Thursday, February 7, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "No Fly Zone" (34D: Restricted space ... or a hint to the answers to the six starred clues) - starred clues indicate familiar phrases containing "FLY," though "FLY" is omitted when the phrase is written into the grid.
I'm indifferent to this theme, but I liked the puzzle a lot. I think the theme was a bit bland, and once you caught on, the puzzle got a lot easier to do - there aren't that many familiar phrases containing "FLY," after all (are there?). The concept is clever, but in the execution, and in the clues, there's no humor, no zip, no zing. Just ... missing FLYs. That said, the rest of the grid was largely fresh and exciting. There was some under-stated, often one-word, cluing that really added to the difficulty level in places. And there's at least one word in the grid I'm convinced was invented by Dr. Seuss - if you thought ADZ was a crazy-looking tool name, check out ZAX (58D: Hole-punching tool for a slater)!? My question - what's a "slater?" (Aside from a hilarious character on "Saved By the Bell," of course). "Aargh, I've been ZAXED!" (that's a word I just coined - it means "run through with a ZAX"). The last entry in Dr. Seuss's ABC is ZIZZER ZAZZER ZUZZ. That was an answer in a Sun puzzle once. But I digress.
- 17A: *Hairy-leaved plant (Venus trap)
- 24A: *Fighter at 112 pounds or less (weight boxer)
- 37A: *Classic comical restaurant complaint (there's a in my soup)
- 45A: *Umpire's invocation after a pop-up, perhaps (infield rule)
- 58A: *Advice to a careless dresser, maybe (zip up your)
- 3D: *Unreliable sort (by-nighter)
The NW was, by far, the hardest part of this puzzle for me. Wanted BLACK for SABLE (1A: Jet). Wanted CHINA for ARYAN (14A: Indo-_____). Had no idea what to do with 1D: Penny _____ (Saver). LANE? ANTE? CANDY!? MARSHALL!? Weirdly - very weirdly - the first answer I *knew* in this corner was LAUD (4D: Write an ode to). I tested (and confirmed) the "D" against 20A: English author Blyton (Enid), which should be a gimme for you, if not now, then in the future. ENID is more often a city in Oklahoma, but Ms. Blyton shows up a lot. Oh, also @#$#ing me up in this corner was ENS (5D: Wearer of a half-inch stripe: Abbr.) - though to my credit, ENS was at least on my short list of possible entires there - and RAG (23A: Bootblack's need), where I had TAR (!?). This was the corner with a lot of one-word clues - Jet, Indo, Penny, and then 2A: Bowl (arena). I was slightly proud of how quickly I uncovered that last one.
The coolest corner in this grid, by far, is the NE. First, who knew that Spam was flavored!? 16A: Spam flavorer (clove). Second, I love the X-fest, and I especially love that all the "X" answers are original, sometimes insanely so. REMIX (19A: Many a dance club tune) came easily, as my best friend is a record collector and surely has thousands of such recordings in his special temperature-controlled vault. Then there's the equally modern and saucy E-VITE (12D: Web-based way to announce a party). I've received more than one of these in my lifetime, so this wasn't hard. Then there was LOMAX (11D: Bluesman Willie). I don't know why I know his name. I wrote it in on a lark, and it was right. Love when that happens. Then, lastly, there was an "X" word to rival ZAX in its preposterousness: SEXER (13D: Gender determiner, as on a chicken farm) - oh, as on a chicken farm. Now, I see. Thanks for clarifying. I was thinking of all those other kinds of SEXERs out there, like, I don't know, Color Me Badd and Young MC:
A chick walks by and you wish you could SEX 'ER
But you're standin' on the wall like you was Poindexter.
I had CLERIC for CURATE (22A: Parish V.I.P.). Glad to have the easy SCRUBS (9D: O.R. attire) to get into this corner. I have never, ever seen C TEAM (22D: Third-stringers), but it was easy enough to guess.
- 29A: Not still (astir) - vexing, first because I thought "still" was an adverb, and then because ASTIR feels like it's from the 19th century - thus not a word that leaps to mind.
- 31A: Seaver once called it home (Shea) - final ball game there will be September 28, 2008, against the Florida Marlins. I have a Seaver T-shirt that I got at the Hall of Fame. Tom Seaver is from my home town.
- 40A: Fictional governess (Eyre) - you know, I should probably read this someday...
- 41A: S.O.S., in essence (plea) - yeah, I guess...
- 44A: Singer Jacques (Brel) - hadn't seen this in a puzzle 'til yesterday, and then whoomp, there it is.
- 51A: Time period for a C.F.O. (ytd) - one of those financial abbreviations (year-to-date) that you just pick up solving puzzles, if you didn't know it already.
- 57A: Traditional spy wear (cloak) - iconic, maybe; fictional, probably; "traditional?"
- 60A: Former N.B.A. star Danny (Ainge) - he's got a good puzzle name, and comes up from time to time.
- 63A: Occasion to sing "Dayenu" (seder) - I guessed this as soon as I looked at the clue, though I've never heard of it. Weird how that happens. Maybe it's because SEDER is one of those occasions that shows up a lot in puzzles - common letters, unusual combination.
- 65A: They're found around a neck (frets) - wanted ASCOTS, just 'cause I like thinking about Fred from "Scooby-Doo" and other TV fops.
- 6D: Decorated, on menus (garni) - Got this off the "G," woo hoo. It's pretty ugly, as menu words go.
- 7D: Tropical tree-dweller (orang) - I don't think I'd seen ORANG until I started doing puzzles - I always knew the animal as an ORANGutan. But now it's so common I don't even blink at it.
- 10D: Car discontinued in 2004 (Alero) - possibly the most important car name to know these days, after EDSEL, REO, GTO ... maybe a few others. ALERO is an up-and-comer.
- 24D: "_____ #1!" ("We're") - first thing I put in the grid.
- 27D: Where punts were spent (Eire) - Does EIRE not exist any more? Oh, I get it, "punts" don't exist any more. Gotcha. They speak ERSE in EIRE, which is also known as ERIN, btw. Hey, this puzzle has EIRE, EYRE, and EYER (56D: Assessor). ¡Ay ay ay!
- 36D: White Sulphur _____, W. Va.: Abbr. (Spr.) - eeks. Needed all the crosses to make sense of this. Is this place famous?
- 38D: Relieve, as for a break (spell) - for whatever reason, one of my favorite little verbs. I find it charming.
- 39D: Easily maneuvered, as a boat (yare) - I always thought this was "YAR"? Maybe that's just because it sounds more like a word a pirate would say "Aarrrr, matey!"
- 45D: They believed the world was created by Viracocha (Incas) - nice to use a very common answer to teach the world a little something.
- 53D: Hurls defiance at (dares) - hmmm ... this seems off to me. No, I guess in some contexts it works. Like, if I say "stop that" and you say "make me!" you are being defiant by daring me to do something. OK.
- 59D: Suffix for many a sharable computer file (pdf) - with URL, HTTP, HTML, etc., one of those computery letters scrambles you need to make peace with if you haven't already.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld