Saturday, December 22, 2007
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
I have to remember not to attempt late-week puzzles first thing in the morning. I at least need breakfast and tea or coffee. Tried to do this puzzle at my computer this morning and found it nearly impossible. Floundered around in the NW, floundered around in the NE - with a little more success, but not enough to complete it - polished off the SW quickly, then waded slowly into the SE, knowing that it was my last chance for any real forward momentum. Then just when I thought I had it rolling, I hit a wall and just stopped - right about in the ALAMOSA (33D: Colorado city on the Rio Grande) / RUNABOUTS (24D: Roadsters) region of the puzzle (neither of those answers would give, no matter how much pressure I applied). At various points I thought this was the hardest puzzle I'd done all year. Then I think I walked away and came back, and then answers started to fall into place. Once I figured out the SE, despite the puzzle's having a construction style that made success in one quadrant virtually useless as a gateway into another, the NW finally started to fall - getting the EASY at the end of RESTS EASY (7D: Is relaxed) was the key there. Threw the craptacular AEROMETER (23A: Gizmo that measures gas properties) across the grid, and whaddya know? It worked. NE was not too hard after that. I think the last letter in the grid was the initial "P" in PRIMOS (16D: Upper parts of piano duets) and PRESTO (16A: Really moving, musically).
I have an appointment shortly, so here are your puzzle highlights, in short order:
- 9A: Where one can retire young? (crib) - me: "... slaughterhouse?"
- 14A: Singles player (phono) - could not not not get tennis out of my head.
- 17A: "The Treachery of Images" painter (Magritte) - a gimme ... that I second-guessed and removed because of the (wrong) crossing, TOPEKA - 5D: Kansas city (Salina).
- 18A: Whipps candy bar maker (Reese's) - never heard of that alleged "bar," but when it's candy, when in doubt: RESSE'S.
- 19A: Some Tuscans (Sienese) - had GENOESE for about three seconds.
- 20A: Caret indication (insert) - obvious, and yet some Wrong answer in one of the crosses prevented me from seeing it. Oh, I remember: I had ROSSINNI (!?!?!) instead of ROSSETTI (10D: Artist who was a founder of the Pre-Raphaelites).
- 22A: French teacher (maitre) - my French absolutely vacated my head on this one. Luckily, it returned for the merciful gimme DOS-A-DOS (25A: Back to back: Fr.).
- 31A: Online registration creations (user ids) - my first answer in the grid that I knew was right.
- 32A: Tony-nominated "Pippin" actress (Irene Ryan) - despite spending some time yesterday looking at all the ways IRENE had been clued in the past decade, this woman's last name would Not come - and, of course, the last name was virtually the ONLY thing connecting the SW with the rest of the grid. Ugh.
- 27D: Que follower (sera sera) - my first entry: RSTUVWXY.
- 34A: Watergate judge (Sirica) - Allllllll from crosses.
- 35A: San Diego suburb (La Mesa) - no no no. And crossing another unknown place name (ALAMOSA) - that's just cruel. Throw in SALINA and you've got a subtheme of "Places in America I've Never Been ... or Heard Of" (actually, I may have heard of Salina).
- 41A: Puts down (abashes) - I couldn't decide: was it SMASHES or QUASHES? Hmmm, I wonder ....
- 44A: Big herbicide producer (Monsanto) - got this off the -ANTO but didn't fully trust it because of the nasty confusion in that region of the grid.
- 46A: Mushroom producers (A-tests) - could have been H-TESTS or even N-TESTS.
- 47A: Natural wave catcher (outer ear) - great clue. I had INNER EAR for a little bit, sadly.
- 49A: Comparison basis (standard) - why was this hard?
- 1D: Perhaps a little too neat (prim) - really thought this would be about alcohol.
- 2D: "His eyes are _____ fire with weeping": Shak. ("red as") - didn't know this, which is ironic because it's from Julius Caesar, which is the one Shakespeare play I'm teaching next term.
- 3D: Creditor's writ (elegit) - ouuuuch. Yipes and yikes. WTF? Etc.
- 8D: Dick Thornburgh's predecessor in the cabinet (Ed Meese) - I was So disappointed when this insane-sounding clue ended up having the most common cabinet name as its answer - usually you just see MEESE.
- 9D: Worse in quality, slangily (cheesier) - had CRUMMIER for a while. Seriously considered CRAPPIER.
- 12D: Stages of space exploration (boosters) - flat-out guess that I still can't believe is right.
- 29D: Transfers to another vessel, maybe (decants) - another blessed gimme in the SW.
- 30D: Long-armed redheads (orangs) - good one. I had OCTOPI.
- 36D: Targets of those catching some rays? (mantas) - phrasing on this clue is painful.
- 37D: Early Palestinian (Essene) - Astonishingly, this was a gimme. I swear. First thing that went in, with no crosses for help. You know you are a crossword addict when @#$#-ing ESSENE is one of your go-to words.
- 39D: Son of Aphrodite (Aeneas) - gimme, but it threw me a bit because in the Aeneid, Aeneas's mother is "Venus."
- 45D: Traffic regs., e.g. (ords.) - because there is not more than one Fort.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
[drawing by Emily Cureton]