Friday, March 28, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
We're having some kind of weather event here this morning, with wife having to go in to work but daughter on a two-hour delay, so she's home with me for the first part of the morning. Thankfully, she is self-amusing enough to allow me time to do my write-up. I think she is downstairs now reading a 25 year old book from the library called "The Computer that Said 'Steal Me'" or something like that, complete with the hilariously dated picture of a circa 1982 "computer" on the cover, and a kid who looks suspiciously like I looked circa 1982. At any rate, I can't neglect her completely, so I am going to dash this off a bit faster than I might normally.
There's a solidity, consistency, and professionalism to a Barry Silk puzzle that I really admire. His name on a puzzle is a virtual guarantee of no crap (craplessness?). His puzzles aren't as flashy as some of his late-week counterparts, but they are smooth in a way that few other constructors can match. Today's puzzle was not particularly challenging, but it's lovely nonetheless. I especially like that the alliteration in the long answers that weren't part of the NW or SE blocks:
while, in symmetrical positions...
- SOUTH PHILLY (51A: Where to order a cheesesteak "wit" or "witout") crosses
- SIXTH MAN (38D: Best substitute on the court)
And those crosses are separated by the twin sentinels of ...
- NEED A NAP (34A: Drag during the day?) and
- NEUROSIS (40A: Part of some complexes)
NEED A NAP is perhaps my least favorite entry of the day, though its daring almost makes up for its nuttiness. The only other answer I grumbled at was AT THE SCENE (1D: Where it's happening). I wanted AT THE ZOO. At what SCENE? A "SCENE" can be said to be "happening," but ... something about this just seems off.
This puzzle began very easily. Put in the -ER on 8A: Not as consequential (smaller) right away, which provided the first "E" in ETTE (13D: Major conclusion?), which gave me the only letter ("T") I needed to get WEBSITE (16A: A mouse may help you get there). ATLANTA (18A: Setting for TV's "Matlock") was a gimme because of an earlier, much searched clue about "Matlock" from over a year ago that forever etched in my brain the fact that that show was set in ATLANTA. The whole NE fell from there. Needed a bit of help rounding the corner into the SE (with NEED A NAP being the main stumbling block), but once I got around, it was smooth sailing all the way, counterclockwise, around to the SW, where I hit my first little spot of trouble. Had ROSARIO where ROSALIA (60A: Patron saint of Palermo) was supposed to be, and thus was sure that 47D: Whippersnapper (whelp) was TWERP. Eventually SOUTH PHILLY became undeniable, and I corrected my mistakes, somehow blowing right through EPPIE (48D: "Silas Marner" girl), which could easily have given me trouble in other contexts.
My last stand was in the NW, where, ironically, my trouble lay not with the insane-looking QUONSET HUT (3D: W.W. II shelter), but with the very basic COMES LATER (2D: Follows). I pulled QUONSET HUT out of my ... god knows where. Had the QUON- part and despite my being unable to picture the HUT in question, that term came leaping forth from the back of my head (though I spelled it QUONSIT at first). But I had COMES AFTER instead of COMES LATER. Needed ADHERE (23D: Be glued (to)) to give me the "H" that made CATHAY (32A: _____ Pacific) obvious, which in turn invalidated COMES AFTER. Then, despite the ugly / wrong-looking ETHENES (37A: Petroleum gases), I finished off the NW with little sweat.
- 15A: What seeds may be found in (tourney) - love it. It's NCAA TOURNEY time, so this answer may have been more obvious today than it would have been, say, two months ago.
- 19A: Layer that scratches (hen) - weirdly, whenever I see "layer" the first thing I think of is HEN. It's a crossword thing, kind of like how when I see "flower" I think RIVER.
- 22A: She, overseas (essa) - it was that or ELLA.
- 27A: _____ Highway, old auto route from New York City to San Francisco (Lee) - neeeeever heard of it. Does it still exist? If so, I want to drive it. Hmm, seems it was named after Robert E. Lee and is now only semi-reenactable via major US routes.
- 39A: Legalese adverb (thereto) - wanted THEREBY, but it didn't feel legalesey enough.
- 42A: Person lifting (swiper) - "SWIPER! No swiping!"
- 43A: "Symphony in Black" artist (Erte) - I will forever associate this with ... my optometrist's office. A bunch of ERTE prints, including this one, hang on the wall in the exam room.
- 46A: Comics canine (Snert) - from "Hagar the Horrible" - third-string comics crossword dog, behind ODIE and OTTO.
- 47A: Symbol of limpness (wet rag) - wanted only DISH RAG, so those first three letters proved elusive. For a few seconds, anyway.
- 57A: Six bells, nautically (three pm) - crosswords have taught me that "bells" = manner of time-telling, nautically. For that, I thank them, though I cannot see said knowledge ever coming in handy in any non-crossword situation I might find myself in.
- 58A: Reprimand lead-in ("See here..."). Here's what I hear in my head when I hear think of this phrase: "Now SEE HERE my good man ..." Yes, in my brain, it's always spoken by an uptight Englishman. Not sure why.
- 9D: Reading rhythm (metre) - Reading = place in England (and a Monopoly railroad, btw).
- 11D: Its scores range from 120 to 180: Abbr. (LSAT) - yeah, OK, if you're going to force LSAT on us yet again, why not tell us something about it. Good job.
- 12D: Capital of Upper Austria (Linz) - me: "There's an Upper Austria now...?"
- 14D: Coin on the Spanish main (real) - I really want to put an accent on top of that "e" ...
- 21D: Ringleaders' nemeses (T-men) - from the time that Elliott Ness et al cracked down on corrupt circuses ...
- 26D: Not loco (sano) - the "O" here threw me, as LOCO is very much in the English slang language, so I wasn't expecting Spanish parity in the answer. That is to say, I had SANE.
- 28D: His #13 was retired in 2000 by the Miami Dolphins (Marino) - supergimme, especially for a Friday. That's a Monday clue. The number, year, and the team? For one of the most famous football players of the past quarter century?
- 29D: How much of genius is inspiration, according to Edison (one percent) - super easy, but very nice cluing nonetheless.
- 30D: Like typhoid bacteria (water borne) - yuck. Had the WATER part, so the rest was easy.
- 35D: Lukewarm reviews (ehs) - yes, that is my exact review for this answer, coincidentally. EH is what an old codger says to someone he can't hear.
- 41D: Bandar _____ Begawan, capital of Brunei (Seri) - no way in heckfire. Needed all the crosses.
- 51D: Orch. sections (strs) - ooh, eek, ack. No. I mean, yes, it's legal, but no. Why the "s" on the end? Is STR going to be confused with something else?
- 59D: Mag founder of 1953 (Hef) - naked ladies! I mean ... good clue (seriously, "Mag" in the clue for HEF in the answer is a nice equivalency)
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld