Thursday, March 27, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
THEME: CRANE (49D: Word defined by 20-, 36- and 51-Across)
Note to the good people at the NYT puzzle website: it's bad enough that I have to wait until 10pm to get my puzzle (one hour earlier would be so much more humane and would make a huge difference in my blogging life). But I accept that that's the way of the world, or at least how you do business. But at 10:01, I want my puzzle. Last night, while the people solving in the applet had their puzzle right away, schmucks like me who like to print out their puzzles and solve them in bed, had to wait, and wait, and wait for the AcrossLite version. OK, so I had to wait only 15 minutes, but at bedtime, 15 minutes is a long time. Between waiting and solving and marking up the puzzle, I got to sleep late, and so woke up late, and so am only just now starting this entry and it's after 8 am. Of course, I could have foregone this entire first paragraph and just dived right in, thus making up for lost time, but that would have been logical and sensible and thus very unlike me. Lesson: make AcrossLite version of puzzle available on time. And consider backing up the release time an hour or so on weekdays.
And now - the puzzle. It was fine. Minor troubles in the NE and SW, but otherwise, pretty easy. The CRANE theme, which I got right away from having the STRETCH part of STRETCH ONE'S NECK in place, was interesting. Cool that there are 3 15-letter answers that work. I was looking for the building-crushing type of CRANE at 36A, and was completely (and pleasantly) surprised to see NOVELIST STEPHEN standing there. I knew the last CRANE was a BIRD (not because of ESP, but because I actually had BIRD in place), and a few well-placed crosses gave me the LARGE WADING part. Done and done.
The theme was not the puzzle's main area of interest, at least not for me. I think the marquee clue / answer of the day is 11D: Hard to take? (camera shy). Not only is that a very clever clue, but CAMERASHY is really really hard to parse with only a smattering of crosses in place. Somehow, the fact that it ended in "Y" made me think I was dealing with an adjective, and just one word, not two. My missing crosses were
- RARE (16A: Bloody, so to speak) - had the -RE, could think only of DIRE (and why does this clue have "so to speak"? Does the red in RARE steak really have nothing to do with blood? Is this another occasion where science types are going to write me en masse, ridiculing the lacunae in my education?)
- OUR (23A: Certain prayer starter) - obvious, in retrospect, but the only three-letter words I could think of were NOW (as in "Now I lay me...") and AVE.
- BALLPARK (25A: Diamond setting) - good clue. Was thinking of a diamond ring.
Was also missing the "H" from NOVELIST STEPHEN at that point. So CAMERA SHY was a very serious, very admirable bump in my road. Why PRENUP (10D: Engagement agreement) eluded me for so long, I don't know. Maybe because PRENUP is an abbreviation, or at least a ... clipped form of a longer term. Or maybe I'm just making excuses.
Other fun / unfun stuff:
- 6A: A good breakfast, but a bad supper, according to Francis Bacon (hope) - really wanted the answer to be BACON . . .
- 10A: Dumpsite pollutants, for short (PCBs) - Hey, I got this right off, and it's ... kind of sciencey, right?
- 15A: Robert of "The Sopranos" (Iler) - as crossword names go, this guy spends a lot of time on the bench, but when he comes off it, look out. He played Tony Soprano's son. I wanted ILES. Is there someone named ILES? Oh yes, a "New York Times Best Selling Author." A very crossworthy name.
- 22A: Showy shrubs (azaleas) - yesterday we had FIGS, today, AZALEAS. Both of these could be found in my backyard when I was a kid. What's next, QUAILS?
- 40A: It's often played before playing (anthem) - if it's NATIONAL, then sure.
- 41A: Replies on the Enterprise (ayes) - part of me does not like this, the other part admires its supreme (rhyming) geekiness.
- 42A: Cary Grant played a male one in 1949 (war bride) - "I Was a Male War Bride" - A Howard Hawks film starring Cary Grant, and I'd never (or barely) heard of it. That surprises / disturbs me.
- 46A: "Donald's Cousin _____" (1939 Disney cartoon) ("Gus") - the "U" was a complete guess, as BUG OUT (43D: Leave in a hurry, slangily) means something completely different to me - something more like [Be astonished] - i.e. in a way that would make your eyes BUG OUT. I am astonished that GUS here is crossworthy. A single Disney cartoon? Well ... it is a good one. See it here.
- 59A: Lead-in to meter (volt) - I'm just glad I knew WOVE (53D: Emulated Arachne), which had already given me the "V" here. In fact, I'm just glad I never actually saw this clue. VOLT is way way down the list of meter lead-ins I'd have considered.
- 60A: Spain's Princess _____ (Elena) - Most other ELENAs of note appear to be Russian (or in the case of Elena Ceauşescu, Romanian).
- 62A: Unlikely valentine swappers (exes) - great, great clue.
- 63A: Skates on thin ice, e.g. (dares) - hmmm, these don't seem interchangeable to me, not easily anyway. "You're skating on thin ice, missy!" "You're daring ... missy!" Yeah, no.
- 1D: Chip topper (salsa) - there must be more exciting ways to clue this.
- 2D: Faint, in slang (plotz) - fabulous fill.
- 3D: Commercial prefix with suede (ultra) - there appears to be a controversy at the Wikipedia entry for "ultrasuede," in that it is written "like an advertisement," so it's been flagged.
- 4D: Start of many a story (dateline) - ugh. I had LOTSA instead of LOTTA (17A: Ton of) at first, and so had DASE... as my opening of this answer for a bit.
- 9D: Marine eagle (erne) - CAW! This site's future mascot.
- 19D: Wagner princess (Isolde) - as in "Tristan und..." The puzzle loves Wagner for some reason.
- 27D: What "knock knock" may mean (let me in) - Didn't the Big Bad Wolf say this? Yes: ["Little pig, little pig, _____"]. That would have been a great clue. Or at least interesting.
- 29D: Understands (kens) - ick ugh and uck.
- 31D: Celebrated Sigmund Freud patient (Dora) - Joining Dumb DORA and DORA the Explorer as the world's most famous DORAs.
- 32D: Oscar-winning song from "A Star Is Born" (Evergreen) - My parent/s must have listened to this in the 70s, because I know this song cold, against my will. A Streisand klassic.
- 38D: Graph of the equation y = ax2 + bx + c (parabola) - Had the O-A at the end and got it no problem. Actual math skills not required.
- 48D: Land that's more than 90% desert (Niger) - nearly wrote in NEGEV, but NEGEV is, entirely, a desert.
- 52D: Black cuckoos (anis) - Old Skool. You gotta reach into the back of your crosswordese closet to find these guys. Tomorrow, look for ANOA.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld