Sunday, March 23, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "Common Interests" - phrases that might be of "interest" to two different groups (phrase must be taken both literally and punnily)
I did not enjoy the puzzle and I'm not really sure why. Maybe because it was late and I had just done a Sunday-sized puzzle (the Boston Globe) and had just returned from a reasonably heavy meal. There is nothing particularly unlikeable about the puzzle. I just know that I didn't have fun. Every section felt like a bit of a slog, few of the answers really sizzled, and the cutesiness of the theme answers was more annoying than amusing to me. I will write off most of my bad feelings about his puzzle to tiredness.
I had an uncharacteristically hard time getting into the NW (pretty wide open white space for a Sunday puzzle). Couldn't get the front end of EXOTIC PORTS, and even with the obvious STATERS cutting right through there, nothing was coming. I did not know TEVIS (5D: Walter _____, author of "The Hustler") - though I must have had an inkling, as I instinctively wanted NEVIS - and could not remember the very basic / boring ERIC (6D: Prince in "The Little Mermaid"). Even after I figured out RSVP (7D: Answer) and thus TEL AVIV (23A: Home of the newspaper Haaretz), I was still stalled until I looked at the capital "M" in the clue 30A: Some Millers and finally considered its beer-ness, giving me LITES. Both 1D: Like a guardian (tutelar) and 2D: Kept from home (in exile) were clued in such a way that I had no idea what they could possibly be getting at. Wanted something baseball-related at 2D. And TUTELAR just sucks. Bad. I like TIPSTER (1A: Track figure) - just wish it had come to me sooner.
- 24A: Electrical engineers and news anchors? (current events)
- 26A: World travelers and wine connoisseurs? (exotic ports) - wife had PORT last night after her meal. I had un-Irish coffee (was gonna go with the alcohol, then changed my mind at the last minute, having already had a gin martini with cucumber) and we shared an apple cobbler that was far more apple than cobbler, but was still OK.
- 44A: Geologists and music video producers? (rock bands) - why "video?"
- 52A: College students and mattress testers? (spring breaks) - I'm on mine right now.
- 82A: Old West outlaws and aspiring thespians? (stage coaches)
- 89A: Beat-era musicians and orthopedists? (hip joints)
- 110A: Fort Knox officials and pop singers? (gold records)
- 113A: Comedians and parade directors? (straight lines)
There were surprisingly few answers that I simply didn't know. The TEL AVIV newspaper was one, though at least I knew what TEL AVIV was. I have no idea who this HOOKE guy is (59A: Robert who introduced the term "cell" to biology). I hear he introduced the term "cell" to biology. Good for him. Also didn't know the ensuing Across clue, 60A: Where the antihelix is (ear), but that was very easy to infer from crosses. Clearly, I have biology blind spots. Oh, and I did not know CRTS (98A: PC screens, for short) - had to look it up to find out that it stands for cathode ray tube. It's not an initialism I've ever heard spoken out loud, to my knowledge.
Here are some wrong answers I had:
- REED for RAIL (107D: Symbol of thinness)
- TELEVISE for TELECAST (91A: Show on the small screen)
- ESTATE for ESCROW (8D: Mortgagee's concern)
- ACRID and then ACERB for ACUTE (9D: Sharp)
- HOOTS for HONKS (38D: Sounds of anger and jubilation) - if HOOTS is bad, HONKS is no better
And a word about 15D: Cambodian money (riel). Is it any wonder I botched the spelling here? Look at all the different countries that have some slightly variant versions of RIAL (from Wikipedia):
- Brazilian real, the official currency of Brazil
- Cambodian riel, the official currency of Cambodia
- Iranian rial, the official currency of Iran
- Omani rial, the official currency of Oman
- Qatari riyal, the official currency of Qatar
- Saudi riyal, the official currency of Saudi Arabia
- Yemeni rial, the official currency of Yemen
- 8A: Din-din (eats) - the theme is cutesy enough. Do I have to suffer through "din-din" too? Plus, I think "din-din" is a cutesy thing you would say to your dog, whereas EATS is something you'd see on an olde tyme diner sign. They don't substitute well.
- 12A: Nautical line (tow rope) - I normally suck at things nautical, but I got this pretty quickly - though I briefly thought it might be TOE ROPE because I couldn't get the "W" Down ...
- 14D: Salon option (wave) - makes sense now that I look at it, but in four letters I'm gonna tend to want TINT or PERM.
- 19A: Ally makers (uniters) - another off, clunky clue. Whom/what does it describe? Was Carter a "UNITER" when Sadat and Begin shook hands? Those guys weren't exactly "allies."
- 31A: It may be pinched (toe) - oh come on. So may anything, I guess. I just pinched my arm, so apparently it "may be pinched" too.
- 42A: Classic Hans Christian Andersen story, with "The" ("Red Shoes") - this makes me think only of the Loretta Lynn story-song "Little RED SHOES," off of her amazing "Van Lear Rose" album. I can't even remember the plot of the Andersen story, but I can tell you everything that happened to Loretta.
- 65A: Choir stands (risers) - took me a number of passes to get.
- 72A: The Gamecocks of the Southeastern Conf. (USC) - also known as "The Other U.S.C."
- 106A: Huge, in poetry (enorm) - I have a weird affection for this lopped-off word.
- 119A: Lettered top (dreidel) - almost ... almost ... symmetrical to TEL AVIV.
- 10D: Craggy peaks (tors) - I miss this word. Used to be in every other puzzle (I learned it from puzzles back in the Maleska era) and now you just don't see it as much. I believe you might find an AERIE in a TOR. Do ERNES make their AERIES in TORS, 'cause that would be awesome.
- 35D: 1976-1980 Wimbledon champ (Borg) - he of the long hair and sweat band and wooden racket. His first name, BJORN, is really more deserving of crossword inclusion than the cyber-sounding BORG.
- 54D: Gangster's gun (roscoe) - sweet. Crimespeak. Wish GAM or MOLL were somewhere nearby.
- 74D: Religious pilgrimage (Hadj) - HAAJ? HAJJ? HELP.
- 94D: Dog after the winter, e.g. (shedder) - The lack of any qualifying words before "Dog" makes this clue sound really strange. Still, I got this easily enough, quite possibly because the winter is ending and my dog is shedding like mad.
- 95D: How Calvin Coolidge spoke (tersely) - Just did an 11-year-old NYT puzzle that featured a quip about Coolidge, something like "Calvin Coolidge didn't say much, and when he did, he didn't say much."
- 99D: Less accurate (falser) - there's a word we can all agree to hate.
- 108D: Attire not for the modest (mini) - MINI-What!?!?! I know that you mean MINI-skirt, probably, but there are MINI-dresses, and MINI cars and MINI mice, come on!
- 112D: Prefix with zone (Euro) - Where the hell is the EURO-zone? Is it at all related to the continent I know as Europe? "You are now entering ... the EURO Zone [cue thumping dance music] dance dance dance dance..."