Thursday, December 27, 2007
Relative difficulty: Challenging
THEME: Add "C" - familiar phrases have "C" added to their beginnings, creating silly phrases, which are clued
Took me just over 11 (!?) and that was with one oversight (an "I" where a "Y" belonged) and one flat-out guess that ended up right (see mini-lecture on unfair crossings below). I spent a good part of my time staring down a recalcitrant NW and northern midwest. And yet I felt quite good during parts of this puzzle, knocking off parts that I knew were tough with little effort at all. Had the whole NW and W done inside a minute. So ... very uneven. I still enjoyed the puzzle, on the whole. I just ... have some concerns. Small criticisms. Nits, really. Well, maybe bigger than nits. Lice? Let's see...
- 17A: Certain marine biologist's test? (Coral exam)
- 23A: One way to get into a gang's headquarters? (Con the lookout)
- 35A: Eskimos in an igloo? (Cold folks at home) - know this phrase (minus the "C") only from an old Taj Mahal album I happen to own.
- 45A: Pictures of Slinkys? (Coil paintings)
- 57A: Witches' pots, pans, etc.? (Covenware) - had a rough time here, as all I wanted to write in was COVENBAKE...
On Unfair Crossings:
OK, look. I expect to get beaten by puzzles once in a while. My ignorance is vast, and occasionally it will be revealed in crossing answers that are simply outside my ken. I accept this. But the whole point of having words cross (hence, "Crosswords"), is that you are supposed to have a shot at getting @#$# you don't know. There must be some room for educated guessing. But when you cross a fairly exotic word with a highly unspecifically clued three-letter abbreviation, you are just being mean. Here's the cross in question:
- 22D: Dried coconut meat (copra) - I know that somewhere in my life, I've seen/heard this before, but I had CO-RA and nothing was coming to me. I won't tell you the gruesome details of how I guessed correctly, but it involves misremembering the parts of a certain scientific word of Greek derivation.
- 28A: F.D.R. agency (O.P.A.) - The Office of Price Administration!?!?! Really? Ugh. I hate few clues more than [F.D.R. agency]. Now I know why F.D.R. is such a demonic figure to conservatives: at times like these, I, too, start to wish for a Smaller @#$#-ing Government. Has anyone ever counted how many three-letter abbreviations F.D.R. brought into being. I can name three, now, so there must be others.
All I'm saying is: if you're going to throw an F.D.R. agency in there (which, you have to admit, is a desperate move for a constructor), at least give me crosses that might be in my vocabulary. You know things are wrong when, of the three crosses to an abbreviation, LOESS (25D: Windblown deposit) is not the most obscure.
More rough stuff:
- 14A: "_____ the Agent" (old comic strip) ("Abie") - hell, I teach Comics and I didn't know this. Luckily, ABIE is a very, very familiar name to crossword solvers everywhere.
- 6D: Musical interval (sixth) - I had FIXER here for a while because ... I'm not sure I can even explain it ... I used the clue from 21A: Cultural stuff (arts) ... and mistook the meaning of "Culture" ... let's just say I had AGAR for ARTS at first. If none of this makes any sense to you, you are perfectly sane. Move along.
- 22A: Tops (crests) - stared at -RESTS for far, far too long.
- 10D: Hebdomadally (a week) - [sigh] - another word for me to learn ... and forget.
- 11D: Five-time Horse of the Year, 1960-64 (Kelso) - all well and good for those of you who were alive then. To me, KELSO is the character that made Ashton Kutcher famous. "Famous."
- 52A: Prefix with -phile (oeno-) - got it easy, as I love this prefix, but come on! Give people a little help.
- 30D: Thin pancakes (blini) - really seeing a lot of these lately, strangely.
- 30A: "Breaker Morant" people (Boers) - total guess - with BO--S in place, there wasn't a lot else it could have been.
- 36D: Utmost distance from the eye at which an image is clear (far point) - inferrable, but unknown to me as a concept.
- 47D: French frigate that carried the Statue of Liberty to the U.S. (Isere) - if this weren't a river name, I'd never have got it. Had YSERE at first, duh.
- 48D: Nautical acronym (LORAN) - nope. Sorry. Don't know this. LOng RAnge Navigation, I'm told.
- 46D: Massive, very hot celestial orb (O-star) - well, "celestial orb" pretty much gives you the STAR part, but trust me when I say there are at least several [letter]-STARs in astronomical parlance.
- 59A: Cling Plus brand (Saran) - mysterious ... then easy.
- 5D: Red lights and flares (alerts) - again, should have come more easily than it did. I think I was anticipating a trick that never came.
- 60A: Novelist Seton (Anya) - ugh, that "Y"; had ANIA and TEVIE (50D: "Fiddler on the Roof" role) before I changed "I" to "Y."
- 58D: Financial paper: Abbr. (WSJ) - ah, newspaper. OK. They have a weekly puzzle.
- 49D: Who has won an Oscar for Best actor three times (Noone) - that Peter NOONE; he'll surprise you.
- 7D: _____ pudding (British dish) (pease) - anyone else fill in FIGGY?
- 27D: Expressionist Schiele (Egon) - he's back. You must remember him.
- 26D: Time-honored name (Luce) - something to do with Time magazine's publisher, Henry LUCE.
- 54D: Carrier of a bow and arrows (Eros) - took me way way Way too long. Had ENOS at one point.
- 43D: Kind of gland (pineal) - example of how you can have no idea what you're writing down in a crossword puzzle and it really doesn't matter. "PINEAL? Rings a bell. Sure, why not?"
- 45D: _____ finalis (purpose, in law) (causa) - didn't know. Needed crosses. A little Latin often comes in handy. At least I knew CAUSA was in fact a word.
- 64A: 1910s heavyweight champ _____ Willard (Jess) - a really interesting guy. Still, I hope you are noticing how many semi-obscure to obscure answers there are in this puzzle. Not a terrible thing - I'm just sayin': this puzzle was harder than most Thursdays.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld