Saturday, February 16, 2008
Relative difficulty: Challenging
No time this morning for a lengthy write-up, which is just as well. This puzzle was unpleasant, not just because it was hard, but because it was hard in a deliberate and dull way. While I'm sure there is something to admire about an answer like CUCHIFRITO (8D: Small, deep-fried pork cube), having it run through short and obscure answers like DIL (22A: "Rugrats" baby) and ORFE (26A: Golden fish stocked in ornamental pools) and alongside one of a significant PASSEL (49A: Slew) of boring science words, ETHYLENE (9D: C2H4) ... it somehow manages to be both cruel and dull. The worst cross, however, was SLOP ON (44D: Apply messily) crossing EXOCET (50A: Anti-ship missile that skims waves at nearly the speed of sound), where I had SLAP ON (a far far far more in the language phrase) crossing EXACET (which looks no less wrong than EXOCET to me). So ... a random vowel intersection means the difference between done and not done. Perhaps I should just know more about missiles. And pork. Ugh. This puzzle was hard but not in an exhilarating. Unexciting. If you want to know what hard (very hard) and good (very good) feels like, do yesterday's New York Sun puzzle by Byron Walden. I almost want to do it again just to get the taste of this one out of my mouth.
ETHYLENE? ACETONE (15A: Thinner option)? ENOL (47A: Certain alkene)? Are you asleep yet? Well, here's a science-y word to wake you up: BURETTE (17A: Lab tube)! Boo! You thought PIPETTE if you thought anything. But no. BURETTE.
Unknown to me:
- 46A: Hindu sage (rishi) - I have tea with this name. Never knew it what it meant. I of course had SWAMI here, and thankfully, my one correct letter was enough to get me the Down cross TILLERS (42D: They work on earth). Then I saw 41D: One using a crib and my first, correct instinct (CHEATER) meant that SWAMI was wrong. I pieced together RISHI cross by cross.
- 32A: Patron of Paris (Geneviève) - looking for a French word meaning "patron" ... not finding one. Instead, I find the Patron Saint of Paris.
- 58A: "On Your Toes" composer (Rodgers) - A RODGERS and Hart musical? As I've said before, musicals are my new opera, i.e. nemesis.
- 25A: One of the Gandhis (Sonia) - not familiar with this particular Gandhi.
- 43A: Some aperitifs (kirs) - only ever seen in in crosswords. "K" was the last letter I filled in. Thank goodness for UKE (35D: Island entertainer).
- 55A: Amscray (vamoose) - OK, this wasn't hard, but these feel different in tone, in that I feel like I would tell someone else to "scram" (or "amscray," if you insist), but I might VAMOOSE. That is, the former sounds like "get lost" (my first answer) where the latter has a ring of "let's go."
- 45A: Mother of Hyacinth, in myth (Clio) - Muse of History, Award of Advertisers.
- 9A: Post boxes? (cereals) - yay! This is good.
- 18A: A lot of foreign intelligence intercepts (chatter) - yay! More goodness.
- 20A: Many-sided problems (hydras) - eeks! Rough, but excitingly so. Why couldn't the rest of the puzzle have the 'zazz and energy of these answers?
- 21A: Ready to be put to bed (edited) - one of the puzzles very few gimmes. Would have loved that it crossed the thematically-related STETTING (4D: Letting stand), but no one but its mother could ever love an abomination like STETTING.
- 31A: One protected by a collie (ewe) - it was that or RAM. Nice clue! All hail the NE of this puzzle!
- 52A: Touch-related (tactual) - [cough - choke - sputter] - at best, this answer is a typo of FACTUAL.
- 53A: Part of a special delivery? (triplet) - I've seen this exact clue recently for QUINT, which helped here.
- 56A: Hamlet, notably (avenger) - give me revenge, any time, anywhere. Delicious.
- 33D: Big Mac request (no cheese) - not delicious. Great answer, but ... this puzzle is murder on a vegetarian.
- 1D: "The View," essentially (gabfest) - now, I have no love for this show, but this answer feels at least vaguely sexist. Buncha broads won't shut their yaps ...
- 2D: Home to Mount Chimborazo (Ecuador) - news to me.
- 3D: Earthen casserole dish (terrine) - wanted to spell it TERRENE, but that's a totally different word.
- 7D: Skittish herd (deer) - had the final "R" and it still puzzled me. Embarrassing.
- 12D: Singer of "A Foggy Day" in "A Damsel in Distress" (Sinatra [correction - I meant ASTAIRE - what a weird mistake ... thanks for the heads-up, Wendy]) - misread the "in" in this clue as "and." Wanted MEL TORME (you know ... the Velvet FOG), but he wouldn't fit.
- 14D: Shooter that may be digital, for short (SLR) - another blessed gimme.
- 26D: Means of public protest (open letter) - great clue / answer. I had OPEN DEBATE for a little while.
- 30D: Was broad on the boards (over-acted) - something Mr. Orbach's father never did. That's three stage and / or musical clues. Come on - you all know my weaknesses. Why must you exploit them?
- 37D: Nearest, to Nero (proxima) - well, I loved this, but I can't imagine it amused many people who haven't taken Latin.
- 49D: _____ Nurmi, nine-time track gold medalist in 1920s (Paavo) - had PARVO. Surprised that I got that close. Not sure how I know the name.
- 22D: Caused to be scored, as a run (drove in) - really, really saved me in the middle of this puzzle.
- 52D: Peter of Paul, but not Mary (tsar) - not sure how I feel about the [blank and blank, but not blank] variety of clue. Risky, I think. TSAR isn't a fancy / tough enough answer to merit said cluing, I think.
OK, off to get coffee and enjoy a sunny Saturday. Over the course of writing this entry, I have warmed to this puzzle ... if only slightly.
Best wishes to all,
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld