Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: University puns (3 good, 1 bad)
Started out with NEWT instead of TOAD (1A: Its eye may be part of a witch's brew), had no idea what CORNELL SANDERS was supposed to mean as a theme answer, didn't know the London tube station I needed at the heart of the puzzle (30D: _____ Court (London tube station) => EARL'S), and had BARK (!?) instead of CORK (49A: Fishing float) in what I'll call the "Obscure Headwear" part of the puzzle - and yet I finished in a respectable 4:18 (a pretty normal Tuesday for me). I don't have a lot to say today - I've looked this puzzle up and down and while I don't think it's bad, I don't think it's very ... noteworthy. Maybe that's the best one can hope for on a Tuesday. You know my theory of puzzle difficulty: Saturdays are the hardest to solve, but Tuesdays are the hardest to construct well. Good rule of thumb for a Tuesday puzzle: Just Don't #$@! it up.
- 20A: Polishing machines at an Ithaca campus? (Cornell Sanders) - got CORNELL easily but the SANDERS part had to come together from crosses. This is by far the worst pun of the bunch today. Wasn't til after I was done that I realized it was a pun on COLONEL SANDERS. The other puns simply involve a change in stress (from first to second syllable, in the case of MARQUETTE), or no change at all (EMORY BOARD). But with CORNELL SANDERS, you have to change the vowel sound in the first syllable and shift stress to the first syllable. Awkward.
- 35A: Trustee group at an Atlanta campus? (Emory board)
- 43A: Thoroughfare at a New Orleans campus? (Tulane road)
- 53A: Rental arrangement at a Milwaukee campus? (Marquette share)
There are several things to like about this puzzle:
- SODOM and not VEGAS for 27D: Sin city!? Nice.
- KEPIS (50D: French military hats) and TOQUES (46D: Close-fitting hats), in the same puzzle, so close together?! Nice. Exotic and daring!
- ARGO hidden in the kitchen (14A: Popular cornstarch brand) instead seeking the Golden Fleece!? A bit rough (for a non-baker like me), but clever. Nice also that it intersects another kitchen product, AGAR (3D: Food thickener).
I enjoyed the English Literature subtheme here, with my favorite POET (61A: Versifier), John DONNE (4D: John who wrote "Love built on beauty, soon as beauty, dies"), sharing space with PARSE (63A: Analyze in English class), AEIOU (60A: Letters that must be bought on "Wheel of Fortune"), and SONG (67A: Dance's partner - Donne has two poems with this simple title, one of which was the first poem I ever memorized, when I was a TEEN - 56D: Adolescent). Donne could also BLESS you (66A: Cross over?), as he was a prominent Anglican priest.
- 7D: What Texas hold'em tables hold (pots) - seems super-easy in retrospect, but something about the wording of the clue made me balk at first. Is "hold'em" really one word, with no space between "hold" and "'em?"
- 34D: Tournament favorites (seeds) - balked at this as well, as I was thinking of the (upcoming) NCAA basketball tournament, where all participants are SEEDed, not just the favorites.
- 36D: Discovered by accident (ran across) - had RAN and then ... blanked.
- 37D: A horse of a different color? (roan) - wrote this in while cringing. "Different" from what? Or is it supposed to mean "of different colors?"
- 58D: Piper's followers (rats) - I like this answer. My first thought was FIFE or something military, which makes little sense. I think the "followers" part was suggesting parade. My sister was born in the Year of the Rat, so I have a certain affection for this creature. See also 2007 Best Animated Feature Film "Ratatouille"
Three days til I leave for the tournament. NYC residents: if you are rich and / or famous and want to buy me dinner / drinks / a new wardrobe, just let me know. I'm sure I can work you into my schedule. My only plans at this point (aside from a drinking ... I mean business meeting or two) involve going to Jacques Torres's chocolate shop. Multiple times.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS Many thanks to "Pop Culture Junk Mail" for the free press.