Saturday, December 1, 2007
Relative difficulty: Challenging
THEME: Odd Jobz and One Impossible Crossing
This was an old-fashioned, knock-down, drag-out, 15-round punisher. And I lost. By split decision. I look a mess, let me tell you.
That SW corner was one of the most torturous experiences I've ever had in my solving life. Some of it was devilishly clever, but one part was just sadistic, and, to my mind, plain unfair. I had no idea about either of the following clues:
37D: Dualistic deity (Amon Ra)
50A: Limestone regions with deep fissures and sinkholes (karsts)
These are specialized / exotic answers, the kinds you expect to see on a Saturday. What I don't expect is that they will intersect - or if they do, that they will intersect at a vowel, which makes it all but impossible to make even an educated guess. Now, if I'd truly been thinking about the deity, I would have thought, "Well, RA is a deity ... so why not guess 'A'" - but I figured AMONR- was one word (despite the unlikely "nr" combo) and KURSTS looked way better than KARSTS. So ... "U." Boo hoo. I actually feel somewhat proud that I whittled my problems in that corner down to just one square.
At various points, I had:
BOARDER for MOUNTER (42A: One who's getting on)
INTERNET for ON THE NET (46A: Where much info can be found these days)
AGE LINES for ACETONES (27D: Cigarette smoke byproducts)
TOP PRIZE for TOP SCORE (44A: Winner's pride)
ADONAI for AMON RA (37D: Dualistic deity)
TICK for TOCK (44D: Clock sound)
GABE for CABE (33A: "The Daughters of Joshua _____" (1972 Buddy Ebsen film))
What's interesting is how many of these mistakes you can have in the grid simultaneously. . . and yet I got SLAVERER (25D: Fawning type) off of just the "L"...
I like getting tested like this every once in a while. Just talked yesterday about how the 5x5 open spaces really test me, and then I get this puzzle, which has both 6x5 and 7x5 open spaces! Plus the grid design is such that you can not go on a run - only little passageways from one quadrant to the next, with the NW and SE particularly isolated. Sometimes the bar is set so high that I smack into it, as I did today, and that's alright. And yet, I have one serious complaint (besides the aforementioned Sadistic Crossing). And that is ... (surely someone out there has already guessed what I'm going to say):
- UNITER (9D: Merger) - if this had crossed DIVIDER, I'd have let it pass...
- ALTERER (21A: Veterinarian, at times) - I believe your animal would call that a "euphemism"
- RUINERS (23A: Banes)
- MOUNTER (42A: One who's getting on)
- SLAVERER (25D: Fawning type)
FIVE! Five Frankenstein Nouns that you would (almost) never say. Again, a made-up -ER noun or two, is fine, but this is a @#$#-ing orgy. And I'm not even counting, let's see...
- SPIDER (16A: Producer of fine threads)
- REAPER (45A: John Deere product)
- CREEPERS (48A: Producers of wall flowers?)
- COPTER (38D: Skyhook dropper, briefly) - ... Really wanted KAREEM here.
In terms of difficulty, I'd rate the quadrants in this order: SW (hardest), NW, NE, SE (easiest ... and it wasn't that easy). Couldn't believe when first guess for 1A: Choirs' neighbors (apses) turned out to be right. Very lucky to entertain the very wrong BRU(I)TED for 12A: Publicized (billed) because the "B" made me see ABSCESS (1D: Sore spot), which I also saw yesterday, in the NY Sun puzzle, I believe (that puzzle was also brutal, though not as bad as this one). I honestly thought (for about a second) that BRUTED might be a word. I think BRUTED should be a word meaning "offended with the stench of cheap aftershave." Knew CEPEDA (18: Baseball Hall-of-Famer Orlando _____) but wrote out SECADA, briefly confusing the baseball player with a forgettable pop star of the early 90s.
- 6A: Lung covering (pleura) - wanted PNEUMA, but somehow knew this when PNEUMA became impossible. PLEURISY must have something to do with the lungs.
- 14A: Phrase of interest (per annum) - Great clue!
- 17A: Source of more pay or more play (overtime) - Another great clue! (and the answer is an even greater song, by Lucinda Williams)
- 19A: Grapevine exhortation ("pass it on") - one of today's few gimmes, along with 51A: Call-waiting alerts (beeps), from which I got both 29D: Cookout item usually eaten with two hands (spare rib) and 32D: Dishes out (serves up).
- 24A: Liliaceous plants (segos) - You say SEGO, I say SAGO, someday I will remember the difference...
- 35A: Southern loaves (pones) - I balked at this, but my wife assured me that a PONE is in fact (or can be) a loaf.
- 41A: He declined a Nobel Prize in Literature (Sartre) - disappointed in myself for not getting this straight away.
- 2D: Something for Santa Claus to bite (pipe stem) - much better answer than "me"
- 7D: Wolf _____, captain in Jack London's "The Sea-Wolf" (Larsen) - whatever you say!
- 10D: Products of some "mills" (rumors) - wanted GIN or (less happily) PUPPIES; nice that this answer intersects "PASS IT ON"
- 13D: Comments of annoyance (drats) - a very bad plural
- 28A: Webers per square meter (Teslas) - blah blah blah blah physics = TESLA; such were my reasoning skills here.
- 14D: Works with everyday objects (pop art) - on occasion, yes. This clue was hard in a good way.
- 30D: Nancy's home (Lorraine) - "Nancy" must be a place name. Cute. For a second or two I was trying to recall where Nancy and Sluggo lived.
- 36D: "The Prophecy of the _____" (Eddic poem) ("Seeress") - edumacated guess
- 40D: Receive (incept) - ouuuuuch
- 41D: _____ Gamp, nurse in "Martin Chuzzlewit" (Sarah) - just when you thought things couldn't get any obscurererererer.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld