Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: DISAPPEARING INK (57A: -) - Four theme clues read, in order, INK, IN, I, -
I was torn between rating this "Medium" and "Medium-Challenging." I got through it in pretty good time, but as I was doing it, I had many moments where I thought "Wow, that was rough." I think that a year ago, this puzzle might have taken me at least twice as long to do. Knowing words like AVISO (30D: Dispatch boat) and MARL (11D: Clayey sediment) (unknown to me when I started doing puzzles) kept me in the game when zingers like PHAROS (45D: Ptolemy's lighthouse locale) and ANOXIA (6D: It may cause a coma) threatened to do me in. Overall, it was a perfect Wednesday challenge for me - not a breeze, not a slog, not a blank stare-inducing mystery, but a solid, thoughtful, entertaining puzzle, even if it does have the demonic PEEPS (37A: Marshmallow candies in Easter baskets) for a heart.
- 17A: INK (Cephalopod spray) - lost so much time with this one because I couldn't figure out how any Wednesday theme answer could begin with CEPH-, which had me rethinking my (obviously correct, and easy) NW corner for a bit. CEPHALOPOD SPRAY is so insane an answer, so unusual, so colossal and odd, that I almost like it. I have to give the constructor credit for getting a 15-letter answer for INK, even if this is the result.
- 25A: IN (social advantage) - see, the thing that made the theme answers a little tricky was that the clues were so short and ambiguous. I had to get all of SOCIAL and a good chunk of ADVANTAGE before I figured out what this (perfectly apt) phrase is.
- 43A: I (personal pronoun) - had most of PRONOUN in place before I even saw the clue, so no problem here.
I got hung up in a number of places, not all of them predictable. Had no idea what 23A: River in a 1957 hit film (Kwai) was at first because I read the clue only to the end of its first line (in Across Lite format) - [River in a 1957 hit]. So I briefly tried to think of songs about rivers ... then I got the final "I" and thought "????" Then I got the "W" and reread the clue, and tada, easy. The film: "Bridge on the River KWAI." 48A: Hound's quarry (hare) gave me what in retrospect seems like an impossible amount of trouble - I had -ARE and had to run through the alphabet. I just can't imagine a dog catching a HARE, least of all a bloodhound, which was the dog I was imagining. 7D: Bit of Watergate evidence (tape) was odd to me because all I could think of was "fingerprint" or other types of actual crime scene evidence. The very basic answer of TAPE is almost too embarrassing to look at now. More embarrassing, perhaps, was how long I was (ironically) stuck on DWELL (28D: Belabor, with "on"). My stumble here is ironic on two levels: first because I DWELT so damned long on the clue, and second because we subscribe to DWELL and there are many copies strewn about the house. My brain could not adequately process 61A: Finger, in a way (rat on) at first, for a multitude of reasons, so I needed at least the RA- before I got that one. Wanted 49D: Footnote word (idem) to be IBID, couldn't believe that the answer to 52D: Scavenger at Yellowstone was as easy and cartoony as BEAR (which I wrote in half-jokingly, having featured YOGI BEAR on my site only two days ago), and still, as of right now, don't get 41D: Coral producer (polyp). Let's look it up! From Wikipedia:
A coral "head", commonly perceived to be a single organism, is actually formed of thousands of individual but genetically identical polyps, each polyp only a few millimeters in diameter. Over thousands of generations, the polyps lay down a skeleton that is characteristic of their species. A head of coral grows by asexual reproduction of the individual polyps. Corals also breed sexually by spawning, with corals of the same species releasing gametes simultaneously over a period of one to several nights around a full moon.Four POLYPS in a single paragraph, so apparently, yes, "coral" and POLYP have more than a little to do with each other. There was only one kind of POLYP I was imagining, and that kind is not found in the ocean.
None of the above:
- 1A: Movement branded as "anti-art" (Dada) - the official art movement of crossword puzzles everywhere. A nice, fat gimme at 1A. Always a good way to start a Wednesday (or any day). I also Love that this answer intersects another artistic genre: DECO (1D: South Beach style).
- 49A: A G8 nation (Italy) - never saw this clue, but don't like it, mainly because G8 implies an abbreviation (G8 = The Group of 8).42: Shot with lots of English (masse) - another word I learned from xwords. The other great xword billiards term: CAROM. If I had a top 100 favorite words, CAROM would be on it somewhere.
- 47A: Panel layer (ply) - could Not figure out what this clue was getting at for a stupidly long time. "Layer" made me think "chicken," as it always does, and it was all downhill from there.
- 5D: Of a son or daughter (filial) - I use this in my teaching all the time (used it just yesterday in talking about the Christ/God relationship in Paradise Lost, though I use it most often in reference to Aeneas and the concept of FILIAL piety ... but I digress). Good word.
- 12D: Lionel train layout, often (oval) - love this clue, but ... are you getting a kickback from Lionel? Because this could just as easily been [Model train layout, often]. Just wondering.
- 23D: Sephia and Sportage (Kias) - I nominate "Sephia" for Dumbest-Named Car In Existence. "Sportage" is a close second.
- 26D: Nostalgic number (oldie) - brain wanted ETHER. Some of you will understand why.
- 27D: Symbol of Lebanon (cedar) - great clue.
- 31D: Infomercial knife (Ginsu) - hilarious ads of my youth. Apparently a good name to remember, since this is not the first time I've seen it in the grid.
- 59D: Org. that's in the red? (GOP) - another wonderful clue, and the answer that decided the WHEW / PHEW question for me at 65A: "I'm glad THAT's over!" Love that PHEW is the last Across answer in the puzzle.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld