Friday, February 8, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
Struggled with this puzzle a bit, and I have two explanations. One, I started in the far far far SE with JERI (57A: Ryan of "Boston Public") crossing AJA (55D: 1977 double-platinum album with the hits "Peg" and "Deacon Blues" [pauses to load Steely Dan onto iTunes ... realizes he has only a live version of "Josie" ... decides that will do]). It's very disorienting to try to work a puzzle from the depths of hell upward. Perhaps I was just feeling DAZED (54A: Woozy) from (explanation #2 for my struggles) having napped between about 9 and 10:15pm. Not your optimal napping time. Lying there in bed trying to work this R to L, Down to Up, after having just napped, left me feeling a bit sluggish. And yet, once I finally got some damned traction, this puzzle was a real pleasure - though two areas vexed me terribly. Vexed, I say!
Vexation 1: The SW
Whenever I find myself working into a corner where I know there's no way out, no back door, just a dead end, I can feel myself start to get a little worried inside - what if the scent goes dead and I've just got blankness staring at me? I started feeling this way when I sent CAPE VERDE (52A: Africa's westernmost point) and then ITINERANT (56A: Like some salesmen and preachers) arcing across the void toward the west coast ... and then nothing happened. I had something-AWAY underneath and a whole lot of blank above. Even (finally) nailing STEPFORD WIVES (17D: Ultra-obedient companions) didn't make things better. Eventually, with a little patience (and a nice guess at 40A: _____ shop (pro)), I hacked my way through. In retrospect, two problems: ELEMI (48A: Fragrant resin) was simply baffling, though it has the air of a word I've seen before, in some crossword long ago. Then there was the vagueness factor at 58A: Brushes off (sends away) - that SENDS felt like it could have been anything - and then 41D: Have a connection (relate) and 45A: Rolls over, in a way (renews), which I don't quite get. Is this 401K-speak? I would never have known PRECIS (40D: Abstract) if I hadn't had to write one in British Literature II with Professor Reed in 1989 ... why, I don't know? All I know is PRECIS conjures that very precise memory. And ONE PIN (42D: Spare part?)? You missed the ONE? I would have thought TEN PIN, but I guess people miss the ONE all the time, now that I think of it.
Vexation #2: The NNW
This part wasn't nearly as bad as the SW, but because I couldn't make sense of 20A: Pay stub data (TA...??? - turned out to be TAXES), I couldn't work my way up in to the NW. Another @#$#$#ing "epoxy" stood in my way - 5D: Kind of resin (epoxy). I eventually came at the N from the back end, though as I worked my way up there (my Last Stand), I had that creeping feeling of "you're going to stall ... the engine's going to cut out ... here comes the free fall ..." Thankfully, the long Acrosses up there were reasonably easy to pick up from their back ends, though my initial error at 8D: Big _____ (I had TEN instead of BEN - Go Michigan!), left me with a silly mess at 5A: Results of compliments (--OTOOSTS??? - ended up as EGO BOOSTS, of course). I am quite proud that I drove the OTOS (7D: Natives of Noble County, Okla.) out of their hiding places almost instantly. Come on - you're crossworld's most recognizable Native Americans; you're going to have to hide better than that. PATENT LAW (15A: Invention convention) feels weird to me. Is a "LAW" a "convention?" I guess ... it is. But it's got the force of ... well, LAW behind it. You are welcome for that circular definition.
The Bullet Train
- 1A: Ways to get inside hip joints? (MRIs) - what's weird here is that I thought the anatomical route was the misdirection, so I thought "Oh, I see, 'hip joints' = cool bars or clubs ... aha! Clever!" Ah ... no. "Hip joints" are indeed just that. I have had two MRIs in the past year. I hope never to have another. (I am fine, by the way, thanks for asking)
- 14A: Is not misused? (ain't) - cute. A nice little gimme for me up here in the NW.
- 18A: Opening on an environmentalist's agenda? (ozone hole) - I can't believe that I had HOLE and still had to think a few seconds about what this could be. I was thinking of knotHOLES in trees ... sheesh.
- 19A: Wrangler rival (Lee) - another sweet little gimme. I noticed on my wife's half-completed puzzle that she got this with no crosses, so I wasn't alone.
- 22A: Person after a lifestyle change, self-descriptively (new me) - gangly clue, but great answer.
- 36D: Jersey workers (knitters) - thought for sure this would have to do with cows.
- 27A: Modern vent outlet? (blog) - I'll "vent" you, you wise-ass. Speaking of blog, I had a photo shoot yesterday (HA ha) for the forthcoming "Cat Fancy" article on me (and by "Cat" I mean "Chronicle of Higher," and by "Fancy" I mean "Education"). It was So Elaborate, with all kinds of lights and backdrops ... and yet the photo will likely not reflect at all the circus-like machinations that went into it. People kept peeping their heads into my office to see the celebrity, only to be massively disappointed.
- 29A: You may pass on these: Abbr. (rds) - uh ... sure. You may do lots of things on these.
- 31A: Old hippie hangout, with "the" (Haight) - is the hangout old, or are the hippies old? Or both?
- 38A: Singer Lennon and others (Seans) - went totally blank on this. Could see the kid (not a kid anymore, I guess) in my head, but kept trying to write in JOHNS.
- 43A: Where a tongue can be found (deli) - gross. Never eaten tongue, and likely never will.
- 47A: Probably will, circumstances permitting (plans to) - way harder than it should have been because I had "A" in the final letter for a while due to a mix-up at 39D: Pinch-hit, where I had STAND IN instead of STOOD IN.
- 51A: Torch-lighting skater at the 1998 Winter Olympics (Ito) - my first clue that STAND IN was wrong. I knew this Had to be ITO (actually I entertained ALI for a bit, which just goes to show, you should actually Read your clues ... the word "skater" is right there!).
- 1D: Laugh-producing game popular since 1958 (Mad Libs) - as I was trying to figure this out, I was thinking "'Laugh-producing?' I'll be the judge of that." But I have to admit that, as a child, I laughed quite a bit at Mad Libs. Sahra thinks they're hilarious.
- 2D: What ethylene may be used for (ripening) - science! Between the resins and the RIPENING, I was at a decided disadvantage today.
- 9D: Short-term relationship (one-night stand) - breakfast test! Do I really want to think about casual sex with my cereal? Wait, that question didn't come out right ...
- 13D: May TV event (sweeps) - love it. Got it instantly. Very contemporary.
- 24D: Measure that resulted in multilingual labeling on goods (NAFTA) - that's where multilingual labeling came from??
- 27D: Sect governed by the Universal House of Justice (Bahai) - what a coincidence: my sect is governed by the Universal House of Pancakes.
- 28D: Storyteller's pack (lies) - I was talking to my class yesterday about the long-standing association between story-telling and lying.
- 44D: Pitch preceder (slo-) - because "w" just takes too damned long to write.
- 50D: "The Facts of Life" housemother _____ Garrett (Edna) - total gimme, and yet I wrote in MONA at first, completly conflating Mrs. Garrett with the saucy Mona Robinson, Katherine Helmond's character on "Who's the Boss."
- 53D: Silent _____ (Era) - took a while for this ERA to come to me.
Lastly: I had this insane dream last night that remotely involved 3-time Crossword Tournament Champion Tyler Hinman. I had been in a mall but ended up at an Italian restaurant out on a dead-end road, and when I went in the place was a mess and didn't even appear to be functioning. A few people here and there with largely empty plates. A waitress came over and told me that they were out of food because Tyler Hinman had been there just beforehand with some other guy and they'd eaten everything in the restaurant, so now all they had to serve were oat cakes (!?). Then it got very "Godfather" and morphed into a story wherein someone died in a car bombing in the parking lot. Just thought I'd share.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld