Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: NUCLEAR FAMILY (36A: Members of this can be found in the centers of 17-, 24-, 51- and 60-Across)
A wonderful little puzzle. Felt like I was tripping all over myself trying to solve it last night, so when I saw my time (5:12) I was a little surprised. That's significantly faster than my average Wednesday, I think. I struggled in several different parts of the puzzle, which I'll discuss below, but apparently my struggle didn't last too long. Felt like an eternity while it was happening, though, I assure you. I tend not to solve on the NYT applet (where you can measure your times against others) because I don't like the (self-imposed) pressure, but I decided that with the tournament coming up in a few days, I should start acclimating myself to a little pressure. I'm just grateful that the tournament-solving is on paper, because I have Horrible keyboard technique. Very fast, very inaccurate. I'm especially bad at controlling the cursor. I was actually expecting a "Your puzzle is incorrect" message the first time I clicked "Done" last night, so ragged was my solving experience. Lucked out. I don't expect such luck to hold under tournament conditions. Lesson for the tournament: don't spaz out. Be methodical and calm. Good things are more likely to happen that way. Breathe. Slow down. Imagine yourself coming in 600th place. See that world does not end, sun still rises, gravity still functions, etc.
I'm going to post a message later in the day asking tournament attendees to identify themselves. Several of you have asked me to do this, so check back in if you are curious about who's going to be there.
- 17A: Make tracks (skeDADdle) - what a great answer. I had SKED- before I read this clue and thought "Nothing starts with SKED-!" I was, happily, wrong.
- 24A: Sources of ready cash (pawn BROkers) - sputtered a bit here, as I could think only of the phrase PAWN SHOPS, but then the right answer broke free.
- 51A: Turkey insert (therMOMeters) - clue = gross. Thankfully, I never saw it (how is that possible?). Wife misread clue as "Turkey insect."
- 60A: Got by (on) (subSISted)
Please note the bonus thematic answer ATOM (37D: Bit to split), which intersects the NUCLEAR in NUCLEAR FAMILY. Beautifully done.
My first hold-up came right off the bat, when I could come up with none of the Acrosses at the top of the puzzle - well, I guessed ASK TO (9A: Invite for), but was not confident enough to write it in at first. I don't remember what I had at first for 14A: _____ ease, but it wasn't ILL AT and it somehow made sense. I finally got a roll going when I switched to the Downs and DIS (1D: Talk trash about) (now you're talking my language) came to me instantly, then ELK (2D: Lodge member), then BLESS YOU (3D: "Gesundheit!"), and on from there. Got slowed down right around the REPO line (34A: Defaulter's loss). Couldn't see REPO, and nothing below it or around it was falling into place (including BREF - 26D: Concise, in Cannes - which is odd, given that my 7+ years of French should have made that obvious).
Had to reboot in the SE, where I was helped considerably by having NEMEAN (42A: _____ lion, beast slain by Hercules in his first labor) be a flat-out gimme. I do love my Herculean labors. After I teased out the annoying prefix OMNI- (50A: Directional lead-in), I dropped the lovely LEMON TEA (39D: Sore throat soother) down into the SE and polished off the bottom of the puzzle fairly quickly. I went through the SW corner like a hot knife through oleo, using OSHA (44A: Dept. of Labor branch) to get every Down answer in quick succession, one right after the other. That's a lot of squares filled in a matter of seconds.
Last stand was in the Nevada section of the puzzle, where a lot of odd answers come together. Had LLB for LLD (32D: Foreign law deg.), which is mystifying, as I don't even shop at L.L. Bean and so don't have that as an excuse. The Vietnamese name was unknown to me, and I put in the "D" for DUC (28D: Vietnam's Le _____ Tho) only after I decided that the unfamiliar last name in question in the cross had to be BOYD (27A: Cassidy portrayer of TV and film). My least favorite answer of the day: I WOULD (31A: Words of willingness). These sound more like words of excuse, as in "I WOULD help you cook, but as you can see, I'm watching TV, so ... you know ... my hands are tied."
- 20A: Mead study locale (Samoa) - could make no sense of the clue until I had the answer. Margaret Mead is of course the famous anthropologist who wrote Coming of Age in SAMOA.
- 21A: Chips that one might "muncha buncha" (Fritos) - some people decry the use of commercial names in the puzzle. I, on the other hand, can't get enough of them.
- 41A: Flash drive filler (data) - the B from the erroneous "LLB" screwed me up here.
- 56A: T. Boone Pickens, for one (oilman) - all I could remember about this guy is a. he had been in the puzzle before as a 15-letter Across answer, b. he was rich for some reason, and c. he had been on the cover of Time magazine (I used that cover in my blog write-up of him). Sadly, I could remember nothing pertinent about him, but since he was an Across in the SW, it hardly mattered. Got him from crosses in no time flat.
- 6D: Time to crow (at dawn) - actually entered MIDDAY and then immediately erased it.
- 7D: "That's funny!," in an e-mail (LOL) - see also 38D: Chat room shorthand (IMO - "in my opinion"). Another great pair in the puzzle is EMS (53D: Ambulance letters) complemented - in lovely symmetrical fashion - by DOA (18D: Beyond paramedic aid, in brief). One of the few times you are ever likely to hear DOA described as "lovely," I'm sure.
- 21D: Short order cook's utensil (fry pan) - had the FRY, so wrote in the PAN, but only tentatively. Wife insists that short order cooks use large griddles, not actual FRY PANs. I suggested maybe they used to use them in the olden days. We then got into a discussion about what "olden days" meant, with her imagining ... I forget, either classical Rome or Little House on the Prairie, where I was just thinking "Your grandfather's time." Such meandering and ultimately pointless discussions are not infrequent around here.
- 8D: Antietam leader (Lee) - Wife just taught me how to pronounce this the other day. "Antietam," I mean. I know how to pronounce LEE.
- 44D: Best Actor nominee for "Venus," 2006 (O'Toole) - me: "It starts with "O," so ... O'TOOLE!" That, right there, is the key to solving crosswords reasonably. It's way more about instinct than it is about hardcore knowledge.
- 47D: Loser of 1588 (Armada) - helps that I just discussed this in class the other day. God helped Elizabeth fend off the Spanish by creating storms that wrecked much of the Spanish ARMADA all along the coast of Ireland. That's where the anthem "God Save the Queen" came from. It was originally "God Saved the Queen" (I'm not serious, so please, no letters).
Thanks for an entertaining puzzle, Lee.
Off to take Sahra to school (1-hr delay means she's still here, watching ... something brain-rotting, I'm sure ... nope, I'm being told it's "Curious George" on PBS, so that's not so bad). Oh, I forgot: wife said she's going to take Sahra to school. Sweet. OK, so I'm ... off to make coffee then.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS though you might not recognize it, my site has recently been updated and thus made far more easily navigable. Individual entries can now be pinpointed from the Blog Archive in my sidebar. I could not have done the updating without the industrious and virtually unpaid help of Dave Sullivan. Every annoying problem I'd had trying to update to the newest version of Blogger, he was somehow able to fix. And all I have to do is buy him breakfast in Brooklyn. That's win-win for me. Thanks, Dave.