Saturday, March 29, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
The cluing was very tricky in places, but this puzzle may be the first Saturday I've ever encountered without a single word / phrase / person I didn't know (or at least know of). Now, granted, I "know" some of them only because I've been doing crosswords in such an obsessive fashion for the past year and a half. Before 2006, I'd have been surprised by such answers as:
- B-STAR (48D: Rigel or Spica) - would have known the STAR part, but the letter part - no.
- RAMSES II (30A: Son and successor of Seti I) - would have known the RAMSES part, maybe, with crosses, but the II part - no. Oh, and I just learned from this clue that "Seti I" is not Set II"
- RENEE (21A: Ally's roommate on "Ally McBeal") - see, this is Mike Nothnagel deliberately @#$#ing with me. Thankfully, RENEE was an answer I'd seen before - one of the answers that set me off that one time I freaked out about this stupid TV show (see sidebar, under "Important Posts").
- REPROS (45D: Dupes) - this meaning of "dupe" would have been unknown to me. Even today, I had to wrestle with REPROS, asking me wife how a RETRO could be a DUPE ...
In fact, there's very little else that's even close to being obscure (except perhaps a particular sports clue, which I will get to in a sec). The cluing on OSE was rough (32A: Relative of -ish) - in fact, I still don't see how that's possible - as was the cluing on ADZE (19A: It might help you dress in a shop) ("Excuse me, miss, do you have this in another size?" "No, but ... here's an ADZE. See if that helps."). But otherwise, this is really a Friday puzzle dressed in Saturday clothes. A good, solid, fun puzzle, but without the occasional insane patches that typically define a Saturday.
Update: I spoke too soon. I do not in fact know what ARA is (47A: Neighbor of Telescopium), unless it's the altar constellation ... and it is. Never mind. [The way the clue reads, I figured the answer would be an element of the periodic table.]
Started in the NW and was shocked to find it so tractable. After misspelling Michelle WIE's name a few times (5D: Youngest golfer ever to win a U.S.G.A. adult event (age 13)), I finally put the answers together. The answer that really cracked it was the clever HARD TIME (3D: It's done in the slammer). Got blocked at the corner of SARAH and WHIZ KID (23A: Small wonder?) - the latter being the problem - and so made my way out of the NW via the mericifully easy SWEATING BULLETS (34A: Very worried). Had the SWE- and that was plenty. I found it very hard to cross the BUZZ LIGHTYEAR line that divided this puzzle in half (15D: Cinematic captain of Star Command). Had GOTH for GLAM (28A: Kind of rock), didn't know ADZE or WHIZ KID, and so had only patchy parts of BUZZ's name (and neither of the Zs). Finally had the simple, complete word LIGHT staring at me, and even that didn't help. I think it took getting in the NE and getting the front end of BUZZ before the answer became obvious. I know the SW was the last to fall, despite the fact that I was in there very early simply because my eye caught the clue 61A: Children's Bargain Town, today and I knew (without really "knowing") that the answer was TOYS 'R' US. This answer is surprising, given that Mike Nothnagel's occasional partner in crime, David Quarfoot, had TOYSRUSKID as a showy 1A answer not that long ago (some time last year). So, though the answer is lovely - points off!
- 1A: Scornful dismissals (pshaws) - an expression that will forever remind me of my mother, whose accent, speech pattern, and vocabulary make her entirely unplaceable. "You look kinda Native American but you sound kinda British ..." A woman actually said to my mom once: "Are you ... from somewhere?"
- 7A: Cause of temporary blindness (tear gas) - because MASTURBATION wouldn't fit.
- 14A: Symptom of nervous system impairment (ataxia) - from Greek, meaning "lack of order," refers to lack of muscle coordination.
- 15A: Linebacker Brian banned from the 1987 Orange Bowl for steroid use (Bosworth) - this guy. Ugh. Everything about him spelled disaster. As a lifelong Seattle Seahawks fan (yes, there are some), I was so disappointed when we acquired him, and he proved to be a total bust. I just remember Bo Jackson plowing over him, through him, dragging him along. Ugh. A total flash in the pan. The Vanilla Ice of the NFL (from roughly the same, culturally horrible time period as Vanilla Ice, i.e. when I was in college). PS BOSWORTH is much much bigger than I am and was a fantastic player in college, so if you're reading, Brian, please don't kill me.
- 16A: Sports stats specification (career) - here are BOSWORTH's CAREER numbers:
|3 NFL Season Totals||24||4.0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||3||38||0|
- 40A: Form of intimidation (hate mail) - I've gotten some of this ... mainly from one drunken kid in Iowa, but nonetheless, it's disconcerting.
- 44A: Warholian (arty) - ARTY is usually used disparagingly (i.e. implying pretentiousness), so this doesn't seem very nice to Mr. Warhol.
- 50A: 1/192 qt. (tsp) - I love this clue for some reason.
- 53A: Cab opener? (pedi-) - wow, it's always the last place you look. I though "Cab" would be wine. Then taxi, which is closer, and yet not close enough. Abandoned this answer and got it all from crosses.
- 59A: Caped combatant (toreador) - anyone else fall into the CRUSADER hole?
- 1D: Indy sights since 1911 (pace cars) - an answer I've seen before. 1911!? That's a long time ago for car racing.
- 4D: Lines on planes (axes) - yes, those planes, not the flying ones.
- 6D: Grandmother of Jacob (Sarah) - OK, I know the Bible clues weren't hard today, but I was pretty proud of getting this answer and LUKE (54D: The prodigal son is found in it) without any effort.
- 7D: Seat of Shawnee County (Topeka) - "Shawnee" sounds Deep South to me, so it took me until the TO- and final -A to get this.
- 9D: In _____ (briefly) (a word) - I had SHORT, making TEAR GAS at 7A awfully hard to get.
- 24D: Words said when one's hand is shaky? ("I'm out") - excellent. I hate poker, but excellent clue.
- 51A: Point and click, e.g. (verbs) - [curse words aplenty]!
- 41D: Gov. Lester Maddox walked off his show in 1970 (Cavett) - Wrote this in, then took it out because of CRUSADER (see 59A, ugh).
- 49D: 1939 Wimbledon winner (Riggs) - he of the famous battle-of-the-sexes match with Billie Jean King.
- 52D: Producers of some storage cells (bees) - great clue. Figuring this out helped me set everything straight in the SW, where CRUSADER ... well, you know already. I think the fact that The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America (by David Hajdu) was sitting on my desk as I solved this definitely had something to do with my CRUSADER debacle.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld