Saturday, April 5, 2008
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
Meeting up in Ithaca in a few hours, so this will be somewhat brief.
I tore through this puzzle at first - the NE corner may be the fastest Saturday corner I've ever experienced - and then I hit snags in about three different places, but none of them lasted very long. I ended up with a stupid error - and this is why you should read All the clues, Across and Down, especially on a Saturday: I was wondering (briefly) why SMILES was plural when the clue indicated a singular: 1D: Joke indicator. I had SDS at 26A and never even looked at the clue for 26A: Meas. of progress, at times because SDS is a perfectly good xword answer, e.g. [Radical '60s student group]. And so ... puzzle incorrect. I discovered the error pretty easily, thank god. Answers are SMILEY and YDS.
This puzzle began with me surmising that perhaps THE GAME was the answer to 36A: Singer whose 2002 song "Foolish" was #1 for 10 weeks (Ashanti). But the first Down cross I checked was the surprisingly easy 37D: Saves, e.g. (stat), and that single "S" jogged my 21st century music memory enough for me to recall (with no great joy) the name of ASHANTI. Back to STAT for a second: this puzzle seemed loaded with easy and (crosswordeasy) answers:
- ARIA - 16A: Da capo _____ (Baroque piece)
- OCALA - 54A: Central Florida Community College site
- OTOE - 50A: Nebraska City's county
- YIP - 47A: Pound sound
I was going to add SDS, but, well, you know. All the Acrosses (and the one short Down) in the SW corner are very basic 4-letter words:
- DANE - 60A: Rosencrantz or Gildenstern
- MATE - 55A: The other shoe, e.g.
- ACID - 58A: Mordant
- MEDE - 52D: Ancient denizen along the Caspian [It Returns!]
SCUM (51A: Cleaning target) was at least colorful and interesting. Anyway, I'm surprised at how much this puzzle relied on simple small answers. PDAS, GPAS, ELLS, etc.
After ASHANTI, the NE simply fell. That terminal "I" in ASHANTI made WATER SKI (14D: It's hard to do barefoot) a total gimme, and the corner fell from there. From there I floated down into the SE, with no hesitation until I reached the very far end of that corner. I had SEP where SPR was supposed to go (44A: When Arbor Day is observed: Abbr.), and while that may seem a small error, when your Down crosses are the absurd-looking POLLEE (45D: Question answerer) and READDS (46D: Checks, as checks), those two wrong letters make a huge difference. Because of the unexpected letter combos in those two answers, I assumed one of my long Acrosses was wrong. So I flailed for a little bit before the simplest of moves (changing SEP to SPR) fixed everything.
The next major snag - which was driving me crazy - was 27D: The Blue Demons of the N.C.A.A.'s Big East. I thought "Yes, gimme!" And then ... couldn't think of a school. Duke is the Blue Devils. Wake Forest is the Demon Deacons. I thought "... Drexel?" I had the final "L" and could think of nothing. This was humiliating to me, as I watch a lot of ESPN and have known the names of the major conference teams in NCAA basketball for well over a quarter century. Unh. Eventually I got the "D" and then the "P" from STRAP IN (33A: Get ready to take off) and there was DEPAUL. SW went down from there, and quickly. Actually, I told this story in the wrong order. I wrestled with the NW first, and then ended in the SW.
The NW (closer to the N, actually) was by far the roughest part of the puzzle for me, primarily because of parallel long science/math answers: TRIVALENT (7D: Like some chromium and arsenic) and RADIXES (8D: Base numbers, in math), the latter of which is horribly grating to me, as it looks like terrible Latin - I would have pluralized RADIX (root) as RADICES. But that's just me. Got the "X" only because I bothered to change THE LAW to TAX LAW (23A: Certain code). And I was done.
- 17A: Band with the 1982 platinum album "The Number of the Beast" (Iron Maiden) - this was Killing me,a s 1982 is Right Over the Plate for me. I had no idea IRON MAIDEN ever had a platinum album. Wow.
- 28A: River past the ruins of Nineveh (Tigris) - didn't know this, but had the -GR-, so what else was it going to be?
- 30A: Martin Luther's crime (heresy) - plus defacement of Church property, I think.
- 38A: Runway topper (tiara) - I associate "runway" more with models than pageant contestants, but I haven't watched a beauty pageant since 1979, so what do I know?
- 39A: Cakes often made with ground nuts (torte) - good example of how this puzzle went: I braced myself for something esoteric and got something basic.
- 56A: Bean product? (brain child) - the only Across in the SE that gave me any trouble. I had BRAIN and wanted BRAIN ... CHART?
- 59A: 10th-century exile from Iceland (Eric the Red) - great long answer. Super easy, since I already had ERI-.
- 61A: Upsetting types (dark horses) - another great answer. Dark Horse is also a publisher of (usually) high quality comics.
- 2D: Bygone New York daily, with "the" (Herald) - wanted WORLD, but it didn't fit.
- 5D: Rolaids alternative (Tums) - again, super super easy. Nearly every English-speaking person in America should have been able to get this instantly.
- 6D: "An' singin there, an' dancin here, / Wi' great and _____": Burns ("sma") - ironically, not a very SMA clue.
- 9D: Experiencing drunkenness (areel) - I like that the xword has so many different ways to refer to drunks and their various sensations (SOTS, TOSSPOTS, LIT, DTS, etc.)
- 23D: Inner tubes, e.g. (tori) - thank you, Mr. Nestler (best friend, mathematician)
- 30D: "Pal Joey" lyricist (Hart) - I wanted O'HARA, who wrote the story.
- 34D: Two-part lake connected by the Strait of Tiquina (Titicaca) - again, piece o' cake, once you get a cross or two (if not sooner).
- 35D: 1996 Emmy-winning role for Alan Rickman (Rasputin) - had no idea, but crosses made it obvious.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld