Saturday, March 8, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
THEME: "Splits and Mergers" - theme answers are made up of Acrosses into or out of which Downs flow (the former a "merger," the latter a "split")
An ingenious puzzle, though that's what I expect from Patrick Berry. He has set the bar very, very high for himself. I took far longer to do this than I normally take on most Sundays, first because I forgot to enlarge the grid at first, and so had to backtrack and fix that (sadly, the NYT clock does not stop when you do that), and second because my computer response time is terrible, and every key stroke I make appears to be delayed by about a half second. My keyboard technique is poor as it is - the lag time made it even worse. Then there was the fact that the puzzle was simply more challenging than your average Sunday, with several words I'd never heard of and many clues that were quite vexing. I got the split/merge thing confused at least once, trying to split when I should have merged and vice versa. The worst example of this was at 42A: 1980s "NBC News Overnight" anchor / Feared insect [merger] // 31D: See 42-Across => ELLERBEE / KILLER BEE. I thought this merger was a split and so had ERIK going east and then north, my brain telling me that that was, of course, how you spell ERIK Sevareid (wrong, it's ERIC, and he had zero to do with the news show in question).
Other theme answers:
- 24A: "Over my dead body!" / Alert [split] // 25D: See 24-Across ("Not if I can help it" / notification)
- 26A: Exchange words? / New beginning [merger] // 5D: See 26-Across (translate / clean slate)
- 39A: Annoying obligations / "No need to check" [split] // 41D: See 39-Across (impositions / "I'm positive")
- 59A: Black hole's boundary / Despite the fact that [split] // 61D: See 59-Across (event horizon / even though)
- 70A: Double sugar / Travel freely? [merger] // 56D: See 70-Across (disaccharide / hitch a ride) - whoa, DISACCHARIDE hurt me. The first "C" was the last letter I put in the grid - not knowing until the very end what the hell 62D: Pros who practice could be going for (DOCS, it turns out).
- 86A: Commuter's source of entertainment / Actor John or David [split] // 88D: See 86-Across (car radio / Carradine)
- 90A: Martini ingredient / Delta site [merger] // 79D: See 90-Across (dry vermouth / river mouth)
- 103A: Franz Liszt, e.g. / Didn't got straight, maybe [split] // 104D: See 103-Across (Hungarian / hung a right)
- 106A: "Come back now, y'hear?" / Park employee [merger] // 85D: See 106-Across ("Don't be a stranger" / forest ranger)
Wow, those were difficult to type in accurately.
My biggest WTF!? moment happened where NIMBY (27D: Modern political acronym) met BOYS (46A: "The History _____" (Tony-winning play)). NIMBY BOYS sounds ... suggestive. [Actually stands for "Not-In-My-Back-Yard"] I've never heard of the acronym NIMBY, nor have I ever heard of the play (@#$@! Broadway again) "The History BOYS," so that "Y" was an out-and-out guess. "The History BOAS?" "The History BOSS?" "BOYS" seemed the least preposterous. Good guess. My first guess: "The History OF US" (not U.S., but the pronoun, US; is that ... something?).
A while back I had massive Google traffic from a clue which I am loath to reprint here, lest it throw off any future Google traffic. Oh, what the hell - the clue was [Violinist Mischa] and the answer was AUER even though as far as I can tell Mischa AUER was an actor, not a violinist, but I don't want to rehash the controversy. I just want to note that two answers in today's puzzle made me flash on this now (to me) infamous clue - 65A: Author of the "Earth's Children" series (Auel) - just one letter off from AUER - and 63D: Violinist Itzhak (Perlman) - now he's really a violinist. I've got at least one CD to prove it.
- 95A: "The Seagull" ingenue (Nina) - no clue.
- 55D: W.W. II light machine gun (bren) - that looks almost as made-up as ...
- 90D: Himalayan cedar (deodar) - from which Yetis make DEODARant.
- 103D: Chemistry Nobelist Otto (Hahn) - I'm sure I've seen his name before, but that means nothing. I'm doomed never to remember this guy's name. Give me [Violinist Hilary] any day.
- 92D: Chinese province bordering Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar (Yunnan) - if you say so! No one from China ever reads my blog, so screw those guys (I'm just kidding, billions of potential future readers! I take it back!)
- 81D: 1953 3-D film starring Fernando Lamas ("Sangaree") - holy moly. Is this a Bollywood production? Oh, it seems SANGAREE is another form of, or somehow related to, "sangria" - definition: "A sweet chilled beverage made of wine or other alcoholic liquor and grated nutmeg."
