Friday, February 22, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
This was hard. Doable, but hard. More like a Saturday than a Friday. One of those puzzles where I start out looking for an answer I know and can't find one. First thing that finally clicked - OVEN MITT (12D: Bit of kitchen wear), which gave me the "V" I (desperately) needed to remember the very basic AVON (16A: "The company for women" sloganeer). From there, the NE went down pretty quickly, but only because I've done so many crosswords in the past year that LODI (11A: California wine center) was a gimme and RETE (18A: Neural network) was something I'd blogged about before, and thus doesn't look as foreign as it probably does to many of you (and as it did to me the first time I saw it). Which president's middle name is KNOX (21A: Presidential middle name)? Whoa, KNOX is the "K" in James K. Polk!
Biggest nemesis of the day: PROVE (20A: Turn out to be). I had END UP. Then I had ... nothing. So frustrating to know that I know the word, and yet not be able to retrieve it. The Downs were Not helping. The hardest stretch of Downs I've seen in a puzzle in a while. Well, OK, only two of them are really tough, but I don't speak German, so three were tough for me. First there's RACOONS (8D: Kinkajou's kin: Var.), which I can't believe this puzzle got away with. It's one thing to have an absurd variant, and then another, more painful thing to have the only clue to that variant being something that sounds like a character from Japanese anime. I wanted PIKACHU here, but ... could a Pokemon character have a variant spelling of his name? These are the things one ponders when one is desperate. Then there's "UNE VIE" (9D: 1883 Maupassant novel), which at one point I wanted to be "THE TIE." Then there's ESSEN (10D: Dine, in Dusseldorf), which is also a German city, which is the only reason I eventually put it in the grid without wincing. Oh, I forgot to mention the wall that kept me from getting through this central portion of the puzzle and up into the North: I had WRONG where I should have had (who says this?) DOING (24A: "What's _____?"). DOING looks like a sound effect to me this morning.
Had two biblical "WTF" moments in this puzzle. First, you can call someone who's a jinx a JONAH (39A: One who brings bad luck)? Is that with a lowercase "j"? Wow. Good thing I know the biblical story, or I never would have bought this answer. Further NOAH (31D: See 29-Down) created a BOAT (29D: Creation of 31-Down)? A BOAT!? Oh, yes, who can forget the story of Noah's BOAT? I actually thought about spelling ARKH thusly.
- 22A: Queen in a long-running comic strip (Aleta) - god bless this woman; she was my gateway to the NW, which remained blank for longer than any other portion of the puzzle. Prince Valiant's wife ALETA and his son ARN, to a lesser extent, are your crossword friends.
- 40A: Childish comeback ("are so!")
- 46A: Response of feigned innocence ("Who, me?") - what does it say about me that my only true gimmes were an ancient comic strip character and two things a child might say?
The frowny faces:
- 17A: Providers of exceptional service? (tennis aces) - don't like this at all. You can be a TENNIS ACE and not have a very strong serve at all. Being an ACE and serving an ACE are not the same thing.
- 33A: "Centuries" (C-notes) - uh ... EONS? AEONS? Why are there quotation marks around "Centuries?" Actually, I know why (to show that it's colloquial) but lots of clues are colloquial and don't have the quotation marks. Happens all the time. So why the quot. marks today? Weird.
- 34A: Where to find pop art? (soda can) - wants to be clever, and is, sort of. It's just that I don't think of SODA CANs as having much art to them. Is a logo art? I don't know. Grumble grumble. I wanted some version of DEN here - you know, somewhere your dad (pop) might hang his watercolors ...
- 42A: NATO member: Abbr. (Nor.) - Poor NORway gets this horrible non-specific clue.
- 5D: Prefix with directional (uni-) - meh. I should probably add this to my gimme list, but since I had nothing to confirm it for a long time, I eventually took it out ... only to put it back in again, obviously.
- 6D: Shortening in the kitchen? (tbsp) - easy on the cleverness, kids. This one bugged me more than it amused me.
- 36D: Hide in the woods (deerskin) - got this quickly, but "hide" and DEERSKIN both at least imply that the DEER in question is dead and ready for processing into goods fit for human use. Thus, no longer "in the woods." Unless you live in the woods, I guess.
- 45A: Boulogne-sur-_____, France (Mer) - so easy in retrospect, but I had no idea when I first looked at the clue.
- 55A: _____-Mints (Rolaids rival) (Alka) - ditto
- 56A: Singer of the 1967 hit "California Nights" (Lesley Gore) - Who? What? I listened to a LOT of Oldies radio growing up, and I can safely say I have never heard this song. LESLEY GORE apparently sang "You Don't Own Me," which I do know (and love).
- 59A: Subject of the 2004 book "Dancing Revelations" (Alvin Ailey)
- 60A: Jarrow's river (Tyne) - As in "Newcastle-upon-_____"
- 1D: Mil. V.I.P. (Sgt. Maj.) - that took six periods to write. I had this starting with "B" when I thought that 1A: Awfully accurate? (sad but true) must start with BAD...
- 2D: Eye component (areola) - I had no idea. How many things have one of these? The list seems eternal.
- 4D: Poet who won a Pulitzer for "The Dust Which Is God" (Benet) - had the "T," considered ELIOT. I know BENET only from xwords.
- 32D: "Underboss" author Peter (Maas) - seen it several times before, but can never remember it. Wanted MIES.
- 53D: Home of Davy Crockett: Abbr. (Tenn.) - yep, that's a state. That'll work.
- 57A: Title syllables in a 1961 Lee Dorsey hit (yas) - more 60's music I can't recall. Looking up song now ... Whoa, here's Petula Clark doing a French version of "Ya Ya Twist." Weeeird.
- 15A: Salade nicoise ingredients (green beans) - I've had this salad before and could think only of tuna and possible capers or olives. Tasty.
- 33D: Smythe of hockey (Conn) - this is the name of a trophy (MVP of the playoffs), otherwise I would Never have known it. Thank you ESPN, for the occasionally useful sports chatter that sticks in my head.
- 19A: With 50-Across, surmount (move / past) - I like this split. It works.
- 28A: Strip alternative (T-bone) - great, hard clue.
- 54A: Holder of many tracks (iPod) - not original or anything, but I just love my iPod so much that I thought I'd include it anyway.
- 61A: Outdoor toy that attaches to a garden hose (Slip 'n' Slide) - oh yeah. Loved these. Recall playing (roughly, dangerously) on these as a kid.
- 3D: Where I-25 and I-70 meet (Denver) - I'd like to thank my family for living where they do (i.e. outside DENVER)
- 25D: Magazine holder (gun case) - well, if it's not FORT, then it must be GUN CASE - great clue/answer.
- 34D: Cause of colonial unrest (Stamp Act) - we read from our Intellectual Devotional: American History Edition every night, so my head is awash in Colonial history right now. Me: "Honey, did the Stamp Act cause colonial unrest?" Sandy: "Yes." Me: "Woo hoo! I got it right! U.S.A! U.S.A!"
- 37D: It's out for a pout (lower lip) - another great clue/answer pairing. Easy, too, which was a nice change of pace for this puzzle.
- 42D: "That's Amore" setting (Napoli) - like this mainly because I got it off the "I" having no idea why I knew it.
- 47D: Papa Bear of the N.F.L. (Halas) - again, got it instantly. Where am I getting this information? I couldn't tell you much of anything about HALAS, and yet when I saw "Papa Bear," his is the name that surfaced.
- 39D: Ruler of Scotland, 1567-1625 (James VI) - my wheelhouse! I'm in the Jacobean period Right Now in my 17c. Lit. class.
Enjoy the beginning of your week-end
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS - OK, so the Chronicle of Higher Education article about this site has been available on-line (for subscribers) for about a week. But today - TODAY - a (horrid) picture of me is Right Underneath the masthead at their website. Why couldn't they have used this halfway decent B&W picture, which accompanies the actual article?:
You've still gotta be a subscriber to read the article, but if you go to chronicle.com, you can at least enjoy the picture of my little office, complete with my awesome red desk lamp and "Simpsons" poster in the background. -RP