Monday, December 17, 2007
Relative difficulty: Challenging
THEME: Seasons, plural - every theme answer ends with a plural form of a season: SPRINGS, FALLS, SUMMERS, and WINTERS
First, I wish the seasons appeared in order. I'm just sayin'.
Second, holy mackerel this puzzle was difficult ... FOR A MONDAY. It took me just over 4 minutes, which by any standard is a respectable time, but I had many long pauses and furious re-typing sessions as I struggled over words that just would not come easily. I am not complaining about the struggle, just noting it. I do love a challenge, and anything that spices up a Monday puzzle is more than welcome.
Let's start with the theme, which I will complain about, for a couple reasons. First, two of the answers don't have very wide currency, and one of them I've seen very recently, though I cannot confirm where at the moment. And second, as I've said ... the seasons are out of order.
- 17A: Upstate New York city and spa (Saratoga Springs) - I feel like I've seen this answer three times this year, at least twice in the NYT, and yet cursory searches turn up nothing. What the hell puzzle(s) am I thinking of? Little help? I think there's a race track here, but still, I contend that many folks, especially non-New Yorkers, don't know this place exists.
- 24A: Honeymooners' destination (Niagara Falls) - Another NY answer.
- 42A: Former president of Harvard (Larry Summers) - I know you think I'm just another Northeast liberal with an expensive education, but I swear to you that I've Never heard of this guy. Harvard Schmarvard. Not really on my radar. Trying to solve this answer, without any idea of the theme (I rarely notice the theme on Mondays), was awkward. I had BARRY at one point, and filled in ABBERANT for 35D: Broad-minded (tolerant) without ever looking at the clue. Two problems: ABBERANT is not a word, and even if it were, it would be a poor answer for the clue in question.
- 54A: Comic who played Robin Williams's son in "Mork & Mindy" (Jonathan Winters) - this clue is technically inaccurate. WINTERS played Mork's son, not Robin Williams's.
- 9A: Lesser-played half of a 45 (side B) - I can't be the only one who instinctively, instantly wrote in BSIDE.
- 14A: Elementary particle (muon) - seen it in late-week puzzles, I think, but it looks nuts here on a Monday. Thankfully, I never saw this clue.
- 29A: Fix, as brakes (reline) - a reasonable answer, but one that would not come. I had REPADS (getting the verb form wrong) and then RESHOE (!?).
- 6D: Home of the Cowboys, familiarly (Big D) - I've been burned by this answer before, so not today, and yet this feels very un-Monday. The time I got burned was a Sunday, I think. BIG D got their asses handed to them by the hot-and-cold Eagles yesterday. Boo hoo (sarcasm=high).
- 10D: Isle of Man's locale (Irish Sea) - had the IRI- and I swear to you IRISH never occurred to me. This wasn't terribly hard. My brain just froze.
- 13D: Swiss city on the Rhine, old-style (Basle) - this is a Saturday answer. WTF!?!?!
- 19D: Working stiff (prole) - a fine word, but Not one I was expecting today. Kept trying to make PEON fit.
- 23D: French city where Jules Verne was born (Nantes) - Uncle! Turns out NANTES is more common than I thought, but still ... if I had to name 10 French cities, this one would not make the list.
- 43D: Mountain ridges (aretes) - Yikes. A totally uncommon word in the real world, but one that does have a certain presence in xworld. Surprised to see it on a Monday, especially with all the other reasonably tough words.
- 56A: Auto route from Me. to Fla. (U.S. One) - an inventive, playful five-letter answer.
- 5D: Shipment to a steel mill (iron ore) - better than just ORE. IRON ORE is actually quite common, as 7-letter answers go.
- 44D: Powerful rays (mantas) - Oh, those rays.