Saturday, March 8, 2008
Relative difficulty: 1/4 Challenging, 3/4 Easy
I've been asked many times if I finish every puzzle - am I able to complete all of them? No, not always, but the vast majority of the time yes. Today is a good example of one of those rare days where I got stuck and never got unstuck. In fact, I must admit, virtually the entire NW remained wide open until I looked up 1D: Prolific suspense novelist Woods (Stuart) - by the way, if you Google [suspense novelist woods], he doesn't show up on the first page of results til near the bottom. Sadly, though, even looking this up didn't help. The problem was a combination of
a. my ignorance (this is a constant, and always a factor)
c. crossing Broadway clues
d. horrible, horrible cluing
Worst mistake, and this one is all mine - I had COAL BARONS for RAIL BARONS (10D: Cornelius Vanderbilt and Jay Gould). Not only that, when I thought COAL might be wrong, I Couldn't Imagine A Right Answer. I thought SOIL, but only 'cause it rhymes with OIL. So that was a huge problem. Then there's PONGEE (2D: Soft, thin silk cloth), which immediately skyrockets to somewhere near the top of the ugliest words I know. Never heard of it. Then the Broadway ... OK, here's the thing. I get it. You love NY and imagine that Broadway is important. Many of you crossword types live there and even work in the industry. Good for you. I'm sure you enjoy your insiders' knowledge, as we all enjoy our pet expertises. But for god's sake - two in one quadrant!? And intersecting, at that? That's too much cute insidery NY bull@#$# for me. There is literally no part of 15A: Song sung by Mehitabel in Broadway's "Shinbone Alley" ("Toujours Gai") that I understand. Not the character, not the show title, not the song, nothing. I ended up with "TOUJOURS MAI" and thought AMT a pretty sorry answer for 9D: Insurance fig. (Agt.). Patti LUPONE I've at least heard of (3D: 2006 Tony-nominated "Sweeney Todd" actress).
- 23A: Nickelodeon nut (Ren) - I had REN at one point and thought, "No Way ... that show hasn't been on in over 10 years and that clue is way too vague to describe a character from a Long Defunct animated show." Now that I look at it, if I'd put REN in and kept AGO (19A: Since) in place, I probably would have gotten both STUART (1D) and LUPONE (3D). But that didn't happen. I kept wanting STUART to be ROBERT and then AGO became ERE (!?), etc.
- 17A: Traitorous (unpatriotic) - not loving your country is not "traitorous." This is idiotic. "Traitorous" implies active, serious betrayal, where UNPATRIOTIC implies a more general state. Plus, "traitor" implies underhandedness, where UNPATRIOTIC ... could be very open, and is usually used as a blanket term to describe everyday beliefs or stances ("not supporting the troops," say). Further, "traitorous" can be used in a number of situations, where UNPATRIOTIC is specifically country- (patria) oriented. These words are clearly related, but not nearly enough to be a decent clue/answer pairing. If someone was actually a traitor to this or any country, UNPATRIOTIC would be a laughable euphemism.
- 20A: Algorithm component (step) - all kinds of ugh. Billions of things (well, lots, anyway) have STEPs. Massive anticlimax here.
- 8D: Sports biggies (US Opens) - my most hated of today's clues. I don't know where to begin. "Sports"? Do you mean golf? Tennis? Both? When would you speak of the US OPEN in the plural (!?!) unless you were being sports-specific, i.e. "Tiger Woods has won two U.S. OPENS." I had the -ENS here and Killed myself thinking of every potential plural in the sports world (well, not Every one, apparently). Hateful horrible hatefulness. A "biggie" also really wants to be a person more than it wants to be a (rarely pluralized) event.
The rest of this puzzle was pretty easy - yet another problem with the puzzle, in my eyes: unevenness.
- 1A: Big flap on the road? (splash guard) - despite my having huge trouble getting it, I love it.
- 12A: Yearbook div. (srs.) - gimme! Things were going so well when I got this. I laid down AJA (4D: 1977 Steely Dan title track) and then this one, SRS. Then nothing happened. Then I found the BEAGLE (48D: Charles Darwin's ship H.M.S. _____), and the ball got rolling quickly from there.
- 21A: Forgoes a cab, say (legs it) - beautiful colloquial phrase. Wanted HOOFS IT, but it didn't fit.
- 24A: Rijksmuseum subject (Rembrandt) - had most of this in place before I ever saw the clue.
- 30A: Poetry Out Loud contest org. (NEA) - educated guess. Got it straight off.
- 33A: Est., once (SSR) - tricky! "Est." = Estonia.
- 41A: Abba's "_____ the Music Speak" ("I Let") - ick. This is really dredging the bottom of the Abba barrel here...
- 45A: Sponsoring publication of TV's "Project Runway" (Elle) - had no idea, but fashion publication in four letters ... yeah, that's a gimme.
- 54A: Host and winner of the 1966 World Cup (Eng.) - had ECU, then changed it.
- 55A: With 59-Across, it lasted from about 3500 to 1000 B.C. (Bronze / Age) - see, easy. This is what I mean - compare this (where you can at the very least infer the AGE part) to the NW corner. Miles apart in difficulty level, and this clue gives you openings in two separate parts of the puzzle.
- 56A: Defeater of Schmeling in 1933 (Baer) - not hard. As crossword boxers go, this one's just behind ALI.
- 61A: Dedicatee of "The Muppet Movie" (Edgar Bergen) - my only proud moment, not because I knew it (I didn't), but because I was able to guess it off the initial "E" and final "GEN." I don't get proud for knowing stuff - I get proud for figuring out crap I have no business getting.
- 65A: Dish with coddled egg (caesar salad) - after I took out CREME BRULEE, this one fell pretty quickly.
- 66A: _____-Mere-Eglise (D-Day town) (Ste) - gimme. Never heard of it, but come on. It's French ... even one cross should have tipped you off here.
- 7D: member of the 1960s Rams' Fearsome Foursome (Grier) - sadly, I couldn't come up with this. I know very well who Rosey GRIER is - my memories of him involve ... well, THIS. I can't listen to this without feeling unadulterated happiness, a la a 5 year old, which is what I was when "Free to Be You and Me" first appeared.
- 27D: Bizarrely hellish (Dantean) - describes my NW experience aptly. By the way, DANTESQUE is the preferred adjective. At least it's my preferred adjective.
- 5D: They're often fried (sots) - yeah, that's good. I wanted only EGGS. Then WITS.
- 29D: Mardi Gras, in the U.K. (Pancake Day) - Unimaginative, but Delicious name.
- 28D: Aussie's place of higher learning (Uni) - being married to Kiwi helps sometimes. This was a gimme.
- 12D: Dangerous swimmer with an oar-like tail (sea snake) - sounds mythical. Don't these have a more specific name?
- 37D: "Born to be Blue" singer (Mel Torme) - The Velvet Fog! Had -ORME in place and knew the answer even before reading the clue.
- 40D: Lead-in to a sheepish excuse (see...) - I'm ambivalent on this. Love/Hate.
- 52D: Language in which "k" and "v" are the words for "to" and "in" (Czech) - when you have the "Z" in place (see BRONZE AGE), this one is no trouble at all.
- 53D: Kitchen gripper (saran) - took me a few moments. Wanted a device (a vise, an opener), not a wrap.
- 57D: It rises in the Cantabrian Mountains (Ebro) - crosswordesey! Forced me to change CREME BRULEE to CAESAR SALAD. EBRO may be my favorite crossword river, despite its ubiquitousness.
- 67A: Order of ants (hymenoptera) - whoa! No idea, but, as this part of the puzzle was well constructed, I could piece it together from crosses.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld