Saturday, February 9, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
This puzzle was tough. Started in the NW, where I was hopeless until AQUAMAN came along to save the day (2D: Founding member of the Justice League). That "Q" allowed me to guess AQUARIA at 15A without even knowing the first part of the clued phrase (33D: With 15-Across, sites for some corals = SALTWATER AQUARIA). It's funny this morning to look at my puzzle, because the pencil darkness changes dramatically from one part of the puzzle to the next. AQUAMAN is very dark, but all around it are these lightly penciled answers - all of which turned out to be right - which I entered very tentatively, one by one, sure that one of them would end up wrong. Everything east of AQUAMAN is so faint as to be barely legible.
I wandered down into the awesome split-level combo of DUBUQUE (20A: Home of Clarke College) over PERU (25A: One of the losers in the War of the Pacific). I am especially proud of PERU, as it seemed such an absurd guess when I first made it based solely on the "P" that would have resulted from a hypothetical answer of SIT-UPS for 6D: Basic routine exercise. When I got the second letter "E" off of MAYBE (7D: Fence-sitter's answer), I knew PERU had to be correct. And there was much rejoicing. Until a few seconds later when I completely stalled out. How do you get an answer like DUBUQUE and then fail to build anything off of it!?! Well, to be fair, I built the very important URBANIZED (21D: Built up) off of it almost immediately. Then came the stall.
The two toughest parts of the puzzle, for me, ended up being ETIQUETTE canyon and the KAFIR CANADA trench. I had the magnificent letter string of QUE right smack in the middle of ETIQUETTE (8D: Post codes?) and still couldn't make it come out and play. Emily Post never occurred to me. Just mail. Maybe cereal. Very nice that ETIQUETTE is right next door to MENU (9D: Dish describer), which I also couldn't uncover despite having a big, fat, juicy terminal "U." I was thinking "dish" meant "hot chick" and so was trying to think of wolfish exclamations, like, I don't know, WUHU or LULU or something. Yes, I agree, pathetic. For KAFIR I had KASHA / KASHI, since that is the only grain-related "K" word I know (41A: Grain sorghum with stout, leafy stalks). CANADA was a gimme (47A: It covers six time zones), but TREN (51A: It's pulled by una locomotora), not so much. The wrongest-looking word in the puzzle for me (next to KAFIR). It helped when I finally substituted the correct ATOM ANT (27D: Hanna-Barbera character) for ATOM MAN.
Dashing through the grid...
- 1A: It can really bite (sarcasm) - yes it can. Well, SATIRE is more frequently "biting" than SARCASM, I think, but the clue is still apt. Apt!
- 19A: Former major-league pitcher _____ Seo (Jae) - wind went out of my puzzle sails early when I looked at this clue, got all excited for a sports-related gimme ... and then realized that despite the fact that I had seen this guy on SportsCenter any number of times, I could Not remember his name. All I could think of was JUNIOR, because of JUNIOR SEAU - which is not only the wrong name, but the wrong sport as well. Ugh.
- 23A: 1847 tale of the South Seas ("Omoo") - Melville to the rescue again. I love that AQUAMAN crosses both AQUARIA and OMOO.
- 26A: Asian bowlful (ramen) - my brain: "... RICE? ... RICE? ... is it RICE? ... how 'bout RICE?" Etc. I think of RAMEN as poor-college-student food, not Asian food.
- 34A: Home of Waterloo: Abbr. (Ont.) - wow, not sure where this came from, but I got it off the hypothetical "N" from the Very hypothetical WIREMAN (12D: Electrician) - can't believe that one was right.
- 38A: Pick-up and drop-off point (sta.) - common entry, semi-hidden in the dazzle camouflage of the clue.
- 40A: French mathematician Cartan (Elie) - with just the "I" in place, I semi-confidently wrote in EMIL (it's a French name, it's gotta be right, I reasoned). The "E" in EMIL gave me the (correct) GEL (36D: Come together), so EMIL was hard to get rid of.
- 45A: Mush (schmaltz) - [Mush]! Is it a noun? A command to sled dogs? Had the "L" and "Z," but it wasn't until I put the "T" between them (from SALTWATER) that SCHMALTZ leaped forth. So many consonants ...
- 52A: Plasma component (ion) - ???
- 53A: Foundation with ties (road bed) - ??? Is this a (nother) train-related clue?
- 57A: It doesn't help much when it's cold (comfort) - clever, clever clue.
- 59A: Where Mt. Suribachi is (Iwo Jima) - had the first "I" and the "O," ran out of Asian countries that started with "I," then hit on IWO JIMA. And thank god, because the "W" in CREWEL (47D: Yarn variety) was never ever going to come.
- 61A: Middle third of a famous motto (égalité) - flanked by LIBERTÉ and FRATERNITÉ, this was the "motto" of the post-revolutionary French Republic. From Wikipedia:
“Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité” was not the central motto at the time of the French Revolution even if it expresses its central principles. Forsaken by the Empire and the Restoration, it was only in 1848 that Pierre Leroux revived the phrase. Pache, mayor of the commune of Paris, painted the formula “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, ou la mort” on the walls of the commune. It was under the Second Republic that it took on its final form and only under the Third Republic was the motto made official.
- 4D: Title robot in an Isaac Asimov short story (Cal) - so wanted HAL.
- 10D: Some prayers (paters) - eeks. Yipe. Etc.
- 11D: Taxonomic suffix (-ote) - ouch. Ugh. Harrumph.
- 24D: _____ wonder (athlete known for a single great play) (one-game) - I've never heard this phrase in all my millions of hours of watching SportsCenter. At least the "ONE" part was easy to infer.
- 29D: Agent Gold on HBO's "Entourage" (Ari) - this is the ARI of the moment. I hope he is enjoying his 15 minutes - which in crossword time means he will be with us for decades.
- 31D: Capo _____ capi (Bologna boss) (dei) - I had a few weeks of Italian in the mid-90s, and that was enough to get this answer.
- 37D: Kingston pop (ska) - gimme.
- 38D: Pinchpenny (scrooge) - easyish.
- 39D: Classic 1934 novel set in Prohibition-era New York City, with "The" ("Thin Man") - whence crossworld's favorite canine, ASTA.
- 42D: The moon has one (far side) - It also has a dark side. Just ask Pink Floyd. I wanted to be able to use MARE again here (see ... some recent puzzle where MARE was a moon-related answer).
- 43D: Madison Avenue types (idea men) - why wouldn't AD MEN stretch? Why!?
- 45D: Zip providers (spices) - made molasses cookies yesterday with Sahra for taking over to her friend's / our friends' house. The SPICES of ground ginger and cloves were omitted from the recipe. Like many kids, ours is not a fan of the SPICES, or anything "spicy" (which sometimes includes such innocuous foods as tomatoes).
- 54D: "... outrageous fortune, _____ ...": Shak. ("or to") - that was one of the most difficult-to-type clues I've ever encountered. I like this clue as it forced me to recite Hamlet's most famous soliloquy aloud - part of it, anyway.
- 55D: "Paradise Lost" illustrator (Doré) - ah, more 17th-century goodness. I know DORÉ better for his illustrations of Dante's "Inferno."
- 58D: State with the lowest high point (345 feet): Abbr. (Fla.) - wow, it did feel flat when I was there in 2006. I had no idea how flat.
- 60D: "The Gift of the Magi" hero (Jim) - first of all, "hero?" Second ... of all the JIMs in the world ... I'd have preferred Lucky JIM or JIM from "The Office" or even Slim JIM. JIM Beam? As you can see, so many entertaining options.
- 35A: Growing problem? (gigantism) - sadly, this phrase [growing problem?] makes me think of TV ads for a drug used to treat a "problem" that does not pass my breakfast test (however sympathetic I am toward the millions of men with said "problem"). And no, the problem is not that kind of growing! But it's nearby. This may be the most cryptic bulleted entry I've ever written. I'm stopping now.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld