Monday, December 31, 2007
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: Office work - four theme answers contain clerical duties in non-clerical contexts
It's a beautiful day in my neighborhood this morning, with the view out my office window showing a confectionary neighborhood tableau - tree branches and bushes and roofs piled impossibly, comically high with unblownaway snow. We got only about 3-6 inches, but when the wind doesn't blow, even a little snow can settle into dramatic decorative shapes. My energy bill tells me that the average temperature this year is a full ten degrees colder than last, but my newspaper tells me that the snowfall, while dramatic and frequently school-shutting, has, all told, been merely average. Today is my wife's penultimate day of vacation, and she is currently in the next room making the most of her rare opportunity to sleep well in. And now that you know what my world looks like this last day of 2007 - the puzzle.
A fairly dull puzzle for this last Monday of the year, though the ho-hum theme is off-set somewhat by some decent non-theme fill. Lots of multiple-word phrases, which I enjoy, including:
- 32A: Locale for a New York diva (The Met) - you know how I love definite articles in my grids; almost makes up for having to see the (related!) ARIA again (15A: Diva's song)
- 43A: Zilch (not a whit)
- 62A: Have a meal at home (eat in) - this phrase is really common nowadays
- 28A: Divorces (splits up)
- 9D: Event before moving (tag sale)
And a couple of football-related answers appropriate to this week running up to the start of the NFL playoffs:
- 5D: Two-point plays in football (safeties) - "safety" is also a defensive position in football, for you sports-challenged folks out there
- 39D: Shot up, as inflation (spiraled) - a perfectly thrown football is often referred to as a spiral - it's the most aerodynamically efficient way for a football to travel through space, the reasons for which I'm sure one of my many physicist readers will explain.
Here are some other answers I liked:
- 53D: "Galveston" crooner Campbell (Glen) - he has a useful crossword name; It's always nice when the puzzle goes to a song other than "Wichita Lineman" to clue him
- 41D: Gleeful laugh (chortle)
- 49D: Old TV comic Kovacs (Ernie) - I tanked the Boston Globe puzzle for the second week in a row yesterday because of ERNIE. Or should I say ARNIE, which was the actual answer: [Nickname in golf]. Damn you, ERNIE Els! The cross was SAJAK. SEJAK looked Just Fine to me. I'm sure this is how I'm destined to fail at the Tournament - undone by Pat @#$#-ing SAJAK.
- 17A: A magnet attracts it in a physics experiment (iron FILING)
- 10D: Pre-transfusion procedure (blood TYPING)
- 25D: Some verbal abuse (name CALLING)
- 57A: Star's marquee position (top BILLING) - started writing in TOP BANANA here before I knew the theme, and before I realized it wouldn't fit
I got slowed down in odd places - for instance, I put in SERE instead of ARID at 7D: Parched. I couldn't think of a sound one would make at an amusement park 13D: Amusement park shout ("whee!"). My shout: "Stop the ride" or "I'm going to barf." 1D: On the _____ (going to pot) (skids) was phrased so oddly that my brain couldn't take it in quickly. The "pot" part was throwing me off. When I had the SK-, I actually wrote in SKEDS (as in "on the ... schedules?"). Finally, I was very frustrated that LAMA was not the answer for 42D: Hindu teacher, even though I know it's not an appropriate answer. SWAMI sounds / feels made up, like something in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, but I see that it's a totally legitimate honorific, so that's fine. Speaking of LAMA (and I was), I (re-) took the "Political Compass" test yesterday, which is a very interesting if likely highly inexact way of measuring people's political inclinations based on reactions to a series of assertions, ideas, and propositions. How does LAMA fit in? - well, it turns out the Dalai Lama and I have a lot in common. Oh, and Béla Bartók (which pleased me even more, however irrationally).
Finished in 4-something on paper today. I would really like to get my on-paper times for early-week puzzles into the 3's on a regular basis, but that's going to take a lot of practice. Right now, my main focus is on solving methodically, and accurately, with minimal focus on speed. I'm much more concerned about plowing through the Hard puzzles with minimal free-fall than I am with zipping through the easy puzzles. My experience at last year's tournament was that there was only one "easy" puzzle, and it was, by far, my worst effort. More on the tournament in the coming week - it's only two months away. I do want to start making a plug now, though, to all avid solvers, no matter your skill level. There is nothing to be afraid of or intimidated by. If you like puzzles at all, the tournament is a lot of fun, and if you fail to finish certain puzzles, believe me, you will not be alone. The stressful competition part is really only for the top top solvers, and for those of us who are just naturally wound up. The general atmosphere is not tense at all. It's remarkably collegial - and it's nice to be in a place where you can let your nerd flag fly with no self-consciousness or shame, and little-to-no chance of being the nerdiest person in the room. In short, you should go, especially if you live anywhere near Brooklyn.
See you in the New Year.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS my wife is a badass
PPS Thanks for pushing my traffic back up to about 8000 visitors yesterday. I was wondering where the hell you all had got to ... Christmas, Schmistmas, get thee to a computer.