their prime crossword solving years (age 40 - death). DADA (56D: 1920s art movement) also really wants to contend for Pantheon status. I'm inclined to let it in merely on the basis of my fondness for DADA as an art form. As six-letter words go, NESTLE (49D: Get cozy) seems awfully common. And you can see why: look at all those "Wheel of Fortune" letters.
Really liked ARSENAL (14D: Weapons stash) and AUSTRIA as the twin non-theme pillars of this puzzle. Other than that, there's not a lot of sparkling fill to be found today.
- 37A: Bride's bounty (dowry) - do not like the way this is clued. I imagine some bride being shot and tied to the hood of a car. Or worse, being picked up by Dog: The Bounty Hunter.
- 3D: Slow, in symphonies (largo) - inspired by my e-friend and occasional reader Michael5000, I'm listening to one Beethoven symphony a day, leading up to his birthday (sometime next week). Today is Symphony #3, "Eroica," which, by the way, is a totally crosswordesey word.
- 6D: Ray who created the McDonald's empire (Kroc) - his food is slowly poisoning the human race, but his last name is a ton of fun.
- 7D: Custardy dessert (eclair) - if I'm going to let some food kill me, it will far sooner be an ECLAIR than anything I can get at McDonald's.
If you are in an icy part of the country (as we are) be careful out there.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld