Saturday, March 22, 2008
Relative difficulty: Challenging
Winner, winner, chicken dinner! I am so happy today because a. I finished this puzzle, b. correctly, and c. still got to bed at a reasonable hour. I'm so happy because success felt Impossible about 5 minutes in, when the only answers I had on the board were (ironically) NO DUH (25A: "Obviously, Einstein!"), REP (41D: One who stands for something), SINEW (43A: Brawn), and the WAR part of what ended up being TEN DAY WAR (38A: 1991 conflict between Slovenia and Yugoslavia) - and I wasn't terribly certain about Any of those. I also had LYS (36D: Flower of Paques), only I'd misspelled it as LIS. Knowing it was a Byron Walden puzzle, I felt a horrible sinking feeling in my gut. Eventually I took a good look at the SW and found many tractable answers, most notably ASSET (50D: Plus) and PEETE (48D: First African-American golfer with 12 P.G.A. Tour wins). My wallet actually has the word NAPPA pressed into it somewhere inside, so I managed to get 46A: Soft leather used in wallets, whose name derives from a place in California despite the fact that the whole name derivation thing sounds bogus / insane. Who was the genius who thought, "I know, add a 'P'?" Weird. But even after the SW went down, I was right back where I started - stuck. I think I eventually guessed OHS (30D: Quaker cereal) and then got CHANEY (37A: Star of "London After Midnight," 1927), and then with the "Y" in CHANEY, I ran into the surprisingly, mercifully easy EYELINERS (34D: Parts of makeup kits) and the SE fell.
The very last letter I filled in was the "X" in the marquee answer of the day: HAPAX (27A: _____ legomenon (word or phrase used only once in a document or corpus)). If I hadn't heard that term a few times in graduate school, I would never have gotten that "X" (though XIA sounds familiar as the 28D: Earliest recorded Chinese dynasty, I doubt I'd have guessed the "X" correctly on that). HAPAX legomenon ... I remember seeing that phrase for the first time and thinking "well, there's an upside of being in graduate school - I get to learn cool-sounding terms like HAPAX legomenon." And promptly forget them, apparently. At least it was in my vocabulary, however dormant.
If I haven't said it yet (and I haven't), I loved this puzzle. Everything a wickedly hard puzzle should be. Fun, colorful, and ultimately doable, though I had to guess in a couple places - well, one place: the crossing of ANURANS (40D: Frogs and toads) and OLEASTER (53A: Shrub also known as Russian olive). Now I was pretty sure that shrub had to end in "R," but ANURANS looked horrible to me. In the end, I went with it, which was the right call. I know about OLEANDER - we had some in our backyard growing up - but OLEASTER ... no. I like that it's made up of two very common crossword answers: OLE and ASTER.
- 15A: Zebralike (equine) - oddly easy, in the end. I was expecting something much more brutal.
- 17A: Kept one's own counsel, online (lurked) - weird way to look at it, but OK.
- 18A: Geographic feature depicted in the Armenian coat of arms (Mt. Ararat) - Once I got the MT, I guessed the rest. ARARAT is in far eastern Turkey, just near the Iranian and Aremenian borders.
- 20A: Big numismatic news (misprint) - I wanted MINT to be in this answer, either at the beginning or end. If you look at MISPRINT, you can see how partial fill would lead me to see MINT all over the place.
- 29A: Salt with the maximum proportion of element #53 (periodide) - total guess. Needed most of the crosses, and then threw in the -ER- part.
- 35A: Common soccer score (one-nil) - I forgot to add that I had this answer very early as well. Just sitting there, all alone, stuck out into the bottom of the NW. I was on the verge of erasing it many times.
- 45A: Compound with a double bond (enol) - the only times I'm happy to see tired fill like ENOL and ENERO (5D: Hot month in Chile) - in the middle of a brutal Saturday puzzle. Then, they're like old friends. "Hey, I know you guys .... help me."
- 51A: Volkswagen Polo, for one (super-mini) - that's for our Euro-friends, I guess, as I've never heard of this make of VW. What is it, basically a go-kart with a lawnmower engine?
- 55A: One suspended in adolescence (boy-man) - I prefer MAN-CHILD, thanks.
- 57A: Split personality? (ex-mate) - my least favorite answer in the whole thing.
- 58A: As time expires, in a football game (at the gun) - nicely done. Wanted WHISTLE to be in there somewhere. I've never noticed: do football games really end in gunfire?
- 59A: Street lighting specialist? (rioter) - took me a while to figure out how this worked. RIOTERs light streets on fire sometimes, I guess. Pretty clever.
- 60A: Roller skate features (toe stops) - my old school, 1979 roller skates most definitely had these.
- 61A: Claim of convenience, in ads or otherwise (No Mess) - I had No Fuss for a while.
- 1D: Jigger that jiggles? (jello shot) - one of the best answers in the puzzle. Only in a Byron puzzle are you gonna see JELLO SHOT cross HAPAX - that's the alpha and omega of the college experience right there.
- 2D: Alternative to a water ski (aqua plane) - really? Do they perform the same function? I don't go in for water sports (!) so I wouldn't know.
- 4D: Lance Armstrong foundation? (bike stand) - My bikes had KICK STANDS.
- 6D: Notable distinction for the planet Krypton (red sun) - aargh, I teach a course on comics and still needed many crosses to get / remember this. Boo hoo.
- 9D: Some DVRs (RCAS) - man it hurts when the answer is a brand, like this. Here I am, flipping through whatever technical jargon I can think of, and the answer's just plain old RCAS.
- 10D: Legendary brothers in law (Earps) - in desperation, I had GRIMM here for a few seconds.
- 12D: Spanish festival (Feria) - otherwise known as "Slaves Don't Have To Go To Work Day."
- 13D: Animal in Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" (Orang) - I forgot - this was also a gimme for me. The reason I forgot - it just sat there, alone, doing nothing, for a good long while.
- 26D: Minute Maid drink brand (Hi-C) - another early get that did me little good.
- 31D: MTV reality show ("Date My Mom") - Given the popularity of "Pimp My Ride" and "Date My Mom," can "Pimp My Mom" be far behind?
- 44D: Composer of "Das Augenlicht," 1935 (Webern) - an educated guess. I have seen his name before in a musical context, and that's the only reason I was able to piece him together.
- 47D: First justice alphabetically in the history of the Supreme Court (Alito) - if I were buying crossword fill futures, I would put a lot of my money into ALITO. He'll be around ... well, if he ever becomes Chief Justice, forever.
- 16A: Like anchors (on camera) - very tricky, very good.
- 52D: CD-burning software company that bought Napster (Roxio) - I wrote this in and winced, as it looked wrong. ROXIO next to DATE MY MOM ... this puzzle is going to make at least a few pop culture-haters very unhappy. Oh well.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld