Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: Business phrases with cutesy clues
Not a lot to say about this one. Tried to solve on the NYT applet last night and - as happens not infrequently when I solve that way - it was having freezing problems, the likes of which are cured, strangely, only by my switching to another tab and then switching back to the NYT site. Not sure what magical unfreezing powers that has, but it seems to work. I think printing out the puzzle in Across Lite and solving on paper is slowly but surely becoming my favorite method of solving. It is more relaxing (even when I'm speeding, because at least I know I'm not going to have a technical difficulty greater than broken pencil lead), and I can annotate the puzzle (for blogging purposes) on the fly - slightly less work for me later.
I solved this puzzle in a rather awkward, backward fashion, filling in the back ends of multiple theme answers, which gave me next to no help in solving them. So I started in the (awkward) NW and essentially went around the grid in clockwise fashion, but without getting a handle on the theme until ... I don't really know when. It's not like any of the theme answers is really memorable. I do remember, however, what my biggest problem in the puzzle was - a clever ruse that is severely flawed (IMOO) by the employment of a variant spelling. I speak, of course, of HARD G (1A: What a gal has that a gent doesn't?). Normally love these kinds of self-referential clues, where the word in the clue is what's at issue. I do not like the cutesy phrasing of the clue (cutesiness abounds in this puzzle, actually, and in a cloying way), but that's not the real problem here. The real problem is the A crossing, AMEER (2D: Mideast poo-bah). It is an acceptable variant of EMIR, it's true. But so is EMEER. And therein lies the problem. I wrote in HENCE (1D: Therefore), EMEER, and RAT ON (3D: Betray, in a way) in the 1, 2, and 3D positions, respectively, so that the answer to [What a gal has that a gent doesn't?] looked like it began HER ..., a possessive feminine pronoun that fits perfectly with the phrasing of the clue. So I figured the next two letter were something I'd just have to come back to. Only I forgot to come back, filled the whole grid in, and then had it rejected by the NYT site. Only then did I notice HER DG and think "... that's not right." Two seconds later I changed the "E" to and "A" and all was right with the world. I normally love the letter trap (i.e. answers like SILENT E and SOFT C), but the combined cutesy cluing and nonstandard AMEER diminished my joy just a bit. Otherwise, an adequate Tuesday puzzle.
- 17A: Fishing trawler's haul? (net earnings)
- 28A: Seat of government's acquisitions? (capital gains)
- 44A: Publisher's windfall? (paper profits)
- 59A: Salary for selling insects as food? (gross income)
I take back the cutesy accusation. These clues are just dull, except that last one, which is lively but chauvinistic. Lots of cultures around the world eat insects and would find most of what you put in your body "gross." Is this the NYT or "Fear Factor?" Come on.
Here's what I liked: the long Downs. Great phrases all:
- 5D: Campaigner's greeting (glad hand) - Pennsylvanians will not have to endure this much longer ...
- 11D: Works out with weights (pumps iron)
- 34D: Throws in the trash (deep sixes) - love the phrase, though the clue seems overly mundane for the answer
- 39D: Add some meat to the bones (fatten up) - my wife does not think FATTEN UP and ICE UP should be allowed in the same puzzle. I agree. One UP phrase is OK, and three would show self-awareness and boldness, but two just looks sloppy.
- 15A: Muscat resident (Omani) - haven't seen it in a while, but at times it has been quite prevalent. It's a useful word - abundance of vowels, ends in "I"
- 36A: 1910s-'20s car inits. (REO) - Before puzzles, the only way I knew REO was via the massively popular band of my youth, REO Speedwagon.
- 50A: Celestial altar (Ara) - a constellation. A palindrome. Somewhat easy to remember in that all of its letters are contained in the word ALTAR.
- 66A: Fakes out with fancy footwork (dekes) - I hear this most often in hockey commentary, but it works for most any sport. I feel as if this word's stock is on the rise.
- 12D: Lake next to Avon Lake (Erie) - What the heck is "Avon Lake?" Ah, it's not a lake. It's a city in Ohio.
- 52D: Fred's dancing sister (Adele) - If you lived entirely inside the crosswords, you'd think she was more famous than Fred.
- 14D: Correspondence sans stamp (email) - I've studied French, so I know "sans," but there are few French words I like less in English than "sans." It's exceedingly pretentious. Just say "without." The extra syllable won't take any years off your life.
- 20A: Board of directors hiree (CEO) - goes nicely with REO, but "hiree," yuck.
- 25A: Lukas of "Witness" (Haas) - behold my magical powers! I mention Lukas HAAS in my write-up of Tommy HAAS a few days ago, and bam, here he is. I actually went into this actor's imdb file trying to remember why he became famous and way down at the bottom of the film list was "Witness." He was the cute kid of the very hot (and Amish) Kelly McGillis (whatever happened to her??).
- 27A: QB boo-boos: Abbr. (ints) - "boo-boos" is unforgivable in a football clue. This is what I mean by excessive cutesiness.
- 16A: Mystifying Mr. Geller (Uri) - more cutesy cluing. His fame is more mystifying than he is. I think Mean Mr. Mustard could kick Mystifying Mr. Geller's @$$. In fact, I would pay to see that.
- 37A: Upturned, as a crate (on end) - couldn't parse this to save my life "ONE something ..." Even after I got it: "ONE ND? What's th- ... oh."
- 41A: Yeoman's agreement (aye) - see also YES (65A: "That's a go").
- 43A: Big Easy team (Saints) - found myself thinking "They aren't in N.O. anymore," then realized I was thinking of the Jazz, the basketball team that moved from New Orleans to Utah in 1979.
- 62A: Big galoot (ape) - wish I could see GALOOT in the puzzle more often. My first instinct here (as always): OAF.
- 9D: How curses are exchanged (angrily) - couldn't figure out the gist of this for a while. BY WITCHES? I guess "curses" here refers to epithets of some kind.
- 13D: Kiting necessity (wind) - true enough. I first (mis-)read the clue as [Knitting necessity], then thought of "kiting" as the act of writing bad checks.
- 31D: Elbow-benders (sots) - ah, two great members of the vocabulary of drunkenness.
- 47D: Many Guinness listings (firsts) - another clue I had trouble parsing, mainly because I wanted it to end in the superlative -ESTS.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of Crossworld