Saturday, December 8, 2007
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
I rated this "Easy-Medium" because it was about 75% easy / 25% semi-challenging, with the NW giving me the most problems. I should note, however, that I had an error, which would bug me on any day, but today I have to complain, for reasons I hope you understand. Here is the problem, and I've said this before. Stumpers - completely brutal answers - are totally acceptable, especially in late-week puzzles. Crossing stumpers ... should be much rarer, but they are still OK as long as a reasonably educated person could make a reasonably educated guess about the crossing. But when you cross weird / odd / unusual words at a 1-point Scrabble tile like "E" or (in today's case) "A" - that's just mean, especially when two different letters make perfectly good sense in that space. Here's the crossing that got me:
- 46A: Engine using a stream of compressed air (ram jet)
- 37D: Early screenwriter Bernstein (Isadore)
Now there are those who will say "of course it's RAM JET, you should know that, blah blah blah." And maybe you're right. But I've Never heard of such a thing, and believe me, when you haven't heard of such a thing, RIM JET seems entirely plausible, if not preferable. Further, "ISIDORE" is a perfectly serviceable spelling of that name. I knew her [correction, his] name and still missed it because the alternate (albeit wrong) spelling made perfectly good sense (to me) in the cross. This is a design flaw in an otherwise reasonably enjoyable, if overly easy, puzzle.
Had a lot of trouble in the NW, where I somehow completely forgot who 17A: Simon Legree was - I had TASK SETTER at one point, and the "S" in MASTER (from 7D: 60-Across [PELE]'s real first name (Edson)) was the next-to-last letter to go into the grid - the "L" in LGS (19A: Linemen next to centers: Abbr.) was last. Really really really didn't like UNAIDED EYE (15A: Some planets may be seen with it) - the expression is NAKED EYE. I had UNAIMED EYE for a while, thinking that somehow you were more likely to see the planet if you didn't look directly at it ... That whole NW section would have been easier if a. I'd spelled Kevin NEALON's name right at first (6D: Comic Kevin) and b. I'd understood the casino frame of reference on 20A: Taj Mahal attractions (slots). Had SL-TS and was wondering "What the hell goes on at the Taj Mahal that I don't know about?! I thought it was a semi-sacred site."
Started in the NE with the easy ZOOS (11A: They feature creatures) and everything fell quickly from there. Didn't know O'MALLEY (12D: Either of two father-and-son Dodgers owners), but it was easy to guess. At first I thought 21A: "My Life on Trial" autobiographer (Belli) might be the rapper NELLI, until I realized that he doesn't spell his name that way. The I remembered Melvin BELLI. Happy to guess MUSLIN (24A: Pillowcase material) without really knowing what it is. Ditto RAGLAN (25A: Loose overcoat), which I know only as a kind of sleeve. Most proud of myself for getting BUSY DAY off of just the "B" (21D: When there are lots of errands to run, say). Could not make sense of the ending "YEYES" for 32A: 1961 to 10 hit for the Everly Brothers for a long time. Was sure I had something wrong. Then I got more letters and parsed it correctly to get EBONY EYES.
- 1D: Sharp workers? (cutlers) - the last answer I got. I'm familiar with CUTLERY, but not the CUTLERS that wield it, apparently.
- 36D: Conversation piece? (wiretap) - still puzzling over how "piece" works here ...
- 9D: Products of wood ashes (lyes) - guessed it pretty early on, but it was dumb blind luck that it was right.
- 33D: Book before Job: Abbr. (Esth.) - as with LYES, flat-out lucky guess.
- 53D: Northumberland river (Tyne) - I live in a world where rivers seem to exist only to provide 4-letter means of torturing me. There are just too many of them, in too many weird letter combinations, for me to ever hope to master. I know this is a something-upon-Tyne that I've read about ... Newcastle? Ugh. I'm hopeless.
- 57D: Annuaire listing (nom) - I know enough French to make an educated guess here, but what is an "annuaire," exactly? An annual? Something that comes out every year ... listing names ... for some reason?
- 47D: It's worth 8 points in Scrabble (J tile) - though I often use the term "Scrabbly" with affection to describe high-end letters like "J," "X," and "K," let it be known that I never ever play Scrabble. It's like Sudoku to me (no cultural value, not worth playing). When the best players in the world are non-native speakers from Thailand, I think that says something ...
- 60A: Achiever of many goals (Pele) - "Achiever?" Really? Hmmmm...
- 1A: Second African-American in the Baseball Hall of Fame (Campanella) - a very crossword-friendly long name. Tried for a while to make this a first/last name combo. At one point LOU PINELLA seemed plausible, except he a. is white, b. isn't in the Hall of Fame, and c. spells his name PINIELLA.
- 8D: Option for DVD viewing (letterbox format) - tried WIDESCREEN FORMAT and FULL SCREEN FORMAT (both too long) before hitting on this lovely answer.
- 36A: 2001 Microsoft debut (Windows XP) - Had the "X" - wanted something having to do with XBOX ... then got a few more letters and ta da.
- 34A: 1966 album that's #2 on Rolling Stone's all-time greatest albums list ("Pet Sounds") - so miffed with myself that it took me as long as it did to get it. Very famous Beach Boys album, and one that goes great today with ZOO (11A) and FUR (56D: Creature feature).
- 30A: Fangorn Forest dweller (ent) - how have I never read Tolkien? All 7 Harry Potters, all 7 C.S. Lewis's's's, but no Tolkien. And he's a (fellow) medievalist.
- 39A: Web developer? (attic) - wishing ARACHNE could have fit. This answer is good too.
- 43A: The same beginning? (iso-) - comes up a lot in my (fabulous) yoga class, where the instructor often talks about ISOmetric stretches while we're in the middle of a pose and I never have any idea what she's talking about because I'm just trying to concentrate enough not to topple over. (My instructor is great, btw, and a very accomplished xword solver in her own right)
- 50A: Sequel title starter (Son) - not that common any more. Not sure when it was truly "common."
- 55A: Cager Kukoc (Toni) - no idea he spelled his name like a girl.
- 56A: It appears first in China (family name) - woo hoo! WOO hoo! Had -AME and got it from there.
- 59A: Lexicographic enlighteners (usage notes) - dorks like me live for this stuff.
- 61A: It's no longer working (retirement) - it sure is. Unless you're my dad, in which case, you kinda sorta still work. Or maybe he's just in semi-RETIREMENT, if that's a thing.
- 4D: Water follower, commercially (Pik) - an out-and-out gimme.
- 26D: Pacific force, for short (LAPD) - I admire this clue's moxie.
- 27D: Spaces between leaf veins (areoles) - hmmm. Seems to be a completely different word from AREOLA. (if you look up AREOLA at Wikipedia you will see a sub-listing for something called "Jogger's nipple"!)
- 32D: Caesarian being (esse) - I finally settled on Julius Caesar yesterday as the one Shakespeare play I would teach in my 17th Century Literature course next term (I know it was written in 1599 ... I have my reasons)
PS please behold the gorgeous work of one of my dear readers, who has taken to doing daily drawings inspired by the puzzle. Easily the best crossword-related design work I've Ever seen. This one (which I Love) is inspired by this past Thursday's puzzle: