Saturday, January 5, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "The Inside Dope" - synonyms for "DOPE" are buried inside long theme answers
Wow, I had a weird lot of trouble with this puzzle - partly because I was solving it in the midst of much pre-bedtime commotion (not sure what I was thinking) but partly because the clues just seemed vague so much of the time. The whole upper part had holes in it for a long period of time. AGATE (19A: Shooter's target), NACRE (6A: Decorative inlay material), FLAIR (20A: Facility), ATOLL (4D: Midway, e.g.), even PAPAL (1A: Kind of court) just didn't want to come. I didn't catch onto the theme for a Long time. I would have rated this puzzle Medium-Challenging, but I think it was "Challenging" only for Me, personally, to solve Quickly. Overall, it's quite do-able. The theme answers were ... not that interesting, frankly, and some of them are phrases that are simply not very in-the-language. I am impressed how many different words there are for DOPE, but I'm not sure they do all mean DOPE, exactly. Maybe I'm just perturbed because I spent so much of the puzzle hunting for drugs instead of synonyms for "stupid person." Let's see:
- 23A: *Feature of some kids' cereals (coc OAF lavor) - I always think of an OAF as big and clumsy, but that's def. 3; Webster's 3rd New Int'l gives "stupid person" as the more common definition
- 29A: *Regular provider (g ASS tation) - "Regular" gasoline, get it? Ugh. I usually use this word to mean "a jerk," but sure enough, the primary definition is a "simple-minded person."
- 37A: *Holder of the world record for the longest ovation on the operatic stage (80 minutes) (Placi DODO mingo) - 80 minutes!?! That's insanity. I start getting impatient when movies run not much longer than that. DODO works here, themewise.
- 60A: *Let the mind believe what it likes (hu MORON eself) - hmmm. Yeah, I hate this phrase, especially as clued. I had MACAO for MACAU (36D: Former Portuguese colony in China), so figuring this out took longer than it should have).
- 76A: *Bastion of brotherhood (Masoni CLOD ge) - CLOD = one who is gross and stupid: DOLT. We have a sizeable, long-abandoned Masonic TEMPLE in town, just a mile or so from us, and so it was hard to disLODGE "TEMPLE" from my head.
- 98A: *Elementary school test package (rea DINGBAT tery) - this is the phrase that feels the most forced to me. I mean, it's all for the glory of the best of the theme synonyms, DINGBAT, but still ... I had READING MATTERS for a tiny bit.
- 109A: *Dress for the return of cool weather (fal LOUT fit) - a LOUT is not necessarily stupid; an "awkward clownish fellow" - though one of the synonyms given is OAF... I always thought a LOUT was more BOOR than OAF.
- 117A: *Not even close (world SAP art) - a SAP is a PATSY, isn't it? "A person usually liable to be taken in" as by sentimentality or gullibility or by a trick. Spade says over and over that he "won't play the SAP" for Brigid O'Shaughnessy. I guess being a SAP is a bit like being a DOPE. Hmmm ... these are all loosely affiliated words; I guess that's enough. And there are a lot of them. Wait, I forgot the Downs!
- 3D: *Alaskan cruise sighting (Pacifi CHUMP back) - took me forever, mainly because I was seeing the "CH" as part of the same word. Parsing! Do people really call them "PACIFIC" humpbacks, as opposed to ... some other kind?
- 46D: *Wasn't clear, as one's future (seeme DUNCE rtain) - this phrase is tepid, though I realized they can't all be gems when you are bound to get in So Many (loose) synonyms. I had my biggest challenge where this theme entry ends: HEINE (123A: Heinrich who wrote "Atta Troll") over ARNEL (127A: Synthetic fabric) crossing non-bird-related ERNE (114D: Island-dotted lake of Northern Ireland) just sucker-punched me. HEINE I recalled from some prior crossword disaster, ERNE I inferred from there, and ARNEL - that was a prayer.
- 120A: Dungeons & Dragons figure (ogre)
- 45A: "The Guns of August" figure (tsar)
- 12D: Lover boy? (Eros) - it's EROS or AMOR, just as 62D: Mauna _____ is always LOA (as it is here) or KEA
- 83A: Cracker topper (edam)
- 65A: Soyuz destination (Mir)
- 47D: Where Monferrato wine comes from (Asti)
There are a lot of colorful and interesting names in the puzzle today as well:
- 27A: Rita Hayworth title role of 1946 ("Gilda") - one of the foundation films noirs.
- 50A: Grauman of Grauman's Chinese Theater (Sid) - another film-related name.
- 95A: Mexican revolutionary _____ Hidalgo (Miguel) - embarrassingly, I did not know this, though the name sounds vaguely familiar.
- 85A: 1920s anarchist in a celebrated trial (Sacco) - and Vanzetti. I have a new book about them on my shelf just waiting to be read. Like so many other books.
- 106A: Portrait photographer Arbus (Diane) - first heard her name in Woody Allen's "Manhattan" (possibly my favorite film of all time); next heard it in an episode of "The Simpsons" - that is all ye need to know about my cultural frame of reference. The A to Z of it, as it were.
- 107A: Ralph _____, 1974 N.L. batting champ (Garr) - One of the biggest celebrity crushes of my young (and older) life was on Teri GARR, so, much as I love baseball, I, for one, want nothing to do with this Ralph fellow.
And here's some other stuff you might find interesting:
- 34A: Aniselike herbs (fennels) - don't like the plural, but this is an interesting herb to see in the puzzle. Unusual. Took me a few crosses to get it.
- 74A: Group west of the Atlantic: Abbr. (OAS) - Organization of American States. Membership = the 35 independent states of the Americas. A supercommon abbr. in crosswords.
- 81A: Hug and kiss, to a Brit (snog) - an uppity little answer, becoming (it feels to me) increasingly common. Saw it in another NYT, and some other daily puzzle recently, I'm pretty sure. We read Harry Potter (IV) every night with Sahra, so this word is never very far away.
- 87A: Some cottons (Lisles) - city in France, I think. Proud of how quickly I got it, considering French cities and fabrics are two of my non-strong points.
- 93A: Kierkegaard's "The Sickness _____ Death" ("Unto") - pretty gaudy and depressing way to get UNTO, but I do prefer it to the more common [Golden Rule preposition].
- 94A: "My Way" lyricist (Anka) - What didn't this guy do? He rules the crossword, musically speaking. Amazing, for a guy with a "K" in his name.
- 124A: Moneybags in "The Wind in the Willows" (Toad) - this made me smile. That's all. This is one title on a child's bookshelf...
- 24D: Title on a child's bookshelf (Fables) - and this is another.
- 29D: Object of a vain wait (Godot) - it's absurd how long this took me to get. Should've been a gimme.
- 80A: Uniters with 51-Down (ova) - OK, that's a common enough crossword word...
- 51D: Uniters with 80-Across (sperm) - whoa! Shouldn't that clue have a whale in it, somewhere?
- 54D: Songlike (arioso) - one of the most important 6-letter words you can know as a solver. Comes up over and over and over. Not the most common, but about the most common 6-letter word that might not already be in your vocabulary.
- 75D: Like some electronics (solid state) - odd. Never seen this is in my puzzle. Familiar, original phrase, but I can't say that I can define it. I'm trying to imagine my DVD player in a liquid or gaseous state.
- 82D: 1945 Colette novel ("Gigi") - again, assiduously avoiding the road more traveled, clue-wise.
- 101D: Company whose production goes in cycles? (Yamaha) - solid clever clue.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld