Thursday, December 20, 2007
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: EVERY ENTRY THAT'S / IN THE GRID HAS THE / SAME FIRST LETTER / AS THE ENTRY'S CLUE (17A: Explanation of this puzzle's theme... - in four parts)
How amazing is it that this explanation breaks down into four 15-letter parts?
I found the theme explanation very easy to fill in as I went along, though I had no idea where it was going til I actually got to the end - which meant that I benefited from knowing the explanation for about six or seven entries in the far SE. But it hardly mattered. This puzzle is ingenious in its conception and execution, with gratuitous Y's and X's aplenty (as if Mr. Collins could see that the long explanation itself wasn't very flash, letter-wise, and that something needed to be done - my kind of constructor). There is a ton of high-end crosswordese here, but then again, I've been up to my ears in crosswordese lately, preparing to revamp the Pantheon (see sidebar), so I'm highly attuned to it right now.
My favorite portion of the grid was the paralleling of TV TRAY (45D: Tube watcher's food holder) and LARYNX (46D: Language organ). So many Scrabbly letters and unexpected consonant combinations. Maybe constructors should pen themselves in, clue-wise, more often, if the result is going to be something as fresh and creative as [Language organ] for LARYNX.
The one rough patch for me - one that held me up for about 20 seconds at the very end trying to figure out what was wrong - was in the WNW, where DAWES (32A: Director of the budget who became U.S. vice president) was entirely unknown to me, as was NANNA (26D: Norse goddess married to Balder) (which crosses DAWES, at a vowel, aargh). I had FREDA for NANNA at first, and spent some time early on undoing that. But when the grid was complete, I had DOWEE where DAWES was supposed to be, and while I know little about U.S. Vice Presidents pre-Mondale, I know that no one named DOWEE has ever held that semi-esteemed office. DAWES was an educated guess.
But first I had to change that final "E" in DOWEE to an "S" - why was it an "E" in the first place? Well, I'll tell you. For 18D: "Yowzer!" ("Yipes!") I had YIPEE. I didn't like my answer, but the correct answer Never occurred to me. And do you know why? Well, let me give you the top definitions at dictionary.com for both YOWZER and YIPES:
|Part of Speech:||interj|
|Definition:||an exclamation of delight or approval; also called yowzah|
yipe (yīp) Pronunciation Key
Used to express surprise, fear, or dismay.
YIPEE, while misspelled (I think), is far closer to "delight or approval" than YIPES is. The prosecution rests.
- 9A: Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Am I _____" ("Losin'") - that first letter was a bear. Didn't get the (now obvious) cross til late - LATINA (9D: Lady from south of the border) wanted only to be SENORA.
- 34A: Rapper MC _____ (Ren) - I vaguely know of this guy. Much tougher clue than, say, [Stimpy's sidekick] - once again, restrictions of the theme lead to creativity.
- 60A: Corleone portrayer (Caan) - CAAN and ALBA (53D: Actress Jessica) are two of the biggest headliners in Bizarro Crossword Land. See also Eric BANA (though not in today's puzzle).
- 64A: Transmitter of cold war news (Tass) - always want Cold War to be capitalized.
- 23D: Sinatra tune "_____ Funny That Way" ("She's") - never heard it. Got it easily enough from crosses.
- 41D: Monument Valley sights (mesas) - if you've watched more than a handful of westerns, you've seen this place a lot. John Ford liked to film here, I think.
- 43D: Espoused of Ahasuerus, in the Bible (Esther) - I thought "Espoused of" was a weird way to phrase a clue - now I know the reason. ESTHER is one of the most common Biblical names in crossword-land.
Crosswordese roll call!
- 14A: Oviedo stew (olla) - I thought the OLLA was the pot, not the food product itself. Appears it can be both.
- 23A: Scharnhorst admiral of W.W. I (Spee) - Graf Spee! Learned it from crosswords.
- 35A: Enoch's great - great - grandfather (Enos) - like ESTHER, ENOS is also common, but unlike ESTHER, ENOS can be clued as a "Dukes of Hazzard" spin-off.
- 39A: Anecdotal collection (ana) - learned from crosswords.
- 10D: Orangish tones (ochres) - didn't learn it from crosswords, but o my god this word won't go away lately. Autumn is over. OCHRE needs a holiday.
- 2D: An inventor's middle name (Alva) - TAE is a good monogram to remember, btw.
- 24D: Access for a collier (adit) - for a long time, my paradigmatic example of crosswordese. I love this word; and, of course, I know it only from crosswords.
- 51D: Site of July 1944 fighting (St. Lo) - Only from crosswords! France's most frequently featured four-letter place name (I think).
- 16A: Allergic explosion (achoo) - I love the clue. Maybe not fair to include this in "crosswordese," but I'd never really seen the sound spelled out until I saw it in crosswords - and you do see it in the grid a good deal.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld