Saturday, January 12, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: Records (or, none)
Well, I oughta piss you guys off more often - yesterday was the highest single-day traffic this site has seen: over 10K visitors for the first time ever. I haven't had readers get riled up like that since the time I got into it with His Crossword Holiness back in September. Good times. . . I want to say publicly, as I said to Mike Nothnagel privately yesterday, that his puzzle deserved more attention to its good qualities, especially since, as I said early on in yesterday's commentary, the great bulk of it was Fantastic.
Today's puzzle is not as flashy as yeterday's, but it's a very solid and entertaining effort nonetheless, with lots of good compound phrases and a playful focus on the word "record" throughout four different clues in the puzzle. There were many potential toe-holds for aspiring late-week solvers - crossword common answers included ABIE (13D: Rose's beau on Broadway), AERIE (39A: High hideaway), FRI (53D: Many workers look forward to it: Abbr.), ETNA (48D: View from Catania - OK, so I had ELBA at first...), and OKIE (50D: Steinbeck figure), and there were a handful of other answers that felt as if they might be gimmes for a whole lot of people (as they were for me): LANI (12D: Legal scholar Guinier), RRR (8D: Elementary school trio?), SHE BOP (44A: 1984 Cyndi Lauper hit - love her!), E-FILE (55A: Stampless I.R.S. submission), ACRID (43D: Sharp - coulda been ACERB, I guess), DEED (51D: Title). The most important gimme of all for me, though, was 30D: Big name at the 1976 Olympics (Nadia) - now this could have been BRUCE (Jenner), I suppose, but that occurred to me only just now. This easy answer really helped me open up the puzzle, as I already had the PE- in 11D: Achievement by 30-Down that had been previously unattained (perfect ten), and getting NADIA turned that clue into a gimme instantly.
PERFECT TEN is one cornerstone of the "Record" theme that runs throughout this puzzle. We also get
- 33A: Record holder (registrar)
- 45D: Record holder (hi fi), and
- 53A: Recording session starter (first take)
I especially like REGISTRAR, as it takes the meaning of "record" in a direction I wasn't expecting. Also, it gave me a great "AHA" moment, because I wanted the skater at 31D: 1987 world figure skating champion to be ORSER (and it is), but I was looking at a cross, then, that ended -TRAR, which seemed awfully strange... until the only word to fit the bill sprang up and smacked me in the face.
I just had POCONO / MTS in some puzzle or other, so POCONO was fresh in my mind. I guessed the MT part (28A: Touristy resort borough SE of Scranton, Pa.). This got me into the consonant-heavy center of the puzzle, where LT GOV. (23D: State second: Abbr.) crosses REALITY TV (37A: Much unscripted fare) in that final "V" (rare to see two final-V answers intersect at the "V" like that). Struggled mightily (well, somewhat) to get MD DEGREE, which is perfectly, craftily clued (40A: Acquisition before becoming a resident). I couldn't stop thinking GREEN CARD.
I am going to guess that the toughest part of the puzzle for most people was the Far West, if only because a Lesser Nymph, the OREAD (26D: Mountain nymph), intersects a puzzle-worthy but not exactly household name in EDEL (34A: Writer of a five-volume Henry James biography). The Scrooge- or Grinch-oriented nature of 32A: Christmas story bad guy (Herod) might have thrown some people too. This was certainly the thorniest part of the puzzle for me, but it wasn't that thorny, to be honest. This was the second-to-last section to fall - I did the puzzle in mostly a counterclockwise order, starting with PEABO (16A: Singer Bryson) in the NE and ending somewhere around ILLE (2D: River at Rennes) in the NW. Speaking of ILLE ... ??? That was the one truly mystifying answer today. Everything else was at least marginally familiar.
- 15A: "Tom Jones" beat it for Best Picture of 1963 ("Cleopatra") - before my time. Did I ever tell you how I tried to study for the English Lit GREs, and I picked up "Tom Jones" (it's massive), read the first paragraph, thought "I can't read 700 pages of this right now," put it down ... and then that first paragraph ended up being on the test? It's true. Serendipity.
- 17A: Cocky competitors might take them on (all comers) - something about how this is phrased made it a gimme.
- 18A: Star Steeler Stautner (Ernie) - I did not know this, but I do know that ERNIE is a name one might actually have, unlike, say, [redacted]
- 20A: Beards (defies) - I was trying to think of another short word for "a female companion that makes you appear as if you are a heterosexual man."
- 42A: Fits behind the wheel? (road rage) - easy, but great. I have (mostly) learned to control mine, although people talking on hand-held cell phones while driving have been known to turn me feral.
- 56A: Sultana-stuffed treat (raisin pie) - once I remembered what a "sultana" was, this one was easy. RAISIN PIE sounds Awfully sweet.
- 1D: Plymouth Reliant, for one (K-car) - Familiar term, though I have No idea what it means. I'm guessing there's no relation to K-STAR (or KAY STARR, for that matter).
- 3D: Frames a collector might frame (cels) - animation cels. I'd love to have one of Lisa or Homer doing just about anything.
- 4D: "Citizen _____" (1992 autobiography) ("Koch") - I wanted "RUTH" ... but that was a movie about abortion with Laura Dern.
- 6D: Monkey (tamper) - I had TINKER
- 24D: Col. Potter on "M*A*S*H," to pals (Sherm) - killed me that I couldn't get this instantly. Could think only of "Henry," who was the colonel (Blake) who preceded Potter. HENRY POTTER also sounds a lot like the hero of the book I read every night with my daughter.
- 38D: Acknowledgment on a slip ("I goofed") - very nice. Knew it started with "I" and wanted "I OWE YOU."
- 46D: Designer Saab (Elie) - I know one ELIE. His name is Wiesel.
- 54D: Golfer Woosnam (Ian) - I know many IANs. This is not one of them. Luckily for me, I never saw this clue.
All best wishes for a happy weekend.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
The day's other crosswords:
- LAT 10:29 (C) - Robert H. Wolfe
- CS 4:11 (C) - Martin Ashwood-Smith, "Fare Weather" (a riddle)
- Newsday 22:56 (!?) (C) - Daniel Stark, Saturday Stumper - got most of it done quickly and then had a horrible, long free-fall in the generally S and SE portions of the puzzle. In the end, quite doable.