- 33A: Animated film character voice by Matthew Broderick (Simba) - "puzzling" only because I misread the clue and was looking for a film title, not, as the clue clearly states, a "film character."
- 58A: Figure just above the total (tip) - I think you forgot to add "in a restaurant!" I was looking for some technical term, like ADDEND only shorter.
- 61A: Unread messages, usually (spam) - "usually?" I'm not sure about this. All messages are "unread" at one point.
- 3D: Patrician (genteel) - had GENTILE (HA ha), and then second- and third-guessed the world as I wrestled with the whole ELLERBEE / KILLER BEE // ERIK Sevareid / ERLERBEE problem (me: "I've never heard of an ERLER BEE ... maybe they have powerful stings ...")
- 15D: Peacemaker maker (Colt) - wanted DOVE, completely missing out on the redundancy in the clue that makes DOVE clearly wrong. Gotta love a gun called a "peacemaker."
- 37D: Prepares, in a way, as chicken (debones) - another victim of the ERLER BEE massacre. Took a while to put this one together, for no good reason.
- 40D: California county with Point Reyes National Seashore (Marin) - why I kept reading this as [California resort ...] I'll never know. My aunt lives in MARIN, so this was close to a gimme.
- 49D: It's clipped at both ends (stogie) - good one. I had ... that's right, SALAMI. This was due to FLIES for FLEES at 77A: Takes off.
- 57D: Bleeped word (oath) - way, way harder to get than it should have been, perhaps because No One calls them [bleep]-ing OATHs any more. I really taxed my dirty word vocabulary before realizing that none of those words could possibly be an answer in a Sunday NYT puzzle.
- 71D: _____ Sea, connected to St. George's Channel (Irish) - guessed from crosses. Not sure why this clue is compelling me to tell you this, but yesterday I got what I believe is my first Google hit from NUUK, Greenland! It's the capital! Why don't I see this in puzzles more often, i.e. every other day? Speaking of Arctic words - Commenter Pete M. sent me a little crosswordese quiz he made for himself, one I could take on-line (I got 97/100), and one of the clues was something like [Eskimo knife] and the answer (which I guessed by knowing the alternatives were all wrong) was ULU, and I told him "I've never heard of that word" ... and then three days later I saw the word in a puzzle. Love when that happens.
- 109D: What retroviruses contain (RNA) - shows my ignorance; I got this easily enough, but I thought all living things had RNA. I know, I'm an ignoramus. You may start hurling tomatoes now.
- 76D: _____ bourguignon (boeuf) - rough. French. Don't we (Americans) normally say "BEEF Bourguignon" (if we say it at all, that is).
- 1A: Upper end of a soprano's range (high C) - looks awesome in the grid: consonantastic!
- 19A: Basketballer nicknamed the Diesel (O'Neal) - also "The Big Aristotle"; he is Very entertaining.
- 66A: Social reformer Lucretia (Mott) - I just love that I got this instantly. Learned from xwords.
- 83A: Mountain SE of ancient Troy (Ida) - See also OSSA and ETNA.
- 94A: Burt's "Stroker Ace" co-star (Loni) - oh yeah, that's the stuff. Sweet, sweet trash-pop culture of my youth. Give Me More.
- 97A: Fictional blue humanoid (Smurf) - it's not "Stroker Ace," but it'll do.
- 11A: Superhero name ender (-Man) - what I love about this is that it makes a boring word interesting. Fabulous.
- 4D: Della sells hers in "The Gift of the Magi" (hair) - No, don't sell your hair! He bought you a comb!!!!!
- 10D: Kimono securer (obi) - "Securer" just makes me laugh, for some reason. Highly Google-worthy, believe me (although anyone attempting the Sunday puzzle should know what an OBI is without Googling).
- 6D: Keen producers (banshees) - love it. I also LOVE that BANSHEES and SANGAREE are symmetrical. Like words in some kind of hellish, fever-induced poetry.
- 16D: #1 hit for Marty Robbins ("El Paso") - one of you will explain to me how I got this with just the "P" in place, having absolutely no recollection of any part of said song. Oh wait, is this the one that goes "Out in the west Texas town of El Paso / I fell in love with a Mexican girl" or something like that??? YES!
- 47D: It's not needed in hydroponics (soil) - happy that I knew it. That's all.
- 91D: _____ Quimby, girl of children's lit (Ramona) - Sahra's RAMONA phase was quick, but amusing. Maybe she'll return to the RAMONA books after she's read every single Harry Potter books ten times. She read the entirety of The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick yesterday. I still think it's wrong, cosmically, that she reads more than I do.
And that is, indeed, all.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld