Saturday, April 19, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging
I realized this morning why Saturday puzzles stress me out a bit - it's not because they can be brutally hard. I enjoy that. It's because I have a time crunch. I usually go to bed before doing the puzzle on Th and F nights, and so I have to complete the puzzle in the morning. Saturday is the one day of the week that can still send me into free fall, which I cannot afford to be in when the clock is ticking (blog-wise). If only the puzzle would come out at 9pm the night before instead of 10pm (nudge nudge, wink wink ... Santa, are you listening?). Anyway, I saw Bob Klahn's name on the puzzle and visibly slumped in my chair. I love Klahn's puzzles, but you may remember a late-2007 puzzle by Klahn that was a Complete Destroyer (it had XANTIPPE in it - see sidebar, "The Wrath of Klahn," under "Important Posts"). So imagine my surprise when the second clue I look at is not only a total gimme, but a long total gimme that provided the first letters to ten Down clues: MONTEVERDI (5A: "L'Orfeo" composer). "L'Orfeo" is about the only opera I actually own. I forget why. Who really cares!? I'm off to a flying start. Had lots of problems in this puzzle from Missouri all the way to New Mexico, and Florida was largely vacant until the very end. But as Klahn puzzles go, this was easy, which is to say, tough by normal standards: Medium-Challenging.
Rather than blather on, I'm going right to the clues - so much good stuff to discuss:
- 1A: Lock combination? (coif) - Real trouble here in the final letter. COIN and COIL both seemed reasonable to me at some point. I wondered briefly if LISTIC was a word, before running into the more obviously correct FISTIC for 4D: Boxing-related.
- 16A: Compulsive shopper (oniomaniac) - normally words or phrases that return only 1490 total hits on a Google search will make me irate, but this did not. It's a perfectly good, if rare, word, and it looks fabulous in the grid. Took me a while to put in the M (from EMOTE - 9D: Engage in cabotinage) because I thought anything beginning ONIO- would have to be about ONIONs. ONIONATOR? ONION LOVER? Didn't help that I had the clearly wrong RHODESIA at 12D: Western Sahara region (Rio de Oro). Once I got the erroneous "H" out of the way, the -MANIAC part of ONIOMANIAC became obvious, and I just took it on faith that it was a word. All the crosses seemed strong.
- 22A: List on a society calendar (dos) - goes nicely with COIF.
- 24A: Product once advertised as "Ice-cold sunshine" (Coke) - easy, or at least easily inferrable. There were many answers like this today - way more than is usual in a Klahn puzzle. See also BARCELONA (26A: Birthplace of Sert and Miro), which was easy to get with the -ONA in place; BABA (48A: Spongelike cake); LETS (21A: Court calls); EMPHASIS (31D: What "!" provides); and, my favorite gimme of the day, HICS (44A: Lush sounds). Love those dipsomaniacal answers. Haven't seen DTS in a while... why not? Bring it back!
- 25A: Bicycle pack (deck) - stared at this one for many seconds, trying to imagine a bicycle and all its component parts. Then "pack" cued "pack of cards" and voila, DECK. Bicycle's a big maker of playing cards (unlike COOPER, which is apparently a 40D: Big maker of tires - I breifly thought the puzzle was going to get cute and try to go with GOOD YR).
- 29A: "A Clockwork Orange" instrument (moog) - I was thinking "what do you call the instrument they used to hold his eyelids open while forcing him to watch those horrid movies..."
- 30A: "La Boheme" setting (garret) - I actually had TURRET in the grid for a few seconds until I remembered that the opera had something to do with people living a "bohemian" lifestyle ... in a GARRET. I have never seen "La Boheme," but I have seen the modern Broadway musical based on "La Boheme," which is also in today's puzzle: RENT (57A: Check for letters).
- 31A: "Casablanca" screenwriter Julius or Philip (Epstein) - and not, as I originally guessed, EINSTEIN.
- 36A: Dawn observance (matins) - here I was, imagining some kind of pagan ritual involving the sun, and the answer ends up being simply one part of the canonical hours.
- 37A: Like a raspberry bush stem (cany) - had BONY for a good long time, because I had POSE for 35D: Something well-placed? (pail - great clue, by the way).
- 39A: Giant perissodactyls (rhinoceri) - wow, Klahn's big on the high-end words of Greek derivation today! I can't believe it took me so long to get this after I already had RHINO in place ... "RHINO CATS? RHINO ... MICE?" I'm not sure I knew that RHINOCEROS pluralized this way. Maybe that's because it really doesn't. Normally, the plural is simply RHINOCEROS or RHINOCEROSES. RHINOCERI is "nonstandard or jocular" according to Wiktionary. Let's see what my giganto-dictionary (Websters' 3rd New International) says - well, it says RHINOCERI is an acceptable plural (third one listed). Did you know that RHINOCERICAL = "full of money: RICH"? It's "archaic," but it really, really shouldn't be. I want to bring it back.
- 46A: Like M, L or XL (Roman) - oddly easy. After SIZED or SIZES, it was the first answer I thought of.
- 53A: Council of _____, 1409 (Pisa) - My "Council of" knowledge ends with TRENT.
- 55A: Lassie creator Knight (Eric) - #76 on the World's Top 100 ERICs list, behind Cartman, Idle, Bana, The Red, etc.
- 1D: Network seen in many homes, and not proudly (cobweb) - guessed WRETCH at 19A: Poor devil, which gave me ---W-B here. Briefly thought THE WEB before settling on the correct answer.
- 2D: "The Last Don" sequel ("Omerta") - a great xword word. Learn it, know it, love it.
- 5D: Phototropic flier (moth) - It's a "flier," it's four letters, it starts with "M," it's MOTH.
- 7D: "Love Jones" actress, 1997 (Nia Long) - how in the World did I know this?
- 8D: City whose name is Siouan for "a good place to grow potatoes" (Topeka) - actually pretty easy to guess if you've got the "T" in place.
- 13D: Flattering courtier who changed places with the tyrant Dionysius, in Greek legend (Damocles) - he of the Sword.
- 14D: Blade holder (ice skate) - again, surprisingly untough for Klahn. I feel like I'm taunting the tiger here ... and the next Klahn puzzle I see is going to shred me into fine little pieces. Or DICE me, perhaps (49D: Cut to bits).
- 20D: Only starting pitcher since 1971 to win a league M.V.P. award (Clemens) - my childhood / teenhood idol. Not so much anymore.
- 24D: Cousin of a kinkajou (coon) - was this a sop thrown to longtime Saturday solvers? Because we Just Had (a version of) this clue, not more than a couple months ago.
- 25D: Hamlet (dorp) - HA ha. Funniest word ever. Like a typo for DROP mixed with DORF (of "Dorf on Golf" "fame"). DORP must derive from THORP. Eths and thorns both make the "th" sound, but eths kinda look like D's ... and that is my "Uninformed Etymology Lesson of the Day." Thank you.
- 27D: "Such Good Friends" novelist Gould (Lois) - no idea. None. Zero.
- 28D: Writer of the story upon which "All About Eve" is based (Mary Orr) - I just rewatched the first part of this (great) movie the other day. Didn't catch MARY ORR's name, sadly, but I pieced it together eventually (obviously).
- 30D: "Treasure Island" character (Gunn) - quarter century, at least, since I read this. GUNN was an educated guess.
- 32D: Defensive structure (palisade) - the only PALISADE I know is Pacific PALISADES, and I didn't know the word had anything to do with defense of any sort.
- 33D: Person not easily budged (stickler) - not sure about this clue. Hmm. I had STICK- and was inventing suffixes: "He's a real STICK-FER. . . he's a real STICK TO'T ... These aren't working."
- 37D: It could end up in a fiasco (chianti) - "Fiasco" here = Italian for "flask." This is my favorite Fiasco of the moment (warning, that link goes to a rap song that contains profanity, though it's a song largely about how stupid / offensive much commercial rap music is).
- 42D: Dark purplish blue (raisin) - yuck, really? BRUISE is a more appealing color name than RAISIN.
- 45D: Dickens's "merry old gentleman" (Fagin) - really really wish I knew my Dickens better. Not sure I'm willing to invest the time it would take to make that happen.
- 51D: Relief provider, maybe (map) - I had NAP. You had NAP. We all had NAP. Didn't we?
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld