Friday, March 7, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: London, or infidelity (or none)
I'm in the Vancouver Sun today ... so are lots of other crossword types, but let's try to stay focused on me, shall we? Great.
A tough but elegant Friday puzzle from Ms. Gamache today. I had a Lot of trouble getting started. I always feel semi-ashamed when, after looking at the puzzle and getting nothing, I stumble on a total gimme. Rather than make me feel good, it usually just makes me feel like the puzzle is taking pity on me: "Here you go, Tiger." Today's lifeline: BETTE (41A: Cousin in a Balzac title).
Our daughter was up with a horrible cough and fever last night, so I'm stay-at-homing it today to be with her (she'll probably wake up any minute and start skipping around the house talking about Harry Potter and Webkinz and asking where her Archie Comics are ... at least I hope so; that's way better than her being sickly). Her mom told her in the middle of the night last night that she could just stay home from school today and watch movies and read and her reaction was "Well, I guess I can still get the perfect attendance certificate next quarter..." This kid has weird ambitions. She apparently had weird, sleepy, fevered conversations with my wife last night that involved asking "What kind of Webkinz do pirates have?" If you don't know what Webkinz is ... it's a huge phenomenon with the grade-school set. You buy a stuffed animal (hers is a pink pony, duh), and then that animal has a virtual life on-line, where there's an entire universe of things to do. We have Sahra on a 15 minute/day dosage, which seems to be sufficient. Do not be surprised if WEBKINZ shows up in a puzzle grid near you in the not-too-distant future.
I Love THE WOMAN I LOVE (12A: 1937 Paul Muni drama) over JEALOUS MISTRESS (14A: Art, metaphorically) - it's like a major novel boiled down to its most essential elements. There are things I want to say about the ANNALS / POKE INTO sequence (16A: History / 17A: Probe), however, that are not fit for breakfast-time reading. Not "major novel" material at all.
- 1A: Climbing Mt. Everest, for Sir Edmund Hillary (claim to fame) - nice clue. He died very recently, an event which was, understandably, Huge news in my wife's native New Zealand.
- 19A: Roman well (bene) - had -ENE and thought "I had Latin, why don't I know the word for 'well!?'" Once I realized that "well" was an adverb and not a hole in the ground, the answer was embarrassingly easy.
- 23A: Site of the siege of Candia (Crete) - total guess off the CR-
- 24A: Feaster on frogs (eel) - one of the snazziest EEL clues I've ever seen.
- 25A: Legato indicator (slur) - music lingo starting to take a weak hold in my brain, thanks to the tutelage of my many musical readers.
- 29A: Cowboys, but not Indians (NFLers) - knew instantly that this was about the football/baseball distinction, but as I had EAST for ELMS at 22D: Nine _____ (London District), the Cowboys/Indians answer appeared to end in "T" ... Nine ELMS complements REGENTS PARK (48A: London Zoo locale) nicely in its London-ness. It's nice to have the real London back after yesterday's fake London clue (London, Ontario used to clue Lake ERIE).
- 38A: Singer who is part owner of Forbes magazine (Bono) - whoa ... whoa. Really? That is unlikely-seeming. Good bit of trivia.
- 39A: First name in fragrances (Coco) - easy ... yet I had NINA (as in RICCI).
- 44A: Reminiscent of the 1890s (gaslit) - wanted GAY-something So Bad.
- 45A: Census Bureau data (vital statistics) - I thought this was E.R. data, not Census Bureau data.
- 47A: Only if it's worth the trade-off (not at any price) - that's a phrase? NOT AT ANY PRICE sounds as if you are refusing to give something up no matter what, not as if you are just looking for a fair deal.
- 4D: Evidence that one is short (IOUs) - got it right away (though the "S" was a bit iffy) because I'd just done a puzzle where "short" was used to mean "short of cash." Serendipity!
- 6D: Like most medicine bottles (tamper resistant) - Often Rex-resistant.
- 8D: Big name in college guides (Fiske) - According to them, the U. where I work is a "Best Buy." I think they are also responsible for the "Premier Public University in the Northeast" quotation that greets you as you drive onto campus these days. In fact, that quotation may be the reason FISKE came to me as readily as it did.
- 9D: Old one, along the Oder (Alte) - I'm seeing this (German) word a lot lately. It's one of about four German words I know. NEIN! Ich bin ein Berliner! EIS! ... I'm running out.
- 10D: Holmes fought him (Moriarty) - nice, long gimme - assuming you know something about Sherlock Holmes. If not, this was probably rough for you. Not a very intuitable name.
- 11D: 50-50 proposition (even bet) - I was looking for TIE GAME or HALF something, but the actual phrase is better than anything I could have imagined. Nicely colloquial, more interesting than the clue implies. Good stuff.
- 12D: Hand holding (tenace) - this was the one that threw me the most, and the last letter I wrote in the grid was the final "E" here. Even when I parsed it right, I wasn't totally sure. I guess this describes a hand you might have in cards? [OK, I never parsed it right, as the term is one word - tenace - and it's from bridge ... freedictionary says: "A combination of two high cards of the same suit separated by two degrees, such as the king and jack of hearts, especially in a bridge or whist hand."]
- 14D: Artist Wyeth (Jamie) - this one bugged me no end because, though I could see the fallen woman looking longingly back toward the farmhouse, I could Not remember the artist's first name. Just looked it up: it's ANDREW. So ... it wouldn't have helped me anyway. JAMIE is the son of Andrew, and he's younger than my dad ... which is a stat meaningful only to me, I realize. I'm just saying, he's still very much alive.
- 19D: Princess Ozma's creator (Baum) - I thought for sure this was a character from some Japanese anime I'd never heard of. But it's just good ol' L. Frank BAUM of "Wizard of Oz" fame.
- 28D: "Blue II" painter, 1961 (Miró) - love love love his work. Makes me happy, even the disturbing, nightmarish stuff. This one is simple, charming, bright, beautiful.
- 29D: It's headquartered in the G.E. Building (NBC TV) - If you've ever watched SNL or Conan or "30 Rock," you know this.
- 30D: Sacramento suburb (Florin) - what the @#$#!? I lived in central California, and I've never heard of this place. Stockton, yes, FLORIN, no. LODI, sure, why not? They make wine there, I hear.
- 33D: Bit of jazz improvisation (hot lick) - stared at H-T---- for way too long. Then wrote in HOT RIFF.
- 35D: Meter makers (poets) - this clue is evil, in that it's perfect. I swear that even after I got it, I'd look at the clue and then try to remember the answer, and I couldn't. I just keep seeing parking meters in my head ...
- 37D: Certain inverse function (arctan) - was prepped for this by Saturday's ARCSINE.
- 40D: Honduras-to-Guatemala direccion (oeste) - I often get mail on these types of clues, where someone will say "I know that it's west, not east" or vice versa. Inevitably, like me, they are E/W dyslexic.
- 41D: City bombed in the gulf war (Basra) - sadly, a gimme, once I had the "B" in place.
- 44D: Rockne protege (Gipp) - is this "The Gipper?" I always thought Rockne was "The Gipper." I think I've kept myself deliberately ignorant ever since the phrase "win one for the Gipper" was used (somehow) by the Reagan campaign during my childhood. If any part of what I'm saying is making sense to you, you're way ahead of me.
- 46D: Country singers England and Herndon (Tys) - What about Treadway? Who will speak up for TY TREADWAY!? His eyes are dreamy, I hear.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
PS over at the JimH Xword blog, Michael Smith (aka PhillySolver) has written up a long account of his experiences at the ACPT as a judge. Check it out.