Thursday, April 10, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: A DOZEN ROSES (64A: What you can find in the grid after completing this puzzle, looking up, down, left, right, and diagonally, word-search style)
A lovely puzzle that was completely marred for me by an error of the very-hard-to-find kind. Short version. ELEONORA Duse (40D: Stage actress Duse) has her name spelled ELEANORA virtually everywhere I have looked, including The Cover of Time Magazine! Now, I see that it's "really" ELEONORA, so fine, and it's not like I really knew her name anyway, but still ... now REA is clearly not a 53A: Essex competitor (REO), but REA sure looks right at home in the grid, let me tell you. I didn't know what "Essex" was to start with - only when I figured out the ELEONORA problem did I remember "Oh yeah, ESSEX is an old make of car." It's just a part of England to me.
I was all set to praise the RESORT (52D: Vacation destination) / RESORB (1D: Soak up again, as liquid) symmetry ... until I realized that both those words, and many many more, were in the grid because they contained ROSE (albeit in upside-down fashion). The puzzle contains A DOZEN ROSES, to be exact, and THE SECRET GARDEN (38A: Classic 1911 children's novel ... with a hint to this puzzle's theme) spans the grid as the puzzle's other theme-revealing answer. Nice work. Complicated work.
The shape of the grid made this puzzle a bit challenging. You can't move nicely across the grid from NW in to the N and then the NE. In fact, the far north and far south are wickedly isolated from the rest of the puzzle, accessible through only the slimmest of alleys which are themselves half the grid away from each quadrant's farthest point. COTY (4A: Annual fashion award) and ERNO (72A: Designer/architect Goldfinger) (weird answers both) thus feel super-remote, as if they are buried at the back of some dark cave. OK, I'm exaggerating the darkness of the whole thing, but the grid structure is remarkable in the way it isolates certain segments of the puzzle.
Besides the ELEO/ANORA debacle, I had another problem in the far SE, where I had written in LISBON for 50D: Capital of Republica Portuguesa (Lisboa), and thus got the nonsensical NRT for 73A: Oils, say (art). That mistake I was able to find and fix. Crosses! My quest for speed (mid 6's today, which is OK) is killing me lately, in that I am not adequately checking the crosses.
Lots of foreign or foreign-sounding words in today's puzzle complicated matters for me a bit. I was especially thrown by THE SORBONNE (18A: University of Paris, familiarly), in that I was surprised to see the English "THE" in there. I know that sounds weird, but I was looking for a completely French phrase. It was only after I got the "B" from (horrible, dated) LIBBER (9D: Women's _____) that THE SORBONNE became undeniable. I got very flustered by SION (69A: Capital of Valais), which looked and felt wrong, despite not being so. It also throws me every time I see DENIS Leary's name (55D: Comic Leary), in that he spells it so ... Frenchly. Maybe that's just how the Irish spell "DENNIS." Lastly, in the foreign trouble category, there's MANÈGE (47D: Horse-training school), which I'm sure I've seen before but looks completely unfamiliar to me. I know MENAGE (as a word referring to a household or the management thereof - not the MENAGE you were thinking of), but MANEGE? No. Is that where you learn DRESSAGE and other French-sounding horse stuff?
- 2D: Dance energetically (boogie) - I had BOUNCE, which I like.
- 1A: Diamond datum (rbi) - knew this instantly, though had to use crosses to confirm it wasn't ERA or some other stat.
- 8A: Syrian city of 2.5+ million (Aleppo) - one of the oldest cities on the planet, and yet I know of this city only (or primarily) because it's in the title of a Nabokov short story: "That in Aleppo Once ..."
- 20A: Curved molding (ogee) - my good friend, where have you been? We see APSE from time to time, but it's as if OGEE has been on hiatus (42D: Hiatus - GAP). Note also the return of ENOL (10D: Certain alkene), who is, frankly, not so welcome.
- 29A: Selects, as a racehorse, maybe (bets on) - simple, but effective. APT, one might say (64D: Quick to pick up).
- 48A: Washed-out look (pallor) - I got this instantly, which, if you have ever seen me, should not surprise you.
- 68A: Dumpling stuffed with cheese (pirogi) - these remind me of my Aunt Sue, for reasons I don't quite understand. She is not, as far as I know, Polish. Maybe she made them once when I was at her house and I've never forgotten? Who knows how my brain works?
- 3D: Antenna holder, maybe (insect) - cleeeeeeever. "Holder," indeed. That's like calling an ARM a [Hand holder] - I hereby copyright that clue.
- 5D: Phil who sang "I Ain't Marching Anymore" (Ochs) - the puzzle's favorite folkie (along with ARLO).
- 12D: What you might be doing this puzzle in (pen) - You put in INK at first, didn't you? Come on... and by the way, doing the puzzle in INK is impressive for about five minutes. If you do it in ink routinely, it just means the puzzles you're doing aren't hard enough, or you aren't going fast enough, or you are trying to show up for your co-workers or fellow Starbucks denizens. Whatever the reason, stop it. Unless a PEN is all you have handy. I've been there. [to be honest, I did the puzzle in PEN for more than a decade, mainly because it feels so much better to write on newspaper with a pen than with a pencil, and pen shows up better, and I didn't own pencils, etc.]
- 19D: Rio de _____, former Spanish territory in Africa (Oro) - no idea. I expect a Montana state motto clue for ORO, so I guess I should be happy to see something new.
- 21D: Some Caltech grads (EEs) - I think I wrote ENG, then EGS, before remembering the abbreviation for Electrical Engineer.
- 28D: "The chief nurse of England's statesmen" (Eton) - something about that motto is very, very creepy. "Nurse?"
- 30D: Creation of the Energy Reorg. Act of 1974 (NRC) - I hereby nominate "Reorg." for the "Worst Abbreviation Ever" award.
- 36D: Doctor Who and others, briefly (ETs) - because "scarf-wearing, disheveled freaks" wouldn't fit.
- 39D: "Too great a burden to bear": Martin Luther King Jr. ("hate") - a gimme, even though I don't know that I've ever heard the quotation before.
- 41D: Forerunner of rocksteady (ska) - Not sure what "rocksteady" is, but SKA is a puzzle regular.
- 57D: Unevenly notched, as a leaf (erose) - memorize this. It's surprisingly common. Any time you see "notched" or "leaf," think EROSE. So many WOF letters ("Wheel of Fortune," i.e. common, i.e. among the group RLSTNE).
- 61D: Big shirt maker (Izod) - I did not know that IZOD had gone into the oversized clothing market. In my day, it was polo shirts with an alligator logo, and that's it.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld